Reboot Alberta

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Suncor Invests in Alberta While Some Other "Alpha Oil" Types Choose to Intimidate.

There is plenty of business and news coverage of the Suncor decision to spend $20.6B…that is right Billion with a “B” in oil sands operations and expansions. Full disclosure, I hold shares in the company and have done work for Suncor in the past but not presently.

This company continues to show quality leadership and management and a demonstrable commitment to improved corporate social responsibility. They are not perfect but they get it and they work hard on getting it right taking to heart an integrated triple bottom line approach. In addition to this increased investment announcement, I see Suncor has also renegotiated its royalty contract with Alberta. Some business writers and industry commentators said the Alberta government was “tearing up contracts” with Suncor and Syncrude as part of the royalty changes. Not so and never was. This negotiated agreemetn revision proves that such hype was misleading and perhaps even intentionally by some.

Last October and November in response to the “Our Fair Share” Hunter royalty review expert panel recommendations “Big Alpha Oil” used intimidation tactics on workers, suppliers, communities and the Premier. The were saying that recommended royalty increase that merely put Canada and Alberta as the second lowest takers on the planet would devastate the industry and they would be leaving the province.

Well for a few weeks some actually did cut capital and exploration budgets but not nearly as drastically as they threatened and those decisions were made in light of market realities and taken long before the “Our Fair Share” report came out anyway. They moved some activity to Saskatchewan, which a good thing. They seemed to think it was their oil and gas and not Albertan’s oil and gas. That is a big mistake.

Now we see the most aggressive of the ENGO's shifting focus away from forestry and on to big oil, Alberta's oil sands in particular. We knew this was coming as early as the spring of 2005 when we did some work for the Alberta forest industry. The ENGO's we worked with then said that was their new strategy...and it is now happening.

With these announcements, Suncor steps up and shows leadership and wisdom - once again. This is not the first time Rick George has shown competence and class as a major corporate CEO. When the energy and manufacturing industries got twisted out of shape over the potential dire impacts on the economy due to the Kyoto Protocol, Suncor stayed out of the silliness. After a few months however, Suncor’s CEO said that they had calculated the cost impact of Kyoto in its Canadians operations and it was pennies on the barrel. Suncor said it could absorb that level of additional cost. Within days the din of dire consequences from the other aggitators and fearmongers, who were playing politics more than economics, were silenced and they slide quietly into the background and off the radar screen.

There are lots of examples of why big business has trust, respect and credibility issues with the public. But when we see a good example of a corporation and leadership that shows it is worthy of trust and respect, we have to applaud it. Suncor is consistently such an entity and an exemplar for others to emulate. Good on them!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Stelmach is Heading for the Hustings on Monday February 4th

My little birds tell me the Alberta election Writ gets dropped on Monday February 4th after the Throne Speech. Bundle up Alberta because candidates will be knocking on your doors and sticking signs on your lawns in the dead of winter. They will want to talk about the best possible future for the province and why they are the best way to get there.

There will be differences of opinion to understand, choices to be considered and judgements to be made. Citizens will have to be engaged and get self-informed as to who they think will be best to position our province for the challenges ahead.

Today there is a serious disconnect between Alberta’s opinion and thought leaders and our political and powerful economic elites. Our recent oil sands survey results show that disconnect most dramatically. Albertans want a more reasoned, integrated and sustainable approach to our growth, not just growth for its own sake and at any cost. With oil at $100 a barrel, traditional cost controls have not been effective as a market restraint for energy projects. Other factors will have to come into play,

Albertans clearly want growth but they also want a new definition of success that includes a greater focus on ecological integrity. They want attention paid and solutions found to the wide range of serious societal needs that an overheated economy has brought to Alberta. They also want better quality decision making at the political and policy level.

That is the challenge facing political candidates in this election. It is more than winning the election. It is also about proving to citizens through their platforms and proposals for the future that they “get it.” Even after proving that they get it, citizens will be looking at the various leaders and local candidates to judge if they have the personal capacity, ability and energy to be effective and to actually do something about “it.”

In 1993 Albertans “got it” that the province had a serious spending problem that was unsustainable. Laurence Decore, as Leader of the Opposition, stood up in the Legislature with his wallet held high above his head. He declared Alberta did not have a revenue problem, it had a spending problem, and that resonated with the feelings Albertans. The newly selected PC leader and then Premier, Ralph Klein, saw this happening and he jumped in from of that parade. As a result he was perceived as the political guy who best “got it” in those days. The rest, as they say, is history.

Today Albertans are once again way ahead of their politicians. We have yet to see the crystallizing moment for Albertans as we did to spur on the debt and deficit thrust of the 1990’s. It will come. In politics it always does. The moment came close with the release of the Our Fair Share Royalty Review Report. That however was way too complex a set of issues to become the crystallizing moment.

My guess that crystallizing political moment will come during this elections. It will be around ecology, wildlife habitat, climate change and the oil sands. These all relate in some way or other but there will be one shining moment when the emergent becomes both the important and the urgent in the hearts and minds of the voters. At that moment politics, policy and purpose in the role and responsibility of our government will shift dramatically.

As a result politics will become more meaningful again to everyday Albertans. Hopefully politicians will be allowed to be curious, exploratory and to show their humanity in ways that are authentic and genuine - not just media mobilized mush. Democracy will be better and social needs will return to the policy agenda along with the economy and the environment. If the happens we will all be better for it, you, me and our kids, will be the beneficiaries from this renewed and improved sense of purposefully engaged citizenship.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Citizens and Cynicism - Post Redux

I recently revisited some previous posts I have done on this blog. We face an imminent Alberta election and an inevitable Federal election. Under the circumstances I felt this post from August 2006 was worth a revisit and a reflection .

Cynicism is an easy way out. Citizenship is harder to do. We need a more engaged and informed citizenry...especially at election time. I hope Albertans will throw off the cloak of cynicism and take up the challenge of active, engaged and informed citizen. With the Internet, websites and Blogs, it has never been easier.

Alberta Innovation Fund Invests $2M for Enhanced Rural SuperNet Access

The Alberta Government "Access to the Future" Fund has just announced a $2million SuperNet connectivity investment to a consortium partnership of Alberta social agencies. This innovative project is the collective effort of the Community Learning Network, Literacy Alberta and Volunteer Alberta. Full Disclosure, my firm, Cambridge Strategies Inc. was retained by the consortium to assist in developing the project design and proposal development.

The consortium project will focus on bringing SuperNet capacity and connectivity to communities and individuals throughout Alberta. Rural communities and groups who engage early will benefit the most from this investment because of enhanced community and individual access to the SuperNet.

Rural Alberta will have improved quantity, quality, convenience and access to a wide range of learning and other opportunities through this initiative. The project outcomes will ensure distance and time will no longer be a barrier. Access to the SuperNet will improve communication and connectivity capacity for groups and individuals all over Alberta, including and enabling more urban and rural networking .

