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Monday, June 30, 2008

Canada Day Message 2008

In 2002 I published a book by my business partner Satya Das. The title is "The Best Country, Why Canada Will Lead the Future." You can buy it on Amazon or send me an email and I will make you a deal.

Back then there was reason for a national optimism about what kind of people we were and how we were doing as a nation.

We used to be at the top of our game on most of the UN Human Development Index rankings. Boy have we ever slipped, as a country, since then. We have become complacent and self-satisfied. As a result we have lost competitive ground, especially to other countries who have improved significantly. Looks like our national mythology no longer aligns with our global reality!

Ann Golden, the head of the Conference Board of Canada has a Canada Day message in this video that puts our country and our declining place on the world stage in perspective.

So celebrate Canada Day tomorrow but also contemplate what the hell we are doing with our potential as a people and as a nation. It is time to stop going to our default role as a citizenry as pragmatically cynical. It is time to re-engage in the future of Canada.

The Dion Green Shift Policy Conversation Amongst Canadians is Starting

Looks like Garth Turner is turning into the aggregtor for thoughtful blogosphere commentary (and the usual Blogging Tory screed) on the Dion Green Shift plan. He is worth a visit and read the comments too. Lots of insight and interesting perspectives being expressed.


For some insight on how the Bush Republicans and Harper Cons work their black magic on the public consciouness - including fooling much of the MSM - read this op-ed in the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/27/opinion/27aamodt.html?ex=1372305600&en=2bb9e9c384a1c7fe&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Torqued Story Claims Enviroment Falls to #3 Issue - Balderdash

The front page of yesterday’s Globe and Mail has torqued a story so badly that it can’t go without comment. The story is about a new poll from the Strategic Counsel just did for the Globe and CTV.


The torqued headline says “Energy Crisis Supplant Environment as Top Concern.” The sub-head torques even more and says “Poll reveals a shift in attitude that could prove fatal to Dion’s proposed carbon tax.”

First, Strategic Counsel does great work and I have no comment or concerns over the poll or its results. What is so bad is the actual interpreting and reporting on the poll results by the Globe and Mail.

The story says…”The environment, last year’s top issue has been pushed to No. 3 with just 16 percent of Canadians now saying they now consider it their primary concern.”

The fact is the poll found the top three primary concern issues were Economic/unemployment at 18%, Gas Prices at 18% and Environmental at 16%. The poll of a 1000 people in the field for 10 days in June has a margin of error of 3.1% The three issues are all statistically of equal concern given the margin of error. To say environment has dropped to #3 is absurd. In fact, with the margin of error the story could be torqued the other way to say the Environment is still the #1 issue. But that would be wrong too.

The next piece of torque is to presume this is bad news for Dion’s Green Shift project. It is not just a carbon tax policy and to only focus on that aspect of the proposal is also torque. To presume this is bad news for Dion because there are three dominant issues that all inter-relate to the environment concerns is misleading torque. The Dion Green Shift proposal may in fact benefit from this triumvirate of primary Canadian concerns because they are all part of the comprehensive and integrated aspects of the Dion plan. But the trick is to get folks to read and understand the plan.

We need to look at the consequences of our behaviours, lifestyle choices and future focuses on growth as a society. We need to learn to adapt to some harsh realities about our impact on the environment, the economics of our future and get serious about where our jobs will be coming from in the face of globalization. We need to get focused on what we can do about cleaning up our fossil fuel uses and to aggressively encourage conservation and the development of additional alternative energy sources.

These are part and parcel of the context of the primary concerns of Canadians found in the Strategic Counsel poll. Unfortunately they are not part of the Globe and Mail interpretation of the poll’s findings.

The foundational concept of Dion’s Green Plan is to get Canadians into a serious conversation and decision making mode to deal with these primary concerns. We need the MSM to move beyond the horse race kind of political coverage this story perpetuates.

The Globe and Mail is currently doing an excellent job of bringing serious and considered attention to the reality of mental illness in Canada. Mr. Greenspon, as the Editor of the Globe and Mail, please bring the same journalistic substance to encourage a meaningful public policy conversation in Canada about the way we deal with the environment. Stop the silly horse race personality based political coverage and help citizens to look at our environmental policy options in an integrated holistic way.

We need the conversation to start so we can better understand how our environmental policy changes can be done in ways that sustains prosperity for Canadians and enhances the social dimensions of our country. Canada can and should be a role model as a nation in dealing with these issues. Torquing stories that merely feeds the political horse race does not help move us towards this more serious and significant set of concerns shown in these poll results.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Alberta Liberal Leadership Hopefuls Line Up On the Left.






The line up of the touted and taunted for the leadership of the Alberta Liberal party so far is pretty much aligned (or maligned) on the left. The touted are Edmonton candidates Laurie Blakeman, Hugh MacDonald balanced off by Calgary’s David Swann and Dave Taylor.

Those being taunted, but not biting, are former Deputy Prime Minister of Anne McLennan and current Calgary Mayor Bronconnier. Given the past and present accomplishments of Anne and Dave one would be hard pressed to come up with a convincing reason for them to jump into this political pot-boiler.

There are others toying with the idea – there always are. They don't usually have a hope to win but campaigns matter and they often add spice to the event. They get to say some things in campaigns that the self-possessed front runners may think but don’t dare say. Amongst those wild cards I would keep an eye out for former Edmonton McClung MLA Mo Elsalhy.

Ideally we would see a youthful refreshing idealistic candidate emerge to make some noise. Not Edmonton City Councillor Don Iveson but someone like him who can run a modern successful Web 2.0 political campaign to prove you don't have to spend a million dollars to be successful.

