Reboot Alberta

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Alberta's Senior Civil Servant - Ron Hicks - Calls it Quits

Ron Hick's, Deputy Minister of Executive Council for the Government of Alberta is resigning effective September 5, 2008. One of the finest and most effective public servants I have ever worked with is calling it quits. This is a sad and unnerving day for good government in Alberta.

My mother used to say the graveyard is full of indispensable people. While that is true, this senior administrative retirement is one of a number of key losses to the Stelmach government as of late.

Speculation over the reasons will be rampant but pointless. Stelmach's government is losing another good one in the senior ranks of the civil service.

I say another good one because Ron is one of four senior people to leave in the past week or two. Paddy Meade, a long serving Deputy Minister of Health and Wellness just moved to the new health superboard. Gerry Bourdeau, Deputy Minister of International and Intergovernmental Affairs retired yesterday as did Deputy Minister of Justice Terry Machett, who was appointed to serve on the Provincial Court yesterday.

This is worrisome for the new Stelmach government. Lots of good people left but the wisdom and experience of this level of talent is a serious loss to any Premier trying to reinvigorate what as been a lethargic governance model in the last years of Klein's regime.

Big Tobacco Fined $1.5 Billion for Smuggling

Big Tobacco has just been fined for cigarette smuggling activities between 1989 and 1994. This was a guilty plea and was about a complex cigarette smuggling scheme. What about pursuing them for the same activities from 1994 to the present?

The Big Tobacco culprits are Imperial Tobacco who is liable to pay a fine of $200,000,000.00 now and $400,000,000.00 more over the next 15 years. Rothmans Benson & Hedges is on the hook for $100,000,000.00 in fines now and $450,000,000.00 more in civil payments over the next 10 years. Classy operators these guys!

It is easy and appropriate to blame the companies for this illegal activity. I want more. I want to know the names of the individuals in those companies who perpetrated these illegal activities. Companies don’t make decisions by themselves or in isolation. It is the leadership and management who are the active agents of corporate decisions and such misdeeds.

There is a personal obligation here as well. Who was it exactly that aided, abetted, enabled and executed this illegal activity within these organizations? If there is not personal liability as well for this stuff the corporate cultures that drive these behaviours may never change. I am not a big fan of more government regulation but I do like personal accountability and liability for illegal corporate activities, be they civil or criminal.

Release the names of the individuals involved in this illegal activity please. We may need more legislation that will enable personal actions to be brought against corporate management and individual directors who enable this crap to happen. Then things will really change for the better. Sarbanes Oxley was a start but personal accountability for corporate actions must obviously be expanded.

For the record, I worked with a consortium of Alberta based health based organizations to get legislation passed in Alberta to get smoking banned in public and workplaces in Alberta last year. I have seen the tactics Big Tobacco used in lobbying and PR based misdeeds too.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Harper The Bottom Feeder to Dion: "Fish or Cut Bait."

Harper was preaching to his “peeps” in Quebec today and acting up with his usual bullying and bluster. He is suggesting Dion “fish or cut bait” for a fall election is rich coming from Harper.

Dion has been trolling and playing the Harper bottom feeders for a few months now. Steve is frustrated because he doesn’t know how to govern and he can’t learn fast enough now.

He has been trying to engineer his defeat for over a year and a half. He has used every cheap procedural trick in the Commons Committee Procedural Manual to keep from delivering on a promise for a Public Inquiry into the Mulroney/Schreiber Affair. We are still waiting Steve.

He has made a mockery out of Parliament by insisting that even the most mundane of his legislative tripe was indeed a confidence vote. He has been conning Canadians since January 2006. And Canadians still don’t what an election – they have been waiting patiently and hoping to see if Harper can show up and prove he can govern the country like a leader and not like a mini-George Bush. Harper is in a minority government and will have to earn the trust and confidence of Canadians to get a majority. So far all he does is try to defeat the Liberals. You did that in January 2006 Steve. Now you have to try and win one, not wait for the Liberals to lose.

If Harper wants an election now - all he need to do pay a visit to the Governor General and resign. Pretty simple stuff. Why won’t he do it? Because he needs someone to blame for things. Like the “defeat” of his “government.” He lacks the character, courage and the conviction to run on his own merits.

