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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Mr. Prime Minister: Promote Philanthropy - Stop Playing Politics

I just read Brett Wilson's National Post opinion piece on the HarperCons "boys in short pants in the PMO" manufactured manipulation over Justin Trudeau charging fees for speaking at charity events.

He deals with the substance of this issues of promoting philanthropy through speaking engagements.  It is worth a read and reflection.  I agree with him.

As for the politically motivations of our Prime Minister using this bullying as a deflection device is a feeble in effective attempt to divert attention from the moral corruption in his leadership.  The permanent drop in his support amongst Canadians shows we have had enough of his affinity for US style dirty-trick politics.

It is time for political leadership in Canada that is dedicated to the greater good and not just committed to suppressing democracy to retain personal political power.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Robocall Fraud Coming Home to Roost on the Harper Government?

Looks like the boy the Conservative Party threw under the bus on the Guelph Robocall scandal is not going quietly into the night.  Michael Sona spoke out recently in a very extensive interview with journalist Michael Harris.  If convicted Sona goes to jail. His description of how controlling the Harper War Room was in the past election makes you wonder why anyone with self respect would volunteer for such abuse.

If you want a first person perspective on the Harper campaign machine and its machinations from someone who was there you want to read the Harris column in iPolitics.

Here is the money quote from Sona:

“I’ve learned three things from the Robocall Affair. Talking points aren’t always right; friends are fickle when you get in trouble; and I trusted the Conservative Party way too much. And one other thing. I’m ready to fight now and I’m ready to win.”

Expect as many tricks as there are in the CPC book of tricks on how to thwart justice by delaying the trial  any way they can.  Delay tactics is how they handled the original Robocall trial that found the Conservative Party lists were use for election fraud.  The evidence was too sparse to prove who actually did it.  One would think ethics and integrity would dictate that the Conservative Party would be working really hard to help find and expose the fraudster who misused their political lists. 

So far there is not a peep from the Conservative Party to indicate they are engaged in any way to help the RCMP find the fraudster. 

Not a good way for the Conservative Party to show citizens they want to help restore voter confidence in how they do politics.  Even OJ said he would do everything in his power to find who really killed his wife.  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Edward Snowden, Freedom and the Media's Manufacture of Meaning

There is no doubt there is a need for fear, or at least anxiety, over our government's secret intrusion into our online personal lives.  Yes the Government of Canada too, not just the United States, is doing this.

Reassurances from those perpetuating this travesty say that the surveillance is only on foreigners, not citizens is hardly reassuring nor very genuine.  Those communications monitorings are ostensibly only on foreigners.  But foreigners connecting with whom?  American citizens is often as not the the answer.  For Homeland security that is what the US spy system is mostly interested, I expect.

This makes the sincerity  of the governments of the United States and Canada reassurances as to who is really being targeted by government invasion of privacy activities kind of, shall we say, "incredulous?" No wonder the USA is having trouble getting these "foreign" nations to cooperate with them in extraditing Snowden.  A collaboration culture is hard to create with these "foreigner" nations, when their citizens and institutions are admittedly being spied on by the America government.

If Snowden is right, and I've seen no official rebuttal yet, those nameless anonymous government operatives who are doing the online surveillance searches of email, cellphone calls etc., they only need a personal confidence rating of 51% that they are not dealing with an American citizen in order to proceed.  That puts a very low bar on standards of reasonable doubt don't you think? Since we don't know what metrics are actually being used to test what is involved in the 51% "confidence" (sic) level, it all seems to be so much manipulative Orwellian double speak.  It make the integrity of surveillance process entirely ridiculous, especially when it to making claims that only foreigners are the targets of this official invasion of privacy practice.

Yes the world is still a dangerous complex place and American soil is not sacrosanct from invasion, even by their own fundamentalists citizens as it turns out. So more than a decade after 9-11 we are still seeing our governments use fear over reason, secrecy over solutions, and, dare I say, fascism over democracy to justify further denial and erosion of personal freedoms.

Freedom!  That great American concept that motivated the G.W Bush government to take aggressive measures and to use freedom as justification for invading Iraq and Afghanistan.  He wanted to give those poor folks the gift of American freedom...through invasion.  It would appear that the great American concept of freedom is what drove Snowden to choose to jeopardize his personal freedom.  He exercised personal freedom and came to a personal judgement, as a matter of democratic principle, when he decided to expose the US government secret abuses of freedom.  He also created a space for that very necessary conversation to take place about the place of personal privacy and freedom for American citizens.  That conversation needs to be open, candid and public, especially so when it has to consider their government's role to protect personal freedoms,....or ignore personal freedoms....or worse yet, abuse them.

