Reboot Alberta

Friday, June 29, 2007

Wildrose Party States Its View of Alberta in Canada

Link Byfield, the Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, of the new Wildrose Party of Alberta had some interesting observations yesterday on his Citizen’s Centre for Freedom and Democracy weekly Commentary. He has graciously given me permission to “post any or all of it.”

As we approach Canada Day it is appropriate that we think of how this country works and how Alberta fits in it. And we Albertans have to have that political conversation. In that spirit, here is most, but not all, of Link’s comments.

Link’s reasons for a new Alberta based right-wing party are interesting. They say “…federal change must come from the provinces not Ottawa, and that Alberta is the province best positioned to force that change. It has become obvious that Alberta’s traditional parties will never stand up to Ottawa, and that a new party must be formed to do it. The change of command from Ralph Klein to Ed Stelmach has left a large void in Alberta’s provincial politics.”

They see the Firewall Letter approach to isolate Alberta as key to the future of Alberta in Canada and he says, “…thinking people have realized that the Reform Party vision of Canada can only be implemented by provincial governments. The small alternatives of the past were not broadly based, and focused on the wrong things. They offered either separation or more right-wing government. Most Albertans have never wanted either, and still don’t.”

He goes on to make some other interesting comments on the state of Alberta, relations with the Harper government and our place in Canada. “Besides, as long as Ralph Klein was premier, the Tories were unbeatable. Politically speaking, Ralph put the whole province happily to sleep.”

I agree with this statement.

“Now that he’s gone, Albertans are waking up fast to the eternal reality that they are sitting ducks to federal aggression. Any fond hope in the Harper Conservatives vanished when they flip-flopped on Kyoto, taxed income trusts, and blatantly pandered to the “Quebecois nation” on equalization.

It’s quickly dawning on Albertans that it is not the job of the country’s prime minister to defend Alberta, much as they wish he would. It’s the job of the premier of Alberta.
Klein never did it. Stelmach isn’t doing it. And nobody thinks Liberal leader Kevin Taft will do it either.

The most striking thing about Alberta’s political scene since Ralph left is that while the Tories are steadily collapsing, the Liberals are not rising. Nobody is.

Besides, as long as Ralph Klein was premier, the Tories were unbeatable. Politically speaking, Ralph put the whole province happily to sleep.

Now that he’s gone, Albertans are waking up fast to the eternal reality that they are sitting ducks to federal aggression. Any fond hope in the Harper Conservatives vanished when they flip-flopped on Kyoto, taxed income trusts, and blatantly pandered to the “Quebecois nation” on equalization.

It’s quickly dawning on Albertans that it is not the job of the country’s prime minister to defend Alberta, much as they wish he would. It’s the job of the premier of Alberta.

Klein never did it. Stelmach isn’t doing it. And nobody thinks Liberal leader Kevin Taft will do it either.

The most striking thing about Alberta’s political scene since Ralph left is that while the Tories are steadily collapsing, the Liberals are not rising. Nobody is.”

I disagree often with Link Byfield but I have say he always makes me think!

Happy Canada Day!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Disgruntled Alberta Refomers See the Province as the Way to Change Ottawa

Link Byfield made it known 2 weeks ago on the home page of his Citizen’s Centre for Freedom and Democracy that this group was “going political.”

The inspiration appears to be the Firewall letter of 2001 which Links calls the end of the Reform Party Era. He sees the way to reform Ottawa is now in the ands of the provinces and that Alberta is in the best position to pick up the torch or cudgel, depending on how you see it. So they have started a new Reform provincially based political party...the Wildrose Party.

I see Ted Morton’s picture along with Stephen Harper who both signed the infamous Firewall Letter to then Premier Ralph Klein in 2001. This was before these gentlemen were successful in elected politics.

So I expect Link sees the Firewall Letter spirit as a fulcrum and a provincial political party as a lever to get the job done. With so many strong egos and different perspectives on the far right, it is hard to see a way that a coalition will emerge…but a strong man might. Who might that strong man be? Alberta’s SRD Minister Ted Morton and Edmonton City Councilor Mike Nickel are names you hear bandied about for that role.


This came from a good friend. I love clever people with meaningful messages

Stelmach Steps In on Teacher Pension Issues.

Congratulations to Premier Stelmach for taking the conditions off the additional $25M "goodwill" contribution of the Alberta government to the unfunded pension liability for teachers. Putting conditions as to how the funds were to be allocated distributed is not the government’s business.

Now he must continue his leadership and ensure that the resolution of the pension issue is not part of the labour negotiations. This separation of the two issues became a clear message coming our of the PC Leadership forum. It is my understanding that is consistent with the Premiers position then too. For the record, I have worked for the ATA in the past on finding ways to resolve this pension issue and I also working to try and fix the mess left by a former Minister who's bullying tactics was the real cause of the recent teacher strike

The Task Force on the unfunded pension liability the Minister of Learning has set up is also been redirected by the Premier. It merely needs to find the most expeditious way to resolve this issue. It does not need more public hearings on this issue. We have too many of those going on right now. We also have all the actuarial expertise it needs within the fund management and the government finance people so that part of the original mandate is unnecessary…in fact it is obfuscation at its worst.