Harper’s suggestion that there is “current work of government” going on that is being delayed and he “can’t get on with his mandate is also laughable. There is now current work of government, at least not anything of merit or substance. And Harper has been bragging for over a year he has already delivered on his five point mandate. So he can’t use that excuse with any credibility.

It is all cheap Rovarian-like campaign theatrics right out of the Bush Republican playbook. To most Canadians that old style politics is very tiresome. Unfortunately no one in the Harper brain trust apparently knows how to adapt to the changing attitudes and circumstances in the land. A one-trick bully is all they are.

Quit acting like an opposition leader Steve and start acting like a real Prime Minister. Grow up and show us a man with leadership ability. Show us someone who is capable of governing from a position of empathy and statesmanship. Show us a government that is prepared to strengthen Canada and Canadians with a governing style that protects and empowers us.

If you like this PM gig and you want to keep it you will have to prove yourself to be worthy of the consent of Canadians to govern. It is not just good enough for you to continue to be a schoolyard bullying who’s only talent is political brinkmanship.

Does Big Telco Really Want To Charge for Internet Site Access?

The backlash is starting against Big Telco and we ought not to let them off the hook (sic). Many years ago it was backlash against The Big Three automakers out of Detroit. We can see what is happening to them for lack of effective response to the public demands. Then it moved to Big Tobacco and, then Big Pharma. Now it is Big Telco’s turn to feel the marketplace backlash from the public.

Now it is a more interesting phenomenon and a more level playing field for the public because of the Internet. People (like citizens) are in an ugly mood and an Ipsos Reid survey says 55% of us are ticked, mad or angry these days. And 35% of us apparently feel helpless to change things and we bottle up our frustration. Change is not easy and activism take energy, focus and commitment but that is the price of freedom my friends.

Some notable examples of activism folks who have started Facebook Groups. Then we see the emergence and thriving of This site was originally an anti-Rogers site that has apparently morphed into a “…one-stop shop for ticked off wireless customers.”

This privatization of access to information is so 19th century. The open and free access to information on the Internet is one of the best guarantees of an open and accountable democracy. To allow Big Telco to determine who gets to access and use information based on fees for site access is a threat of enormous proportions.

Big Telcos seem to think the Internet should be like specialty subscription television. That is a stupid as saying television should be like radio. That said, given all the talking heads on TV these days, TV has become too much in common with radio.

The Internet is far from perfect and is down- right dangerous in some cases. I am thinking child pornography and sexual luring, especially of children. However it is society and our legislators who ought to be making the rules, settings the community standards and dealing with abuse. We ought not to delegate this social responsibility of dealing with the Internet to Big Telco.

Free speech is not free, and its protection demands vigilance by citizens. There is a price to pay to sustain the right of free speech. To allow Big Telco to set the rules, the standards and privatize free speech as they see fit is wrong and contrary to a free and democratic society.

Citizens need to get involved to protect their free speech rights, from government and industry and even some special interests kooks too. Speak out and let your voice be heard – at least amongst your neighbours, co-workers, friends and family.

Free Speech! Use it or lose it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Edward Greenspan Also Questions if There is Competition in Cell Phone Services

The pressure continues to mount on Big Telcos to become more serious about competition – particularly with each other and comparatively with other countries. Rogers, Bell and Telus dominate the Canadian marketplace and are hardly rushing to reduce wireless rates in Canada that would bring them more in line with other countries.

Now Edward Greenspan, writing in his Sun newspaper column is now on the bandwagon to question what is happening here. Wireless is unregulated in Canada but with only three providers who dominate the market the consumer is not being well served by the “normal” market forces.

We are not alone in being taken for granted by a market dominated by a few service providers. Mexico suffers as well.
Wireless service is a commodity where competition should work well but is it not. One has to wonder why. One answer is consumers are not protesting to providers about costs and service levels. From the supplier side, if the market will bear the cost, why lower prices? Could it be that Pogo was right? We have seen the enemy and it is us?

If new providers are coming on to the market from the recent spectrum auction, we consumers have to support them if they are to inject some competition and restore a free marketplace.

Then we have to ensure the Competition Bureau monitors matters carefully so they do not get bought up by the Big Three as has been the history of Canadian wireless services.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Leonard Cohen International Festival Gala is a HIT!