The American government is clearly flummoxed about what to do since being "caught" in this secret underhanded system of what appears to be an unprecedented invasions of domestic and foreign personal privacy.  They find the facts are against them.  The law, while not strictly against them, is in serious disrepute.  And so they revert to calling Snowden names like traitor and pathetic gestures like canceling his Passport.

And where is the media in all of this?  Well the Guardian in the UK is doing the job. Check out their coverage. But where is the American media?  I hope this video clip of David Gregory's alamaring questioning Glen Greenwald of the Guardian on Meet the Press is not a representative sample of where mainstream American media is positioning itself in all of this. If so then freedom of the press in the USA is also as good as gone, at least so far as its independent role of being the public's eyes, ears, and sense-makers and narrative makers is concerned.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Population Changes; Will They Change Canada?

Stats Canada reports the national population increased by 85,500 in the first Quarter of 2013.  The ratio is 3 to 1 of population coming from immigration compared to internal growth.  The national average growth is .02% a rate that aligns with Ontario, Quebec, BC and Manitoba.

In real numbers new immigrants totaled 62,700 which was 4,600 more than Qtr1 of 2012.  The net flow of "non-permanent resident immigrants" (a technical term for Temporary Foreign workers?) was 14,900 in Qtr1 of 2013 versus 12,900 in Qrt1 of 2012.  That said our natural population sources were down 6.8% in 2013 from 2012.

The national figures are interesting but the provincial figures tell us more about the trends in the country.  What those population shifts mean is the really interesting stuff of these stats.  The core story is the continuing shift of population (and power?) to Alberta.  It is only about the first quarter of 2013 but the facts are telling.

Newfoundland is stable and PEI is down 200 folks.  Nova Scotia lost 1,800 people to net migration to other places in Canada. Actually 1,100 Nova Scotians moved to Alberta in the first three months this year. New Brunswick lost 700 folks to Alberta in the same time frame.  Jobs are still the attraction to Alberta.  The unanswered question are these Maritimers moving to the oil sands or are they flying in and flying out?  My sense is they moved so there is even more "migration" when you consider the fly in-fly out folks who still consider home to be in the Maritimes.

Central Canada is growing modestly but Quebec tells an interesting story.  Quebec grew past 8 million with comparable year to year growth of 14,100 new citizens, but 11,700 came from international immigration sources.  That is the second highest level in Quebec history, the highest level of international immigrants came in 1992.  Quebec is not losing many people to other parts of Canada either, only 900, the smallest out-migration since 2005.

Ontario is also growing at the national average.  There are over 13.5 m Canadians living in Ontario, up 22,700 in the first quarter of 2013, but hat is the lowest growth there since 1972. International migration is up 1000 compared to 2013 but Ontario lost 6000 people to Alberta in the same time frame.

B.C. is up 10,100 folks year over year, aligned with the 0.2% national average with 9,800 being international immigrants, but 3,400 of them are actually non-permanent resident types.  B.C. also lost 2,500 people to Alberta in the first 90 days of 2013.

Saskatchewan and Alberta tell a very different story.  Saskatchewan grew 0.4%  in the quarter mostly international migration which was at its second highest level in 2012 since 1972 and 2013 became the new second level of international immigration.  People are returning to the province, not leaving it.

Alberta is a case study very different from the rest. We grew by 34,000 which is 0.9% of a population just shy of 4 million now. This is the highest Alberta growth rate since 1972.  It comes from international immigration of 8,100, non-permanent immigrants of 6,900.  We have a net migration from within Canada of 13,400 mostly from Ontario and B.C.

This continuing shift to Alberta is about jobs and the economic influence of the oil sands.  Even may jobs staying in the rest of Canada are driven by oil sands development.  This is good and bad news for Alberta.  We have serious skilled labour shortages but the Stats Can numbers don't tell us if the migrants to Alberta are skilled.  They also don't come with their houses, schools, hospital beds or other infrastructure requirements. The growth infrastructure in Fort McMurray is already an unaddressed crisis. This population shift means it get worse unless provincial political attitudes about investing in public infrastructure changes - and dramatically.

Election Time is Coming in Alberta

The local municipal and school board elections are coming this fall - all over Alberta.  These local elections are not partisan affairs.  Local candidates run in wards or in smaller communities to represent people at the most "retail" of any order of government.  School Board elections are pretty passive gentile and usually pretty pointless events, given the limited authority and influence the school boards have.