This unfunded pension liability is one of the most unfair holdovers of mismanagements of past governments all the way back to Social Credit. The 1992 resolution that was reached was not effective for the long term because it assumed the education system would be in constant growth and there would always be more new young teachers coming into the system than older ones retiring. We know how wrong that has proven to be. Even the cuts to education that resulted in significant numbers of teacher lay offs in the debt and deficit days undermined the logic and effectiveness of the 1992 “resolution” of the issue.

Premier Stelmach, Alberta is not out of debt until this matter is resolved once and for all. Continue to take the responsibility to resolve this matter personally and dedicate some of the Sustainability Fund or Heritage Fund interest proceeds towards this problem. It will never be less expensive to do than now and it will never be more important for the long term benefit of our youth and the province as a whole. Do it now. Get it done.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Harper Trade Casey for Comuzzi - What is He Thinking?

Bill Casey gets the boot by Harper for voting against the budget in support of his constituency and joltin’ Joe Comuzzi,recently turfed by Dion, joins the Harper Cons because, as he says, he voted for something (like the budget) that benefited his constituency.

Political Parties? We don't need no stinkin' Political Parties.

Senator Anne Cools gets turfed by the Cons as a Senate rep after defecting from the Liberal awhile ago because she also spoke her mind...while in each party Tut Tut Madame appointed Senator! You are to do as you are told and if that means you have to park your principles and your consciousness at the Senate door – so be it - surely you knew that. Tip of the hat to Cowboys for Social Responsibility for reminding us of this escapade.

Political parties are becoming tribal and bad caricatures of the Survivor reality TV series…it seems as though everyone is getting voted off the island one way or another.

By the way Steve…Comuzzi is no Casey…with those player trading skills like that you can always coach the Maple Leafs after the next election.

Wildrose Party Of Alberta Emerges on the Right

I got an interesting email this afternoon. The Wildrose Party is on its way emerging from 76 people who attended a meeting in Red Deer last week end. It is in the process of setting up a non-profit society and will then proceed to register as a political party.

The founding principles are:
1. That the party's Leader and MLAs will remain accountable to the membership.
2. That provincial policies espoused by the party will reflect and strengthen the mainstream values and priorities of Albertans.
3. That the party will take a constructive stance favouring earned prosperity in all regions of Canada and the full exercise of Alberta's rights under the Constitution of Canada.

The website has been opened ( and a founding convention is scheduled for Edmonton on October 26 and 27. They say they need to enlist 6004 founding members to register as a political party and they anticipate a spring 2008 election. So they have lots of work to do and a short time to do it in.

The founding executive is interesting as well:

Rob James, president (Calgary)
Link Byfield, executive director (Morinville)
Sharon Maclise, vice-president membership (Edmonton)
Gordon Lang, vice-president fundraising (Calgary)
Gordon Stamp, vice-president policy (Edmonton)
Don Weisback, vice-president communications (Brooks)
Eleanor Maroes, treasurer (Edmonton)
Marilyn Burns, secretary (Edmonton)

Southern Directors:
Don Gebauer (Calgary)
John Hilton-O'Brien (Calgary)
Rosemary Craig (Calgary)

Northern Directors:
Faye Engler (St. Albert)
Phil Gamache (Edmonton)
Daniel Johnson (Edmonton)

Ah yes…the freedom of association, ya gotta love it! I smell democracy in the air.

Monday, June 25, 2007

My Birthday Wish for Canada

The Great Canadian Wish List is in its final week and the idea has been dominated by anti-abortionists, pro-lifers, get back to God types and advocates of traditional marriage. Sad as that is, it is the reality of internet after all and free speech is more valuable than the thoughts expressed in many cases.

There are many interesting gems of wishes for the future of Canada beyond the campaigns by fundamentalists and far right groups who have caught on to the chance to use this opportunity make a statement. I encourage you to browse the Facebook site and you will find some of the soul of the country.

My wish was that we reinstate the Kelowna Accord and that we come to value it like we do the Charter. Sure that is as idealist as the so-cons sentiments but it is as deeply and personally held. So for my part of supporting the National Day of Action by the AFN, I want to share my Wish for Canada with you. Here it is:

"Canada as a nation has to get serious and focused on all aboriginal peoples needs in ways that does not seek to assimilate but respects them as nations within a nation. We can be open and accepting enough to embrace this reality as being Canadians as well as accepting their own unique cultures, languages and senses of self. We can do this and we need to do this as part of our pride and purpose as a people and as an opportunity for Canada to be an avatar of inclusion and acceptance of differences.

We have to not fear differences by learning to thrive on them, especially as the world gets more connected, inter-related and interdependent.It is a unique challenge with different variations all over Canada. The prairies are my experience and we have an advantage of the Treaties that cover all of the provinces.

We have a great need for more productive, healthy and contributing people here too and aboriginal Canadians can be a great part of the solution to those challenges too.Dependency and despair is demeaning and we all, aboriginal and non-aboriginal people have to find ways to get past those destructive norms of the past.The Kelowna Accord was a great start. We need to revisit and revive and relish it.

We have to come to see it with as much mutual pride as we now hold for our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

That is my birthday wish for Canada."