I did a note on my Facebook page on a thoroughly delightful evening last night listening to great talent sing and read from Leonard Cohen's works. The event was the Edmonton version of the Leonard Cohen International Festival currently going on in town.

Yesterday was my second anniversary as a Blogger. While this post is not my usual "Fare" anyone who knows me will understand why I would post this Facebook Note about last night's wonderful event.

I watched the Edmonton staging of the Rexall Indy race on television in the afternoon and basked in the words and music of Cohen in the evening. Two of my great interests fulfilled on the same day, open car racing and music/poetry.

Check out my "review."

Facebook Your Notes

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Is Big Telco Taking Canadians for Granted?

The expectation is that we lowly consumers will start to get some price and service competition in the wireless services in Canada with the auction of the new spectrum and assuring some competition for the big three, Bell, Rogers and Telus who now receive 95% of cell phone revenues in Canada. The little guys have sure run up the bidding war for the spectrum licenses to $4.25 B - over three times the anticipated revenues. As much as I like to rag on the Harper government, if what I hear is true that they plan to apply this windfall to pay down part of the national debt – I say good on ‘em.

Big Telco has come under fire recently for prices that are usury. The Rogers small reduction in iPhone rates shows a modicum of marketplace responsiveness. The plan by Bell and Telus to charge $.15 per text message received, much of which is spam, is really offensive. The cell phone costs in Canada are ridiculous to the point it makes you wonder if there really is a competitive market in this service. I can get Internet and bundled services on the same wireless system for like $55 a month but some basic cell phone charges can run to $150 per month. What gives? And they wonder why Canada is lagging behind other countries in adopting of cell phones.

A friend just came back from a month in Austria, Hungry and Czechoslovakia! In the Czech Republic, some 20 years out of Communism, she could buy a cell phone for $20 and an unlimited access card for $20 per month. She used her Canadian cell phone service provider for the month instead and she expects about a $2,000 roaming bill. The service levels and costs are not competitive with other countries either. Canadian bandwidth comparables are 7.8 megabytes per second at a monthly cost of $6.54 per megabyte, better than Belgium, Netherlands and Iceland. In Japan you can get Bandwidth at 93.7 Mb/s at a cost of $.36 per Mb/second. France and South Korea provide Bandwidth at about 45 Mb/s at a cost between $.84 and $.97 per Mb/second. Astounding compared to Canada

The other high bandwidth low cost wireless service countries are Sweden, Finland, Australia and Norway. I don’t understand why Canadians are paying such uncompetitive wireless prices for such low levels of service and options. This is an individual rip off and a global competitiveness issue for Canada too. In a wired, globalized competitive knowledge based economy low taxes are nice but low costs are critical factors too.

So the Big Three in Canada used to be in the North American auto industry players of GM, Ford and Chrysler. No more are they dominant. IN fact they are barely surviving. Why? Because Japan, South Korea and Sweden – to name a few car making competitors, ate their lunch. I am all for the free market place where appropriate. Wireless service is one of those appropriate places. But the seeds of failure are planted in the success of the dominant players. It happened in cars and it can happen in cellular services too. Big Telco in Canada is clearly not as competitive as the free market players would have you believe. Nor are they as competitive as we consumers deserve.

I am not saying there is anything illegal going on like price fixing or collusion as in Quebec gasoline prices. I am saying Canadian wireless consumers are being taken for granted and we seem to be taking it gladly by not standing up against usury pricing when compared to others in the world.

I am pulling for the new players coming into the wireless spectrum and looking for options. I expect many more Canadians are with me in this quest.

Dave Taylor Announces as a Liberal Leadership Hopeful Tomorrow?

Looks like Dave Taylor, Calgary Currie MLA and Deputy Leader, is going to be the first out of the Alberta Liberal leadership chute. He has an announcement scheduled for tomorrow morning. What do you think he is up to? What do you think he is going to say?

I wonder what his campaign theme will be. Let me think. How about change? That’s it. Let’s propose change as a reason for Albertans to believe. Everyone ran on change in the last election and Stelmach actually won on it. So, it clearly works. Besides people are used to the change slogans so we don’t have to spend (waste) money on focus groups. All we have to do is smile, shake hands, kiss babies and presume it still turns the citizen's crank. Come to think of it, as a campaign slogan, it may even turn up a few citizen cranks.

