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Monday, February 04, 2008

Damn Good Throne Speech Ed Stelmach!

As an Albertan Progressive Conservative, I have to say, I am very pleased with the Throne Speech. I have some disappointments and will note them later in this post but by and large it is a very progressive agenda and vision. Congratulations Premier Stelmach.

Premier Stelmach has accomplished more in the past year than was accomplished in the past 7 years put together. Big ticket items like the open process that engaged Albertans as owners in the Royalty Review decision, and kick starting 11,000 affordable housing units, address municipal infrastructure needs with a long view that provides certainty and sustainability communities to planning and deliver. The Premier’s personal efforts to finally resolve the unfunded pension liability for our teachers is commendable. Then he moved to finally provide safer and healthier work and public places with the tobacco control legislation. These are all substantive and an impressive list of Stelmach accomplishments but it is not an exhaustive list by any stretch.

The progressive, integrated and long view nature of the Throne Speech is reassuring that the Stelmach government will be a significant change from the single minded debt and deficit days of yore. There is an expressed recognition that the prosperity from our phenomenal growth has not trickled down to benefit all Albertans. Despite low unemployment and high wages generally, many Albertans are under serious pressures. They need lots of help from child care and out-of-school, to better health care access and education to housing and work – life balance challenges due to demands caused by labour shortages.

There are systemic challenges that are being addressed from aboriginal economic development and employment opportunities so they can “take their rightful place in our society.” The severe shortages of skilled workers in the disability sector who care for our most vulnerable citizens has reached crisis levels. There is a promise of further investments for these contracted agencies that perform these duties on behalf of our government. What is needed is money directed specifically at providing competitive wages and new programs that enable contracted agencies to attract and retain qualifier workers is going to be addressed. I am working with the sector to these ends and am pleased to see this pledge in the Throne Speech.

Long range planning commitments in capital infrastructure, health, education,
housing, and transportation, skills shortages and even demographic planning for an aging population are high on the Stelmach change agenda. Nowhere is this new attitude and perspective more obvious than the commitment to the elimination of health care premiums. These moves are all welcome and needed.

The environment is also being addressed. The speech notes “We place a high value on…pristine open spaces” but there is no parks, conservation or wildlife habitat protection policy commitment in the Throne Speech. There needs to be more attention paid to this vulnerable aspect of life and living things in Alberta. As we anticipate accelerated growth economic activity increases oil and gas, mining, agriculture, forestry and tourism activity. We already have a crisis of fragmentation of our wilderness landscape and there are serious pressures on water sheds that also puts a strain on our wild life. This is especially difficult for migrating animals like grizzly bears and caribou.

Granted there is attention being directed at cumulative effects of development but I would have hoped for a more specific set of directions and destinations focused on conservation, a new and comprehensive parks policy and habitat protection. PersonallyI think it is time to put Conservation back into the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party consciousness.

We know from our Oil Sands Study, which you can read on Policy Channel (www.policychannel.com), that Albertans want their oil sands developed in ways that protects habitat, captures CO2, deals with water usage and focuses on reclamation. This change in focus is not away from royalties, technology, and pace of growth concerns but in addition to those previous focal points. The specific reference for government and industry to work together to capture and store CO2 is a positive move. It will be expensive but for Alberta, a place of 3.4 million souls who benefit the most from the oil sands, this idea should be embraced as our specific ecological challenge as a province.

Another huge change under Stelmach from the Klein regime is around concern and action dealing with surface and groundwater, climate change and greenhouse gases. There was an attitude under Klein, that at one time, even denied the science around climate change. The attitude presumed that economic growth at any pace and any cost, was acceptable, even if it resulted in land, air and water degradation. Not any more. While Stelmach is more incremental than some of us would like on his “Greening our Growth,” at least these big ecological issues and concerns are front and centre on his political agenda.

Much of the past year has seen Stelmach playing catch up to ensure Alberta keeps up to the physical infrastructure pressures caused by our growth. This Throne Speech marks a change in focus where Ed Stelmach can finally get on to his own vision and hos own policy agenda for Alberta. Ed Stelmach can now be Ed Stelmach. With this Throne Speech we get to see the real Ed Stelmach and learn to appreciate what he is all about.

