Reboot Alberta

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Harper the Bully Overplays His Political Hand

The pettiness of the Harper political machine has finally pushed the opposition parties to push back – and really, really hard. Harper’s ill-conceived, idiotic and ideologically focused “Fiscal Update” (Harper’s FU Canada Statement) was lacking in service of the common good and was oblivious to the rapidly deteriorating fiscal reality of the country.

Harper is now running away from his FU Canada Statement so fast and farcically that he could be accused of rehearsing for a Monty Python sketch. He has already ditched all but one of his FU Canada Statement pronouncements, namely his suspension of the rights for women to use Human Rights processes to achieve pay equity. That is likely to be withdrawn soon.

He has withdrawn his draconian idea of legislating away the right to strike for public servants. He has retreated on his goal of bankrupting the opposition political parties through withdrawing the vote subsidy provisions. Now he says he will push up the budget speech up to the end of January from late March. That hardly shows a renewed sense of urgency.

Harper’s retreat has not been motivated by any commitment to principles of good governance. He is merely trying and stop momentum behind the Liberal-NDP coalition planning. His retreat and political messaging is having the exact opposite effect and only seems to invigorate the coalition parties.

Harper has been allowed to bully, belittle and browbeat opposition politicians, especially Stephane Dion, for over two years. Harper got away with it because the Liberals were not ready to fight another election after changing leaders and polls showed Canadians did not want another election.

Canadians wanted Harper to use his 2006 minority victory as a chance to show that he could govern and use his first minority parliament for the common good. Instead Harper used his offices to serve his own lust for personal political power. What we got was trite tax cuts like the GST and debased childcare subsidies. He mastered the dark arts of misleading messaging and political trickery.

Harper has proven that he has no respect for Parliament and he has even less respect for the rule of law. Harper’s own law for fixed election dates passed unanimously in Parliament. It was immediately ignored by Harper’s quick election call. He “justified” the early election by ironically claiming that Parliament was dysfunctional – even at a time when it wasn’t even sitting. Well Parliament is sitting now and it is very dysfunctional now, all thanks to Stephen Harper.

It is obvious that the opposition parties have had enough of Stephen Harper. The country is entering into the worst economic crisis in our history. Harper is not only dithering about his duty to govern, he continues to be politically diabolical and ideological - as his recent FU Canada statement proves, yet again.

So there is going to be a coalition formed between the Liberals and the NDP with some passive but sufficient support from the Bloc. They intend to form a government by defeating Harper on a non-confidence motion and offering the Governor General a viable alternative, without the need for an election.

Harper has tactically delayed the timing of the Liberal’s non-confidence motion from December 1st to the 8th. That has not bought Harper any useful time to try and retain power. It has just given the coalition parties more time to design the coalition partnership, plan for the next Parliament and to develop new policies that are for the good of the country.

Harper has outlived his usefulness to the country and he has overplayed his political hand. He is all tactics and strategy. He has shown that he has no substance and no intention of acting decisively or with alacrity to manage the growing and accelerating economic crisis facing the country.

I hope and expect we will have a new coalition government to replace the hapless and feckless Harper Party by midmonth. It will be neither left nor right but will be progressive and forward looking. It will be focused on how to best respond to the current economic crisis, to deal with climate change and do what needs to be done to support the growing number of vulnerable citizens who are going to bear the brunt of this recession.

As for soon-to-be “former Prime Minister Harper,” I hope to be able to say very soon, and with great zeal, “So long Steve. Your 35 months of fame are over.”

Friday, November 28, 2008

Harper Folds on FU for Party Funding

So Harper's game of political chicken is over and he lost. The Canadian Press is reporting that Harper has backed down on cutting the subsidy to political parties a confidence issue in his so-called Fiscal Update ("FU" for short").

I think a coalition government with Ralph Goodale as the interim Prime Minister is a possibility - not optimal but a possibility. And Harper can't risk it. His bullying and bluster better be over. Harper is only good at political tactics when the country is desperate for good government and sound policy. Harper's FU yesterday shows that he is still only intertested in political gamesmanship.