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Alberta is Ripe for Change - But What Change Means is Still an Open Question

Ipsos Reid has it figured right when they say the Stelmach Honeymoon is over based on their recent poll results. The fact that all parties are showing support levels that are the same as the 2004 election means politically Alberta is right back at square one in figuring out what kind of changes it wants in government. The PCs support is again at 47%, the Libs at 29%, the NDP at 10% and the Alberta Alliance at 9%. But there is so much more of interest as one delves into the devilling details.

Conventional wisdom is that Alberta majority governments are the result of the rural vote and one major city. In the Klein days that city was Calgary. Today we see Calgary and Edmonton reversing roles, if these poll results are meaningful and they hold until the next election. The PCs are down 8 points in Calgary support (now at 42%) but they are up 12 points in Edmonton enjoying 47% support and they are holding their own in the rest of Alberta up 2 points to 53% support.

Calgary is feeling the Stelmach PCs are not as “into them” as the Klein version was and only 33% believe the current government is addressing their needs. This is even with a large majority of PC MLAs and 5 Cabinet members now representing that city. A public spat between the Calgary Mayor and the Premier fueled by Calgary MSM has done its work.

Curiously, 58% of Edmontonians believes the Stelmach PCs “get them.” This is with only 3 PC MLAs, two of whom are now in Cabinet and one of those MLAs had to go to Court to get a recount and slipped in with a 12 vote margin.

Klein was always more popular than the PC party and he traditionally polled in the low to mid 70s for personal support. Stelmach has personal support in the 54% range and the trend is down. Again his numbers are warped by the Calgary discontent where they don’t like him on a 2 to 1 ratio. One has to wonder if this angst is more about Dinning’s leadership loss than the consequences of Stelmach’s actual win. Calgary did not see this coming and they don’t know what happened or how to interpret it – so they seem to conclude that it must be bad.

Again Edmonton is in a reverse contrast from the Klein years where he had low Edmonton support except in the 1997 election when he was rewarded with more Edmonton seats for a good job on debt and deficit. Today Edmonton is about 60-40 in support of Stelmach and Ed is enjoying his best support in the deep south, right there in Ted Morton Reformer country. The approval rating for Stelmach there is 70-30…that rivals Ralph Klein results. Not bad for a PROGRESSIVE Conservative from the north.

Interestingly, while the Liberal Party support is at 29%, up 9 points since April and 7 points since November 2006, Kevin Taft’s personal support is up only 5 points since April and is actually down 5 points from November when Klein was still around. His job is not all that secure either it seems.

All this says Albertans are still looking for a change but they have not yet found the kind of change they want. They have not yet abandoned the PCs for the Liberals and they have not tossed Stelmach aside for Taft. This means all possible scenarios are at play and nothing can be taken for granted by anyone, especially the Stelmach PCs.

The PCs can easily lose the next election but it will be their own fault, not the result of a perceived positive Liberal alternative. The Liberals do not yet seem to have the right stuff to convince Albertans that they are positive choice for government. Currently they are just an alternative to the PCs. In the real world of electoral politics, that is enough for the Liberals to get power and form the next government. But if that happens, based on what we know from the polls today, Liberals forming a government will be because the PCs let that happen.

The battle for the hearts, minds and hopes of Albertans is on now and fully engaged, even though the election may be a much as a year away. It is going to be interesting.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Stelmach Responds to the Urban Pressure and Expands Cabinet

Alberta Premier Stelmach has just announced some additions to Cabinet with three changes for Calgary.

Ron Stevens is Deputy Premier in addition to his role as Minister of Justice and Attorney General. This is a very wise move at so many levels by Premier and not just to appease Calgary. Stevens is one of the most respected and capable Ministers in the fold.

Cindy Ady (Calgary Shaw) is Associate Minister of Tourism Promotion (with responsibility for Alberta's participation in activities pertaining to the 2010 Olympics in British Columbia). Another capable person but a strange mandate I must say. But the backgrounder on the News Release adds “Sport” in terms of “participation in communities, schools and workplaces” …maybe she is the anti-obesity Associate Minister too? We could use an emphasis on this problem (including me). Another Cabinet Vote for Calgary is the politics at play here.

Yvonne Fritz (Calgary Cross) is back but working as Associate Minister of Affordable Housing and Urban Development. She had her challenges in the Seniors and Community Services portfolio before, especially in getting crown land released for Fort McMurray housing…lots of false starts mostly because the corporate history of the government had been let go during the Debt and Deficit civil service purging in the mid 90’s. Ray Danyluk needs the help because of volume of work and the complexity of issues…an Associate Minister should help carry some of the work load. Politics is more voice for Calgary.

Finally we have Gene Zwozdesky, MLA for Edmonton-Mill Creek, as Associate Minister for Capital Planning. This is a very bright light move. Edmonton now has 2 Ministers to Calgary’s 5 but the real story is the need for more urban voices has been heard by the Premier. The importance of infrastructure planning in managing growth is a key focus of the Stelmach government. There has been serious political damage caused by years of neglect in this area. Gene is on top of the issues and at the top of his game. It is good to see this important function given the Cabinet status it needs.

I am pleased to see the quick response to the obvious need for more urban representation in Cabinet and a capable newcomer like Cindy Ady getting a chance.

