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Monday, December 29, 2008

Will Harper Decline in 2009 Like Bush Did in 2008?


The world order of Pariah Minister Stephen Harper has changed dramatically in the past few months. He has moved from being disingenuous, mean spirited and misleading to mendacious and capricious not only with the truth but with the good of the country.

His political talisman has been the Bush White House. He has not emulated "W" so much as he has Rumsfeld and Cheney and deployed the Rovarian Cancer of a constant political campaign at a time when we needed governing and leadership. Will he suffer the same lame duck fate as President Bush has seen in his a precipitous decline in popularity and suitability for office?

Harper is a quick study but a slow learner as shown by his character flaws and stubbornness in resisting adaptation and refusal to assume responsibility or culpability for his monumental errors in judgment.

Lawrence Martin's thoughtful and insightful study of Pariah Minister Harper refreshes our memories of how poorly he has been at governing. Canadians are tired of elections and tired of leadership campaigns and are unsettled to say the least about their futures.

We have elected 3 consecutive minority governments. While a coalition government is foreign to our traditions it is not out of the question. It may be a necessity if the Harper Party persists in pursuing personal power over providing us with some economic and social stability in this serious recession.

Harper has one last chance with his January 27th budget to smarten up and to show he can and will attend to governing the country. Otherwise I say dump the Harper Party and lets see what a coalition government can do instead of another election right away.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Alberta's Tobacco Ban Legislation is Working

Last year I worked with a consortium of NGO health agencies in Alberta. We were successful in getting legislated smoking bans in public and work places, elimination of tobacco sale power walls and as of Jan 1, no tobacco sales in pharmacies.

Reports indicate this new legislation is working. Tobacco tax revenues are down in spite of a recent tax increase. This kind of prevention measure will save the health system money and improve the quality of life for everyone. Well maybe not for those poor souls who are freezing on the sidewalks at -30 and still puffing away. I wonder if the recession will help some more Albertans to get serious about quitting?

Alberta was one of the last provinces to get on the ball with this kind of legislated health prevention effort. With the change in Progressive Conservative Party leadership we have seen some interesting progressive policy efforts like this...and my other favourate public funding of midwifery. Again Alberta was a laggard. Better late than never.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Gas Prices Are Low BUT a Crunch is Coming

For all those who think climate change is someone else's problem and far enough in the future that we don't need to get serious about it now I recommend you read Dan Gardner's column in the papers today.

Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World

Along with the rest of Alberta, I am huddle at home, caught in the grasp of a serious but blessed Pine Beetle killing cold spell. I was pleased with my surfing this morning to run across an intelligent piece of commentary on climate change in the U of A student newspaper The Gateway.

There was a recent on-campus lecture by Dr Andrew Weaver, professor and Canadian chair in climate modelling and analysis in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria, our province hardly deserves the sole blame.

Here is what hooked me into a deeper consideration of what is happening and what needs to change about how we view climate change, including Alberta:

Most of us don’t read the peer-reviewed literature. We’re not going to go to journals and read about the latest research in a particular area. We’re going to get science knowledge—and this includes media in most areas of science—by going to the newspaper, the television, and radio,” he noted.

The problem with that, as Weaver sees it, is that the media has a tendency to be inaccurate in their depiction of the facts. His second critique was centered around the fact that most media personalities aren’t scientists.

“I’m not making fun of the media, but rather, through these extreme examples, [I want] to show how difficult it is to convey this science to an audience, and how it can be exploited by individuals who know how the media works,” he remarked.

Eventually delving into the real issue at hand—global warming—and its ability to shape the future of this world, Weaver was blunt in his assertion that at this point, there are just some realities that can’t be escaped."

Here is the link to the rest of The Gateway piece.

I guess I have another book to read over Christmas now Weaver’s recent book, Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More "Truthiness" From the Harper-Cons.

I don’t trust Stephen Harper and I don’t trust Jim Flaherty. They don’t tell the truth. They have done nothing by mislead and lie and fudge the facts about the real state and pending prospects of our economy. Now they are changing their story – yet again. They are moving from a minimalist economic growth myth in the last “FU Canada” (fiscal update for the uninitiated) to and even smaller marginal projection of a deficit and recession. Which political motivated myth is the reality? What are we to believe and who can we trust to give it to us straight?