They definitely need a rural candidate or two stepping forward as well. I don’t have any names yet but if someone out there in rural Alberta is kicking the tires, let me know. So who have we got in the hopper (or the blender) so far?

Laurie Blakeman has experience and she has proven political skills. But she is much closer to being a Sheila Copps than a Bette Hewes. That is a big bonus if you like butting heads, like a Sheila Copps, rather than building a province, like a Bette Hewes. Not sure if she could handle the economic and geo-political issues emerging in Alberta. She seems to totally urban in outlook and may be perceived as too Edmonton-centric. If the Libs only want to select a Leader of the Opposition - Blakeman is the best choice.

Hugh MacDonald is the Rodney Dangerfield of the group. He is an accomplished journeyman politician and a strong constituency guy who is chronically nice. Unfortunately he has no royal jelly and therefore will not become the provincial party leader. He would be the farthest left leaning candidate and could easily philosophically pinch hit for Brian Mason of the NDP. At the end of the day Hugh is a salt-of-the-earth guy and will be called upon to patch up the party if the race gets brutal. You don’t have to be a candidate to play that role but it usually helps.

David Swann is the most interesting potential candidate so far. Like Taft he is a reluctant politician who got into politics because he was personally offended by the power structure in the province in the Klein era. Swann was fired as a medical health officer in a now defunct southern Alberta health authority. I believe he was fired for pure political reasons, like supporting the Kyoto Accord I believe. A Calgary MLA in his second term Swann is openly questioning how to get past what some see as the perpetual one-party state called Alberta. His thoughts range from revitalizing the Liberal party to working on a brand new progressive political movement. It will be interesting to see if he runs, which way he goes and what he does and says as a candidate.

Dave Taylor is the quintessential Calgary guy who will be in this race for sure. He is like a Ralph Klein but without a Rod Love to “execute” (every pun intended). Alberta has already done a Ralph Klein and I am not sure we are ready for another one any time soon. Taylor is very media savvy, highly quotable and a “quip thinker.” But that seems to be the extent of his political talent. Populist are fun for the media but they are dangerous in times of uncertainty and serious social change.

Change and uncertainty in the face of abundance is the new Alberta reality. Out of control growth pressures that are creating social problems everywhere along with an emerging urgency over ecological concerns means we need statesmanship in our governing institutions more than ever.

For my money you can keep your charismatic politicians as leaders. They create more problems than they resolve. I want a thoughtful solid citizen with a compassionate sensibility who can handle uncertainty and complexity. I want an intelligent and curious leader with a pragmatic long view of politics. I want a leader who see themselves as a servant-leader and not as some paternalistic authority figure with a hunger for for personal power. If the Alberta Liberals can find that kind leader they might have a chance.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

ERCB Gets Tough on Tailing Ponds - 500 Ducks Did Not Die in Vain.

One of the most difficult issues to deal with in oil sands mining is what to do with the tailing ponds left over after the oil is extracted from the sands. There is an obligation on industry to reclaim these ponds that contain water, sand, oil and some heavy metals. It seems as though the water in these ponds neither evaporates nor dissipates and it may be that the sand molecules are so fine the water just keeps “attached.” If these toxic tailing ponds ever escape into the Athabasca River, the damage to all life forms in, on and along the waterway will be devastating.

Well the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board as started to step up on the issue of resolving the tailing pond issues. They has issued a draft directive demanding the clean-up on these waste reservoirs needs to start and the old voluntary approach for industry to respond to this obligation to reclaim these ponds to an equivalent land use to the original status is about to end.

The Discrete Choice Modeling survey Cambridge Strategies did last October/November of some 3400 Albertans showed that oil sand water usage and reclamation issues were the third and forth ranked critical value drivers for Albertans around responsible and sustainable oil sands development. The top ranked issues by far were preserving wildlife habitat and greenhouse gas capture.

New technologies have been tried to solve the waste water tailings pond problems with various degrees of success. The result of no easy solution to the tailing ponds has been a default to deferral and delay in addressing the problem. Looks like the days were reclamation delays are going to be tolerated are numbered, given the ERCB Draft Directive Backgrounder they issued today.

This directive, if acted upon, will be one of the most encouraging initiatives undertaken by the regulator in recent years. It will go a long way to dealing with the damaging international image of dirty oil from the Alberta oil sands too. Most of the reaction resulting in framing dirty oil sands has been around GHG and that is a legitimate concern. However, reclamation, water usage and wildlife habitat are very critical negative consequences of oil sands extraction too.

They are concerns that need to be added to the menu of dirty oil sands issues that need to be fix and not just manage with PR and advertising campaigns.

Today’s ERCB draft directive starts the shift in consciousness from tailing pond indifference to forcing a difference towards oil sands extraction that reduces fresh water usage, reduced stored waste water volumes and starts to get serious about tailing pond reclamation to return them to a useful landscape purpose once again.

Kudos to the ERCB for getting serious and for dealing aggressively with this potentially dangerous and devastating environmental catastrophe. It is long past due. Now we citizens have to monitor the final determination and implementation of this regulatory directive and ensure the ERCB doesn’t get knocked off the policy puck.

Taft Throws In the Towel.

So Kevin Taft makes it official and calls it quits as Alberta Liberal Leader after two elections and some five years of service. He will stay on as MLA for Edmonton Riverview and will still be making a political contribution to the public life of Alberta presumably for the next four years.

I wonder what will happen if an outsider wins the Alberta Liberal leadership. There may be some pressure on him to retire his seat then and force a by-election to give the new leaders a chance at a seat in the Legislature. Time will tell but Edmonton Riverview is by no means a safe Liberal seat. It will have to be won by a new leader should that be the case.

