Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
As a citizen I am as interested in what range of options is being considered and how policy issues are being explored before they go behind the closed Cabinet doors for decisions. I want to see want is left on the cutting room floor as these who govern us make the hard choices on our behalf. This new openness is so much more respectful of Albertans.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Friday, April 25, 2008
The natural consequences if such under funding are that vulnerable Albertans with developmental disabilities suffer. There is a high and unacceptable potential for mistakes due to negligence caused by insufficient staff levels and burn out plus more untrained and unqualified staff now are being recruited by necessity.
I have been working with these agencies professionally for about a year months on the funding issues and now on contracting issues. During the election Premier committed to “close the wage gap” between community based not-for-profit agencies and government employees who also provide services to Alberta citizens with developmental disabilities. This recent budget does nothing to close that gap. In fact it makes the gap with government workers even wider.
Here are some facts:
According to a recent independent consultant report the community based agencies pay about 2/3 of the wage levels of equivalent work in the government – and they receive much lower benefits.
To close the gap at the 50 percentile level of government workers would take about $182m – excluding benefits and only for current agency employees, ignoring the need to fill staff vacancies, meet population growth needs and to provide for any benefits costs at all.
Stop gap wage funding (sic) measures have been taken by the GOA in the recent past, a onetime grant of $11m in the Spring of 2007 from Seniors and Community Supports departmental year-end surplus funds – mad available because there were no staff to provide certain programs funds.
There was a one-time $15m grant last November that has apparently now been made part of the new funding base, a good thing.
Of the $30m additional money announced in the April 22 Budget, it is payable to the Persons with Developmental Disability Boards, the appointed government agencies who contract with the community groups to provide services. Only $24m of this total is going to the agencies to provide for front line worker compensation.
The $24m to community based agencies is about 5% but when inflation in Alberta in 2007 was 8.1% according to the Minister of Finance in a fund raising speech I heard her deliver on April 23 and minimum wage is going up at the same time, this funding level is not getting ahead of the human resource recruiting staff retention problem in the disability sector.
The PDD boards are retaining $6m of the additional budget funds, 20% of the total new funding, to cover inflation and their AUPE based staff wage and benefits increases… the same wages and benefits where the Premier has promised to close the gap for the community based agencies.
The September 2007 AUPE /GOA wage settlement was 14.66% over three years (4.9, 4.8 and 4.3%) with a $1500 signing bonus paid to each full time employee and pro-rated with part-time and seasonal employees. There were changes for many job classifications ranging from 7 percent to about 15% in the first year of the agreement.
There was an additional $6,000 - $6,300 northern living and a $12,480 annual living allowance for living in Fort McMurray. There was also an “improved core benefits package effective July 1, 2008 and an “enhanced benefits packages at the employees cost.”
The government “commitment” of additional agency staff compensation funds for next year was also announced at another 5% or $20m more dollars.
The gap is getting wider not smaller notwithstanding the Budget Speech saying “We will also increase funding to agencies contracted by our government to provide care for Albertans, to help
those agencies recruit and retain staff.” It will not happen at these funding levels.
Most of the community based service provider agencies have signed 6 months contracts that end October 1, 2008. They cannot continue to provide adequate service levels if they cannot attract and retain qualified staff. If serious levels of new funding are not forthcoming it leaves few options and it will all come to a head when these current contracts expire.
At the end of the day it is the GOA who is responsible to meet the needs of citizens with developmental disabilities. I hope they have a Plan B ready to meet the needs developmentally disabled Albertans if no additional funding for the sector is their Plan A.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
There is a recognized need to build new structures and retrofit existing buildings to a more eco-friendly standard. That will add costs in the short term but pay off in reduced operating and environmental costs long term. That is a hopeful sign that a new full cost accounting approach for capital expenditure will become the norm.
There is a lot to do in refocusing the fiscal framework for Alberta but my guess is most of it will be deferred for the next budget. That process will likely start by this Thursday and be about more savings and more spending both operational and capital accounts. There ias one thing for sure...Iris Evans is going to be busy – very, very busy this spring and summer.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
We definitely need to intervene, especially in Alberta. But we need to engage in ways that cleans up the destruction and fragmentation we have wrought on the landscape already and that has served to destroy and interfere with wildlife habitat, particularly in our boreal forest. We need to accelerate our efforts and commitments to restoration of the unused and unnecessary resource roads, seismic lines and pipeline right-of-ways, and abandoned and orphan oil and gas well sites. We need to get on with reclamation of oil sand pits and tailing ponds. And we need to move immediately to create biodiversity based off-sets to balance the consequences of oil sands development that will take vast areas of the forest out of the natural patterns and purposes for up to 80 years.
The planned intervention against wolves in Brooymans’ feature seems to be a textbook case of human hubris as presumptive, capable and competent managers of the environment. We chose to kill and sterilize wolves in the pursuit of saving caribou instead of engaging in acts of stewardship that would reduce our impact and interference on wildlife habitat overall in the boreal forest and enable nature to restore itself.