These guys are nothing more than silver-tongued fiscal devils that are always shifting their share of the blame (with apologies to Kris Kristofferson). They have squandered all benefit of the public’s doubt in their integrity and ability, and even intention, to govern. They have given us their false promises that are just pockets full of political mumbles and vainglorious lies (with apologies to Paul Simon).

Thanks to their inconsistencies we don’t know what the true state of the Canadian economy is because these guys are constantly fudging the facts for partisan political purposes. They were playing pure politics in the recent election when they trumpeted that the Canadian economic fundamentals were strong. The clear implication was that if we voted for the “superior ability of the Conservatives to manage the economy” we would weather the storm and not be caught in the US recession (cum depression?). What a load of crap that was! Thanks to these guys we are now scrambling to get a handle on what is really coming at our economy and what it means for our future.

Only when the Harper-Cons faced the threat of losing political power did they change their story. Only then did they feigned to reform and revise their reign of truthiness. Does anyone who is thoughtful and informed on the issues we face believe Harper any more about anything? Does anyone anymore think the Harper government is working for us? Does anyone anymore feel like he is being accountable and transparent with Canadians? Does anyone anymore feel they are informed about what is actually going on in this government about anything and in particular the economy? Does anyone anymore believe the Harper government is capable of admitting its mistakes and adapting its approach to new realities and new information? Does anyone anymore believe that the Harper government is making decisions based on facts instead of political expediency?

By the way, those questions are “some of the intangibles” that Barrack Obama announced yesterday that he wanted to be judged on in the first two years of his Presidency. My God we are badly governed in this country. Wake up and stay awake Canada! It is time to make our politicians pay attention to the needs of the country and its citizens – not just their own personal purposes of preserving political power.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reflections on a Black Swann in Alberta Politics

I am reassured that a man like David Swann can win a political party leadership in a place like Alberta. Getting 54% of the less than 5000 votes is not sign that Swann is seen as the “game changer” that many politically frustrated Albertans are looking for. I am not sure a game changer is what we need anymore. The game has already changed. We now need a pioneering leader who can help us adapt to a very different and difficult human journey.

I don’t know if David is a game changer but he may be a mapmaker who charts a new course for politics in Alberta. We are sailing into unknown territory economically, ecologically and socially all over the globe. Alberta may be more blessed and less stressed than many other places but we are not immune from the new realities of recession and restructuring. The game has changed and so must our politics.

The early mapmakers described the as yet unknown parts of the world as “There be Dragons.” It is an apt metaphor for today as we venture into this new sense of the unknown. I call it “Vueja Day.” That funny feeling nobody has ever been here before.

The new world order is going to challenge our conventional narratives and business-as-usual model of politics. We have emerging and imminent challenges that we have created by enabling greed and the centralized political power that has been abdicating its oversight roles and responsibilities in the economy, the environment and even in our social institutions.

We are at a stage where we can’t solve the complex problems coming at us by applying the old cultural norms and institutional levers. That is because they are not simple not responsive enough, applicable enough nor adaptive enough. Our conventional tools of government, our traditional definition of success and our current decision making models are actually adding to the problems, not resolving them. We see more political bungling and lost opportunities as a result. We have our “leaders” posturing to avoid accountability, transparency and responsibility. We see more squandering of our scarce resources with disingenuous politicians who are good at feigning that they care as they fail to provide adaptive leadership in the face of the new dynamics.

Alberta seems to many like a political mono-cultural and a one-party state. That may have been Alberta’s past but I don’t think that is Alberta’s future. The Alberta narrative is about to change significantly. The myth of the rugged self-reliant individual, risk-taking wealth generating entrepreneur who exploits the abundant natural resources for big bucks will not go away. But it will not be the only narrative that defines Alberta going forward. If it is the only operational narrative, then Alberta will quickly fail because we will fail to adapt to the new realities of the post hydrocarbon world that is confronting us.

If there is no post hydrocarbon world coming at us, then Alberta will still fail. We will just fail along with the rest of our species as the planet heats up and we slavishly seek to keep to our illusions and delusions that tomorrow will be a variation of yesterday…regardless of evidence to the contrary. The world will go on, perhaps without us, but the planet will not care one way or the other, if we fail to adapt and survive.

So I’m hoping David Swann is the Black Swan and the improbable exception that enables us to make new models of politics, governing and government. Our democracy is ailing and we lack political leaders who have sufficient wisdom and judgment to be life affirming. Instead we see them all to selfishly focused on preserving personal and political power. David Swann strikes me as being unselfish and life affirming. After all aren’t medical doctors all about being life affirming and in service the public good?