The project will also provide technical resources and supports to enable an integrated and standard platform for the consortium to deliver enhanced Community Adult Learning Programs, Volunteer Adult Literacy Services and information and programs to Volunteers Centres across the province. Individuals and groups across the province will be able to use this enhanced SuperNet access and capacity for more sharing, networking, video-conferencing and holding web-based net-meetings.

This social entrepreneurial project will have spin off benefits that will also enhance rural-based businesses and professionals. By adapting and adopting the SuperNet technology connectivity, rural-based businesses will be able to grow and generate more opportunities. Rural entrepreneurs will have access tomuch larger markets because location will not be the limiting factor it used to be as time and distance is “virtually” eliminated through SuperNet access.

This project is going to be a paradigm shift that will add to the overall viability, vibrancy and quality of living in communities all over rural Alberta. Having a critical mass of population will no longer be a critical factor for continued community viability and sustainability as a result of this innovative approach to enhanced SuperNet access.

Which Presidential Candidate Reflects Your Values?

Here is a clever device that is fun and informative. What US Presidential Candidate do you see reflecting your values?

I am right between Edwards and Obama and farthest away from Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee. Works for me!

Where do you fit? Here is the link.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Grumpy Alberta Voters Are Volatile On the Eve of an Election

The results of the next election in Alberta will not be because the voters wanted to throw out the incumbents or because there is a preferred option. Success in this election will not be because a party won or another lost. Victory will be earned by the leaders and by the hard work of each and every candidate. I believe the Alberta voter is generally cynical but also grumpy and nervous, even if they are doing well in this overheated economy.

Albertans are also in no mood to be trifled with. I think the “change” mentality coming out of the US Presidential races will emerge in the minds of Albertans in the pending election. That means the only safe seat in the province is likely Ed Stelmach’s. Candidates from all parties and in all corners of the province will have to earn votes at the doorsteps, through the phone lines and now on the Internet. Premier Stelmach as said repeatedly that the opportunity to govern is a privilege and not a right. Nothing can be taken for granted in this election.

Cambridge Strategies Inc. and The Policy Channel did a discrete choice modeling survey on what Albertans see as the important values needed for responsible and sustainable oil sands development. Results indicate there are two lines of though in the minds of Albertans. For example, an equal number of Albertans agree and disagree that their government is doing a good job on managing growth and our natural resources.

That means there is lots of volatility in the views of voters. They can be a fickle lot too. They can even change their minds at the last minute, like they did in the weekend before the 2006 federal election, putting pollsters and pundits in their place. The same thing happened as recently as the New Hampshire Democratic Primary where the voters confounded the pollsters.

The end result is the pending Alberta election outcome is not known and not easily predicted, at least not now. This is especially true based on the many and varied poll results we have been seeing. Some things are for sure. That is that election campaigns matter and they are about choice and change. In a democracy, you always get the government you deserve. That is true even if you don’t vote and choose to leave your future to be decided by other citizens who do vote.

I am usually a betting man on election outcomes, and I win more often than I lose. This Alberta election may be the first time I don’t think I can make a reasonable prediction on an outcome. I do not expect to be taking any bets on this election – even if I were offered odds.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

No Reason Today Why Harper Should Not Govern Until November 2009

The majority of Canadians do not want a federal election in 2008. This is the finding of a Harris Decima poll released Jan 24. I tend to agree. Parliament voted for fixed election dates. Canadians see no big push for a quicker election. We voted in a minority government intentionally and unless Harper screws up so badly he can’t keep the confidence of the House – there is no reason for an Election until Nov 2009.

Harper says he still likes the job. I see no overriding reason now why he should not stay in the job. That may change but as of now…Harper has to responsibility so let him govern…as a minority.

Up to now the Liberal party organization has not been in a position to effectively run an election. Now they can. That is no reason to call an election. Lets now see Harper run a real minority government where he has the real risk of defeat if he continues to bully and blunder and bullshit.

Obama Win in South Carolina and is Proving That He is a Reason to Believe

Obama does it again…this time in South Carolina Primary with 55% of the vote. In four Primaries so far, he has the most, the most delegates and the support of a great diversity of people.
Obama sells hope and fortitude. Clinton sells same old...same old. The Republicans sell fear. Fear of immigrants, terrorists, losing the war(s) and now fear of the recession they caused.

Caroline Kennedy is reported to be endorsing Obama in the New York Times tomorrow. More momentum moving into Super Tuesday Feb 5.

Another masterful speech tonight that is reminiscent of the Iowa Caucus. Worth watching and here is the link

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Oil Sands Survey to be Released Friday.

We are in the final stages of analysis on our discrete choice modelling survey of 1303 random Albertans on what values are most important for the future of oil sands development. We will be releasing the results on Friday where they will be posted on Policy Channel (

Alberta has the most dynamic and fastest growing economy in the country. We have the largest per capita disposable income and the lowest unemployment rate and lowest overall taxes in the country. There are projects in progress and planned that total over $140B of investment – and this is just counting individual projects over $100M.

One of the most interesting findings in our survey turned on Albertans expectations on their quality of life. We have all kinds of serious and costly public infrastructure demands, population growth pressures, skills and staff shortages, rapidly increased housing costs and inflation once again creeping into our lives.

The social costs on families because of too few people doing too may jobs, and the pressure on community and social cohesion is starting to take its toll. Volunteerism is a hall mark of being an Albertan but people simply don’t have discretionary time any more to participate in community life like they used to.

In spite of all the economic activity, investment and wealth creation going on in Alberta, the pressures on people is taking a toll. Albertans are getting tired of trying to keep up the pace of work that is dominating their lives. Dealing with the implications of too much concentrated growth with insufficient social capital and human capital resources is showing up in Albertans feelings about their future quality of life.

When Albertans were asked about how they saw their quality of life changing in the next two years, our poll shows that only 4% believe their quality of life will improve dramatically. There were 24% who anticipated slight improvements. A third saw no change from the hectic pace and pressures they are dealing with. Interestingly 32% feel their lives will be slightly worse and 8% anticipated a dramatic worsening of their quality of life.

The Alberta Advantage is now a cliché in this province. While the advantage still exists, it has not trickled down enough to the ordinary citizen so they can see the upside working for them. The expectations of 40% of Albertans seeing their lives being worse off in 2 years and 33% seeing a current difficult situation persisting, clearly if this is a continuing reality it is unsustainable for many Albertans.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Poll Shows Stelmach is Strong but Darkening Clouds Exist

Alberta is all over the front pages and above the fold stories in the Globe and Mail. The Strategic Counsel poll is showing Premier Stelmach is doing much better in the minds of ordinary Albertans than with the energy industry C-suites in downtown Calgary. This is good news going into an election that will be called in about 2 weeks. I will do s specific post on this poll and

The Report on Business story is a bit more unsettling as it looks like the Alberta Minister of Energy is weakening on a strong stance on royalties with the Alberta oil and gas industry. The Stelmach government has to be careful to do any such review with the industry in public and not behind closed doors.