Name the Alberta Neo-Con Party

Link Byfield’s new Alberta based political party is looking for a name. In an e-mail today Link said:

“Albertans need a viable alternative to the Liberals. If we don't create one, the Liberals will win by default. The Conservatives are collapsing before our eyes, and so is the Alberta Alliance. But what should this new party be called? Eight names have been suggested:

Alberta Progress Party
Alberta Unity Party
Conservative Alternative Party
Freedom Party
New Vision Party of Alberta
New West Party
Right Party
Wildrose Party

Finally, we must prepare to sign up thousands of members this summer, hold a founding convention in the fall, and fight an election next spring. Sound impossible? It would be, except that it has happened repeatedly in Alberta, and can happen again. It just takes the right vision, the right people, and the right plan.”

I am starting to wonder if Link Byfield is a nascent neo-Preston Manning? Meech Lake and the Charlottetown Accord gave the Preston Manning Reform Party the boost it needed to get traction and momentum to do in Mulroney and the federal Progressive Conservative Party.

Has Mr. Harper’s nod to Quebec Nationhood and his buying into the myth of Quebec fiscal inequality revitalized the far right against him now? Is Link Byfield setting Harper up for the same fate as Mulroney?

Hell hath no furry like a Neo-Con scorned.

BTW - what name would you suggest for these folks?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Link Byfield Is Promoting a Reform-Like Party for Alberta

Link Byfield of the Citizens Centre for Democratic Reform is organizing an invitation only meeting in Red Deer this Saturday aimed at forming a provincial political party that would focus on the Alberta Firewall Agenda. That was an idea of isolating Alberta from Canada once supported by Stephen Harper before he became Prime Minister.

At a May 126, 2007 meeting a group of about 50 people “from Tory to separatists” approved a “strongly federalist” political approach noting their take on federalism meant “decentralist.”

Expect an announcement of intent for another political party on the far right to be coming out of this Saturday’s meeting. It will be based on the following approach proposed for Fed-Prov relations for Alberta passed at the May 26th meeting of the group.

“What Alberta most needs done politically”

Whereas, The federal government consistently disregards the spirit and plain intent of the constitution with regard to federal spending, the Senate, and the role of the courts;

Whereas, The systematic, needless and inordinate transfer of wealth from Alberta through federal taxation to other parts of Canada damages all regions alike and erodes national prosperity;

Whereas, The climate change response of our governments will unjustifiably transfer more wealth through carbon credit trading;

Whereas, The Alberta government continues to escalate provincial operating spending well above sustainable levels; and

Whereas, The Alberta government is not adequately addressing any of these difficult problems;

That the Alberta government take all political and constitutional measures necessary to restrict federal spending in non-federal jurisdictions, ensure the Senate represents provinces in Parliament, and enhance judicial respect for provincial rights;

That the Alberta government use all measures necessary to eliminate unjustifiable transfers of wealth from Alberta to the detriment of Canada;
That the Alberta government take immediate steps to limit provincial operating spending to a maximum of 2005/06 provincial operating spending plus inflation plus population growth
That the Alberta government proceed immediately to develop a plan to opt out of the Canada Pension Plan and to create its own Alberta Pension Plan in its place.
Our recent column published last Sunday in LaPresse has generated some email interest. This is the last LaPresse column until the fall now:

If money bought happiness, Albertans would be among the happiest people on earth. But they aren’t. Heading into the summer, this remarkably prosperous province is beset by anxiety.

Ralph Klein liked to say that after defeating the debt and deficit he “wanted to put his feet up for a while and enjoy the accomplishment.” He did, and we allowed it for too long. We became focused on the past instead of preparing for the future. As a result some important things are missing in Alberta today. The most obvious ones are leadership, stewardship and citizenship.

There is a shift in Alberta from the feel good sloganeering of the “Alberta Advantage,” past a general grumpiness, into genuine angst about the future direction of this province. For too many this new wealth that is being generated is not reaching them. Not only that, their cost of surviving, not just living, is on the increase. Pressures are mounting and the consequences are not happy ones for many ordinary Albertans. So much so, that in a bye-election on June 12, Calgary voters elected a Liberal to fill Klein’s vacant seat.

Albertans aren’t alone in their discontent. Across the country we can see an uneasy feeling that our political class isn’t up to the task of responding intelligently to the needs and aspirations of citizens, or to produce the trans-partisan leadership necessary to achieve this country’s potential.

When we look to Quebec, we have the spectacle of Jean Charest playing chicken with oppositions on his budget and the infamous "tax break for the middle class” that may (or not) trigger an election. The so-called fiscal imbalance in Quebec is shown to be a myth if equalization money from Canada can be used for a tax reduction when it is supposed to provide for equivalent public service levels. The ADQ and PQ parties are both on record as opposed to his cynical budget ploy by Charest. They say the tax break Charest wants would be better public policy if it were provided in the form of a debt repayment. That way the interest saved could be added to operating budgets through enhanced general revenues and that way serve the needs of Quebecers for generations.

That level of pessimistic leadership, and the resulting loss of citizen confidence, is evident in national politics too. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Quebec gambit of buying Charest’s victory with Ottawa tax money is backfiring.