The educated person quickly comes to realize the more we learn the more ignorant we actually are. The wisdom of that truth has to be brought to bear on our politics and become foundational to the new operating narrative for the next Alberta. I’m thinking David Swan may be the new mapmaker that is willing to explore new ways of seeing and doing politics. He may be able to help us realize our current ignorance and actually encourage and enable us to write a new citizen-based narrative for the next Alberta.

Will he be able to lead us in ways so we start to really reengage in responsible, caring, resourceful citizenship? Will Albertans be wise and skillful enough to take on the adaptive change challenges that the new world realities demand of us?

Will David Swann be allowed to become the kind of unconventional pioneering political leader that can help us find and refine the next Alberta? Or will he just become another prophet? A prophet’s lot in life is to be stoned by the masses. Time will tell but one thing is obvious to me, we need new maps to be drawn by new mapmakers as we move forward as strangers in a strange land that is the uncertain, chaotic and complex future of the planet.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Blackett Sets the Record Straight

I was really disturbed by the CBC story last week suggesting Alberta's Minister of Culture Lindsay Blackett was considering withholding provincial government funding for certain film projects. The story was spurred by the Oscar short-listed documentary “Downstream” by Leslie Iwerks. I have not seen the documentary but understand it is critical of oil sands development and focuses on the controversy over allegations of high cancer rates in the Fort Chipewyan area.

Full disclosure, I am working with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Fort Chipewyan on legal/policy issues around the timing of Alberta's duty to consult on oil sands leases. I also work with Lions Gate Television on arranging the provincial and city funding of the NBC primetime television series "Fear Itself" that was shot in Edmonton last year.

I was relieved to read the Todd Babiak’s typically thorough and thoughtful Edmonton Journal column on Saturday that clarified the situation considerably. I have spoken and met with Lindsay Blackett on several occasions and cannot imagine that censorship is anywhere in his DNA and it ought not to be in any of our elected representatives.

Blackett has effecitvly diffused the “story” by saying “Nobody is complaining about it. Not in my office, not in caucus, not in cabinet.” He goes on to state “We’re not so thin-skinned that we can’t take a little criticism. I believe in freedom of speech. We love to encourage artistic freedom and we don’t believe in censorship.” That is the Lindsay Blackett I know and that is the right place of government in free speech and artistic freedom too.

I think we need more appreciation for the controversial and criticism that artists uncover and convey in and to our society. I recently wrote an essay entitled “Profiting From the Artist as Prophet” for the City of Edmonton Culture Policy in support of that theme. I argued that “The core genius of the artist is the ability to express unreserved truth.” I believe “That artistic ability is enough to alter our entire culture by changing our orienting stories and our binding societal myths.”

Art and artists can be merely entertainment in what Ralph Waldo Emerson called the “frolic and juggle” level of the artist. Emerson goes on to say when we experience art and artists at the “genius level” they help us to “realize and add” as they make invaluable contributions to our insight and self-awareness.

As a student of politics and leadership I have observed that political leaders are often limited in their ability to see the truths that an artist can envisage. This is because politicians are inevitably placed in the compromise zone between such truths and societies receptivity to accept them.

Reading the Babiak column one sees that Lindsay Blackett gets this healthy tension about the reality about the nexus of art, culture and politics. Our governments have become the major patrons and benefactors of art and artists. Governments are under increasing pressure for accountability and transparency in the use of taxpayer dollars at the same time. This tends to measure the value of art in terms of quantitative, management and programmatic terms and diminishes and depreciates the benefits artists provide to a vital and vibrant society.

Blackett acknowledges that Alberta’s film funding,”… like democracy is a work in progress.” Alberta has historically been a national leader is making progress of this good work but that all changed in the Klein years. As Alberta seeks to become a knowledge society and economy and an attractor of culture creatives, sustained and substantial public support for arts and culture industries are a lever to make that transformation.

So contrary to implications in recent media reports, censorship is not “on” for Alberta. Government making art and culture funding decisions based on esthetic or ideological considerations is not on either. Taking a more strategic role and having a progressive public policy game play for culture industries needs to be on for Alberta. We need to breathe life and energy into the new Alberta Culture Policy in ways that makes Alberta thrive.