The Klein government had an all too cosy back room relationship with the energy industry and did not do a very good job of protecting the interests of the resource owners…ordinary Albertans.

Stelmach has recently instituted an all party legislative committee process. That is the proper place for the energy industry attend in public to make it case about the “unintended consequences” they are facing as a result of the royalty review decisions. The fundamental question is should the royalty rates which are rents, be used as a means to subsidize uneconomic high cost drilling and why shouldn’t the higher producing wells pay a higher royalty?

There is a difficult political situation around the trust level of Albertans have over how well their government has managed our natural resources and the growth in Alberta during the Klein years. Any hint of returning to the behind closed doors and back room deals between Alberta Energy and the industry on our resource management will come with a significant political cost to the Stelmach government.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

One of the Best Blog Posts I Have Ever Read

This morning my Inbox connected me to a blog post that is one of the best I have ever read in the Blogosphere. It is posted at Davey’s Politics and entitled “Being a Leader is More Than Holding a Title.”

Quality leadership and quality decision making in public policy are two of the most critical shortcomings we have in western democracies today. Davey’s Politics provides some insight and analysis of the current state of these dynamics in Canada today.

It is a long from post and regular readers of this Blog know what that is all about. Pour another cup of coffee and give it a slow and reflective Sunday morning read.

Wild Alliance Party Rejects Chandler as a Director

My sources tell me Mr. Chandler and his cohorts ran for directorships in the Wild Alliance Party at the Merger Meeting yesterday in Calgary. Rick Bell of the Calgary Sun confirms that it is true and they were all unsuccessful

Will Mr. Chandler now seek a Wild Alliance nomination for the soon to be announced election…or will he stick to his independent candidate guns?

I have checked both the Alliance and Wildrose sites this morning and see they have nothing about the merger meeting posted on the sites and the newspapers have spotty coverage. Does anyone out there know what is really going on with this new party that wants to perfect yesterday instead of planning for tomorrow?

I presume from earlier statements that Mr. Chandler no longer wishes to be associated with the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. The feeling is mutual. However, I find it curious that he has allegedly been able to gain access to the PC Party Calgary Egmont nomination voting results which he posted as a comment on my Blog post yesterday.

I will presume Mr. Chandler's reporting of the results are accurate until an official reporting comes along. Once again I have to chastise the Calgary Egmont constituency organization, and any others in any political party who have followed the same path of not releasing the vote counts in nominations. Open and transparent democracy demands the release of all political party nomination results if the parties are to continue to deserve the confidence of the electorate on this and other more serious issues as well.

As for the reported Calgary Egmont "write-in" nomination of Craig Chandler for the PC Party, I wonder if that was done by Mr. Chandler himself. It matters not but it is an intriguing diversion from the weather and easier to figure out than the Sudako puzzle. I also wonder it Mr. Chandler followed up on his offer to buy the website from Daveberta too hoping to be the defendant in the earlier threats of legal action over the website.

I think the powers that be in the PC Party and the Premier's Office have learned a lesson and are quietly dropping the whole silly website thing. That means Daveberta is left like the pawnshop owner who actually knows he has stolen property in the store and now faces a dilemma. He doesn't really want to keep the site because it has served its purpose and can only cause more trouble if it gets misused. He can't really sell it, given what he knows about how it was acquired in the first place. What is the responsible thing for Daveberta to do under these circumstances?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Wild Alliance is a "Reality" and a Farce to be Dealt With.

The merger of the Alliance and Wildrose Party’s is a done deal. With an underwhelming founding convention of 200 Albertans gaggled in Calgary today, it is destined to be a farce to be dealt with in the forth coming election.

The Wildrose faction has the energy and the Alliance stalwarts have the ennui. It offers a platform that is focused on perfecting yesterday. With no time to raise credible candidates or money for the election call expected in early February, they will have momentum but it will be downhill and out of touch.

There is no point in engaging in folly unless it is at a grand scale. So based on that, this merger is not totally without insignificance.

Denis Wins Calgary Egmont.

So my friend the Enlightened Savage, and Calgary Egmont resident, tells me this evening that Jonathan Denis has won Calgary Egmont - the sequel. Now they have about 2.5 weeks to regroup and refocus and rejuvinate for the election. Congratulations Jonathan.

The constituency is not releasing the results....why pray tell not?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Mythosphere and Stelmach's Washington Speech on Oil Sands

I read Premier’s Stelmach’s speech to the Energy Forum in Washington yesterday. I see some of the media framing a specific issue from the speech and amplifying it for effect. I am not complaining because the MSM has often been able to decide what the “news” is and what isn’t. They used to get to decide that for the rest of us before Blogs came along.

The story line this time is that there is an alleged “myth” that “…oil sands production comes at too high an environmental cost.” According to Premier Stelmach the myth is gaining traction and he notes that some quarters in the US are trying to slow down or even stop oil sands development…and the Premier said he sees that as unrealistic.

The truth is that while we have a start and maybe our hearts are in the right place, we are not doing enough to mitigate or avoid environmental degradation in our energy industry. Government has bee too cosy with the industry and not doing it job. It is not just about jobs, as important as they are. It is not just about creating those jobs, as important as they are. It is about responsible and sustainable development that enhances the environment while we create wealth. Either or is old school and not enough any more.

I don’t see any Alberta politician of any party, including the Greens, articulating this reality with authenticity and authority that presents an informed and genuine concern.

Stelmach touched on some key points in the rest of the Washington speech. He said we have the only significantly large and proven reserves where there is substantial and growing supply development in a country with a stable government and proximity to the US market. If the Americans don’t want the oil then the Asians will. These are facts and market realities - not threats.

There were much more interesting and balanced aspects to the speech than these obvious facts that Alberta is the key to secure, reliable and economical continental energy supply.

On the environmental side, Stelmach suggested the pending California Low Carbon Fuel Standard must be designed to facilitate environmentally friendly investment at the point of production. That is a positive suggestion of using technology and innovation as a way to adapt the industry and the market to reach the desired carbon targets.

Stelmach then states the key policy position that has been overlooked when the MSM take of the story was decided. He said “The bottom line is: in Alberta, we do not proceed with development at the expense of the environment.” That policy statement is not as supported by the facts as it ought to be. It is currently under dispute with the recently launched Federal Court Appeal of the Imperial Oil Kearl oil sands project approval by the EUB.
There was commentary about government and industry working together to ensure quality standards for land, air and water. There is a long way to go to getting this policy and regulation right and we are far form doing the job needed on water use, land reclamation and air quality. But Alberta is actively engaged and not an eco-rogue state. The question is, are we engaged and focused and forceful enough on the bigger ecological demands or doing just enough to save face but not the planet?