The personal power agenda of the Prime Minister has alienated and aggravated just about anyone who he needs and wants within his sphere of influence. The confrontation with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland regarding the Atlantic Accord is a fight within the same partisan family. It is far removed from confident and competent leadership and governance.The Prime Minister has even managed to devalue his political stock in Ontario with his legislative agenda to add and redistribute new House of Commons seats. That is now perturbing Ontarians even more as Harper moves to realign the seat distribution in a way that undermine their power and influence and short changes the largest voter group in the country. With all the levers of power at his disposal for over 16 months and with no real threat of an election, unless he wants one, Harper has not been able to move beyond his political support ranking of the last election. Loyalty to his leadership from the Reform/Alliance side of the Conservative Party of Canada is eroding and his personal trustworthiness and political integrity is in decline as well.

Given that the big issue is going to be the environment and the fact it will continue to grow in importance this summer, Harper will become increasingly less relevant given his lack of traction, trust and tenacity on those issues.

The limits and limitations of partisan and adversarial politics are all too clear. Among citizens and their institutions, we are steadily abandoning hierarchical and paternalistic models of organisation and interaction. More and more, citizens live in a collaborative and consensual world that is built on relationships and networks, whether in the home, the workplace, or in their leisure pursuits. The very idea of Canada is a sense of inclusion and belonging; the ability to accept one another’s differences and make the most of collaboration on the interests and issues – environment, health care, education, social cohesion – we have in common.

Our tribal politics are far removed from the day-to-day reality of how citizens engage and interact with one another. Unless our political class changes its ways, the summer of discontent may last a very long time indeed.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Harper Cons Going Around In Circles - at NASCAR

So the Cons have gone NASCAR. Not only has Mr. Harper swallowed the Dubya strategy for policy and politics, he is now adopting some iconic American “culture.” By trapping his party into the drivers seat of a NASCAR to appeal to the Canadian equivalent of the Bush “Base.” Step aside Soccer Moms – there is some serious rubber to be burning here.

Will "StockCar" Day trade the wet suit for a jumpsuit? Will Peter “Bubba” Van Loan take on new tasks as Government House Leader a run the Pit Crew? I see they are racing in a Dodge? Will it become known and “the Tax Dodge?” Will anyone else be safe on the track if these guys get serious and try to win a race? I can see the Cons becoming reckless but not “wreckless” with this strategy.

The symbolism is breathtaking. We have the Harper Cons covering themselves with flash and dash, going around in interminable circles, as fast as they can, making as much noise as they can, without regard for the environment. They are doing all of this in front of a crowd who know they are paying too much to be part of “the spectacle.” The spectators are coming mostly to see the crashes and only mildly interested in what is otherwise happening or who wins and what that, if anything, all this really means for them and their plight.

I love it when reality imitates art – don’t you?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Is the Alberta Advantage Morphing Into the Alberta Angst

It has been quite a week and the next one is promising to be more interesting.
The spring legislative session has adjourned until November, after the pending municipal elections. It will be interesting to see if local politicians get some heat over this in the October municipal elections.

The tobacco control legislation made it to second reading in as many days. Time will tell if Big Tobacco gets organized over the summer and tries to scuttle this legislation in the fall sitting. Interesting story is coming out of the State of Vermont who is suing Big Tobacco and some UBC scientists who apparently did some industry funded smokeless tobacco research for the defendant. The scientists are running for cover and finding excuses to not testify in the trial saying they are “too busy” to find the research studies in question.

The by-elections in Calgary and Drumheller-Stettler have focused on Alberta’s urban growth issues and rural needs as well. Alberta is a different place today compared to 1993 when the Klein era started. The political focus of Alberta is changing too and we have more questions than answers ahead of us. We have a changing political culture emerging and many are nervous…including the Calgary boardrooms, the Fort McMurray residents, the Edmonton- Calgary corridor dwellers and forestry related communities in the face of the emerging crisis caused by climate change and the infestion of the mountain pine beetle.

There is an anxiety in Alberta that is growing as the province grows. We wrote on it in our LaPresse column this week that I will post on this Blog tomorrow. Alberta is feeling kind of like the trapeze artist who has to let go of one trapeze and accept and trust that the next one will be there to grab on to when we need it. We are in that in-between place where we have let go of the past but we are not sure what we are going to grab on to for the future.

The lack of adequate planning for the past 8 years and no anticipation of the necessary adaptations needed in Alberta all add to the angst. The next Alberta will be very different than the Klein era Alberta and that puts enormous pressure on Premier Stelmach who has had a rough ride for the past 6 months...some of it deserved.

Many Albertans are not that familiar with the new Premier. I have known Ed Stelmach for more than a decade. Based on my experiences with his ability and character and his commitment to Alberta, I believe he is the right kind of man to deal with the challenges of the next Alberta and will make the changes necessary to meet them head on.

All this is very important stuff. But today is Father’s Day and it is a time to celebrate for many and to remember for some of us. My Dad passed away a few days under four years ago. I remember him, I love him and I miss him: Happy Father’s Day Dad…Love from your son - Ken!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Link Byfield's Take on Why Nobody Won the By-elections.

Link Byfield gives a view from the “Right” on the by-elections this week. Observant and interesting as ever he bemoans the fact the far right it right out of it when it comes to getting any kind of political machine together to make any kind of difference.