Lindsay Blackett has the right vision and the right stuff to make this happen but he cannot do it alone. Albertans have to get behind him and demand an enlightened public policy that enables, encourages and empowers our cultural creatives.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Playing For Change: Song Around the World

This is a video tht really touched me. It makes the point that we are all in this world alone and together. We have our own troubles and those we also share with everyone and everything else on the planet.

We have to learn to stand by each other. That may not be such a bad New Years Resolution.

Busy Days on Oil Sand Development Issues.

It has been quite the time on a wide range of oil sands issues and events over the past couple of weeks.

We have the economic elements seeing capital projects being delayed, deferred and some may even die or leave the province due to high costs, low oil prices and the evaporation of capital markets.

We have the ENGO sourced news based on a science-based report on the oil sands development adverse effects on migratory birds. Then we say a study released on seepage and leakage from toxic tailing ponds. This was all being done at a time when there is a big experts conference in Edmonton on what to do with the tailing ponds where industry floated the idea that they water may have to be treated and released into the Athabasca and Mackenzie River basins.

We also have the Alberta Land Use Framework and the Alberta Energy Strategy policy releases happening too. At the same time we have the Poznan Poland meetings on climate change that is drawing uncomplimentary international attention to oil sands development.

On the social side, yesterday I helped professionally with the communication of the Judicial Review initiative of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. They are seeking a Court declaration that the Province of Alberta has to engage in meaningful consultation on the impact of oil sands projects before any leases are granted to development companies.

This is a very interesting case that challenges the current provincial policy that puts the duty to consult on industry after an oil sands lease is granted. It is not the job, nor the duty, of industry to consult with First Nations people on Treaty Rights and Traditional Use issues. It is the province’s responsibility and it is not one that can be effectively delegated to a third party.

There is nothing legally stopping Alberta from consulting in a meaningful way with First Nations on their Constitutional rights before an oil sands or any other natural resource lease is granted that impacts those rights. B.C. does it. It is just Alberta policy that creates uncertainty, additional expense and even delay in projects because of a lack of clarity and process and an ineffective policy position.

This Judicial Review application is not about money. It is about Alberta meeting its duty to consult legal obligation in advance of leasing crown lands that will have an impact Treaty Rights and Traditional uses.

With the current slowdown in the oil sands development, there is a chance to take a breath and do oil sands development right not just rapidly. Doing it right involves a comprehensive and integrated policy approach that deals effectively with the economic, environmental, societal and legal aspects of responsible oil sands development.

The advent of new provincial energy and land use policies provides a platform for a better dialogue with Albertans, including aboriginal Albertans, in the appropriate development of this crucial non-renewable resource. This ACFN legal action will likely cause the province to first say they will not discuss matters before the courts. That would be an unhelpful response towards finding a mutually beneficial resolution that would aid the province, industry and aboriginal people in finding an effective and fair resolution.

Time will tell if an enlightened policy will come forth from effective goodwill negotiations involving the province, First Nations and industry the need to consult before leases are issues. Or will there be no alternative but to have a court imposed “solution.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Participate in What is Happening in Poznan Poland on Climate Change

Important opportunity for you to view wha tis happening in Poznan Poland thanks to OneClimate.net



The Man in Charge Takes Your QuestionsPut your questions straight to Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCCLive from the UN Climate Conference in Poznan, Poland

Wednesday (Today!), 17:30 GMT (12:30 EST) - Join the Live Discussion on OneClimate.net/Poznan


Right now almost eleven thousand participants are taking part in the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland - and they've created countless tonnes of carbon travelling there.The good news is that YOU can have your say in this hugely important event WITHOUT contributing to the problem. OneClimate has broken new ground in allowing people all over the planet to interact with key movers and shakers inside the UN conference hall - all from the comfort of their laptops. Be a part of it and join us in Virtual Poznan.Today is your chance to put the tough questions to the man in charge. What needs to be done to solve the climate crisis and what's actually getting done behind closed doors?



The Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Yvo de Boer, will respond to your thoughts and questions Wednesday 10th December at 17:30 GMT (12:30 pm EST).Watch the live video stream and use the interactive comments facility to inject your thoughts at http://oneclimate.net/poznan. Or join the discussion live in Second Life. Click here: http://slurl.com/secondlife/OneClimate/19/238/22 to teleport to our Virtual Poznan arena on



OneClimate Island. Get there early -- capacity is 200 avatars.And be sure to keep up with the latest from the conference and join the discussions each day this week at 17:30 GMT (12:30 pm EST).See you in Virtual Poznan!The OneClimate



Teamwww.oneclimate.net/poznanp.s. don't worry - we've got some other great speakers lined up too, just in case Yvo gets pulled into an emergency negotiating session at the last minute!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Ignatieff Wins Liberal Leadership By Attrition.