The oil sands are about to become a geopolitical football at so many levels. It is going to take a strong focused and determined political leader to ensure we take and keep a long view of responsible and sustainable development of this resource. The goal is not to get rich at any cost. The goal has to be to exploit this resource opportunity in ways that serves the societal needs of the province and the energy needs of the continent. Albertan’s development of their oil sands has to go way beyond those goals and ultimately serve the higher integrated ecological imperatives of the planet.

Nothing less is acceptable.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Harper Mimics Musharraf and Fires Linda Keen

Prime Minister Harper has facilitated or forced the firing Linda Keen, the President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission last night. This is done on the eve of her appearance before the Commons Committee on Natural Resources. Shameful!
Such inappropriate political interference more akin to Pakistan’s President Musharraf than an open, responsible and accountable and suitable governing philosophy the Canadians expect and deserve from their government. Mr. Harper's political interference in the independence of this quasi-judicial tribunal is crossing the line and dangerous to democracy.

There is the need to rationalize or determine a priority between the competing principle issue of nuclear safety and the continuing need for medical isotopes the Chalk River nuclear facility provided. Appropriately our elected Members of Parliament made that decision by a unanimous vote in the House and Senate. This is not the issue any more and with better political judgement exercised earlier, this crisis could and should have been avoided.
Incompetence has become the overarching operational principle that defines the Harper government. This reality is being confirmed this morning I am watching with concern and disgust the Commons Committee hearing and I see the less than Honourable Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources dancing, diffusing and distracting from the legitimate questions of the Committee members. It is a shameful performance and does nothing to instill and sustain faith and confidence in him or the government he represents.

Accusing Dion of “not being a leader” in campaign style attack ads running outside the writ period so they don’t have to account for the excess spending is a pretty Bush league tactic.

And now the irony is thick as Mr. Harper proves, time and time again, that he is not only a poor leader but a dangerous one. The probationary period of the Harper minority governmet is over and it has not gained the confidence of Canadians. It is time for and election so Canadians can tell Harper it is time for him and his government to go.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Michigan Primary Was BORRRRRing!!!

Mitt Romney played it well – promising to bring back American automotive jobs that have gone for good - they will not come back - Mitt’s promises notwithstanding. Playing to fears and defining the Republican Nanny/Daddy state with his promises – Romney is now the prince of Faults Hope and shows that you can still fool people in fear.

With a $2500 automobile made in India the US automotive industry is not only outsourced – it has missed the next market wave in the developing world – and that is where the automotive action is!

Poor old Over the Hillary mustered an underwhelming 60% of the Michigan non-primary “vote” without any other serious candidates in the race. The National Democratic Party is punishing Michigan for breaking their primary rules by going too early. They are not allowing delegates at the Denver National Convention in the late summer. A pointless process without any meaningful purpose and with nothing to talk about pretty much sums up the Democratic debacle in Michigan.

Nevada will be better and more indicative of to win the West. South Carolina is going to be a stir-fry made up of pundit pap and leftovers with no real “entre” for Giuliani who has left his “engagement” into the race way too late. It will mark the exit of Thompson, who may do well but South Carolina is the end of his rope, even if he “hangs in.” We will see the persistence of Paul who will muddle along but stay like the Energizer Bunny.

Independent voters are not a big block in South Carolina, as I understand it. How will the Black vote and female vote split and will they show up? They stayed home in Michigan which is not surprising. Will Edwards get a local lifeline from is birth state as Romney did today and win in a squeaker?

Nothing is certain going forward for either party - but one thing for sure Michigan was sure boring.

Premier Stelmach Goes to Washington.

Premier Stelmach is off the Washington DC today with his Ministers of Agriculture and Food and Sustainable Resource Development. This is an important meeting and even with the Washington heavy hitters on the Primary Hustings he has still arranged an impressive set of meetings. Gary Mar as the Alberta’s Envoy in Washington is already earning his keep.

One focus is on the food safety and that is important given the new BSE case just discovered. The other even more critical elements are investing in Alberta and continental energy supply and security.

The Americans are woefully ignorant of the Alberta oil sands and its potential for resolving their fossil fuel energy demands without going to war or being beholden to Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. We have the oil sands recognized as the second largest reserves in the world behind Saudi Arabia and that is with current technology that only allows for us to utilize 10% of the potential.

The emerging American awareness over the oil sands is that it is environmentally speaking “dirty oil.” That is a concern in perception and there is some truth as well because of the GHG emissions inherent in the current mining techniques. The Americans, like most Canadians, have no clue as to what is being done to address those ecology issues in the province and industry.

Are the issues resolved? Not by a long shot! Are they being attended to? Yes but a greater and more energized focus has to be brought to bear on the concerns – by all concerned.

Premier Stelmach is seeing the right people in Washington on the energy and investment concerns for sure. He is meeting on Wednesday with the likes of the U.S. Energy Association, and participating in the U.S. Senate energy forum entitled “Alberta: Leading the Way on North American Energy Security.” He will participate in a briefing at the U. S. House of Representatives on “Trade and Investment Opportunities Between the U.S. and Alberta.”

On Thursday he speaks to food safety with the Canadian American Business Council then on to meeting with the Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture and the Acting Secretary of Agriculture. He also attends a business forum on expanded U.S. - Alberta – Canada relations and expanded trade opportunities. He has individual meetings with House of Representatives people like the Chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, another with a ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Finally, after an extensive and impressive two days of meetings Stelmach has a bit of fun at the hockey game watching the Edmonton Oilers defeat the Washington Capitals.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

What Will Happen in the Presidential Primaries This Week?

So this coming week we will see the Presidential Primaries moving into Nevada, Michigan and South Carolina. Every State will be very different and interesting for a variety of reasons. Is Michigan is Mitt’s last stand? Could South Carolina be the same for Edwards? Will race be a response factor for Obama support in South Carolina where 51% of the Democrats are black? Labour and Hispanics are trump cards in Nevada and which Democrat has them in their hand?

Will women, youth and independents continue to show up on the Democratic side? How long can Giuliani bide his time before he makes a move? Could it be he is awaiting too long and have nothing left for the kick he will in the final laps going into and through Super Tuesday?

I see the CNN folks who call themselves the “Best Political Team on Television” have backed off believing polls and pundits and spinmeisters in their commentaries this morning. They are not calling who they predict to we the winners and losers. They are not even identifying the leaders and laggards as such.

That discretion is very wise because everything is in play and even gender and race will be part of the conversations this week. Let’s hope it does not get framed and focused as being about racism and feminism in the process.

Now if we can only get MSM TV to go a bit deeper into the real issues. Recession is real and new on the agenda and will change the complexion of the campaigns from here on in. Expect Illegal Immigration to fade but not go away as the Republican candidates try to show themselves ad the masters of the fiscal universe. They will duck the reality of the dismal deficits created by the two Bush presidents and the surplus left by the Clinton presidency...some much for the so-called big-spending Democrats.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Edmonton Journal Starts a Pod Cast

Archie McLean, the Edmonton Journal’s Legislature Reporter has started a pod cast. Daveberta and I are the inaugural guests on this new initiative. Congratulations Archie and thanks for doing this.