The times have change and the Harper political and head games are no longer appropriate. It is time to lead or get out of the way Steve.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Stephen Hawking Comes to Canada - Why Not Alberta?

This appointment of Stephen Hawking to Waterloo University Perimeter Institute is a perfect example of what Alberta ought to be doing. We have the resources and facilities to actively attract and engage the best and brightest minds in the world today to come to our universities and research institutes.

We are doing this in medicine and nanotech and some other areas but not nearly enough and definitely not aggressively enough. With the economic down turn there will be a lot of great scientists and researchers who will no longer have access to the kind of funding they need to do their work. They will be looking for new sources and new relationships. Those folks ought to be found and recruited to our province to pursue their work in this tough time.

Alberta’s hydrocarbon economy, no debt, capital investment that is in place and still being pursued, safe communities, and stable government provides us with the best prospects going forward in all of North America – at least for the foreseeable future – but not forever. We can’t presume that our growth and sustainability will be assured by continuing to try to perfect yesterday's hydrocarbon economy.

Carbon is not king anymore. There will be significant efforts to replace it and to neutralize its impacts on the planet. Albertans support those efforts because we are the highest CO2 emitters on the planet on a per capita basis and know something has to change. Alberta has a serious transition and transformation in its future that will be more dramatic and demanding than the advent of the oil sands. Are we ready for that? Are we designing our economy, ecology and society for that destiny? Are we adaptive, engaged and nimble enough to make the changes we need and to show the leadership necessary to make a difference? I think so but it is not a given…it takes an attitude adjustment. That it never easy but it will be necessary.

We now have a slowdown in Alberta, not a recession, and that is good in so many ways. The Alberta slowdown is due to the market responding to untenable high costs, lower oil price, uncertainty and turmoil in financial markets and increasing environmental regulatory requirements.

We needed a slowdown happen so we could catch our breath and to bring some cost control and sanity back into our economy and our society. We have to take advantage of this breather to reflect and rethink about what we are doing, where we are going and how we are going to get there as a province.

We still have a secure energy based economy that will serve us well for a good while longer….but not forever. So I urge the Alberta government to not only actively pursue people to come to our province to help meet the skills shortages in so many sectors of the economy. I also urge them to add a focused effort to seek out and recruit the best innovation and science minds in green industries and ecological technologies. We have the right mix of elements to entice them to come and set up shop in our universities and research institutions. We need them to also engage with our private sector corporations who are increasingly focused on profiting from sound corporate social responsibility practices.

There are going to be effective alternatives for fossil fuels in the future. Alberta better be actively creating that new future and not be passively indifferent to change. Otherwise we will be overwhelmed by it when it happens. We ought to be bring the most promising of these people from all over the globe to Alberta.

We need to prepare and position ourselves to be at the leading edge with thought leaders and leading researchers who a re crating that new world orders. We can supporting and sustain their work with our wealth and potential. That is the smartest way for us to go forward to get through these difficult economic times. We have something significant to offer them…funds and facilities through our publicly funded endowment programs.

What do you say Mr. Premier?

Monday, November 24, 2008

CRTC-SuperNet-Telus and the Plight of Rural Alberta Connectivity

I am working on a project to get rural Albertans access to the SuperNet using the copper telephone wire that comes into our homes. It requires the cooperation of the owner of that wire who is Telus in Alberta. Telus has balked at consenting voluntarily. So there is an application being undertaken by the Internet Centre to the CRTC with a decision pending for private Internet Service Providers to secure this access to the Telus “unloaded copper wire.” Here is the link to the application documents if you are an insomniac.

I ran across an interesting interview with Simon Aspinal, the Managing Director, Internet Business Solutions Group for Cisco. He explains very clearly the reluctance of the Telcos to help and facilitate this change in communications culture of the new and emerging dominance of the internet espeically relating to video applications. Aspinal outlines the reasons why it makes good business sense for Telcos to adapt to the new internet video reality instead of still trying to fight off its inevitable and upsetting all their customers along the way.