Since most of Albertans are urbanized living in over 600 communities all over the province, there are a lot of different kinds of candidates and some different issues in the municipal government races.  There are lots of growth pressures on some communities.  Others face decline and are threatened with extinction.  There are vastly difference community cultures in the south, central and northern towns.  There are different realities for communities inside or outside the Edmonton-Calgary corridor. Then there are the dramatic differences between Calgary and Edmonton municipal cultures.

This diversity and variety of perspectives at election time gives local communities a sense of exceptionalism.  They see themselves as unique.  And for the most part they are...just like every other community (sic).   Then go to Fort McMurray.  There you will see real uniqueness, real diversity and real pressures.

I think every Albertan needs to be aware and informed of the issues facing their communities as well as Fort McMurray in these forthcoming elections.  That is right.  Think of yourself as a citizen of your Alberta community AND as a non-permanent citizen of Fort McMurray at the same time.

What happens in Fort McMurray and the Athabasca Oil Sands Region generally will have dramatic impact on your community too.  The development growth of the oil sands puts enormous pressures on McMurray  housing, transportation including roads, rails, birdges and air services, hospitals, schools, recreation, social cohesion, social profit sector services, police, fire, ambulance, arts, culture, spiritual  needs and other quality of life elements.

The resolution of  these problems in the oil sands will make it more difficult for other communities in Alberta to compete for trades, attention and other resources to meet local needs.  However if Fort McMurray fails to have its growth challenges met, so will Albertans fail to optimize the benefits of the oil sands.  After all all Albertans are owners of the oil sands.  We need to start acting like owners.  Part of acting like an owner is to become aware adn supportive of getting the quality of life in fort McMurray right.  When that happens we all benefit,  If it does not happen we all suffer loss.

This blog will give you information on what is needed in Fort McMurray to ensure it succeeds as a community and who can - should - must step up and make it happen.  Time to act like an oil sands owner Albertans.  Time to get educated about the people, planet and prosperity implications of oil sands development on the Athabasca Oil Sands Region and ALL OF ALBERTA.  


HOW IS PRIME MINISTER HARPER'S POPULARITY HOLDING UP THESE DAYS?

The Huffington Post reports on a CBC exclusive survey on Canadians change of attitude about Prime Minister Stephen Harper, done by Nik Nanos, one of the most reliable pollsters in the biz these days.

Canadians when asked how satisfied they were about our Prime Minister's explanation of the $90,000+ cheque his Chief of Staff wrote to then Conservative Senator Mike Duffy to cover his unwarranted expenses 72% of us said we were "dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied."  Only 27% were OK with Prime Minister Harper's explanation about what he really knows about the circumstances around the cheque.  

The Government of Canada continue to say it cannot produce the cheque in question because it is a personal cheque and that is not within their power to produce.  Strange though they have not seen it reasonable to asked the formed Chief of Staff of our Prime Minister to volunteer a copy to clear the air.  

Might be helpful to co-operate publicly now and find a way to disclose the cheque before the recently announced criminal investigation by the RCMP does it for them. 

It is not as if the Duffy-Wright scandal is off the public's radar screen.  Nanos survey says 95% of Canadians are aware of this scandal and one in three of us hold our Prime Minister mostly to blame.

It is a long way to the next election in 2015.  Lots can change between then and now...it is politics after all.  One thing that will change is Alberta will have six more federal seats by then. What will happen to voting patterns in those new ridings?  How will the changing nature of the urban Albertan respond to our political options?  Next blog post will be on the changing population of Alberta.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Conversation With Author of Mistakes Were Made (but Not By Me!)

This is a book worth reading and understanding deeply.  It has great application to our view of politics, the way we see our role in the environment and how we conduct business, society and even ourselves.

You will get a practical insight into cognitive dissonance and how we fool ourselves again and again. This is a video of the conversation between author Carol Tavris and Ken Low the animator behind Leadership Edmonton and Leadership Calgary...you really need to Google these organizations too.

Tim Goos was kind enough to put the link in hi Paper.li "The EnviroAb Daily"  - It is at the bottom of the page.

It's an hour long conversation but worth it.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

So What's Happening in Edmonton For Picking Our Next Mayor?

So I have received information on a poll done on preferred candidates for the Edmonton Mayoralty race this October.

This data is interesting as a provocation to conversation - not at all indicative or predicative of the outcome.  I offer these results not to enhance the superficial horse-race analysis that is the media fodder of most of these polls.  Note also that the predicative nature of "opinion" polls usually make astrology look good.