Kevin Taft was always a reluctant politician and even more reluctant as a party leader. But he was always ready, willing and able to learn both jobs and prepared to make the personal sacrifices and suffer all the other impositions of public political life. He was drawn into politics on a dare from Ralph Klein who once called him a “Communist” and suggested Taft run for office instead of criticizing from the sidelines. Taft responded to the taunt and took up the challenge, running successfully as the MLA for Edmonton Riverview.

He was thrust into the leadership role by and large because nobody else wanted the job after the former leader, Nancy McBeth lost an election and was replaced by Ken Nicol who was effectively an interim leader. Taft was an academic and learned party politics and political leadership on the job and mostly from a standing start. Regardless of his electoral success, one has to give him credit for being a quick study and staying the course.

Taft’s resignation will now give the Alberta Liberal Party a chance to reflect and reconsider its place and future in Alberta politics. I am hoping they take a page or two from the Progressive Conservative Party leadership process and improve on it around concerns about donation disclosures. But I encourage them to make their leadership process open to any Albertan who wants to buy an Alberta Liberal Party membership and have a say in the leader selection. After all we are talking about selecting someone who would be at least eligible to be Premier of our province. All Albertans should be interested in helping make that choice. It would be good for democracy and the Alberta Liberals too.

The Nervous Nellies in the Alberta Liberal brain trust will worry that PC’s might encourage their supporters to buy Liberal memberships just to select the weakest Liberal leadership candidate for reasons of pure political advantage. After all some believe that was what a number of Alberta Liberals did in the last PC leadership contest.

If that was ever actually happening, or even rumoured to be the case, I am pretty sure ordinary Albertans would engage actively in the Alberta Liberal leadership selection process to ensure that would not be the end result. Such a tactic would seriously devalue the level of trust and respect citizens would afford the PC Party I expect. Stelmach has 72 seats and all the power he needs to do anything he wants within the law, including making laws pretty quickly if he wishes.

The PCs do not need to undermine the Alberta Liberals by trying to hijack the leadership selection process. It would not be worth the risk to the PC party brand to engage in such shenanigans for such puerile political purposes. So I encourage the Alberta Liberals to open up their party and let ordinary Albertans in to participate in who might lead Alberta's Loyal Opposition.

With Taft’s resignation decision the party leadership transition in all of Alberta's significant political parties is complete. Ralph Klein, Raj Pannu and now Kevin Taft are all gone or going. The Alberta they knew is pretty much history too. Alberta has become a very different place since those leaders came on the political scene.

Albertans are ready to move on to the next stage of being an Albertan. I sense that the engaged Albertan wants real changes and real choices and clearly defined alternatives in its politics going forward. They want political leadership with personal character qualities they can trust and respect. We want political leadership that is competent and capable to actually envisage, design and deliver the next Alberta in a local, provincial, national, continental - and now in a global context.

I wonder if we Albertans will be engaged enough as citizens to make such demands of the Alberta Liberal Party during the leadership process. Or are we simply so cynical as citizens that we will just disengage and ignore this opportunity to have a say about how we are to be governed and by whom…even if it is only about our opposition party leadership.

My next post will be some thoughts on the likely suspects who have indicated interest in succeeding Taft. I will speculate a bit on others who may want to seek the Alberta Liberal leadership job and who might be checking out their support levels to see if they stand a chance of winning.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I'm Betting Kevin Taft Intends to Stay On as Leader of the Alberta Liberals.

Reading Kevin Taft’s op-ed in the Edmonton Journal this Monday does not sound like a man about to leave his party’s leadership or political life for that matter.

My bet is Taft is planning on staying on as the Alberta Liberal leader and he will announce that intention on or before next Monday.


WHAT IS SO SMART ABOUT SAVE ALL THE SURPLUS IN THE HERITAGE FUND
Taft is definitely talking future forward in the op-ed and making suggestions about what to do with non-renewable resource revenue surpluses. He suggests we bank the entire $32B in estimated surpluses said to be coming the next 2 years. He says put it all right into the Heritage Savings and Trust Fund in perpetuity.

His rationale makes some short term sense. He says that while we need pubic infrastructure, we don’t need it all at once and we ought not build it in ways that cost a premium in our overheated economy and that adds to our increasing inflation. He says saving all the resource revenues is the best solution to the problem he identifies as our government not knowing how to spend these funds sensibly. Isn’t that a sad indictment of the capacity, consciousness and vision of our political class – from all parties?

WHAT ABOUT ALBERTA'S HUMAN AND NATURAL CAPITAL DEFICITS?
The problem with the total saving suggestion is that it ignores the other significant Alberta public infrastructure deficit, namely the huge and growing social infrastructure deficit. The wealth Alberta is generating is not being shared equitable with all Albertans. We are quick to note how much of our growth benefits the rest of Canada. We are myopic on the social damage the pace of growth and coagulation of cash at the top of our social food chain is having on the quality of life of ordinary Albertans.

We have our most vulnerable citizens being left on our streets like the hard to manage developmentally disabled people are being sent to hospitals because there is nobody able to meet their needs in safe and nurturing places. They are now clogging our hospitals because we don’t pay communiy based social service staff a livable wage as they try to meet the complex needs of developmentally disabled citizens. So many of the programs get cancelled and seriously at-risk people end up getting turned away and loose in our community with nowhere to go. We are recycling other less fortunate’s through our shelters, courts and correction system. We find many other vulnerable citizens like the elderly and addicted being subjected to more abuse and violence and that is making our communities unsafe and our citizens insecure.


We also need to invest more in the environmental deficit we have created with growth pressures caused by runaway oil sands development. We need to do something serious about picking up the pace reclamation and cleaning up contaminated abandoned convention oil and gas sites. We need R and D investment in new green technologies and techniques like carbon capture and sequestration and new oil sands extraction technologies making it a greener energy source.