The interview is a bit esoteric but it is very relevant given the powerful fibreoptics tool Albertans have built and paid for called the SuperNet. It brings great leverage and competitive capacity that cam make for an enticing business case for enterprises to set up in rural communities. The keys to thie innovation are high definition easy access simple to use cost competitive videoconferencing and very high speed internet. All this become a reality with the access to the SuperNet through unloaded copper telephone wire that is everywhere in Alberta.

It is not only Telus that is reluctant and resistant to adjust to the new reality of the internet Web 2.0 world. We see Bell and Rogers also using inappropriate business practices to try and control bandwidth for everyone just because a few bad apples are inappropriately using services. Net neutrality is the underlying issue here and the CRTC has said there will be a public hearing on the issues in July 2009. I expect to participate in those hearings to ensure private enterprise is not granted the power to interfere with my Charter Rights “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communications; freedom of peaceful assembly: and freedom of association.” These rights have to trump the business purposes of Telcos that are trying to create a monopoly and unwarranted control over internet access.

Is Harper the New Mr. Dithers?

I am hearing mixed messages from our Prime Minister. He says the land is strong and our fundamentals are fine at election time. He says he will never run a deficit so long as he leads the country and his government is in surplus so don’t worry – vote for his sound economic management abilities.

Now he says private economic analysts say we are going to be in a “technical recession” as if his own government people didn’t know this, or he does not want to tell us he was advised of this reality by his administration. All of this is more Harper misleading machinations and mumblings and more of his patented politically misleading way of saying we are in recession. Who cares if it is technical or not?

He is reported to say he is “ready to open the government’s wallet t respond but not until February when the budget is due. He is now sending mixed messages concurrently in real time rather than saying one thing in an election and changing his tune later when the political gamesmanship is passed. This is because his ideological zeal can no longer manipulate the media by misleading advertising that diverts attention off the real issues and ignores the facts. That is because everyone knows he does that and we are all genuinely worried about what is happening. There is no map for this new economic territory that the Bush government has pushed on the world.

Harper is going to have to be more honest, forthright and frank with Canadians, even though it is so contrary to his political instincts. He is going to be politically hobbled and has to face the challenge of telling the truth this Thursday with his economic update. This is because Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer saw to it last week with an announcement about the facts of the pending deficits to be sure they are known. Kevin Page, bless his heart, has pegged the good news next year at a $4B deficit; something Harper has said would not happen on his watch. The bad news, at least bad news for Harper’s ideological certitude, is that Page says the deficit could reach $14B. Ouch! Only question I have about the November 27th political melodrama is will Flaherty’s economic update be inconsequential or will it be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for fiction?

Now we have our decisive and determined Prime Minister being vague about if there will be an economic stimulus and if it is to happen the timing gets dodgy too. Flaherty says last Friday that he will not deal with the economic issues of an economic stimulus until the February Budget. What gives? Obama is not even President yet and yet he is already announcing economic stimulus activities… already. Is this new dithering and indecisiveness of the Harper government the reason why we had an unnecessary inconclusive, expensive and rushed election? Say it ain’t so Mr. Harper.

Mr. Harper, we all know that you knew this economic crisis was coming, hence the early election notwithstanding your law to the contrary. The crisis started during the campaign but that was not why you lost a majority government. In fact the economic uncertainty was the reason why you did as well as you did. It was not anything you said or did during the campaign that is for sure. You and your party were perceived to be the better choice to manage during the coming uncertain times. You are not only letting us down and disappointing us again, you continue to mislead and play politics with our economic, social and environmental security as individuals and as a nation.