Yah, that's the winning ticket...change. Key message: "I'm an Alberta Liberal. Why not vote for me for a change?" That was the Liberal approach to the Alberta voter in the last election, and it produced surprising results I must say.

I am on the edge of my seat in anticipation of tomorrow's announcement. Let see if this postulate Premier learned any lessons from last March. I actually hope for much more than change but would not be surprised at less either. Either way, if Dave Taylor is in, I applaud him for taking the leap and wish him well.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dallaire Takes on Harper Over Khadr's GITMO Detention

There is a need for serious political engagement on the Omar Khadr case by Canada with the Americans. There is also a serious political engagement emerging within Canada between Prime Minister Harper and Senator Romeo Dallaire.

Harper ‘s position is the Khadr case is an American justice issue and not a political concern about a Canadian citizen and child soldier. Given the political lens that Harper uses to see the world he comes off like an appeaser of the Bush White House. Our Prime Minister and the last two Liberal Prime Ministers all seem indifferent to the plight of tortured Canadian citizens like Arar and Khadr who are just so much collateral damage in keeping Bush and Cheney happy.

We are in a defining moment for Canada domestically and internationally because of how we engage politically protect and treat our citizens who get caught up in the consequences of new terrorist threats. In a fight for the moral and political high ground between Stephen Harper and Romeo Dallaire on these issues, my money is on Dallier.

He has “Shaken Hands with the Devil” in the Rwanda genocide. Now he must feel he is shaking his fist at a new devil in the Bush/Cheney GITMO now too.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Changing Democracy in Alberta is About Citizenship - Not Partisanship

I have been meaning to do a post on my impressions on last Monday evening's event on Renewing our Democracy ably organized by Liberal MLA David Swann. It was a trans-partisan event with lots of Liberals licking their wounds, lots of Greens with loads of organizational envy and a few Dippers and a handful of PCs… and some real citizens too.

I really enjoyed the conversation and the debate and just plain listening to folks. I was impressed by the enthusiasm and size of the crowd of about 165. Not bad for a warm summer evening. There is a obvious thirst for authentic meaning political conversation and I hope it can happen in a post-partisan atmosphere so we can change things intelligently and not belligerently.

The old style adversarial political model of perpetual spin and counter-spin with professional message massaging for the media is maladaptive and dangerous to enabling an informed citizenry and a participatory democracy. It is also ineffective in dealing with addressing the real issues and growing complexities of our networked world.

Jason Morris blogging as The Gauntlet was there and has done a very good live-to-disc blog post synopsis of the evening. He does a great job capturing the essence of the event and his blog is really worth a read. His comments confirm to me that we were at the same very interesting meeting.

Bring Omar Khadr Home Prime Minister Harper

The media has finally attended to the plight of Omar Khadr, the last western detainee in the American terrorist detention centre at Guantanamo Cuba. Looks like every other western country, except Canada, has repatriated their citizens from the American military justice system from the GITMO terrorist prison.

This travesty of politics over justice suffered by Omar Khadr ought to make every Canadian wonder if they have to fear their own government, not just the Bush-Cheney political regime. Makes you wonder if our government, and our political leaders, will be there to protect and assist us should we fall into such difficult circumstances in a foreign country.

That military justice system has been undermined by just about every civil court application made against it as of late, including many rejections by the US Supreme Court. Bush’s GITMO detention policy and approaches to justifying torture are not akin to the kind of the free, open and civil society we know American citizens continue aspire to.

Prime Minister Harper dodges and retreats on the Khadr crisis. He defaults yet again to his old saw that this is all the fault of the former Liberal government. This is typical of the half-truths of Mr. Harper’s form of leadership. He is right that the former Liberal government was equally as pandering to the US safety and security concerns post 9-11. But Harper has been in power for over two and a half years so blaming the Liberals for this continuing policy of pandering to the Bush White House is a little old – and dangerous.

It is time to protect the rights and rescue a Canadian citizen who we know has been tortured while detained and who was a child soldier at the time of arrest. He may have enough evidence to justify standing trial but as a Canadian and under our laws and not the Bush-Cheney version of “justice.”