He skewers those of us who differentiate ourselves a Progressive Conservatives – I think he is wrong but he makes a good argument. I am like Danny Williams who was a guest this week on CBC Radio’s “The House.” He was asked, given his issues with Mr. Harper, if he was going to “tear up his Conservative membership card.” He said words to the effect, “nope – he never had one.” He said he was a Progressive Conservative and not a Conservative AND there was a BIG difference.

Here is a “Link to Link.” Go to Discussion - This Week for his commentary.

Some Good Things That Are Happening

Lots of things happening all over the place that really adds to the feeling there are good things to come. The ones that warm my heart includes the masterful work of the Honourable Jim Prentice, federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development for the “Specific Claims Action Plan.” Getting Phil Fontaine and Stephen Harper on the same stage is brilliant work. To get them on the same page is momentous. Nothing but good things can happen form this effort and it shows once again that Jim Prentice is the crème de la crème of Progressive Conservative politicians in Canada.

Melissa Blake, the Mayor the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo aka Fort McMurray is running again. That is great news for the citizens of that region and city for sure. She has been one of the most effective, assertive and focused local politicians in Alberta.

The Mayors and Reeves and economic development folks in the Grande Alberta Economic Region decided yesterday to keep moving forward in finding ways to deal with and cope with the infestation of the Mountain Pine Beetle. If we don't find ways to adapt and if we can't stop the beetle, chances are it could spread across the entire boreal forest. Full disclosure, we at Cambridge Strategies have been working with them for some months now on this and they decided to take their initiatives to the next level. Our report will be on their website and Policy Channel soon.

The move by Premier Stelmach to take the leadership on meeting the need for a regional growth strategy in the Edmonton area that deal with all the surrounding municipalities, include some in his own riding is a positive move. With out this Edmonton will be turning into another neglected Fort McMurray and the costs and damages will be disastrous. Mayor Mandel shows the way how to work effectively with the provncial government. Kudos for him too.

From the really bright ideas department Suncor has announced it is looking at geothermal heating for it SAGD oil sands operations. Now let’s use the brackish ground water instead of the Athabasca River and we are on to something. That approach would eliminate using natural gas and stop the nuclear threat in its tracks. Good for Suncor. I am sensing some progress as the marketplace is starting to see some slow down in the economy, the most obvious is the decline in drilling activity in the oil patch.

Calgary By-election Just a Tremour on the Very Shaky and Volatile Political Ground in Alberta These Days

The messages from the Calgary by-election have been heard by Ed Stelmach. Kevin Taft is being circumspect over the implications of the Liberal victory. Mainstream journalists have done a fine job of providing some context on the by-election results. Look hear, and hear for some good examples.

There is a denouement period now and some speculations on political futures starting to run amok. It will not be a surprise to see as much as a 40% turnover in the legislature from MLA retirements in the coming election. A 25% turnover is pretty usual and with leadership changes one can expect some more changes in the candidates.

What is equally as important as who is going to run is what policy issues will they run on in terms of platform for the next election? We Albertans need to address so many issues that have been neglected in the past as well as those emerging and in full bloom due to growth pressures.

My guess is the next election in Calgary will be more like Edmonton where the candidate has to win their seats on merit, organization and hard work. That has not been the case in Calgary for PC candidates in recent years. But that is changed and the Calgary candidates are beginning to understand that. Calgarians can expect provincial politicians to be knocking on doors starting this summer even with an election being as much as up to a year away.

Citizens can take back the political process and create some changes in how it works and who is involved particularly at election time. There was a big attitude change heralded almost 3 years ago in the last municipal elections when some 40% of incumbent candidates were defeated. The writing is on the wall for the up coming provincial election. Candidates, incumbents in particular, had better start re-earning our respect and trust right now if they hope to win again. Just positioning for the next election with promises and platitudes with no commitment to viable long range planning is not going to cut it.

Citizens are not a happy lot these days and whan to be assured that they can get the kind of government they want and need. Just look at all the changes in recent provincial elections aroudn the country. Alberta is even more volatile due to growth pressures – no doubt about it...the times they are a'changin.'

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Some Alberta By-election Results

UPDATE DRUMMHELLEER-STETTLER AT 9:51 - with 67 of 71 polls in - PCs with 3896. Liberals move into second with 947 and Socreds in third with 800. Decisive PC victory!
UPDATE CALGARY ELBOW AT 9:50 with 75 of 77 polls in - Liberals 4534, PCs 3793 and Greens still a distant third.
By-election results – unofficial – Drumheller-Stettler – Jack Hayden has little problem retaining this set for Ed Stelmach. With 45 of 71 polls reporting as at 21:23 pm the PC have 2693 votes for 59%. The Social Credit has 526 votes for 12% and the Liberals are in third place with 518 votes for 12%.

In Calgary Elbow is decided but not as decisive a slap to Ed Stelmach as many thought it would be. With 72 of 77 polls in at 21:36 pm the Liberals have 45% of the vote compared to 38% for the PCs each with 4267 and 3589 votes respectively. The Greens (563 votes) came in third beating out the Alliance (431 votes) and the NDP (329 votes).

Turn out seems to be depressingly small in each case.