I am all for saving a significant portion of non-renewable resource revenues and agree we can spread out our building of some public capital infrastructure projects. Alberta cannot continue to delay addressing the human, social and natural capital infrastructure deficits we have created and ignoring.

So much of our political thought these days focus on rising costs and inflation. That is part of the puzzle but not all of it because it focuses on the importance of controlling costs and ignores the enhancement of the value of what makes our lives worth living.


IT'S ABOUT MORE THAN THE ECONOMY
A strong adaptive economy is like water is to soup, necessary but not sufficient in itself. Part of the role of modern democracies is to facilitate the expression of our collective empathy over what we as a society are responsible for and what we really care about. That must include caring for people, protecting place and addressing our many predicaments as a society.

Socking some of our cash in the Heritage Fund is part of a long term inter-generational fairness solution. But to rely solely on non-renewable surpluses for savings as a fiscal policy is not a serious solution to any of the real and immediate and significant challenges we face in our society today. Using such savings as a means to merely reduce taxes is more about pandering politics than good public policy. It ends up stifling the capacity of our government to use the tax base and the growth of the economy as the means to meet our current, on-going and long term social and ecological obligations.

Saving is a virtue but not the only virtue for a society. Taxes may be just plain evil in the minds of many citizens, but we also know they are a necessary evil. Governments are supposed to find the balance for us and so far Mr. Taft's proposal for saving all our surpluses has not done that.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Is Harper Trying to Intimidate the Judiciary?


I see the Harper “government” is continuing to be total consistent in its exercise of poor judgment and for its tendency for using tactics to trump statesmanship.
Now they have delved into the tax returns of our judiciary presumable as a negotiation technique to "settle" compensation negotiations for Judges.
The story the Harper Cons spin is all about putting the judiciary in their fiscal place and showing them that the Prime Minister is the Executive Branch he is the real Sheriff in town. The Judges better toe the line if they know what is god for them - or else.

This Putin-esque and Bush-league breach of privacy was done to bolster the arguments the Cons want to make that the Judges never had it so good and they don’t deserve a pay raise. The “reality” is the Cons wanted to prove was that the Judges are making more money on the Bench than they ever did in private practice. The story indicates that is true some cases and not for others, but so what! When was remuneration of a professional like a lawyer, the best test of their capacity to act independently, courageously and judiciously? In fact it may be evidence to the contrary.

The past private income of Judges when they were lawyers has nothing to do with their capacity and ability to do their job in the judiciary. The fact is the Harper Cons don’t understand this and if they do they don’t care about the privacy of citizens – even those in the judiciary who we depend on to protect us from the abuse of power by the state. Harper’s henchmen believe they are the only authority in government and they can breach the privacy of anyone they choose, including the judiciary.

The fact the Harper Cons believe they can access private tax records of individual citizens to aid their puerile political purposes and that they can do so with impunity only adds to the mounting evidence this bunch are not straight shooters.

I think it is only fair and I would like to see the tax records of the Harper highly paid and pampered Cabinet and Parliamentary Secretaries. Let’s see if they all took a pay cut in order to get into politics. The Cons are there to serve their own greater personal interests in public instead of being persons who are dedicated to serving the public interest.

George Carlin Checks Out and Will Be Missed.

George Carlin died yesterday. He was a brilliant political observer and social commentator about so many things. He had a peculiar and particular ability to point out the profoundly stupid aspects and attitudes of those beings they call human. He was America's immoral compass.

Carlin was philosophical, insightful, pointed, profane and so very funny. Consider this classic Carlinism as a "clean" example of his observations:

"Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that."
George Carlin

I am going to miss him.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dion Shifts From Neutral to Green - Harper Still in Reverse.

Here it is – the Dion “Green Shift” initiative that was announced today. This website is going to be one that I will book mark and visit often.


I, along with many other Canadians who are beginning to look seriously at new ways to address the challenge of climate change, need to get engaged and stay on top if this new policy initiative.


This is a great start and I see I have lots of reading and reflecting to do. Let’s see just how far, fast and deep this cultural change can happen. It is time we started pulling for the planet – each and every one of us.

Dion's Carbon Tax-Shift Policy Will Give Canadians a Positive Choice for the Future

I expect the John Baird Character assassinator and Harper's Pit-Bully Peter Van Loan to be in full screaming rant today as Dion releases his tax-shifting policy approach to carbon reduction.

Starting today, there is going to be a definite difference in the political and policy choices being offered to Canadians over this summer. The choice Harper offers is a contuation of his rearview mirror approach of trying to perfect yesterday. Harper will be pushing political buttons with misleading messaging based on outmoded mental models that are reckless and feckless. He and his ilk still believe that growth at any speed in any way is the way to the preferred future regardless of the social and environmental costs.

Canadians will get to compare Harper’s perpetuation of the post-industrial to the Dion who is offering us the chance to change our attitudes. Dion will be saying we need get serious about taking on the challenges of our planet and design our future prosperity with a goal of sustainability. Dion messages will be thought-provoking and engaging. Harper will continue to be misleading and giving us mind-numbing messages telling us it is ok to go back to sleep and that we don’t need to worry.

We have to get serious as a species about learning how to adapt to an integrated stewardship approach to growth and prosperity. We need to take this reality to heart and engage with a head on focus and a sense of urgency.

I have not seen the Dion tax-shift carbon policy yet but all indications are that it is serious and significant. This policy is not one of those senseless ballot- candy ploys like a Harper 2% GST "reduction." I hope engaged and thoughtful Canadians will take the time to learn, understand and reflect on the substance and implications of what is being proposed. That means we will also be able to cut through the crap the Cons will be throwing out there.