So get ready Alberta. There is an election on. We all have some serious listening to do and some serious questions to ask of all the candidates and all the party leaders. Then we have a decision to make about what kind of Alberta we want and who we think will be best to help us get there. Alberta is relatively assured of our progress with all the blessings we enjoy. What we Albertans need to do now is to elect some socially progressive and fiscally conservative politician like Ed Stelmach to help get us to our preferred future.

Sorry for the long post but it was a damned impressive Throne Speech with lots to talk about. As a citizen, you might be well advised to read the news release, backgrounder and the entire speech yourself, so here is the link.

14 comments:

  1. Anonymous7:38 pm

    It, like all Throne speeches, was very general and short on specifics. As well, why weren't these things done when he was Premier?

    Expect the PCs to lose seats and get rid of this dismal leader.

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  2. Anonymous7:53 pm

    If "progressive" means liberal, then you are right. The party has simply lost its way after Klein left. People who hold federal liberal memberships now run the party - as such, the PCs will be punished.

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  3. Anonymous8:57 pm

    Yeah, I think the government should spend $5 billion on carbon recapture INSTEAD OF housing, infrastructure and education. This is a terrible throne speech that seems to have Hancock's hands all over it.

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  4. Anon @ 8:57 if you were to think like that (and I trust you do) you would be seriously wrong at so many levels. The GOA recommended share for carbon capture and sequestration is pegged at $2 B...not $5B. Facts can be so inconvenient can't they!

    And it is - and should be - funds IN ADDITION to housing, infrastructure and education...not instead of.

    Good complement to Dave Hancock too. I hope you are right that he did have a strong influence on this agenda but my sense is this is pure Stelmach...good for him!

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  5. Anon @ 7:53 Progessive is close to classic liberal the way I see it....look it up.

    Stelmach can reengage the disillusioned PC vote who stayed home because they tired of Ralph and Ed can also attract new voters with this more inclusvie, responsive and vital agenda.

    RepublicanLite/Wildrose/Reform/Alliance types can always vote for Mr. Chandler instead.

    Anon @ 7:38 - did you read the post? Did you see what I listed as part of what Stelmach accomplished in his first year? What are you talking about?

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  6. Time for a Change7:49 am

    Oh, Ken, just when I thought you were starting to come around...

    Do you think any of the concerns you raised as a result of your oilsands survey were really addressed in this speech?

    There isn't any clear indication of a new land use plan, and this speech doesn't change the fact that the Cons are aiming for an abysmally low GHG target.

    What DID ever happen to that land use plan Morton was supposed to be working on? Or is that just one more public consultation to fall by the wayside?

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  7. Anonymous7:58 am

    What is he talking about? Are you seriously saying you think announcing a plan to make a plan to do something is the same as getting it done? He's had three decades of lead time, so perhaps announcing actual plans to solve problems might've been a good idea.

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  8. Susan8:20 am

    Ed's been a big dissapointment as Premier for me. I think the only way to get a guy like Jim Dinning in is to elect a few opposition MLAs so that he gets turfed at leadership review.

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  9. Progressive Conservative and Alberta. Thats a whole set of oxymorons going there. Please do tell with examples what exactly is progressive about the Alberta PC's? Climate change plans? No, worst than the federal conservatives who don't even pretend to be progressive. Social housing/rent control? Nope, my mom's rent went up $1200 over night. No roads, denial on health issues pertaining to the oil sands. Grandstanding in the form of threatened separation.

    Please elaborate for your audience. Progressive and Conservative go together as much as healthy and morbidly obese fit together.

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  10. Thx for the comment Jay. Don't confuse the Klein regime daydreaming for 7 years with the Stelmach vision for the future...they are very different.

    The socially progressive concerns of the province were never part of the Klein agenda...they are now becoming part of the Stelmach agenda. Long way to go for sure but the attitude and consciousness is changing.

    As for the conservative aspect it is usually a fiscal focus. Sure Stelmach has spent more money recently but it is necessary not merely political. Lots of catching up and keeping up to do.