Stelmach Tells the Edmonton Region to Get its Act Together

I was in the media room at the Alberta Legislature this afternoon when Premier Stelmach released the Terms of Reference for the 24 municipalities in and around Edmonton to develop a “log term, integrated management plan to support economic growth, with particular attention to the economic, social, environmental impacts on all residents of the region.” He has set a deadline of January 1, 2008 and has made it clear the province is prepared to act if the region does not get this done...and done right!

Premier Stelmach went on to say “So today I’m releasing a road map towards that goal, and I’m confident it will lead to a long-term plan to support anticipated development in the Capital Region over the next 20 to 50 years.”

There is some $46Billion of construction project planned, recently completed or underway in the Edmonton region. The demand for public sector infrastructure in this region will also be in the billions and add to the growth pressures. The Alberta government today acknowledge that “Meeting those requirements will require concerted and co-ordinate effort from municipal, provincial and federal governments as well as industry to minimize the impact on taxpayers.

Here is an example of exactly what my previous post was talking about the Stelmach PC government needed to do. Glad to see it happening and in particular on this very difficult and contentious issue of regional, long term, comprehensive and integrated planning for the Edmonton region. Albertans what change and change is what they are about to get.

This initiative and Dave Hancock's introduction of tobacco control legislation this afternoon make me a happy camper today.

How Will Alberta PCs Respond to the By-Election Results?

Today in Alberta we will see two by-elections that will once again prove that all politics is local. There is a strong sense of change in the air but not only in Calgary Elbow or Drumheller-Stettler. It started in the 2004 general election when Alberta voters wanted to move past the Klein Era - but Premier Ralph didn’t want to. Politics being the blood sport it is saw Klein out and Ed Stelmach picked as his successor – and perceived as an agent for change.

The jury is out if Premier Stelmach is a looking forward, take charge and "lead the charge" kind of guy or is he merely an extension yesterday’s Klein Era. The mood is for change and for me things are begin to feel like 1970 again when Lougheed made the breakthrough of the Social Credit dynasty.

These by-elections are always a prime opportunity to send the government a message. I expect the PCs to do relatively poorly as a result…even if we win them both! What is important is what messages will we take from these results? Is Calgary grumpy and feeling that they are now distant from its old role as the centre of provincial power and influence? Sure, but is that the only message? I don’t think so.

Is the Drumheller-Stettler result to be taken as a bell weather of where rural Alberta is leaning in the forthcoming election? Sure, but there is lots more going on in rural Alberta that needs to be considered as well.

The key message is going to be it is time for a change. If the PCs don’t change how they lead, plan and govern, the citizens will do it for them. There is shift in Alberta from the feel good sloganeering of the “Alberta Advantage” past a general grumpiness into one of genuine angst about the future direction of this province. For too many this new wealth that is being generated is not reaching them. Not only that, their cost of surviving, not just living, is on the increase. Pressures are mounting and the consequences are not happy ones for many ordinary Albertans.

There is ample economic evidence in Alberta, to borrow a cliché form my mother, “That our ship has come in.” If that is the case why is there so much anxiety over our future? I think it is the result of the chronic complacency that beset government in the last half of Klein’s premiership. He used to like to say that after defeating the debt and deficit he “wanted to put his feet up for a while and enjoy the accomplishment.” He did, and we allowed it for too long. We became focused on the past instead of preparing for the future. As a result some important things are missing in Alberta today. The most obvious ones are leadership, stewardship and citizenship.

We PCs are going to get a comeuppance today at the polls, even if we win! And we deserve it. The question is how we will respond to the alarm bells. We PCs need to leap out of the comfortable bed we make for ourselves and have been languishing in for far too long. It is time for Premier Stelmach to show he hears the alarm bells and for him to take personal control of the leadership of this province. The way to do it is through a creative, comprehensive, and long term stewardship perspective focused on the future of this Province. Those qualities are the essence of the Ed Stelmach I know.

Albertans are very focused on the future and tired of the PC aggrandizing or eulogizing over our past accomplishments. To see the future as merely about winning the next election is not going to be seen as good governing either. It merely political posturing and people are not only tied of that – they are afraid of it - and they will punish any party that pursues such an agenda.

It is time for Ed Stelmach to be Ed Stelmach. These by-elections are a perfect time for him to get a serious focus and get on with a new game plan. He needs to tell Albertans exactly where he sees this province going and how he plans to get us there.
Change or be changed, that is the question! Tomorrow is not too late to start to really re-engage with Albertans and help change their disenchantment into re-enchantment. My money is on Ed Stelmach to do just that.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Alberta Bill 45 "The Tobacco Reduction Act" to be Introduced June 12

The Order Paper for the Alberta Legislature has a notice in it today about Bill 45 “The Tobacco Reduction Act.” Looks like it will be introduced by Alberta's Minister of Health and WELLNESS, the Honourable Dave Hancock on Tuesday June 12th in the early afternoon. Hooray!!!

The political process is done and the legislative process is about to begin. Now we need the Premier to get behind this Bill and use some of his personal influence to make sure this get passed into law this session. Time is tight but it can be done with political will and all-party co-operation. Both elements are in place but it needs a push from the top becuase time is tight.

The new law is a no-brainer given the overwhelming public support it has received.

Proclamation can wait until Regulations are done. We have to be sure there is enough time over the summer for those businesses who need to adapt to have time to make the necessary arrangements in order to comply with the new law.