Don’t dither Mr. Prime Minister. It didn’t serve Paul Martin particularly well. We in Canada are in better shape than most but we can quickly decline into despair with your demonstrative indecisiveness. By th eway, our consumer and corporate confidence is at the lowest it has been since 1982. Enough said?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Alberta's Royalty Breaks Should Be Conditional on Reclamation Clean Ups

Here is a link to my recent interview on CBC Radio 1 Wildrose Country on Premier Stelmach's royalty relief for conventional oil and gas drilling effective January 1, 2009

UPDATE: NOV 24/08 The Stelmach government announces TODAY that the royalty break announced Nov 19 for new drilling for wells after Jan 1, 2009 has been revised. It now applies to oil and gas wells that have started prep work as of Nov 19.

The delay in the program implementation in the original announcement would have done more short term harm than long term good because all current work on drilling plans would have stopped until January 1. Duh!

They say this royalty break "is not anticipated to affect the estimated royalty impact of the five-year program announced November 19, 2008." OK. I still want to ensure Albertans as owners get the straight goods on just how much it will exactly impact these non-renewable resource revenues going forward. Will our government tell us that exactly - along with all other production based royalty revenue calculations as well? They have indicated with pending legislation changes that we will not be able to FOIP that information. Not accountable. Not transparent and not good stewardship.

Now lets make it clear that only companies that are currently active in meeting their obligations to reclaim abandoned oil and gas plays are eligible for the royalty assistance. We need those oil and gas companies to clean up behind themselves just as much as we need to keep drilling folks.

Harper is Sounding Progressive Again - But Can We Trust Him?

It is reassuring to hear Stephen Harper aligning and reaffirming the APEC leaders’ decision NOT to resort to raising protectionist barriers to world trade. He is quoted as saying “Now is the time for opening doors, not erecting walls.”

Reports from CanWest reporter David Akin noted that Harper commented that “…the Great Depression was caused by countries letting banks fail, allowing deflation to run rampant and trying to balance their books at all costs, even if it meant raising taxes and slashing public spending.” Harper is reported to all of a sudden favour “unprecedented fiscal actions…to stimulate economic growth and ease tightening credit conditions.” As if he wasn’t already spending taxpayers money at an alarming rate leading up to the election.

So the economist in Harper is stimulus Keynesian after all, notwithstanding his rhetoric about no deficits and smaller government in the election just a few weeks ago. Gotta love it when politics turns to pragmatism and order and good government becomes a goal of the Reform/Alliance leadership.

It is an open question as to what Harper is really doing and if we can ever believe him at face value. He often says one thing for political purposes, including pandering to his base or to Quebec for personal power plays. And then he does another, often the exact opposite when it suits him…and it happens all the time. Canadians need a truthful and transparent Prime Minister who says what he means – the first time – and for the purposes of sound public policy – not just personal power and message positioning.

He said that he would control Alberta’s bitumen exports to foreign countries based on a countries environmental standards and record. It was a clear shot at pandering to the Bush White House and an attempt to marginalize China in the process. It was all tied to the Bush excuses to delay or not institute climate change policies in North America because of attitudes towards China on environment. Not good public policy in the context of Harper’s resent statements of not being protectionist or raising trade barriers in the face of the growing economic crisis that is enveloping the entire planet.

It is important to note that APEC is a group of 21 Pacific Rim countries whose economic leaders have been meeting since its inception in 1989 in response to growing interdependence among Asia-Pacific economies; APEC has become the premier regional forum for promoting open trade and practical economic and technical cooperation among Asia-Pacific economies.

Over the years, it has grown to a membership spanning four continents, and represents the most economically dynamic region in the world, accounting for approximately 40 percent of the world's population, 56 percent of world GDP and nearly half of world trade.

It is a very vital forum for Canada and Alberta and B.C. in particular given our orientation to the Pacific Rim. We need the Pacific Rim countries to succeed for them to produce more trade and investments in our provinces, as well as providing continental energy supply and security.