Thought-leading and engaged Canadians need to look at their policy options and political choices beyond the canned commentary of the usual suspects in the mainstream media machines. I expect they will only look at this choice of futures as a political horserace and avoid the pith and substance of the policy options because that takes time to digest and vigor to explain.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Looks Like Harper's Negative Ad Campaign Is Backfiring?

Looks like the Harper Cons negative ads are backfiring. This is according to a recent poll quoted in a story in the Hill Times this week. I found this quote from the story most telling:

"According to the Innovative poll, of those who were aware of the ads, 60 per cent said they were left with a negative impression of them, and 20 per cent said they were left with a positive impression, while 18 per cent said neither. "

That is not good news for the Harper message-controlling brain-trust.

The MSM has given the Cons more free "earned media" than they have spent on the ads themselves by the looks of it. Kind of reminds me of the MSM carpet bombing "news coverage" that was done on the personal tragedy that is Brittany Spears a few weeks ago. The MSM then finally looked at themselves, came to their senses, and decided to show some semblance of responsible journalism, and left her alone.

For those Cons who will want to equate my Spears comment to Coulliard, ask yourself if Spears was involved in relationships that undermined national security and Cabinet confidentiality.

The Cons ads are not news. They are not factual. They are not even relevant because the Dion tax shifting policy is not yet finalized. The negative campaign-style ads are just a political tactic that is infotainment masquerading as a public policy issue. Come on MSM, don't get fooled again.

Is Harper Afraid of An Election?

Harper Cons are all about political tactics – again. The anti-Dion election style negative ad campaign is admittedly a channel-changing fast-track strategy to divert attention away from the Cons catastrophic performance as of late. Not surprising and no longer very disappointing because Canadians expectations of the Harper government are so low and declining.

A few months ago Harper took great glee in trying to goad Dion into an unnecessary and unwanted election. Dion wasn’t ready nor were Canadians in any mood for another election so soon. They elected Harper to give him a chance and his constant efforts to engineer his own defeat was not what we expected from our newbie Con government.

Harper is now loathed to have an election and in fact fears that he might have to face the Canadian electorate on his record. He has no vision for the country and no sense of the nation and no plan for what to do next - other than bully the opposition and the provinces. Hence the quickie and expensive channel changing ad campaign intended to divert attention from the facts about his wobbling and wandering government.

Politics is so variable. In a few short months Harper has moved from being a political bully who was always mocking for an election, to today where he is a politically a dead man, balking and dreading the possibility of an imminent election.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Hero's Behind the Residential School Apology

The Margaret Mead truism that we should never underestimate the ability of a small group of people to change the world, and accept the fact that change is always done that way. This reality is so evident as what caused the Government of Canada apology this past week. The identity and roles the small group of people who were behind this event has come to the fore with this Globe and Mail background story on Canada’s apology for the tragedy of residential schools.

The pressure for the apology comes from sources that are indeed a small group of people, including the former and current Conservative Ministers of Indian Affairs, Jim Prentice and Chuck Strahl along with Metis and Conservative Senator Gerry St. Germain added his considerable voice.

The efforts were trans-partisan as former Liberal MP Gary Merasty had added pressure with his House of Commons motion for an apology that was passed with Conservative support. Then there was the effective effort of the Leader of the NDP, Jack Layton and his personal influence in helping the Prime Minister work through the idea of an apology and its potential positive impact. Prime Minister Harper was persuaded and took a personal interest and is reported to have written most of the apology himself. Prime Minister Harper was also very generous in his praise of Jack Layton’s role in his preamble to the apology.

This is quality governance and good governing at its finest. It is reassuring to see that it can still trump politics. Thanks to all those who made June 11, 2008 a date that will go down in Canadian history. It is hopefully a turning point and a place-marker of where we once again began to be worthy our Canadian mythology of an inclusive, welcoming, caring and compassionate society.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Back to the Odds and Sods of Conservative Politics.


Bernier to Harper: "Look who I have as my 'official girlfriend' Stephen. What do you mean I can't keep her?"


Good to see that Prime Minister Harper finally called the public inquiry into the Schreiber/Mulroney Affair. Eight months since he promised...justice delayed is justice denied Mr. Prime Minister.
The proposed new Canadian Copyright Law genuflects to the American pressures and could make Canada akin to China when it comes to controlling the Internet. I am a big fan of Jim Prentice but can’t support him on this one.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Apology for Canada Is Meaningful and Well Done. Will It Be Well Received?

The Apology today was our political leaders, both the House of Commons partisan and the national aboriginal leadership, at their very finest. I want to specifically thank Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the authenticity and sincerity he personally conveyed in articulating the depth of our national shame and in detailing the sad and sorrowful reasons for which we need to apologize.

Canada was proud to be recognized as the best place in the world to live by the United Nations Human Development Index for about 6 straight years. We were quickly relegated to 6th place once the lives and plight of our aboriginal peoples were included in the UN evaluation. That re-evaluation underscores the consequences of our collective shame and for our failings of aboriginal peoples as exemplified by the Residential School tragedy.

Grand Chief Phil Fontaine said this day is "...a testimony to the achievment of the impossible." Mary Simon of the Inuit said that today this is the “dawning of a new day.” There is a need for us to find a new way to go forward and to commit ourselves to develop more mutual trust and respect. That is going to be so necessary before we can overcome that part of our shared history and the abject injury that has been wrought upon so many aboriginal people.

This day will be iconic in the history of this country. The struggle for truth and reconciliation starts today but we have an auspicious start. Well done and thank you to all those who made "the impossible" happen and all those political and aboriginal leaders who spoke today and made it so meaningful.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Harper's Greasy Little Spot Ads Backfire!