In the post-Stephane Dion reality Dominic LeBlanc and Bob Rae bow out of the Liberal Leadership race. So the next Liberal leader is the runner up from last time. The crown passes to Michael Ignatieff with a whimper not a bang.

It looks like the transfer of the Federal leadership follows the model of the Miss Universe beauty pageant. In the political reality of beauty pageant succession it is clear that if the winner can’t perform her duties, for whatever reason, then the first runner up will take over and finish the job. Dion’s done and Iggy’s in. The politics of the Federal Liberals and Miss Universe unfold as they should.

As a newly minted Federal Liberal interloper Bob Rae’s leadership hopes depended on him being able to use a coalition approach to attract and create a different power base to win a leadership contest. That would take time and given the tentative nature of Harper’s minority, time is not on Rae’s side.

At a more fundamental level, my sense is Rae is too much yesterday’s man and LeBlanc may be tomorrow’s man but the reality of today requires as sense of urgency, and talent for adaptability and the some political nimbleness. That is where the political focus has to be for the Federal Liberal party. I see Ignatieff as a man of today. In that way he ends up being the transitional leader from the old style centralized power and top-down authority based model of politics to the new networked, internet based political culture that is coming.

A party leader being selected by attrition is not a great day for democracy in the purist’s sense. But the times are not normal, be it economically, environmentally and socially…and for sure politically. The process that results in Ignatieff as leader of the Federal Liberal party is obviously sub-optimal. It does meet the governance needs of these times in Canada…it shows the Federal Liberals to be adaptable and nimble in the face of the economic urgency facing the nation.

The coalition is not dead under Ignatieff. It is merely dormant, having done its job so far. It can be resurrected just as quickly as it was the first time. It will undoubtedly be revived if Harper chooses again to ignore the needs of the nation in favour of his self-centred power hungry political approach.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Lets Get Away From the Political Extremes and Move to the Radical Middle

I have been watching and reflecting on the policy events, media set-ups and staged political theatre of the past week in Canada. I have seen with despair the partisan theater of the media staged photo-op phoniness at the heart of the partisan demonstrations for the Conservatives or the Coalition, as if we only had to choose between them. Even their adlib lines seemed well rehearsed (hat tip to Paul Simon) in the strained spontaneity of the small recruited and artificially earnest crowds.


There are, however, some reassuring signs of a different consciousness that may be forming in the Canadian head and heart. It is not a perspective that is sees the world as left versus right, “we” versus “them”, or even “us” as better that the “other.” These inclusive, caring and nurturing impulses are going to be key and necessary character qualities for survival and progress in the globalized inter-related economic, ecological and cultural world we have now created.


The power politics of the times are still stuck in that medieval adversarial mindset. Win-win is for sissies. We are stuck in stale debates and see policies sponsored by too many of the same old-style politicians, of all partisan persuasions. We see all too clearly that they are merely offering self-serving non-solutions aimed at either avoidance or deferral of accountability.


The cautious Canadian operating principle of constant compromise into the traditional muddled and mushy middle does not work anymore. This is because the power players have become cleverer. They have changed their tactics. They have caught on that if you are extremist or reactionary enough you can generate superficial “he said, she said” media coverage. That conflict energizes the party troops and helps convince your base of the worthiness of your cause. The goal is a compromise middle ground that skews to your side. In the ground game of mean-spirited muddling politics a skewed compromise, however marginal the utility of the "win," it is still a major political victory in the partisan land of the trivial and the trifling.


I am seeing from the public reaction to events this week, a new enlightenment and a new sense of hope. Perchance even some Audacity of Hope (a book worth reading if you are a Progressive) emerging in the citizenry. This is from its collective articulation of a growing disdain for the devious ways of old-style politics and pandering partisans. Citizen’s cynicism and skepticism has become anger and activism.


Citizens have been ignoring elections but they are starting to pay attention to politics again. They are becoming individually intentional and many are engaging to actively overthrow the status quo system. That status quo system is the destructive political model of the self-serving political classes that we lobbyists too often sustain as the "experts" in the old ways and means of the darker arts of politics.