I hope I can trust Harper at his word for a change, especially when he makes such practical and positive statements about governments taking initiatives to encourage trade. It is not his personal default position and it means he has to revise his attitude about the best government is no government and the marketplace should prevail to solve the problems of the world. That acceptance of an activist role and responsibility for government is a tectonic shift for Harper. I hope he means it and it is not just another piece of his continuing political positioning and posturing that he will once again either ignore or reverse on a whim.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Masters of the Universe Icons of Commerce Prove to be Just Greedy Bastards at the End of the Day

There are so many things wrong with the world today. The comfortable lightness of being Canadian, and especially being Albertan, is not making us immune from the harsh realities that are about to befall from the world-wide market meltdown.

Canadians should never forget that Harper lied to us about the pending recession during the last election with his promises of never allowing a deficit and now he is accepting one. He also lied when he said we would escape the economic impact of the American induced financial crisis based on our best of breed amongst a bad lot in the global banking system.

Thank to Kevin Page's honest and professional assessment of the Canadian economic reality, it will be more difficult for the Harper government to continue to lie and mislead use about the fiscal facts facing Canada in the economic update expected later this week.

I am astonished that the corporatist Masters of the Universe types, Detroit's "big three" Chapter would be so self-absorbed and unaware. How they handled their recent bailout bumbling in Washington this past week shows just how indifferent and unaware they are of the real world of the rest of us. I can see no reason to justify a bailout of the automotive sector under the current circumstances. If the free market system is to be free, it has to be free to fail. Lets not see governments try to pick winners with public investments that interfere in the marketplace realities. Where will it stop? We in Alberta know first hand it will not work based on past experiences.

I have some stomach for the taxpayer buyouts of some of the banking business bozos. I can even accept the planning shift of TARP away from buying the bogus paper these bastards pushed out the doors for bloated fees and foolishness. Still, letting some financial institutions fail like Bears Stearns and Lehman Brothers is a good thing.

Trying to restore confidence in financial sectors by buying equity positions that essentially nationalized the American financial sector is a necessity to ensure some semblance of a working market place for everyone. That said, it has yet to be proven effective. For example, Citigroup got $25B of bailout money and promptly dropped 23% of stock market value - in one day. This once enormous bank is cutting 52,000 jobs and now has a market capitalization smaller than Home Depot.

So much also for asinine assurances and the mistaken mythological around sound conservative economic management capabilities that inappropriately inure to the Republican Party. They have methodically removed the role of good government and the capacity and flexibility of any government to be reasonably responsive to the worldwide financial crises the Bush White House has aided and abetted.

They have removed required regulatory oversight, instituted low taxes for the rich, were the biggest of tax spenders and have proven to be accomplished deficit builders and incredibly inept fiscal managers. Canadians must never forget that our own Artless Dodger, “Steve” Harper is a disciple of the new-Republican economic strategy - and there is no evidence he has changed.

We have all these indifference greedy and gouging corporate executives pocketing huge personal fortunes all under the guise of socially, environmentally sustainble wealth creation and myths of increased shareholder value in “free” enterprise model. They are now proven to be just plain greedy and reckless at best…profoundly irresponsible and perhaps criminal at worst.

As the recession sets in next year we will see more children remain or be reduced to poverty as their families fail to be able to provide the necessities of life for them to escape the rut of economic want and the social and personal tragedies that are inevitable to at risk kids. Child poverty ha s not improved in a generation where economic growth has been the highest and longest sustained period in history. Child mental health is also a national disgrace and bound to get worse. This is thanks in large part to the personal and institutional greed of these fat cats who are proven to be reckless, feckless and check less, thanks AGAIN to bad politicians with a penchant for irresponsible deregulation coupled with shortsighted and short term policy perspectives.

From now on I am only going to invest in ethical corporations with leadership that sees business as having a social, environmental and wealth creation value set…not just growth at any cost. I am going to call out anyone I see irresponsibly running a public or private enterprise contrary to the greater public good as well as producing shareholder value.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Harper Dances with Deficits

What a difference a week makes. What a difference a month makes. A week ago Prime Minister Harper was convening a Seinfeld-like First Minister’s meeting on the economy and offering nothing and the discussions were about as equally energizing as to what to do. But he can say he consulted with the Provinces before he makes his anticipated unilateral decisions. Stelmach was right to stay in Europe and his offer to “phone it in” made sense when we see the results of what was a three hour exercise in political – not economic - process.