Khadr was a 15 year old child soldier as the time of the alleged “terrorist” activity he is charged with. He has been tortured and left without some the most fundamental of legal protections as a Canadian citizen and that is reprehensible. If fact our intelligence and security agencies have been compliant in the mistreating of Mr. Khadr, a Canadian citizen and a minor, who is still in detention. He deserves a fair and speedy trial regardless of the odious opinions and utterances of his family and the terrorist fears of Bush and his boys.

When our government and its political leadership fails, refuses or neglects to protect the rights of Canadian citizens in foreign jurisdictions, it is time to refuse them our consent to continue to govern us. I believe that was true of the Chretien and Martin Liberals of their day. With the new evidence the Canadian courts have forced the authorities to release we now know about the abuse of Mr. Khadr’s fundamental human rights, mistreatment and torture at the hands of the American military “justice” system.

Bring this abused and tortured Canadian citizen home to face a fair trial in our justice system that still respects the rule of law Prime Minister Harper. To continue to allow Khadr to be subject to a discredited military tribunal process that has been found to be illegal even by American courts puts power and politics above the protection of Canadian citizens. Time to put away your posturing politics and pandering to the Bush government and do the right thing a citizen of Canada Mr. Harper.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Facts Behind Harper's Libel Action Get Murkier

The Cadman Affair is getting murkier as Prime Minister Harper puts more pressure behind his libel action against the Liberal Party of Canada. The latest audio expert from an FBI expert who dealt with the Nixon Watergate tapes and the Linda Tripp tapes around Clinton and Lewinsky. He can’t say if the tape recording of the Prime Minister was doctored.

Two earlier experts say it was edited. Another American expert concluded "with scientific certainty that this tape has been edited and doctored to misrepresent the event as it actually occurred.” Pretty bold statement and a very dramatic conclusion I’d say.

Tom Zytaruk, the author of a book on the Cadman Affair, and the person who recorded the interview with Prime Minister Harper has provided a plausible explanation. He said the tape was not edited but the recording was turned off when he believed the Harper interview was over. According to media reports the Prime Minister then continued to comment and the tape recording was started again by Zytaruk. Hardly and editing and doctoring designed “…to misrepresent the event as it actually occurred.”

Other contradictory allegations of fact are coming from Mr. Zytaruk and Mr. Cadman’s wife. What is adding to the murkiness of the facts is Mrs. Cadman apparently wants to run as a Conservative candidate in the next election for Mr. Harper. Will that have any impact on the weight a court will give to her version of the facts?

The libel action is also interesting because it is possibly a pure political and tactic device. Could this legal action be just another media strategy in the perpetual election campaign the Harper minority government has been conducting in the two and a half years since first elected? The Harper libel action against the Liberal Party is also easy MSM news fodder. It takes the media and public attention away from the more serious, significant and complex issue surrounding the Cadman Affair. It has the potential to push out media coverage on the Bernier-Coulliard Affair, the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair, the Conservative’s In-Out Campaign Advertising Affair, the Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation process, and ongoing concerns over the Air India Inquiry, the Maher Arar Affair and the Omar Khadr Affair, just to name a few.

I believe Canadians want to know what, if anything was offered to Mr. Cadman by the Prime Minister’s emissaries and what the Prime Minister actually knew about any such offer. What are the legal implications of such an offer, if it was made? What if the courts found there were such an offer and that it determined to be an attempt to “buy” Mr. Cadman’s critical vote. If this actually happened, is it influence peddling or vote buying? Where does this all this fit in relation to the provisions of the Criminal Code about such matters? Will the civil libel action get any answers to these questions?


This libel action could go right to the personal integrity of the current Prime Minister and the integrity of the Office of the Prime Minister too. I think this all needs to be clarified for the sake of the Prime Minister’s reputation, and for the good of the country. Do we need to restore or retain the public’s confidence in the Office of the Prime Minister? Will this lawsuit afford Mr. Harper the opportunity to reassure the country of his continuing suitability to serve as our Prime Minister? I hope so.