The Harper Cons “Greasy Little Spot” Ads are running into some slippery slopes of their own. Seems like the company that owns the advertising monitors on gas pumps that these anti-Dion diatribes were going to be imposed on innocent people do not want anything to do with the slick and oily political propaganda that is oozing from the Harper message machine.

What is more, there is some chatter on the blogosphere about boycotting any gas station running the ads. Big oil will not be amused if they get caught in the PR disaster that the paid and personal attacks by the Harper political machine could bring upon them.

More proof that the cheap political tactics of the Harper Cons are wearing thin for a growing number of Canadians. I want peace, order and good government Mr. Harper. So far you have given me is war, confusion and no governance…with a leadership style that is just conniving and bullying.

I don’t want an election now either. However, I would like a government I can trust and respect and that has the best interests of Canadian citizens at its core, not just a lust for personal political power. Is that too much to ask?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Humanity Lobotomy - Second Draft

This video is about 10 minutes long and worth every minute of it if you value freedom of speech and the open nature of the Internet.

We in Alberta have a head start on all of this because we have the SuperNet. The Alberta SuperNet is one of the most empowering and enabling communications innovations on the planet. It is unique to our province and was paid for by you the Alberta taxpayer and citizen.

It is in or available to our hospitals, schools, municipal offices and libraries - all over Alberta.

It could now be available to you directly as a citizen too. Can you imagine the impact that will have on empowering and enabling Albertans in virtually all aspects of our lives?

I will tell you more about this innovation in future blog posts. In the mean time watch this video for some background and the American experience.

We have to make sure our SuperNet stays in our hands as owners and citizens through public ownership. It is vital infrastructure for us to thrive in a 21st century knowledge and conceptual based economy.


Harper Goes Neo-Republican With an Ad Campaign Based on Truthiness

The Harper Cons are at it again. They are spending advertising money to frame the issues around Dion’s emerging carbon reduction strategy as just a tax grab. The Dion initiative is more about shifting taxes to discourage green house gas emissions and to reduce personal income tax to offset the overall government income and overall tax neutrality.

The Harper Cons are running “several thousands of dollars” (according to Jason Kenny) of election style attack ads (again) but spending funds raised from supporters donated for actual election costs. This is the tried and true Cons legal but ethically wrong tactic of using paid campaign advertising and kind of “pretending” there is an election so they can spend donor dollars and not be subject to the election spending limits. Remember the Cons have decided to sue Elections Canada for ruling they breach the law with their famous “In-and-Out” and very own election spending adscam. Remember?

This political tactic is an approach that is so American Republican and Karl Rovian in its style and substance. The MSM love the newsiness and the truthiness of the misleading story and give the Harper Cons scads of “earned media” (sic) for the sham. The coverage they give to this cheap political ploy actually makes it worth the money for the Cons. They get much more coverage and I’ll bet at a higher dollar value than the ads they actually buy.

Now the Cons will have our gas pumps talking to us about tax trickery in government. How Orwellian can you get? Sad and scary isn’t it? This is why most Canadians feel they just can't trust Stephen Harper. More and more they are coming to the conclusion that he is just too cunning and conniving to be trusted and worthy to continue to serve as our Prime Minister.

The Harper Cons are trying to convince us Dion’s climate change strategy will only be an old time traditional Liberal tax and spend policy. The Liberal’s under Martin cut spending and reduced taxes in record amounts. Harper is off base with the facts in this ad campaign but is is consistent with his major political talent of ignoring the inconvenient truths that contradict and hurts his political positioning messaging control with his Reform/Alliance base.

Dion better get his climate change strategy up and out there before he misses another opportunity to define himself, instead of letting Harper’s henchmen have at him. Polls show that Canadians are ready for some straight talk and honest effort at tackling the climate change issues and will take some pain to achieve those ends.

Harper is trying to buy his way into the Canadian consciousness and is telling us Dion is all about “raising taxes and increasing government spending.” Neither one of these Harper Cons misrepresentations are anywhere close to being an accurate characterization of what Dion is proposing in a climate change response strategy. Talk about being “tricky.” The Harper Cons take the cake.

Issues on MLA Pay Raises Get Confusing and Are Not Going Away.

My friend Les Brost is up to his Old Prairie Dog antics again. This time he also takes on the pay hikes to Alberta's provincial politicians. He sees the process problems with this decision much like I do. He sees the pay hikes a part of a "secret deal" apparently done before the election intended to help recruit better candidates - but it was all kept quiet during the election.

Interestingly there are follow up news stories of interviews rookie PC politicians who openly say they never had such conversations. The old MLA pay was known going in and of no concern to them as candidates. This is getting murkier and sticking to the Stelmach Premiership in the minds of many Albertans. the MSM will tire of it soon given the short attention span of the 24 hour MSM machine. However, it will lurk and linger in the minds of Albertans, and with Google, they will be able to refresh their memories and rekindle their anger any time they want to do a search on "Alberta MLA pay raises."

Check out what Les has to say on his opinion piece in the Calgary Herald today.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Don't Just Complain About Politician's Pay - Act Like a Citizen and Make Them Earn It!

OK Alberta, if we are paying our provincial politicians so handsomely, and we are, then it is time for the citizens to get engaged in their democracy and be sure we get our money’s worth form our politicians.

So whatever your issue, concern, fear, hope, aspiration, insight or just plain observations are about life in Alberta, you need to let your MLA know. In the process you might take the time to learn something about your MLA as well. Lots of info is on the Internet – just Google them. If they don’t show up much in Google, that should tell you something about how effective, engaged or capable they are as your political representative.