In the election Harper was skillfully man-handling the Liberals and manipulating the media with the old saw of Liberals being taxers and spenders. He was carpet bombing the messaging and describing the dire warnings that would result from a Liberal vote. To let the likes of Dion, as advised by Paul Martin, would be risking deficits...and that, we were told, was a risk that was not worth taking.

The Harper Cons campaign mantra was that the economic fundamental of the country is strong and Canada was going to be OK in the face of the market meltdown. He milked the symbolism of a small group of banking insiders ranking the Canadian banking system as the best of a bad bunch. A 60 second reflection on that “positive news” was hardly reassuring.
Since then Harper has made $75B of taxpayer’s cash available to those excellently run banks so they could have some bad loans bought up. This is to convince the banks to start lending again.

So far the banks have not taken up any of this Harper largess with our tax money. The prime lending rate has been cut and cut again and the Bank of Canada has also injected more liquidity in the Canadian banking system. Now he is poised to bail out the automotive industry in consort with the lane-duck Bush bunch. It all seems so Trudeauesque, who equally failed years ago to convince us with his election rhetoric and silly sloganeering that “The Land is Strong.”

Now Harper is backtracking on his infamous fiscal frugality and flirting with deficit spending coming out of the G20. Of course government should be spending for infrastructure and to create jobs and cash flow in such tough times. Especially when the banks and business will not, or cannot, step up to the plate to do so. But why did the Prime Minister mislead us during the election campaign over instituting such an obvious means to address such serious matters? Is it because Harper thinks that Kim Campbell was actually right? That election campaigns are not the place to discuss issues of significant concern to the country?

If you looked up mendacity in the dictionary you should not be surprised if you were to see Steven Harper’s picture. Harper has proven himself to be a shrewd and canny campaigner and a powerful political enforcer. He has a long way to go to prove himself as a good governor but the times are begging for such leadership. As for Harper becoming a statesman, one has to wonder if he is even slightly interested or capable of such status given his purpose and passion for personal political power.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cannon Speaks About Dealing Aberta's Oil - Does Harper Know?

Is Stephen Harper turning into a progressive? He tells the CPC delegates to get pragmatic and not ideological about the economic crisis. Sounds like a prelude to government intervention into the marketplace by the Progressive Reformer leader. How unlike the free enterprise base of the Reform/Alliance base that “brung Harper to the dance” as former Prime Minister Mulroney would say.

The Cons through Foreign affairs Minister Cannon are now saying “…there is no ideological right or ideological left” as they try an distance themselves from the sycophantic relationship they had with the Bush/Cheney White House. Bush is gone. McCain lost. Harper is dancing as fast as he can to shape shift his ideological stripes. Disingenuous is the kindest characterization of this continuing political shiftiness of "Steve" Harper.

On the other hand he has his Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon making front page news in Alberta saying ever so unsubtly to the Obama administration-in-waiting that “Canada might sell it oil elsewhere” if the new American administration under Obama decides to renegotiate NAFTA. What about the fact NAFTA is due for a renegotiation under its own terms anyway? Maybe a review is a good thing - like to get a redo of the disastrous deal the Cons did to the Canadian forest industry on softwood lumber.

Hey Jack! Yah you…Jack Layton! Are you supporting Harper on this no renegotiation of NAFTA stuff? Does Maude Barlow have you r direct line? I expect she is on your case. The Liberals are not going to bolster the Conservative minority anymore. Are you going to stand for this or are you going to force another early election because your ideological position is that NAFTA is plain bad-bad-bad.

This new Harper government rhetoric is flying in the face of the election position of Harper saying he would control the sale of oil sands bitumen based on environmental standards…a shot at restricting Chinese participation and favouring the American market. Stelmach clearly told Harper to back off Alberta’s oil marketing rights during the recent federal election.