Given the importance of these stakes to our democracy and our pubic confidence in our highest governing institutions, I welcome Mr. Harper’s libel action. I believe this libel action needs to go to court so we can determine the facts from testimony taken under oath and for a Judge to then weigh the veracity of the various parties involved. We need this libel action to be decided based on the rule of law not on the rule of raw politics or trial by media, as is currently the case.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Stelmach Goes Green - Big Time With Big Money.

I have not had a chance to digest the $4B scope and scale of the climate change policy announcement made by Premier Stelmach on July 8. Today I took some time and I have to say I am impressed on the Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) and the significant public transit investment. The news release, backgrounder and video of the announcement are worth reading and watching.

The top GOA priority is to “Ensure Alberta’s energy resources are developed in an environmentally sustainable way.” The mandate bullets in that priority include to “Implement carbon capture and storage research and demonstration projects (and to) Implement the climate strategy, including conservation, energy efficiency and adaptation initiatives.”

This announcement not only aligns with and delivers on these priorities; it surpasses some of them by not merely doing research on CCS, it is getting right into the action and investing serious sums in projects. The value-add of enhanced oil recovery (EOR)from injecting CO2 into conventional wells is estimated to recover up to 2B barrels of oil without further drilling or fragmentation of the land with roads and seismic lines. I hope they only allow EOR for those producers that are the best stewards in the oil patch and who have the best records for reclamation of abandoned well site and roads as preconditions to playing in the EOR opportunities.

Some will be critical and others will be cynical but at least they are contributing to the conversation about conservation and mitigation of our carbon footprint in Alberta. I am a partisan and support the PC Party, most of the time, but not all of the time. On this one initiative I whole-heartedly applaud the effort.

I think this policy pronouncement will add to transferable technological innovations and new adaptations in energy production as well as addressing emissions issues. I heard Environment Minister Rob Renner say in the announcement video that Alberta will move beyond intensity emissions and “reduce real emissions by 2020.” That is the kind of serious and significant commitment we need to have our government take. He has said all along that intensity measures of GHG emissions were interim measures only and we would get to absolutes emission reductions. He has set the date to get that done and while it is 12 year out that is pretty impressive given the size, scope and scale of development going on in Alberta these days.

The public transit aspects are equally as exciting as they encourage creativity and adaptability in how we respond to the growing economic and population needs in our cities, large and small. Again we see a serious effort to shrink the carbon footprint of the province.

Dirty oil and dead ducks in toxic tailing ponds and a sense that Albertans are greedy and indifferent to the environment is the growing sentiment in many parts of the world. This announcement, if executed rightly and rapidly will not change that image by itself, but it will be a profound and resonant rebuttal of the damaging presumption about Albertans that exists in too many minds of too many people in the world today.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Canadians Are Becoming More Unsure of the Harper Conservatives Ability to Manage the Key Issues.

Nik Nanos’ recent poll for the Sun newspapers is very telling and has to be a bit unnerving for the Harper Con-Troll types. With 2.5 years as Prime Minister, Mr. Harper has not gained any traction or more momentum with the Canadian electorate. He has had virtually total control over the public agenda and the political process. It is not as though he has not used these levers but they have gotten him nowhere since the last election.

I have been saying for some time now that Harper is past his best before date as PM. Nik’s recent poll results on who do you trust to manage key issues indicates that Harpers’ best days as Prime Minister of Canada may also be passed him.

The Con strong policy suits, so we are told, are the economy and Afghanistan. While the PCs are ahead of the Liberals (+8% on the economy and +6% on the war) on the economy they equal to the combined totals saying None of the Above and Unsure at 32%. As for the war in Afghanistan the Cons are -10% compared to the None of the Above and Unsure at 38% to the Cons at 28% confidence.

On the management of the other key issues on the minds of Canadians like Healthcare, Environment and National Unity, the Harper’s Cons are trailing the Liberals in every instance. On the Environment the Greens are seen as being the best issue managers buy 13% of Canadians. That has to be encouraging for Elizabeth May.
Comparing Harper to the combined None of the Above and Unsure again he is -10% on Healthcare, -16% on the Environment and -9% on National Unity.

So this means that while Dion is not yet a clearly acceptable alternative to Harper for the swing voters. They are also not particularly enamoured with the capability of the current Harper minority government to manage key issues. This all means no election in the near future, unless of course Harper voluntarily resigns himself. That kind of pre-emptive election strike by Harper could happen if he starts to fear that Canadians are starting get to know the Liberals and a viable alternative.