Learn lots about them and where they stand on issues on issues by going to Hansard and searching your issue or concern and the name of the MLA. You can find out lots about what your democratically elected representatives are interested in and what they are doing and saying in Hansard too. See if they have a website and visit it - regularly. Do a blog search in Google again and see if they are reaching out and commenting on issues and ideas that way. If there is not much happening on their websites, like regular updates, comments and content changes, I would be wondering if they are doing their jobs for you.

If they are not really engaged in getting in touch with you and not very involved in commenting or communicating on issues of the day and making little attempt to clarify policy and political efforts for you, are they worth the money you are paying them?

Here is a link for you to reach your MLA. Don’t just dash off a quick insulting email or nasty phone call to the constituency every time you get ticked about something. Citizenship is not just about venting. Show up at town hall and community events where your MLA is speaking or aTake the time to write a real letter, put a stamp on it and walk down to the mail box. The mental and physical exercise will do you good. It shows you are thoughtful and considered in your comments because you invested more time an effort. It has a larger impact on the politicians you are trying to communicate with too.

It is time for Albertans to start acting like citizens again. Passive aggressive cynicism is dangerous as our default position for citizenship. Exercise your right of free speech or risk losing it. Tell your MLA what you are thinking and concerned about. Be forthright, frequent, fair and civil in your comments and communications, but for your own sake get at it. Make you politician earn that hefty raise they just gave themselves. Let them know what is on your mind and why. Offer ideas and solutions, not just criticisms and ask for responses.

Get informed on what is going on politically in matters that interest you. The Internet can be your best friend for such information and it is easy to find with search engines. Reach out to your friends and families and help them to get and stay informed so they too will re-engage as citizens and make an effort to make a better Alberta for all of us.

The politicians are not likely to roll back the pay increase so bitching about is one response. My suggesting is more strategic. Make them earn their new pay cheques by insisting they know and show their stuff on the issues and concerns of Albertan like you. But you have to let them know what is on your mind and what specific concerns you have and what you think could be done better. It is time for Albertans to start to act like citizens again.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Are the Harper Cons Capable to Govern Canada?

I have oft accused the Harper Cons of bluster, bullying and brashness. The National Post column by John Turley-Ewart: “Failing the Bernier Test – Stephen Harper’s chance to shine is fading” is a very telling example of the reprehensible manner our government is dealing with the concerns of our country. The itemized recent exchanges in the House of Commons and the Harper Cons sneering approach to its responsibility for “governing” is underscored in this column. Read it and judge for yourself

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Claims of Doctored Harper - Cadman Tapes Undermines Canadian's Confidence in the Harper Cons

How much “confidence” can the Harper Cons handle? How much do they deserve? They have made a mockery of the idea of confidence votes claiming virtually every Commons vote to be a confidence vote. This was a vain attempt at trying to trigger a needless and pointless early election. The con the Harper Cons are perpetrating now is even more ridiculous.

Yesterday they put the Con back in confidence with the allegations of doctored tapes of Harper recorded comments on the Cadman Affair. Their dumb and dumber diatribe over such superficial allegations underscores the propensity of the PMO for message control and media manipulation. This latest episode of the decline and eventual demise of the Harper “government” has taken on a theater of the absurd quality.

The latest Con claims of “doctored audio tapes claiming alleged changes in the “meaning” of the Prime Minister’s comments about a million dollar insurance offer to Mr. Cadman for his vote is as worrisome as it is laughable. Such efforts of diversion of media attention are not new with this “government.”

The thick binder of “evidence” presented at the “news” conference was to confirm the tape contained “edits” seems to be more voluminous than luminous. Author Tom Zytaruk, who did the recording of the PM for the Cadman book he was writing, explained the “edits” in the Globe and Mail today. He says he stopped the tape “…momentarily when he thought Mr. Harper had finished speaking. When Mr Harper turned back Mr. Zytaruk resumed taping. He (Zytaruk) insisted that neither he nor Mr. Harper said anything during the interruption.” Over to you and to your audio experts Mr. Prime Minister. Rebut that please.

The story gets richer. The PM has sued the Liberals for libel but he has not taken action against the book publisher nor the author, who did the taping where the claims originated. The doctored tape claims appear strangely political don’t you think? Strangely political goes even further in this farce.

The con the Harpercrits are perpetrating goes further into the absurd. According to news report they have applied to the Ontario Superior Court to seek an injunction to stop the Liberals from using the tape…but they don’t want the matter dealt with until Sept 18. The sense of urgency to protect the PM’s reputation in these circumstances is underwhelming. Clearly there is no concern over the potential damage that these so-called “doctored tapes” might cause to the PM’s reputation and standing in the community as a result of the alleged libel can wait 3 or 4 months to be dealt with. Could it be the Cons are trying to use the courts for political purposes? Say it ain’t so Steve!

The news reports show the Cons evidence to back up such claims of “doctoring” is scant to say the most. The posturing and posing by the Harper political and Orwellian message machine is beyond suspicion. It is so far past being ludicrous.

This is not about remedying a damaged personal reputation or seeking justice for a wrong. It is the same old – same old Cons pursuing a purely political agenda. This is about them using their tried and true political tools of message control, bluster and bullying.

This will not help the Harper Cons gain the trust and respect of Canadians they need to get a majority – or even win the next election. The confidence of the people in the face of the con being perpetrated by the Conservative “government” is now an open and undecided question for the Canadian voters. This latest Harper Cons misadventure and political ridiculousness will move the needle of public opinion but not the way the Harper manipulation machine intended.

Obama and Clinton Have Each Made An Impression - Neither Has Made History --- NOT YET!