Give it a listen

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Ethics Committee Should Stand Down and Lets Get On With the Public Inquiry

UPDATE: There is a piece in the Globe and Mail today Monday Jan 14/08 by William Kaplan - the man who wrote the book on this Schreiber/Mulroney stuff...literally. He concurs with my position on the emerging role of the Ethics Committee continuation of hearings...time to go to the Inquiry and for the politicians to get out of the way.
If the Ethics Committee is to continue to look into the Schreiber/Mulroney Affair will they be able to be effective, given their rules and the partisan nature of their procedures? For example the committee failed, refused or neglected to put Mr. Mulroney under oath but did so with Mr. Schreiber. Why?

Dr. Johnston’s report outlines 17 questions about former Prime Minister Mulroney’s business dealings with Mr. Schreiber. They are:

1. What were the business and financial dealings between Mr. Schreiber and Mr. Mulroney?
2. Was there an agreement reached by Mr. Mulroney while still a sitting prime minister?
3. If so, what was that agreement, when and where was it made?
4. Was there an agreement reached by Mr. Mulroney while still sitting as a Member of Parliament or during the limitation periods prescribed by the 1985 ethics code?
5. If so, what was that agreement, when and where was it made?
6. What payments were made, when and how and why?
7. What was the source of the funds for the payments?
8. What services, if any, were rendered in return for the payments?
9. Why were the payments made and accepted in cash?
10. What happened to the cash; in particular, if a significant amount of cash was received in the U.S., what happened to that cash?
11. Were these business and financial dealings appropriate considering the position of Mr. Mulroney as a current or former prime minister and Member of Parliament?
12. Was there appropriate disclosure and reporting of the dealings and payments?
13. Were there ethical rules or guidelines which related to these business and financial dealings? Were they followed?
14. Are there ethical rules or guidelines which currently would have covered these business and financial dealings? Are they sufficient or should there be additional ethical rules or guidelines concerning the activities of politicians as they transition from office or after they leave office?
15. What steps were taken in processing Mr. Schreiber’s correspondence to Prime Minister Harper of March 29, 2007?
16. Why was the correspondence not passed on to Prime Minister Harper?
17. Should the PCO have adopted any different procedures in this case?
I don’t think any of these are political questions but they all have political implications. My hope is that the Ethics Committee stands down on this and lets Mr. Harper and Dr. Johnston get on with setting up the Public Inquiry.

Kudos to Harper in His Handling of the Johnston Report and Calling a Public Inquiry

Mr. Harper strikes the right balance in the ordering of a Public Inquiry into the Schreiber/Mulroney Affair. Wait until the Ethics Committee has done its work and then get Dr. Johnston to deal more succinctly with the terms of reference of the public inquiry. That way we can focus on the real issues uncovered in the Ethics Committee work instead of going wandering into a dark room hoping to bump into the right issues that need to be inquired.

Sr. Johnston says “I (he) believe the inquiry can be efficient and focused, without the need for numerous interveners. The inquiry can and should steer clear of partisan political positions since the advance of such positions is not the purpose of the inquiry and would be contrary to the public interest.”

We know from Dr. Johnston’s report to the Prime Minister under his terms of reference that he believes Mr. Mulroney was not under oath when he appeared before the Ethics Committee and he left many unanswered questions regarding his cash payments from Mr. Schreiber.

Here is a damaging quote from Dr. Johnston’s report in that regard:
“In my work to fulfill my mandate under the Terms of Reference, I have concluded that the concerns of many Canadians arose from the fact that a former prime minister took large cash payments from someone now implicated in questionable transactions, and whose extradition for various charges has been sought and obtained by the Government of Germany. The suspicions raised by these cash payments were compounded by Mr. Mulroney’s silence on the matter. As Mr. Mulroney acknowledged before the Ethics Committee, taking those cash payments “created an impression of impropriety”. As the stories about the cash payments became more and more widely reported, and as they remained unanswered by Mr. Mulroney himself, suspicions among Canadians intensified. Mr. Mulroney told the Ethics Committee that the circumstances that led to this “impression of impropriety” amounted to a serious error in judgment on his part. Mr. Mulroney also acknowledged that it had been an “unwise decision” to remain silent on these matters.”

Dr. Johnston says that “one important element of the inquiry – perhaps the most important elements – was to let Canadians hear from their former prime minister about these suspicious dealings with Mr. Schreiber. …the concern is that the transactions involving cash payments that created an impression of impropriety could reflect adversely on the high office of prime minister.”
That the rub Dr. Johnson…you got it!

I go after Stephen Harper pretty hard in the Blog but when he does the right thing I try to be equally aggressive in my praise. This is on eof those latter incidences. The quick and wise decision by the Prime Minister to go to a public inquiry but after the Ethics Committee is finished and to once again refer the terms of reference for the inquiry to Dr. Johnston is very wise. That wisdom becomes very self-evident if one reviews Dr. Johnston's excellent report and thoughtful recommendations.

Johnston outlines the inquiry questions, issues and their relevancy in his report. The inquiry process is a finder of fact – not a trier of fact. That is for a Court deal with. The Ethics Committee is neither. Its work is pretty much done but if it has anything to add or uncover based on the Johnston report it should do so expeditiously. Otherwise since it can’t lead, and sure can’t follow – it should do the right thing now and get out of the way.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Three Candidates in Calgary Egmont PC Nomination Race

So it is official. Nominations closed in Calgary Egmont today and there are three candidates vying for the PC nomination. They are:

Jonathan Dennis

Vicki Engel

Don Middleton

The nomination voting will take place on Saturday January 19, 2008 from 12:00 Noon MST until 5:00 pm MST at the Kingsland Community Centre located at 505 - 78 Ave SW

This time I hope actual PROGRESSIVE Conservatives will show up and participate.

Thank You Linda Keen and Sheila Fraser For Protecting Us From our Government.

Canada’s Auditor General Ms. Sheila Fraser is one of my heroes. I now have another hero. She is Linda Keen, the head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. This is an independent quasi-judicial tribunal that is responsible for the safety of the nuclear industry in Canada. Those decisions should not be made by elected partisan political operatives no matter how “accountable” they see themselves.

We see the Harper Cons interfering politically and inappropriately once again as the Honourable Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resource, thought it was his place to threaten Ms. Keen with termination for not toeing his partisan line.

The Cons should know better that to take such heavy handed approach and if they don’t know better, they are not ready for prime time governance. Sure the issue around the safety of the Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. Chalk River facility and the need for the production of the medical by product of radioactive isotopes is a political decision.

There should be no trade-off between these values and they should not have to compete. Good competent effective government provides both nuclear safety and necessary medical services. We did not have good competent and effective government in this situation and that is now obvious.