We know our human activities are major causes of this imbalance in nature but we default to further interventions in, on and against those natural patterns. We inappropriately assume that by adding more human impact on the forest and wildlife habitat, (instead of reducing and reclaiming it from human activity), that we can “have our cake and eat it too.” This is the overarching observation of the University of Alberta noted biologist Dr. Stan Boutin in the Edmonton Journal feature story on wolves.
The new default position for humanity has to be is to strive to share the biosphere on a more integrated and equitable basis with the rest of the flora and fauna who are also “entitled” to share the planet. We need to learn to co-habitat and collaborate and integrate much more with the natural phenomenon that is inherent to supporting the diversity of life forms on the planet. We need to do this for the planet and also perchance, for the sustainable survival of our species as part of the future of the planet. Remember extinction is also a natural phenomenon.
We can’t continue in our pursuit of wealth creation that presumes the industrial definition of well being based on GDP justifies our on-going quest to conquer nature. We can no longer rely on and carry forward a foundational myth that says mankind can actually dissect, direct and control nature. Nor can we afford the presumptive arrogance and that our manipulations and interventions of natural forces can actually result in predicable and positive outcomes.
We continue to take delight in this dysfunctional definition of progress and we almost deify ourselves as a species; believing that our “being” is somehow above nature. We tend to rely on our capacity to Dissect, Manipulate and Control nature as part and parcel of progress. We want to push an ever-accelerating industrial growth as being progressive even though we know such activities are often intolerant and indifferent to the long term consequences to the environment.
What if the next reality is based on the planet taking over dominance? Could the planet take a Control, Alter and Delete approach and “reboot” itself to rid itself of the crap that has accumulated and that is causing it harm? I know this is more poetic than a practical analysis. But it is no more far-fetched and metaphorical than believing human-kind need not change its beliefs and behaviours for the sake of the environment and in response to climate change.
We are now starting to recall and re-accept that nature is a force unto itself and that it is full of intricate patterns and constant changes. We are learning to re-appreciate that these natural changes are spawned and sustained by self-organizing adaptive sets of feedback mechanisms that are embedded in that intricacy. We are recollecting that life itself has an energy composed of the collective and collaborative diversity of the biosphere.
This renewal of human awareness of our place in the grand scheme of things is catching on and is also evolving. This renewed consciousness is making our presumptive mythology that mankind can actually control nature and predict its outcomes "questionable." This questionable human conduct is more than just another event in the long line of follies that have marked the absurdist history of our species. It is not merely a silly and discountable foolishness. It is downright dangerous and reckless and particularly crucial to the vitality and survival of our own species.
There is no doubt that the future of planet Earth is assured, and life will continue in some form or other. What is not clear is what that future of the planet means for mankind, given the hubris of our current dominant consciousness, beliefs and behaviours. Just what the hell we are doing and why is something to think about and reflect upon as we anticipate Earth Day coming up next Tuesday April 22nd.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
The pace of development is noted as an on-going issue – particularly in terms of housing in Fort McMurray. The GOA holds the keys to unlocking this problem by releasing land to the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo so the servicing can get done and housing built. The cumulative effects of the growth challenge are now being considered and that is good news, especially for Edmonton and region with the pending impact of billions of dollars of upgrader construction.
The down side realities of the livestock and forest industries are going to be addressed as these folks are in dire straits. The need to look at the “cultural and economic importance of vibrant rural communities…” is noted and something I will be doing a number of posting on as I work on two new projects to get the SuperNet missing link to non-profits, local economies and rural Albertans through the Rural Alberta Development Fund and the Access to the Future Fund. These SuperNet based initiatives are foundational to Premier Stelmach realizing this Throne Speech aspiration...and he knows it.
Lots more coming this summer in consultations on Land Use Management and a new Parks Policy hopefully based on conservation, preservation, reclamation, water quality and quantity concerns and wildlife habitat protection as guiding principles – not just a negotiation of priority listing of users.
I am biased but if you look past the health care headlines in the MSM speech coverage, I see a lot of potential in this Throne Speech. There is a wide array of issues and concerns mentioned. It has the usually pomp and puffery but a careful read shows a definite and more progressive agenda and tone in this document. Now we need to see how it gets acted upon and if the agenda that we end up with is as comprehensive as the content of the Throne Speech indicates.
I will post again soon on some of the important social and cultural aspects of the Throne Speech that have not been covered much. Stay tuned.
The RCMP raids, the fraud charges and the belligerent buzz and bluster that has surrounds these events and others…shows just how diminished we have allowed out political institutions and political players to become.