Mark Satin’s book Radical Middle, the Politics We Need Now calls for a new politics that can deal with the disappearing borders inherent from the highly mediated and connected world. He calls for everyone to embrace a radicalism in “fresh and principled way” that is “bold and yet savvy enough to want idealism without illusions.” He calls for a new kind of radicalism that addresses the “fundamental public policy issues in ways that are honest and imaginative and creative.” His middle is not about over throwing corporate capitalism of representative democracy but “…committed to finding practical, humane…answers to the very real problems of (our) institutions and corporate capitalism.”


I for one, am up for a new radicalism that is realistic and practical and focused on real solutions to the real problems of our times. I am not up for any effort that merely does what Satin calls “twiddling the dials on the status quo.” I sense some kindred spirits out there. I hope we find each other and that we get together and become a force to be reckoned with and effective agents of change.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Rick's Rant - Dec. 2, 2008

This is not just a Mercer Rant - it is an expose of Emperor Harper and just how dangerous he is. I can't imagine what Harper would do with the absolute power of a majority.

Stay awake Canada.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Maddow: Oh Canada...

Boy does American Commentator Rachel Maddow ever get it.

I can't believe our own tradition touting Conservatives can't see the damage that was done to Canadian democracy yesterday by the selfish and self-serving Stephen Harper.

Power away form the people and pull the plug on Parliament just for doing exactly what it is supposed to do...serve the interests of Canada - not those of the Prime Minister.

Hat tip to Davberta for the link.

Harper Gets a Reprieve. Now What?

So now what? Have we merely staved off the inevitable non-confidence vote? Will Harper learn to love Canada as much as himself? Will Dion be gone at an accelerated pace? Will we find some adults to supervise Question Period? Will Canadians keep caring about their country enough to continue to engage at a meaningful level and not just be reactionary? Here are some observations and prognostications:

Dion: He has to go sooner than May 2009. His work here is done. The country is too volatile and split for the Liberals to wait for the next Godot to show up. Dion has considerable talents but political leadership and retail politics are not his strong suits. He has brought Harper to heel but he lacks the skill set and the mind set to make him sit shake-paw and beg. Those are the critical training objectives for Harper to master if he wants to extend this reign.

Harper: He is a man of many faces. It is as if being two-faced is not enough for him. He is not well intended in the service of the country and pathologically insincere in word and deed. As a result of such serious character flaws he suffers from a syndrome of serious integrity lapses. But he can be trained. Like all good puppies, he will learn because he responds to rewards and fears punishment. Harper is not yet House broken but he has finagled his way out of the House and into the dog house. He has pissed off most of the country with his snarling and aggressive behaviours. He is on a choker leash now and if he does not behave, he will be muzzled. If he continues to behave like a brighter but smart-ass George Bush he will be “put down” - politically at least.

Liberal Leadership: Let’s get the Liberal leadership over by the end of February – at the latest! The candidates are decided and known. This sequel promises to be less engaging that the first season and with fewer survivors left in “the Great Race.” The political climate is so fragile and the country is so uncertain that one lingering political uncertainty is unwise and unnecessary. Dion is done and the Liberals will be too if the dither.

The Coalition: This edition of a united opposition is likely over. It has done its job. It has humbled and humiliated Harper and for that we owe the leaders a debt of gratitude. If there is a new Liberal leader decided on a fast-track the second edition of an on-going opposition coalition ought to be part of the plan going forward. We need to look carefully at the concept of coalitions given we are on our third minority government in a row – and who know how many more will be coming.

Old Canada Redux: Canadians are still split on partisan lines and Harper has revived the regional animosities again. I would like to see a coalition government for a short term, like a year or so. It would serve as a potential test run of what governing would be like as a result of Proportional Representation. It would not be as a result of PR but it would be a consequence of PR.

The Next Canada: We are about to be tested as a nation and as a society. Our old orienting mythologies of being an inclusive, fair, caring and careful and cautious society are going to be put challenged due to this economic crisis. Our character as a nation will be highlighted as we work our way through the coming calamities. How we deal with big issues urbanization, climate change, immigration, aboriginal relationships and our place in the world and our roles and responsibilities as citizens are going to be highlighted.

The Next Election: Are we going to come through this as a new progressive society, stay as a consumptive at all cost “growth” society, or will be retreat to a traditionalist model? The next election will set that course. If Harper wins a majority we will retreat into a conservative ideological mode of thought noted for a moral discipline with an expectation of obedience to authority. Harper will be portrayed as the strategic manager and experienced economist will be the strict father figure to get us through the economic mess but based on fears and insecurities. More George Bush?