The woman and the black man have both made an impression but neither one has made history…at least not yet.

For that to happen Obama has to win the Presidency. My money is on him. McCain is so 1975 and the disgruntled Hilary Democrats have nowhere else to go but to Obama– and the dare not stay home if they want to retake the prize - the White House.

There are a swack of 60’s feminists in my circle of friends that are mighty pissed at the Democratic Primary results. They are not American but the shared sisterhood in the States will not vote ever Republican nor for McCain...regardless of how angry and frustrated they feel. To not vote would belie their foundational belief in the democratic system and devalue their heartfelt desire for a female US President.

A female US President is inevitable because the odds favour it…the first female President is just not going to be Hillary. I say inevitable because of the number of women in the American voting pool is over 50%. All they have to do is get their act together, consolidate their political power and show up. They did for Hillary but it was not done well. the Clinton campaign was too presumptive and noblese oblige in tone. They old line campaign style was not able to deliver in the face of the phenomenon that was to be Obama.

The American voting pool for a black President is only about 10% and shrinking. So the Democratic nominee being black is ACTUALLY against all odds and that is the truly astounding thing. It is not quite a hundred years since women got the right to vote in America. For the first female candidate with as shot at the White House in 2008 is as impressive as it is saddening in its delay and disappointing result.

It has been about two centuries since the American stopped the slave trade. That factoid alone underscores the enormous impact of the Obama nomination and the significance it means for America and its place in the world. If Obama becomes President – and I hope he does, then America can once again aspire to become a beacon of hope and a place of promise, and an example of principled significance in the world. For the past 8 years of Bush-Cheney it has been anything but anything close to those aspirations.



Campaigns matter. The real campaign - McCain-Obama has been tepid and tentative so far...but that is about to change immediately. The next phase of selecting the "leader" of the free world is about to begin with a vengeance. Stay tuned. It is going to be significant. to you no matter where you live on the planet.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Harper Cons Claim Libs "Doctored" Cadman Tapes



How B-grade Hollywood can you get. The Cons have continued to embarrass themselves over this sad and sordid matter.and not they are actually caricaturing themselves with such silly pronouncements.

I wonder who will the equivalent to the former Bush White House Press Secretary, Mr. Scott McClellan? Who in the Conservative brain trust will do the ultimate tell-all-tales and expose the back-room-truths about this group of non-governing Harper Con goofuses in what ought to a best selling Canadian book - meaning it might sell 5000 copies!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Alberta Venture and the Ethics of Executive Pay.

The June issue of Alberta Venture magazine is out. The "The Right Call" business ethics column this month is on executive pay. The panel this week is me from Cambridge Strategies Inc., Janet Keeping from the Sheldon Chumir Foundation and Harold Milavsky of Quantico Capital Corporation. Fil Fraser moderates once again.


We can look at this in terms of pay for politicians now too with the hefty raises recently passed in the Alberta Legislature. Here is a link to my earlier blog post on that issue.


Give the column a read and let me know your thoughts.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Is Harper on the Right Track or is He a Divisive Force in Canada?

The latest Ipsos Reid poll is at best a foreboding and foreshadowing for the future of Mr. Harper’s minority government. The wisdom of the public is reflected in that the Bernier affair has not changed the overall support rankings of the various political parties. It should not – at least not yet, until we know more about what went on with the security breach around the classified Cabinet documents.

The troubling trend for me in the new poll is the fracturing of the country on regional lines. Harper is a growing lightning rod for the fragmentation of the country based on perceptions of if the country is on the right track as a nation and the support to re-elect Harper's government.

His support for putting the country on the right track is regionalized from a high of 64% support in Alberta to a low of 48% in British Columbia. This is getting translated into growing questions about if the Harper government should be re-elected. There is a majority in Atlantic Canada (56%) and in Quebec (53%) who do not want the Harper government back. Only 48% of B.C. and 47% of Ontarians think Harper should be re-elected.

The lack of a forward thinking policy agenda from Harper’s “team” (sic) is now being talked about too as a growing concern. Tepid support for Harper being on the right track for the country and the growing sense he has no vision for the direction of the country and he is a divisive force will start to show his weaknesses as a leader.

We don’t need a manager as our Prime Minister. We need a leader we can trust and depend on. Harper has been positioned as a manager, a control freak and a master message manipulator, but that is not the stuff of a Prime Minister. Canadians are quickly coming to that realization and the new Ipsos Reid poll is showing this awareness which will be growing in the 17 months until the next election.

Dion Demands the RCMP Engage in Bernier Bungling

I see Mr. Dion is in the Globe and Mail today calling for the RCMP to come in a clarify if the Bernier bungling of classified Cabinet information is serious or not.


We need this to happen and I called for the RCMP to come in on this matter in my May 26th posting.


The Globe and Mail did a strong set of stories on the implications of l'Affaire Bernier on the weekend. Good job of serious journalism that is worth the time to read. It makes the point that it is not good enough to dwell on the titillation of the scandal. We need to know just what the Coulliard connection to Hell's Angles means to the quality of the security of our government. Her past biker gang relationships and her role in securing a contract to transport criminals in Quebec is cause for concern too.


The possibility that there was a Hell's Angel's contract out on Ms. Coulliard's life means we need to worry about her well being now too. The shift in attention has to be to the larger issues of security and public safety as well as the need to worry about the safety of certain citizens as well.


So far too many people who are i the know not talking for reasons of "national Security." The information vacuum is leaving the rumour mill to take over and fill in the blanks with bluster and conspiracies. This is all very silly at one end of the story but deadly serious at the other end.


Call in the RCMP Mr. Prime Minister and stop the silliness and use your power and office to get to the bottom of this serious situation.