This poll is random in the province with a very small number of folks from Edmonton.  So this is not "grain of salt" stuff, it is an invitation to engage in a citizen's conversation about what character, capacity and caring do we want in the nest Mayor of Edmonton?

Get to know the candidates beyond the media report. Come to forums, read bloggers (with a grain of salt) consider what is important to you about leadership.  What is the stuff of being  citizen of Edmonton that is important to you?  Which candidate comes closest to your sense of the city...and can you say clearly why you will vote for the candidate you "best" support.  Don't expect any one candidate to b perfect.  They aren't, but neither are we in how we made decisions on who we will grant our consent to govern us.

So as at between April 20 to May 4, when only one candidate has actually declared intentions to run, here are the results:


    1. Kerry Diotte: 19.4%
    2. Don Iveson 17.6%
    3. Karen Liebovici 15.1%
    4. Tony Catarina 12.9%
    5. Amarjeet Sohi 6.9%
Diotte has declared he was running before the poll and Sohi and said he is not after the poll.

So don't jump to conclusions but do create time and place for conversations on the future of Edmonton, the leadership we need and how do we get it?

Interested in our comments and hope for a conversation about the kind of leadership we need for Edmonton on this blog.




Friday, June 07, 2013

Brent Rathgeber Man of Political Character

I know Brent a bit, when he was in the Klein Progressive Conservative government.  He was smart and insightful and had a great legal mind.  He was also an independent thinker then.  I formed these impressions from political meetings and convention conversations but mostly from some consulting work I did for the Alberta Minister of Justice and the Speaker of the Alberta Legislature.

I was reviewing the risk management policies for the Government of Alberta as a result of a defamation lawsuit brought against Stockwell Day, a Minister in the Klein Cabinet.  The issues were complicated, politically laced and competing values were everywhere.

Brent grasped all of this in one and was immediately able and interested in exploring the issues, the implications and all in the context of the goal of public service and the greater good.  He was not a guy who as concerned about the "Party" or his position in it.  He was a democrat and a politician with character and competence.

I have to say I was sorry to see him join the Harper government.  I always thought he was better than that.  Well I was right.  It took some time but the Brent Rathgeber I knew is back to being himself again.

Rex Murphy has a take on this that puts some more context on what I am trying to say.

Last Wednesday as a good day for democracy.  Citizens need to be very careful who they vote for and why.    We get the government we deserve, especially if we don't vote or vote mindlessly.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Why Robin Ford is Bad for Progressives

The Kahneman work is the thesis on why the Robin Ford Scandal is bad for progressives.  Give the Star story a read here.

The essence of the Kahneman thesis is this:

Behavioural economics has shown that the more times you hear something - even if you don't believe it, the more familiar it becomes.  Familiarity breeds a sense of seeming truthfulness...what Colbert calls "truthiness."
Question is will inert complacent and compliant Progressives become even more disassociated with politics because of an even more enhanced sense of cynicism due to Mayor Ford.

I recently attended a lecture sponsored by Leadership Edmonton by Carol Tavris, the authour of "Mistakes Were Made but Not by Me.."  She spoke of cognitive dissonance and self justification.  The cognitive dissonance aspect applies to those who support something that they even know to be untrue is rationalized by focus selective evidence.  I am sure mayor Ford is getting some positive feedback from his supporters who feel theyhave to rationalize their mistake in voting form him

We are seeing some of that perhaps with the comments of Prime Minister Harper who says he was not told of the Duffy payoff by his Chief of Staff so therefore he has nothing to do with it.  Also the "facts are clear" avoids dealing with the legal and moral obligation to deal with the mistake...duck and cover is not leadership but his base will use this selective "evidence" to justify their earlier support for Harper.

Thinking of a blog post on Integrity as a fading value in a complex political and partisan world...stay tuned.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Orwellian Governance in the Canadian Context

If this blog is to revive I want to do it systemically and thematically around supporting the return to democracy through enlightened progressive citizen engagement.

My friend Allan Gregg recently spoke to the Alberta Federation of Labour about this set of issues in the federalist context.  I thank the folks at Rabble.ca for posting it for the rest of us.

This is a 38 minute video.  So get a coffee or a tea and settle in and focus on the content and context.  In a sober second thought, perhaps you should pour yourself something stronger.  You may feel you need it after you fathom Allan's message.

Orwellian Governance in the Current Canadian Context

Looking forward to your feedback...even on if I should be back.
Is it time to revive this blog?  I will be publishing on oil sands issues as an owner of the asset at oilsandsken.com.

Is there another theme that this blog could pursue around citizen engagement and democracy commentary?