"Lament for Our Democratic Nation" is an excellent post by NDP Blogger Cameron Holmstrom from Toronto. This post catches and expresses much of my dismay and disgust with the way politics is going in our country. It is worth a read.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Sunday, April 13, 2008
The proposed sale by Canadian company MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. of our just launched earth observation satellite, Radarsat-2, to an American corporation, Alliant, is wrong at so many levels. Prentice knows this and has moved quickly to do something about it.
We have many issues of Canadian interests at stake here, including our sovereignty over the Arctic that the Americans and others are challenging. Those dealing would be seriously compromised with this commercial deal going forward. We also have the loss of technology that we Canadian taxpayers have paid for in large part…and the company would have pocketed the benefits – not us. Then there is the fact this technology is critical new 21st century infrastructure to boot.
Well done Mr. Minister and keep up the good work - and don’t let antics of the small-minded bullys that seem to be all around you get you down.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Monday, April 07, 2008
I Read Dunn and Valentine and I Still Don't Know If Albertans Are Getting Their Fair Share of Royalties
The developed world economy is about to go into a vicious downward cycle of recession that has been caused by the greed, selfishness and hubris of the “Masters of the Universe” types in the financial services sector, particularly in the USA and triggered by the sub-prime mortgage fiasco and meltdown.
It is not just the greed and short term selfishness of the mortgage/lending business that was written for too many folks who had no hope in hell of handling the initial debt – never mind the rate bumps built into the deals. There is the culpability due to the wanton negligence and possible fraudulent willful blindness of so-called “independent” debt rating agencies who ranked these junk loans a solid and who were paid by the very perpetrators of the scams in the first place.
The investment banking and commercial banking division and separation after the Depression was done for a reason. But it has been inconvenient and avoided in generating the enormous fees and bonuses inherent in the short run short term thinking of these greedy bastards who were in for the fast buck and screw the consequences to the rest of us.
The high priests of the free market who sell us the concept that open markets are the best arbiters of fairness, openness and determinate of value are undoubtedly charlatans and likely crooks in many instances.
The government’s use federal reserve systems have been bailing them out in the Billions of taxpayers money – as the write-offs pile up within big-name financial institutions that are (were) some of the most respected and revered in our world view.
Now we will see the pendulum swing away from free markets into regulated financial institutions where realities will be tough government regulation that run them like utilities. OK by me but there is another “catch.” With the gutting of governments buy the likes of Thatcher, Reagan, and the Bushes…and Harper, Klein and Harris if you want to come closer to home…and you should.
I wonder, do any of these governments still have the technical talent and expertise plus the political wisdom and energy in place to exercise the resilience and robustness of political will needed to do the job? I don't relish this alternative any more than I do the meltdown caused by the sub-prime financial fisco caused by idiots who are noted for their supreme self-absorption and selfishness instead of the common good.
The UK is under as much pressure as the US in htis regrd and, as a result, Prime Minister Brown is a spent political force...stick a fork in him...he is done! Bush is out of his depth and done like dinner too – and his Canadian "mini-me," buddy Steve Harper is not strong enough politically, policy or character-wise to cut it in the face of the pending disaster...and Canada has have no one in the wings politically to take over either.
The Democratic presidential race is internally destructive and both candidates are actually avoiding dealing with the real economic policy issues in the campaign and will continue to do so until after the election in November. McCain is just another Bush with an Eisenhower perspective who is fimly embedded in the 1950's and '60's who readily admits to not knowing much about economics anyway.
This means there are many months to go before anyone in America can really wrestle with this politically and with practical policy alternatives...even if they had someone win the election who is capable enough to do the economic job. The Americans are already in a recession and it is only a dirty little secret to the authorities because everyone else in the world already knows this truth. The "authorities" have to stay in denial to stave off the inevitable admission of reality because this is an election year and they dare not be seen as telling the truth under such circumstances.
The financial sector Masters of the Universe who are involved in running the private sector financial markets, who have also enabled, aided and abetted this travesty, and soon to be tragedy, deserve to have their “balls” busted. Why? Because of their iresponsible disregard for the common good while they manipulate the rules to gather accumulations of astonishing personal wealth through greed and possible corruption. Will it happen? Not likely.
It will only happen if we have an effective, forthright, strong and activist government leadership once again. We need political leadership who will undertake to regulate and “unfix” the “fix” that has been “in” on the public. The common wisdom about the preference for the so-called “free markets” and the "professional" managers, who have been allowed to abuse their privileges and avoid responsibility and accountability is no longer a myth - it is a lie!
In wars we have a concept of crimes against humanity and we try and even execute the guilty. These greedy bastards in these financial crimes are damn lucky the concept does not transfer to the damage that they have done against the economy and the human condition for purposes their own prosperity, power and personal purposes.
Now we will have the likely alternative possibilities of inept or fascist strong-man government who would take over and perpetrate more variations-on-a-theme abuses on the public. Unless citizens smarten up and re-engage in politics in a purposeful, informed and meaningful way we will continue to suffer abuse from private sector or public sector idiots who both abuse the system...and us!