If there is some other election outcome we may see a different more progressive Canada emerge that is a more caring and nurturant society. We may see a new political culture that has government and leadership that is attuned to empathy, responsibility and hope where we protect, empower and care for each other in a more vibrant sense of community and common cause that includes the individual but is larger than the individual. More Barrack Obama?

One thing that seems certain, given the causes and courses of the economic meltdown, the status quo is not on. We are not longer able to afford and presuming we can continue to abuse the planet for personal gain at the expense of the “others.” We are embedded in a globally interdependent and vulnerable world that is facing an ecological peril that is more dire than the ensuing recession/depression.

As George Lakeoff says in The Political Mind “A new understanding is emerging about what is means to be human. Our political institutions and practices reflect our collective self-understanding. When that changes dramatically, so should our politics.”

He closes the book with the chilling observation “But we better hurry up. The ice caps are melting.” Amen!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Harper's Blind Ambition Jeopardizes the Unity of the Country

Harper escapes accountability to Parliament and lives to fight one more day. Thanks to Harper’s reckless rhetoric and personal ambition, Canada is more unstable and its citizens are more uncertain and at a greater risk than at any time since World War II.


If the Governor General did not place limits on this autocratic politician we will see even more abuse of his office. He can’t abuse Parliament anymore than he has today because he shut it down.

Harper has consciously divided us one again on regional and linguistic lines again. He is an opportunistic political chameleon with little commitment to any personal principles that will serve the nation. He will say anything that is convenient to shift his share of the blame or to divert attention from the serious issues Canadians are facing. He always defaults towards the petty partisan posturing to pander to his radical right-wing base.


It is not time for a pause. It is time for decisive action based on collaboration and good governing. All of us are wise and smarter than any of us…but Harper has no sense of that reality. He is convinced what is good for Harper is good for the country. His blind ambition for gaining and keeping power is something he sees as his personal entitlement as Prime Minister.


Now without the accountability of Parliament, which he connived to close rather than respect, Harper has garnered all the power he has ever lusted after. Will he use the power wisely? Or will he spend his party war chest and start the propaganda was for the next election campaign with the bullying, misleading and outright lies of the last 3 years? I’m pretty sure it will be the latter.


This is not a time out for a government to regroup. It running away from Parliament is a cop-out by a coward. Canada just lost its last vestige of political innocence today. This political diversion and abject decline to govern is the most egregious example of just how far Harper will go to avoid accountability to perform his duty to the country.


The ugly side of Harper has prevailed. He is jeopardizing the unity, stability, diminishing the respect for the rule of law and undermining the confidence of the country in our political institutions. Did any one vote for that on October 14? Say a prayer for Canada this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Harper's Hidden Agenda Will Happen If House Prorogues Just for Him to Keep Power.

If the Governor General grants a prorogue tomorrow that suspends Parliament, that puts the total power of government in Harper alone, given the anemic performance of his mute minions in Cabinet.

The GG better put some serous limits on Harper or he will find more excuses not to return in late January with a budget. He will inevitably face the loss of power in a defeat from a confidence vote. He is terminally tactical. He is not buying time. He is just getting more rope to hang himself.

Watch the prorogue period turn ugly as the Harper Party propaganda machine goes into overdrive. It will for sure spoil an already uncertain Christmas for many Canadians as he bombards the airwaves with expensive and tacky attack ads. Remember the multimillion dollar hatchet job he did on Dion for 2 years? Expect the mother-of-all attack ads this time around because now Harper has painted himself in a corner.

He will be spending big bucks – taxpayer subsidized bucks at that. There will be expensive television, radio and newspaper ads. He will be messaging with mistruths and lies in a big-time bullshit mode. Facts are interferences to fear mongering. It will be a Republican inspired campaign replete with lies as a big as Bush's lies about WMD in Iraqi done to "justify" a war on terror when the real terrorists are in Afghanistan.

Remember Harper lied about the absence of “flags” behind the Coalition signing ceremony? The television coverage proves he lied. He lies to induce fear by claiming the Bloc has veto over the coalition when they are not even a part of it. They have agreed only not to introduce any constitutional issues and confidence issues for the coalition for 18 months. There are more Harper lies as he promotes division in the country and fans the flames of regional differences, including encouraging Alberta Separatists. He is showing that he does not care about Canada or Canadians. This is all about Harper keeping in power despite the law or the Constitution or democracy.