To resort to bullying Ms Keen because she was a “Liberal appointee” as a consequence of Harper’s personal and his governance incompetence is beyond the pale. To threaten an independent commission, which we all rely on to be political independent and to make sound decisions about nuclear safety, because she did not follow the directives of her political masters is dangerously irresponsible.

Character is a quality often overlooked when we reflect on those who govern us and who act on our behalf in governing agencies, boards and commissions. Thankfully we have people of exemplary character like Ms. Keen and Ms. Fraser to protect us from our governors. They both did their jobs on OUR behalf, especially when it counts and the stakes are high.

If anyone should give reasons why they should not be fired, it is Mr. Lunn. As for Mr. Harper, we know, given his patrician controlling leadership style Mr. Lunn was not acting alone but merely as the PM’s emissary. Before you can respect someone, you have to trust them. Before you can trust them you have to give them the benefit of the doubt. Mr. Harper’s has proven time and time again he is a flawed leader. It is time for him and his government” to go. Bring on the election so we can put the Cons out of our misery.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Daveberta Punk's Premier Ed. I Love it!

Register a Domain name - $14.00
Google Ad revenue - $20.00 per month
Punkin’ Premier Ed – Priceless.

My hat goes off to my friend daveberta ( for a very clever political prank and effective practical joke around It works at so many levels. Playing the poor debt ridden student victim card is even richer. This is a pure and politically powerful university student prank. I love it.

The magnificent mischief in registering the domain name is likely all Dave and not the Alberta Liberals. They are as old school as my Progressive Conservative Party. It shows the digital divide is not only able access but about application of the power of the Internet. So many people in power today don’t get it.

Sure there are legalities and issues – if that is how you see the world. This stunt by Dave is pure prank and while it may be technically “offensive” such a breach is at the level of a petty trespass and not an identity theft. This is the 21st century equivalent of renting the billboard right above you competitions campaign office at election time.

The legalistic over reaction and the delayed in catching on by the powers that be in the PC Party is classic old school. Klein did this delayed over reaction thing once too when he read one of Kevin Taft’s policy books and called him a Communist thereby catapulting Taft into the spotlight and turning the book into an Alberta best seller. Duh!

Dave is no political amateur and he knows exactly what he is doing. He has had this site for almost a year and presumably linking it to the Harry Strom Wikipedia entry for all that time. Delaying the “release” of the letter from the lawyers until the slower news time after Christmas and playing the media so adeptly shows Dave’s sophistication about such things.

The classic response of a cease and desist legal letter has put the prank into the MSM and all over the Blogoshpere in spades. The resulting media coverage is ensuring Dave’s goal of framing the PCs as “so yesterday” politically is now accomplished – as of this morning 79 comments are on Dave’s blog post. Even Craig Chandler is commenting on Dave’s blog offering to buy the domain name hoping Ed Stelmach would still pursue him he was in control of the site.

Premier Stelmach, it is time to back off. If you want to get out of a hole the first thing to do is stop digging. Acknowledge the prank and that it has served its purpose and move on. The take away learning from this is for the mainstream political parties to get some young hip people into the key communications positions in their campaign organization. Quit criticizing Cournoyer and clone him.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Lessons From A New Hampshire Primary

So another New Hampshire Primary is history. Lots of back stories here and many of them are worth noting. The main story is the turnout again. Record numbers of Democrats once again dramatically eclipse the total Republican vote. That foreshadows the real election in November and augurs well for a return of a Democratic White House and Congress…but that is way too early to presume.

The rising turnout of the independents, women and youth is once again very noteworthy. Voting is sexy again and judging by the outcomes tonight, it has become more meaningful again. My view is that the independents split more tonight than they did in Iowa. They may have believed the polls showing Obama was riding a double-digit lead. That would have delivered and outcome that would have devastated Clinton so many of the returning women voters rallied to her cause. That polling strength for Obama meant that some Independents could now also show up and ensure that McCain did well, and they - and he did too.

Women still showed up with impressive support for Obama but more of them were engaged by the human moment when Clinton dropped the media-trained mask. The instantly famous “tear-up” where Clinton showed her humanity and briefly succumbed to the stress of the campaign let us see the real Hillary as a person with some authentic emotion. Cynics called it staged managed but nobody believed that. Better yet nobody played the hoary old weak and emotional female candidate gender card. They didn't dare!

Independents came to McCain's aid and they gave him a victory. They also gave him new optimism and renewed energy going into the tough Michigan pure Republican Primary race where Romney has the home field advantage.

Obama was not beaten tonight. Voters decided they wanted to keep his momentum but to also ensure Clinton and McCain continued to be strong. They knew Obama could show a strong second and still thrive. He did not need to win to sustain significance but that was not true for Clinton and McCain. New Hampshire did their nation a favour tonight by bolstering the fortunes and fortitude of those two winning candidates.

Next is South Carolina, which is 51% black and a very different ball game than anything we have seen so far. At the end of Obama’s speech tonight he did his pre-game warm up by invoking the spirits of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Blackness becomes relevant in the South Carolina Primary.

Governor Huckabee, finishing third, had one of the best lines of the night. He referred to a friend who alleged he had never failed at anything he attempted, but he also admitted the game sometimes ended before he was finished playing. I think that image will become the sine qua non for his campaign from here on in.

I still think, even after tonight, that the Democratic and Republican nomination results are still pretty much a forgone conclusion but the game - well that is far from over.

Deconstructing Licia Corbella on Ed Stelmach

There are times when you want to tear your hair out – especially when you read stuff that is mistaken, misdirected and so filled with error. Such is the case in this Calgary Herald signed piece done by the former Calgary Sun columnists Licia Corbella.

For the record I am a card carrying Alberta Progressive Conservative. I supported Ed Stelmach on the second ballot in the 2007 PC Leadership so I have opinions and biases…but I also have accurate information and facts too…because I was there!

Lets deconstruct this “opinion piece” by Ms. Corbella, who is entitled to her own opinions but not her own facts. Talk about "a lot of gall but no mandate!" First she admits she does not know Ed Stelmach but she is admittedly prepared to accept the prejudgement of “colleagues” as fact in forming her opinion. Such is the pack culture of too much MSM these days.

She spends an hour with Stelmach and apparently gleans only one insight relating to a “lame promise to match all charitable donations…” saying “he really didn’t have any concrete ideas. She obviously did not visit his campaign website or refresh her memory with a recent visit to the Premier’s current website. If she did she would have seen just how ambitions a leadership and public policy agenda was and how much he has accomplished in the first year of office.

She says Honest Ed was everybody’s second choice on December 2. That has some “truthiness” to it because Stelmach was the third place candidate on the first ballot on Nov 26. But in first place on the Dec 2 ballot and with the second place choices in the Dec 2 preferential ballot he became the leader with about 60% total preferential votes cast . You needed 50%+1 to win and Stelmach ended up with significant breadth and depth of support throughout Alberta in a distinctively three-way race.