Harper has to be concerned if the Canadian voter starts getting serious about an election a year from now and concurrently discover the real Dion and get to know him better. I’m talking about getting to know the real Dion and not the phony Conservative attack ad characterization of Dion in last year’s television attach ads. Notice how quiet the Conservative’s have become over their recent failed and flailing pre-emptive attack advertising efforts to mislead citizens on Dion’s Green Shift plan - even before it was released. The last two years has seen Harper desperate for an election. The next two years will likely see him desperate to avoid one.

The times are a'changin' and it is all going to make for some interesting and unsettling times in Canada, economically, environmentally and socially. We will have to see what happens in the Presidential election this November in the States. What will Canadians be looking for as the ballot questions as the Conservatives approach their drop dead date for Harper’s fixed election timing of November 2009. All of this is very fluid but fundamental in what our next election will bring out in Canadians, regardless of when we vote.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

People Need to Read Dion's Green Shift Plan BEFORE They Comment

I wasn’t going to post today given other priorities. However, I am so frustrated with what it going on I had to comment on the superficial reaction I have been noticing for the Dion Green Shift Plan. Dion sure has his work cut out for him but with no need for an election until November 2009, there is enough time to get his plan understood.

I have just listened to most of Cross Country Checkup on CBC Radio One. Listening to a variety of callers to only talk about the Green Shift to gasoline and the inflationary costs it would cause make me wonder if any of those callers actually read the Green Shift Plan. Most notably fixated in this way was Gwyn Morgan, former CEO of EnCana. He said he would have agreed to a carbon tax to support Kyoto ten years ago but was silent on how vociferous the energy lobby was absolutely against Kyoto back then.

He also said the Dion $10 per tonne charge on CO2 would be inflationary but said nothing about the offsetting income tax cuts and allowances to help northerners, framers and low/fixed income earners in the Green Shift Plan. There was no comment on the use of the carbon levy to stimulate new technologies for cleaner fossil fuel extraction and refining processes and enable alternatives.

Morgan’s comments totally ignored the enormous windfall profits the energy sector is now making with $140 oil and the inflationary impact that is having on virtually everything in our lives. I found it not at all curious that he did not offer a cut in energy sector profits by suggestion a windfall tax to be used to reduce inflation, help the little guy.

Then I scanned Garth Turner’s recent and oft reviled blog post. Garth is very thorough and thoughtful in his posts on the energy issues. He is apparently placing the blame for the regionalization resentments on a certain kind of person apparently a “…self-aggrandizing, hostile, me-first, greedy, macho, selfish and balkanizing separatist….” As an Albertan I did not find anything in his recent posts objectionable or inaccurate.

I smiled when he noted in his Blog he was “chewed out by Dion” for his comments. Good for him and good for Dion. Can you imagine any of the Harper Con-Trolls actually having an independent thought, then having the courage to express it openly and then publicly admitting his leader called him up and “chewed him out?” At least the Liberal Party is prepared to accept there is a representative democracy in the land AND with free speech rights, even for its MPs.

I am thankful for the fact Turner and Dion let us know that there is a range of thought in their caucus and even disagreement within the ranks. That is health for democracy and good for politics and even better for our confidence in their suitability to govern. It shows respect differences of opinion and gives some credit to the intelligence of citizens to consider the differences and to make more informed judgments about complex public policy issues. We Canadians can not only handle disagreement within a political party, we can appreciate and respect the fact not everyone in the Liberal Caucus has to genuflect to the absolute power of the Leader on all matters and all the time - like in the case of the Harper Cons.

I actually started out the day reading Lorne Gunter's column. I occasionally agree with Lorne but I find he mostly lives in a yesteryear time warp. I understand that it seems that he just can’t help himself. His facts are often wrong in this column, for example like claiming Dion is saying Alberta and Saskatchewan is “…deserving of a big hit from his new carbon tax.” That is not the Dion position and Gunter offers no authority for this accusation. Gunter’s commentary is definitely reflective of a hostile, macho, selfish and balkanizing political position as noted by Garth Turner. His framing of the issues on climate change is so passé and tired. This positioning and issue framing is typical of the old-style hard-core Conservative ideology that has no shame in being inaccurate, dated and misleading, so long as it speaks to the base, in their Party and otherwise.