If Harper was not running political ads but business ads, he would be brought up on charges by all the advertising standards watchdogs for the misleading falsehoods in his ads based on the last raft and rancor he released. Pity we tolerate that politicians can lie and mislead with impunity in the name of “informing citizens in a free and democratic society. “

In the real world we have business trying to honestly compete in the marketplace but they have to tell the truth and be careful NOT to mislead. Politicians like Harper are expected toile and mislead in their advertising – all in the name of democracy. The irony is pathetic and dangerous…just like Harper.

I think the propaganda blitz from the Harper Party that is only being done to save his job will offend Canadian values and confirm his character flaws. It will prove to us that he is unfit to lead, never mind govern. His bombast and carpet bombing media blitz will prove to be as effective as Nixon's Watergate protestations, or of McCain's panic attempts at sustain baseness by calling Obama names like socialist for espousing the benefits of income redistribution.

This is all going to energize the previously passive, indifferent and cynical voter into action and to the dramatic decline of popular or sleepwalking support for Harper as a politician, never mind as a party leader or Prime Minister. We are already seeing that – not on the windbags of talk radio, but on the web and in the blogs and the more intelligent comments being made to mainstream media websites.

It may take a bit of time for Harper to leave or to be hoisted on his own petard once and for all. But one thing is obvious to fair minded Canadians. Harper is way past his best before date. It is time for him to go.

Alberta Venture Column on Business Ethics

Alberta Venture has published this month's column on business ethics. I share this work with Fil Fraser, Janet Keeping and another monthly guest. Here is the link to Marketing Masquerades as Charity.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Unloaded copper CwoB 2008

Here is a video of my friend Graham Fletcher, the "Father of the Alberta Internet." He is the fellow who is spearheading the push at the CRTC to get access to telephone copper wire so virtualy all rural Albertans can get access to the SuperNet at optical fibre quality at cheaper costs that radio.

Harper Has a Minority - Not a God Given Right to Govern

Canadians decided last that they didn’t trust any of the political parties nor their leaders to govern the country. Choosing the third minority government in a row sent a strong message that they wanted the political parties to cooperate and govern differently.

Coalitions are the natural consequences of minority governments and that is exactly what is happening. Canadians in their collective wisdom wanted the best ideas to be considered from all parties. Harper's hubris is inimical to those ends.

Mr. Harper was aware of this attitude shift in the hearts and minds of Canadians. He campaigned in warming sweaters in sepia toned television commercials. He promised to govern in a more collaborative way compared to the pit bull and bullying approach he used in the last Parliament.


Harper got a larger majority based on the pending recession/depression and the obviously mistaken belief that Conservatives were better at prudent management of the economy. The much anticipated Fiscal Update was Harper, the economist and shrewd strategist, first chance to show he was focused on the needs of the country more than petty and pugnacious political posturing.

He prefers to pick on people rather than govern with wisdom and caring. The people he picked on this time were public servants who had just signed a 3 year contract below inflation rates. But Harper decided they should be denied the right to strike and that was a centerpiece of his pathetic Fiscal Update. There would be no threat of a public service strike for at least three year so it was pure political bullying of vulnerable people.


Next Harper moved to take away legal rights of women to seek pay equity which is so contrary to Canadian core values and our shared sense of fairness. He offered retired seniors a crumb saying they could defer 25% of the requirement they sell retirement stocks now that had dropped 60% of value in a month. Nickel and diming seniors will not deal with the fear from the devastation to the retirement savings of seniors.

Harper has failed to win a majority when he held all the trump cards and played them. He has failed to realize the anxiety of Canadians who face a financial crisis of Biblical proportions. He has been tone deaf or indifferent to the expectations and values of Canadians to make the minority government work.


He has shown he has no respect for the law or democracy. He is terminally tactical and strategically incapable of collaboration, even within his own Cabinet and Caucus. He has no respect for Parliament as will be proven as he tries to prorogue the House to try and avoid the inevitable non-confidence vote.

Harper is clever and conniving but he has shown that he is neither wise nor willing to learn and adapt. In a modern democracy especially with a minority government, those are fatal character flaws that make Mr. Harper unfit for the highest office in the land.

Mr. Harper, it is over. The fat lady is singing and she is well into her second verse. It is not too late to show some dignity and integrity for a change for the good of the country, Canadians and even your own party and your place in history.