    Klein spent lots of money too in his last days/years in response to pressures and silliness like horse racing and Ralphbucks. He did not add much if anything to the social agenda deficit in the process.

    The conservation aspect of being a conservative need more attention these days - particularly as it relates to the environment...but that is happening now too as the Throne Speech shows.

    The prudence prinicple on conservativism demands that we invest again to catch up on the various deficits and growth pressures from intrastrucutre to environmental and social. That requires investment now for longer term benefits for future generations. Again Stelmach is on to this.

    I love when people play with the concept of progressive and conservative as an oxymoron...kinda like Alberta Liberal ;~}

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  11. Anonymous11:26 am

    The only real things announced in this throne speech were the elimination of health care premiums -- something every other party already said they'd do -- but only over four years instead of immediately like the other parties have said, so that Ed Stelmach can keep applying this regressive tax to citizens and businessnes for as long as possible after the campaign promise, and more money for prosecution and law enforcement.

    It's interesting that the day of the election, the day when supposedly this larger law enforcement ideal will go from being a campaign promise to an actionable item, is the very day that RCMP officers ended up dying trying to bust a marijuana op. To Stelmach, the problem obviously isn't that police are involved in trying to prevent people from growing a medically beneficial plant, but simply that there aren't enough of them doing it. We need more police officers outside those barns getting shot. Brilliant.

    Everything else was either announcing that somewhere in the bowels of the government, a plan exists, and we just haven't seen it yet because.. uh.. because.. well, they're just having a bit of trouble finding it, or announcing using taxpayer money to put out fires that have sprung up while the government was apparantly looking for its plan.. or maybe they were looking for Stelmach's personality.

    Either way, the only way this was an impressive throne speech is in comparison to Klein's, but that's like comparing an empty coffee-cup to one full of dog feces.. I don't want to spend my dollar on either.

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  12. Harvey Prockiw5:39 pm

    Hey Anonymous!

    Do you really want to know Stelmach's personality... or are you looking for substance in policy? Please make up your mind. Just because Ed doesn't have the slick delivery, some folks seem to confuse this with intelligence/leadership. Its a proven fact that negative campaigns win elections, but Ed won't take the bait and change his strategy, why not? Because the man won't lower his ethical bar to the level that some smart folks would want (and allow him to be dragged through the mud). It was a strategy he took during the leadership campaign and one which he will maintain now. In the short period of leadership, Stelmach has addressed many of the concerns Albertans have expressed, and that my learned friend is what will get him and his party re-elected for another term. That, my friend is why you and your friends in the opposition will not stand a chance at the polls a month from now.

    P.S. How about a real name Mr. Anon?

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  13. Harvey,

    I am not talking for anon, but, quite frankly, there is a strong argument that Stelmach is not intelligent. His inability to commmunicate is somewhat alarming for a leader of a political party. In addition, his lack of education and seemingly inability to wade through complicated policy is a cause for concern.

    Harvey, throwing money at problems is not a plan and is not leadership. It is coming up with innovative ideas and inspiring Albertans to do better. Maybe you should take a look down south at Clinton or Obama to see such a leader.

    I have been a PC supporter for 10 years. I have sat on boards, volunteered and donated money. I will not vote PC in this election - I will probably vote Liberal.

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  14. Harvey5:34 pm

    Eric,

    What is the argument about Ed's intelligence? Let's hear it. As far as his ability to communicate, have you actually spoke to the man one on one or listened to an entire speech to gain the full content instead of the 5 sec radio and TV clips?

    Being a PC supporter for the last number of years you must have voted for Ralph. Was he intelligent & educated? Please tell me why you voted for him or his party. It seems that a lot of folks are unhappy with the PC party and this translates into blame on the new guy. What about the initiatives that Ed has shown in the short period of time he has been leader? A model for regional planning and cooperation in the Capital Region for example. This wound has been festering for years with no resolve until Stelmach took the helm. Long term capital planning for another and long term predictable funding for municipalities. I have been following the leadership race south of the border and frankly, I'm not impressed with either candidate solving their economic, war and health care woes.

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