The so-called leading contenders of Dinning and Morton were found to be wanting in some way and an alternative was found. That may have been a compromise for some but not most party members. It was very reminiscent of what we see happening today with Hilary Clinton and Mitt Romney. Nothing in these final results justifies framing Stelmach as a compromise. He was seen as the better alternative and the preferential choices were made by the overwhelming majority of voters.

“For some reason it took Tories more than six hours to count up a measly 144,289 votes.” Give me a break. The PC Party ran polls in all constituencies all over Alberta all day on voting day, manned by volunteers and done on a preferential ballot. The turnout was about 50% higher than the previous leadership in 1992 and it takes time to do democracy properly and accurately so people can have confidence in the results. This is Alberta, not Kenya.

Stelmach’s win was not shocking to people who were engaged in the campaigns, just as Obama is not shocking to highly engaged people in the current American presidential race either. If more MSM knew how to talk to real people instead of the usual suspects and each other, and not to just presume money and name recognition wins campaigns, they could have seen this coming too.

The Mandate question is valid, but only to a degree. The PC Party threw out Ralph Klein and gave any Albertan who was eligible to vote and had $5 to spare a chance to participate in choosing the next leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservative political party. Over 140,000 Albertan’s availed themselves of the opportunity.

The leadership campaign platforms were very clear and Stelmach campaigned on the platform that he would conduct a royalty review if elected. To say he had “…no right to alter the royalty structure on non-renewable resources that has served this province so well for so long” is so wrong at so many levels as to be breath taking. There was an independent expert review panel and public consultation with 5 weeks of open public debate and dialogue on the issues before the government made a final decision on behalf of the citizens who own the resource. To further suggest the royalty structure was breaching contacts with energy companies is absurd and inaccurate. Royalties are public policy arrangements, not private contractual relationships and to suggest otherwise is disingenuous or ignorant.

To suggest the existing royalty structure “…had served this province so well for so long” ignores, without offering any rebuttal evidence the contrary, the findings of the Royalty Review Expert Panel and the Auditor General. Documents are now coming surfacing showing that billions of dollars of royalties were not being paid or collected as owed. That is hardly evidence of a royalty structure that has been serving the public interest " well for so long."

Finally let’s deal with the facts around the “big lesson” the PC leadership participation numbers are supposed to teach us. Noting that there are 3.48 million Albertans and since “…just 51,764 of the - or about 1.5%” of those 3.48 million Alberta participated is a meaningful statement that is at best laughable. Firstly this was not an election but a political event for party members only. You had to be a party member to participate and that was easy to do, be eligible to vote in Alberta and invest $5 and voila you can help choose the next Premier. Second, not all 3.48 million Albertans are eligible to vote in any event, even if it were an election, which it was not. This “analysis” reminds me about the old aphorism “lies, damn lies and statistics” demonstrated at its best.

There is more misinformation and other faulty facts in this opinion piece but this post is too long already. The Blogosphere is rife with such fuzzy headed fatuous content and usually written by anonymous zealots and trolls. To find the same thing in the editorial pages of a competent respected and quality mainstream newspaper is very surprising.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Is CNN's Political Coverage Changing for the Better - Or Is It Just Me?

I have been watching the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire Primary campaign coverage and have noticed CNN is changing how it covers things political. The full (or almost full) presentation of stump speeches of candidates in town halls and private living rooms is a refreshing new format. Fewer stand ups by vacuous "reporters" repeating the obvious and trite to fill the 24 hour news cycle is diminished...not gone but they are fewer and farther between.

The New Hampshire debates on Saturday (I saw a Sunday rerun) was full, fun and well formatted for both Democrats and Republicans. The “post-game” pundit armchair quarterbacking that I saw on Sunday was informed and focused and relatively professional…meaning it was not about personality quirks and quips of candidates but about substance and process, content and character.

I think the kind of content and interactivity of the Internet and perhaps even Blogs, if that is not too much of a conceit, is having a real impact on the style, substance and formatting of MSM political coverage – at least at CNN. Is the sound bite and celebrity reporter model so typical of traditional electronic journalism fading – perchance, disappearing?
There is an obvious start in a new and preferred direction, at least from the serious side of the CNN political coverage I have been seeing recently. Soundbite and superficial "journalism" is still the staple in the so-called “news” and also Larry King Live programming. They are still providing facile infotainment rather than effective knowledgeable and insightful political journalism.

Maybe I am way to optimistic but I hope not. This trend along with the return of the indifference and disillusioned voter to the process in these Presidential campaigns can only be good for democracy in America. Maybe some of that intelligent and in depth electronic media approach will spill over into Alberta's and Canada's pending election coverage. Here’s hoping!!!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Facts and Figuring About the Wildrose-Alliance Party

There is a very extensive and insightful analysis of the Wildrose and Alliance Party merger over at The Enlightened Savage. I was planning on doing my own analysis but this blog posting is a great piece of insight and thoughtful provocation. I commended it to you.

As to if the new merged party will be a significant force in electing MLAs in the next provincial election, the answer is no, IF the next election is only a few weeks away. Not time to get it all together. It will be a force however in retaining the far-right and fundamentalists base that bleed off from Klein in the 2004.

Is that faux-Republican political philosophy emblematic of where Albertans see their future and in the best interests of providing good governance in next Alberta? I don't think so but it has its adherents.

The Project Alberta site has been ripe with calls and questions for Dr. Ted Morton to take on the leadership of this merged entity. That is the more interesting question emerging in this new party and in the face of the forthcoming election.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Obama is About to Make History and Become the Next President of the U.S.A.

This link is to the text and the video of Barack Obama’s speech after winning the Iowa Primary last night. The message in the speech is clear from the text but in the video he lifts it off the page.

I have been around long enough to experience the phenomenon of Jack Kennedy winning the U.S. Presidency and Trudeaumania in Canada. Watching the video late last night reminded me of those days. Obama is the real thing.

He is resonating as a youthful hopeful agent of change with a proven capacity to govern. Clinton’s “experience” and the Republican candidates who are all selling “fear and doubt and cynicism” are in stark contract to Obama.

He is breaking down partisan barriers and bringing in new voters, independent voters and young people back to politics. He is not pandering and not sugar coating the challenges and sacrifices that will be coming. But he also speaks to hope, and a sense of destiny and to the aspirations of Americans. I only hope we will get this kind of presence and inspiration from our federal and provincial politicians here in Canada soon.

Last night he captured all of those sentiments when he said

Years from now, you’ll look back and you’ll say that this was the moment – this was the place – where America remembers what it means to hope.

But we always knew that hope was not blind optimism. It’s not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It’s not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it.”

I regularly download great speeches in history to my iPod. I expect this speech, given last night by a young black man running for President of the United States of America, will become one of them in due course.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Influential Citizens Worldwide See Big Business As a Problem.