To leave this law to languish unfinished over the summer will only cause MLAs and municipal politicians (who are facing an October election) to be pressed and prodded by the hard-core tobacco supporters who think addictions are a good thing, or by the libertarians who think personal choice trumps community health and well being. Passing this Bill this session takes all that diversion off the political agenda...and it is the right thing to do!

Make it happen Premier Stelmach. Make it happen now!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Lying Libby Says "Oops, My Bad" and Asks for Leniency

So Scooter Libby can’t get away with lying to the FBI, perjury before a Grand Jury and obstructing Justice. A jury found him guilty and an independent Judge passed sentence a 30 month and a $250K fine. This sends a strong message that abuse of power and betrayal of trust by governments and their operatives cannot be tolerated.

Undoubtedly there will be an appeal but that does not mean Mr. Libby will escape jail time pending an appeal. That is the next question before the Judge. Stay tuned – this is not over. My money says he does time pending an appeal.

This trial and the result is one more example and reason to be thankful for an independent judiciary. Former Prime Minister Mulroney, as mentor to current Prime Minister Harper reaffirmed this important cornerstone of democracy recently. Hopefully “our man” Steve is still listening to Brian and will cease and desist from further manipulation of the judicial review and appointment process. His recent interferences threaten this all important independence of the judiciary, one of most important protections a citizen has against the power of the state.

The Libby trial testimony according to media sources exposed the White House allegedly deeply involved in managing the news, manipulating reporters and exaggerating intelligence on Iraq’s WMD program. This is all laced with sufficient irony to make one cry, both in and for a free country and a once proud democracy.

Will Dubya do the Presidential Pardon thing? Given this, his tanked approval ratings and hubris he will likely see now down side. There will be a down side to a Presidential Pardon for Libby? Not for Dubya, he is already toast! But the Office of the President of the United States will no doubt suffer…as if Bush cares – or ever did about such matters.

One wonders if this will embolden the pursuers of presidential impeachment aimed at Bush 43?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Harper at the G8 is Not Being Honest Nor is He Being a Broker.

Prime Minister Harper is off to the G8 and positioning Canada as the “honest broker” to bridge the gap between the climate change approaches between Europe and the Americans. Our Prime Minister has yet to clarify his own position on these issues so it is hard to see him as having any significant moral, legal or even intellectual authority to mediate between some pretty significant superpowers.

Our national economy and security is so tied to the USA that it is stretching credibility to believe the Europeans will see Harper as anything more than a shill for President Bush’s position on climate change.

It is not as if our record in Canada on GHG emissions cutting has been exemplary either. So there is no lever for persuasion or brokerage by Harper on that front. In fact we are doing a worse job than the Americans who never said they were to be bound by Kyoto in the first place. Harper’s own anaemic and hesitant policies on climate change offer nothing to add to his stature as an honest broker between Europe and American interests either.

He even misrepresents the India and China position on climate change. They have signed on to Kyoto but starting in the post-2012 period. According to the World Wildlife Fund, India currently contributes 2% of world GHG emissions with a billion people and China spews 5% with 1.3 billion people. Canada sources 2% of the worlds GHG emissions with only 35 million citizens.

The trends in all cases are not encouraging. In the time frame 1999-2004 Canada increased emissions 27%, India was up 57.5% and China increased by 73%. That only proves we are all in serious trouble. Canada obviously needs to do more at home and not just preach to China and India, as temping as that seems to be to Bush and Harper. As for an honest broker we are not in the best position be making the case to others now are we?

We have hardly anything to teach them, except perhaps not to waste the lead up time they have and to start early to create the changes necessary to comply with Kyoto. In Canada we have definitely squandered that lead time from when we signed on.

Yes Steve, it is not easy being green. It is even harder to be credible by pretending that you are. Harper’s Cons are spending big bucks in the pre-writ pre-election period that they don't have to account for when an inevitable election is called. Their message is focused on trying to convince us Dion is not a leader. Ironically Harper is spending lots of his personal political capital right now too. He is posing and posturing as a greenie and proving too all of us in the process that he is definitely not a leader.

Friday, June 01, 2007


The Great Canadian Wish List, a joint project between StudentVote, Facebook and the CBC has been going since Monday afternoon May 28. See my post that day for more details. It is a wonderful idea that has started to take off with 4,651 members and a Discussion Board with 129 topics and The Wall (“Facebook talk”) with 580 posts as I writh this on Friday morning.

The Wishes cover a wide range of topics but it seems to me mostly young people are into this event. That is a good thing but the conversation needs to be broader and more inclusive. This is not a criticism of The Great Canadian Wish List – just an observation of the different cultures that exist between generations.

As a front end baby-boomer I took to television and understood it and had a “relationship” with it much faster than may parents. This generation is having the same difference of understanding and relationship with the Internet. Nothing wrong with that, it just “is what it is!”

So for those who read blogs, and you must read at least this one, here is an easy entry into the new world order of Facebook. Here is the link to my Wish for Canada on her pending 140th Birthday. Give it a read. If you like it, then click “Add Support.” At the end of the day the most popular Wishes will move to the next level of the project and be part of a CBC television program tied to Canada Day.

Take a few minutes this casual Friday and browse some of the other wishes and give them support too. Better yet – join in and contribute your own Wish for Canada.