He then has the cheek to write there is no separatist movement in Alberta while admitting “Yes, there are websites for parties claiming to be separatist.” He notes that there are “odd farmers” who may paint a separatist message on his barn and “occasionally a caller to a radio talk show” may make a separatist comment. But he notes Alberta has never elected a separatist government or held a sovereign association referendum, as if the acid test to say there is "NO SEPARATIST MOVEMENT IN ALBERTA.”

So, according to Gunter, there is no separatist movement here because we Albertan’s don’t share the same cultural difficulties in Confederation as Quebec does and we have not yet had our Quiet Revolution? Well Lorne we have our Firewall guys. They are public intellectuals largely from the University of Calgary Poli-Sci Department, the so-called Calgary School. The Firewall guys included Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but that was back in the day when he cared about Alberta. They could be the seeds of a Quiet Revolution, Alberta style, don't ya think?.

There is a separatist movement in Alberta and while it is small and fragmented they have received as much at 8% of the popular vote. They elected a guy named Kesler as an MLA under the Western Canada Concept banner in the early 1980’s. Less than two years ago, one of the popular Alberta Progressive Conservative Party leadership candidates made comments that if Alberta did not get its way with Ottawa we should perhaps look at our future in Confederation.

Fomenting separatist aspirations and regional resentments in Alberta has resulted form past policies like the NEP, that was ironically agreed to by Alberta and the Lougheed government of the day. That same reality is not happening today with Dion. Like so many hard-core Conservative political myths, the facts are rarely considered nor actually talked about openly and accurately in a public discourse. They just presume that they can govern us based on creating fears and excluding and dividing us based on perceived differences.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

"The Right Call" Column on Ethical Issues for July Is Published

This month’s Alberta Venture magazine is out and on line. I was able to participate in The Right Call business ethics panel discussion lead by Fil Fraser. This month's topic is on the widely publicized Tim Horton firing of an employee for giving away a Timbit.

BTW - My friend Mark Anielski made the Alberta's 50 Most Influential People listing in Alberta Venture this edition too. I promote his best selling book The Economics of Happiness: Building Genuine Wealth every chance I get. He just won Gold in the Conscious Business Leadership category at the Nautilus Book Awards in Los Angeles. He won the BRONZE at the Axiom Business Book Awards in New York earlier this year.

Mark's passion is the Genuine Progress Indicator movement and it is gaining strength. People like Mark are the guiding lights. He has done some great work on GPI measures for Alberta. They would give us a much better sense of what it really going on in our province. We should be measuring the good, the bad and the cumulative consequences of our comprehensive economic development activities to really evaluate our growth plans.

Mark recently participated for a Learning Day in Leadership Edmonton on how we can all make the human venture more effective and meaningful. I gave a copy of Mark's book to Premier Stelmach a month ago and sure hope he reads it. It would be good for Alberta to look at how we define our progress as a province more progressively.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Don't Let Bad Politicians Play Politics With the Planet

I know it is Canada Day. This is the time for pancake breakfasts, picnics, beer, BBQ’s and fireworks with family and friends. But it is also a time for reflection about our pride and our country.

I am reflecting today on where we are going as Canadians in the global context and what the hell is really going on in our nation these days...especially in terms of our environment, our economy and our society.

With all that churning in my cranium, I open my morning newspaper and here before me is a sweet voice of reason and wisdom from the MSM. This piece is some sound advice for engaged citizens who are thinking for a change. (sic)

Gary Mason’s column in the Globe and Mail today adds perspective to what is happening on the carbon-tax/green-shift/climate change political pranks that we are witnessing. This is a great column and well worth a reflective and careful read.

Let’s not let those misguiding politicians who are telling us everything is alright. They are telling us the only thing going wrong is bad policies that lead to higher gasoline prices. They are from the Don’t Worry Be Happy short-sighted school of government. But in our heart of hearts, we know those politicians are, in Gary Mason’s words “… playing politics with the planet.”

The increasing carbon and other GHG emissions are the enemy and taxing carbon is a way to get us to start adapting our behaviours and using our enormous human inventiveness and creativity to resolve the carbon crisis.