During the recent Alberta royalty review process and the concurrent Auditor General Report we saw an aggressive energy industry response and a very engaged citizen reaction. What happened was the exposure of the coziness of the relationship between the energy industry and senior government energy types. Albertans were told, in detail, of the past failure, refusal or neglect of the government to promote, preserve and protect the public interest on energy royalties.

The media firestorm that resulted underscored that some energy industry leaders and organizations had been operating under an apparent misapprehension. It seemed from their comments and attitudes that they presumed they were the effective "owners and controllers" of the energy natural resources; not Albertans. It seemed as if industry had been dictating just about all aspect of public policy in the energy sector.

Others in industry quietly but clearly understood and respected the concept and the Constitutional dictates of public ownership of natural resources. They know that an oil and gas or oil sands lease is merely the granting of consent for a social license to operate on public property. They understand that such consent extends to the right to extract and sell the public’s natural resource assets and the concurrent duty to protect and preserve natural capital assets, like the environment, in the process.

Unfortunately those who don’t get it are giving serious grief to the good guys and the governments who act as the agents for the owners, the citizens of Alberta. Government is also the regulators of the assets and protector of the environment and that adds complexity to the relationships. The fact that some corporation are “not getting it” is apparently not unique to Alberta according to a just released Ipsos Reid a worldwide poll on reaction to the power and influence of big business.

This on-line poll was of 22,000 “intelligaged” citizens” in 22 countries are best labelled as “those who show up and make a difference.” A full 68% of them voted in their last elections. Half of them instigate political, economic and social discussions and 37% signed a petition within the last year. Half of them make purchase choices based on a supplier’s ethical, social or environmental reputation. A third of them advised others not to use a specific company for the same reasons.

These are citizens you do not want to ignore or tick off. These are informed, engaged and influential people who can make or break a government - if they want to. The Ipsos Reid poll results about show beliefs and attitudes of these influential and activist citizens. They have to be sobering for the large cap corporations everywhere, including Alberta. Here are the key findings Worldwide and the Canadian comparisons:

Do large corporations have too much influence on decisions of their governments? Worldwide 74% of engaged citizens agreed – in Canada 80% agreed.

Should government be more aggressive in regulating activities of national and multi-national corporations? Worldwide 72% of engaged citizens agreed – in Canada 77% agreed.

Are large corporation more powerful than governments? Worldwide 69% agreed – in Canada 77% agreed.

Should governments have complete access to private information of corporations doing business in their country? Worldwide 58% agreed – in Canada 65% agreed.

As to if corporations are a god or a bad influence on their countries, the worldwide split was 55% believe they are a good influence versus 45% who say they are a bad influence. The regional breakdown here is interesting. In the Asia-Pacific 67% are positive and 33% negative. Latin America is 56% good and 44% bad. The most negative region about corporate influence is North America. Here 56% say corporations are a Bad influence and only 44% see them as Good. Even Europe is not that negative where 51% are negative about corporate influence and 49% are positive about it.

It is the “intelligaged” citizens who are the thought leaders, opinion leaders and trend setters for the rest of society. If they are not happy they can make things change, including who governs their countries. This polls shows that the intelligaged around the world and in Canada in particular, are not happy with the power and influence exerted by big business over their governments. The sub-theme is obvious and that that they must not be very happy with how their governments performing in serving the greater good either.

This means there are going to be turbulent and stressful times for out of touch and unresponsive governments as well as big national and international corporations in the days ahead. Just because it is a cliche to say the only constant is change that should not lull anyone with positions of power, authority and leadership into discounting the truth of the aphorism.

Indeed the times they are a-changin' and it could get ugly for the powers that be especially with a provincial and a federal election in the offing.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Alberta's Wildrose and Alliance Parties Looking At Merger!

Good to see the nascent Wildrose Party and the bucolic Alliance Party talking merger. My sources say early efforts at a merger between Wildrose and the Social Credit Party proved unworkable. There are still the Alberta Party and the Separation Party that may be ripe for merger with this new entity too.

The parties better fast track this effort if they want to be a force in the forth coming Alberta election. Getting the Alliance party members to agree to a merger and accept the bylaws of the Wildrose Party and have Wildrose first in name will take some explaining if it is to be successful a the January 19th AGM of the Alliance.

The Alliance has been around longer, since 2002, and has proven to be able to deliver at least a modicum electoral success with Leader Paul Hinman. The compromise position offered is Mr. Hinman will lead the new merged party. That will at least be until the next election where we will see how well he does in his own seat. His second major challenge as leader will be recruiting credible candidates with such short notice and not much money or time to raise it.

Hinman will be running against Progressive Conservative Broyce Jacobs again. Jacobs held the seat before but lost it to Hinman in 2004 as the Cardston-Taber-Warner seat concentrated its disillusionment with Ralph Klein. Alliance gelled their support and in a tight two-way race Hinman won by 131 votes. The Alberta Liberals and New Democrats have not nominated their cannon fodder candidates in the constituency as yet.

This constituency is one to watch for many reasons but mostly as a test of the Stelmach PCs and the political viability of the far right parties, in coalition or otherwise. The implications for the acceptability and viability of the proposed merged Wildrose Alliance Party are obvious.
Results differ depending if this deep-south constituency sees Stelmach as a continuation of Ralph Klein or is he going to be seen as a new guy with rural roots and a man of integrity, substance and experience. On the other hand they may feel they don’t know enough about Stelmach and could decide continuing as a contrarian constituency and supporting Hinman again can’t hurt them and it will send a serious message to government.

There is a back story in all of this too that involves Dr. Ted Morton and where he will stand and how will he come out in all of this. He is clearly the heir apparent to the Wildrose Alliance leadership if Hinman fails to win his seat. He is also well respected and known in the area. Where will Morton’s loyalties lie, with Stelmach, his Alliance roots or with his own future leadership aspirations? If the case is the latter scenario, which party will Morton align with to fulfil his political leadership ambitions?

Morton can concentrate on winning his own seat as a PC and not work for Stelmach in the deep south. This has the making of best scenario outcomes for Morton If Stelmach does well, Morton will have proven his capability and “loyalty” to the Stelmach PC government and should be secure in a Cabinet post again.

If Stelmach does not do well then consequences differ depending if Hinman wins or loses? If Hinman loses Morton will be facing a far right draft to cross the floor and lead the new party giving it a continuing seat in the Legislature as well. If Hinman wins, there will be pressure for a PC leadership change again and will Morton try to become leader of the PCs again?

Looks like Dr. Ted Morton is positioning well for a favourable personal political outcome no matter what happens in the next election – so long as he wins his own seat. One more indication that Alberta politics are no longer boring.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Keith Olbermann Buries Rudy Giuliani With Truth

Keith Olbermann Buries Rudy Giuliani with this piece which is Olbermann at his full force best. Watching CNN today "Ballot Bowl" programming and with recent visits to the States plus talking to friends there the isolationist anxiety that pervades the people is remarkable. It is being "played" with for political power by some people running for office of President who are very scary themselves. Giuliani seems to be one of them.
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