Has Cannon gone Palin rogue and is off message as well as his rocker? What is he doing talking about this to the media on anything anyway? That is exclusively Harper’s job – or his Presidential-like official spokesperson at the very least Is Cannon the Quebecer playing the regional environment card and focusing on the so-called “dirty oil” framing that is so harmful to Alberta’s interests and benefiting Quebec?

What about the niggling little legal and constitutional points that none of this is “Canada’s oil”? It belongs to Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland-Labrador. Alberta has asked to be at the table with the Feds in all such discussion around the international implications involving its resources. Harper has been busy and has not replied yet…or listing to canon – has he?

Add in the other central themes on climate change, market meltdown, government bailouts and a world- wide recession and the tendency to take the Alberta conservative support for granted and I’m betting the backrooms between Edmonton and Ottawa are going to get very interesting and very loud and extremely intense.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

On The Map with Avi Lewis: Alberta Oil Sands

Here is Avi Lewis and the Parkland Institute's take on oil sands as a source of continental energy supply.

The framing of the visuals and pull quotes are pretty onesided. That is to be expected from these sources. That said the dialogue with Diane Gibson is very factual and balanced and a good discussion on a range of important contenental energy issues.

Speaking of big issues oil snads issues. It is a big mistake for the Alberta government to be reducing openness and accountability for disclosing oil sands revenues and royalty information. The Privcy Commissioner is on it and the Auditor General has be critical of past lapses in acountability for royalty payments and collections. FOIP laws already protect industry from disclosure of proprietary information.

This is not good policy nor good governance and a bad step in the wrong direction.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama discusses net neutrality on MTV

Net Neutrality is a big deal for anyone who values free speech. Obama is on side and gets it.

Access fees and messing around with bandwidth and quality are not to be allowed in a free and democratic society.

Big service providers who want to make the Internet more like television are shaping or throttling. That is selling you a certain bandwidth service but they provide different download and upload speed. This is breach of contract and private sector infringements on my free speech rights. They have no business doing that at all.

CRTC is dealing with the shaping and throttling issues in a complaint against Bell but they are all doing it. A decision was expected in October but it is delayed "due to the complexity of the issues." What complexity? Give me the bandwidth I contracted for total and get out of the way of an open access Internet.

It is not television and it is not the telephone business regardless of how much the old-style thinking of the service providers try and convince themselves of those delusions. The Internet is about connectivity and content and freedom of speech and assembly.

Is Harper Hapless to Deal With the Economic Crisis?

Looks like most of the ideas to deal with the economic crisis will be coming from the Premier's at tomorrows First Minister's meeting. Stephen "the Fundamentals are Strong" Harper is becoming more like a deer in the market meltdown headlights. I hope he takes good notes at the G20 meetings in Washington next week. He clearly needs some ideas about what to do in response. Let's home he listens to others then George Bush for a change.

Alberta's Environment Minister Renner Visits Fort Chipewyan

UPDATE: FORT McMURRAY TODAY is reporting on November 12th that as a result of his trip to Ft Chip, Minister Renner is promising air and water studies in the area to relieve concerns about contamination.

Wow! Here is a step in the right direction. Alberta's Minister of the Environment is going up to Fort Chipewyan on Monday to listen to health concerns of the community related to oil sands development.

It is important that the Minister of the Environment engage in health issues relating from environmental issues, policy and practices. Clean water, air and land is an environmental responsibility but also a health issue for humans and the biota as a whole.

I was at the Keepers of the Water conference in Ft Chip earlier this fall as part of my work with the Canadian Boreal Initiative on biodiversity offsets for oil sands projects. I spent four days in Ft Chip and met a lot of great people and had time to talk to many of them extensively.

I learned more about the issues of health and environment linkages at the conference meetings and from those locals who picked me up as I hitch hiked from place to place. I became acutely aware of the clean water issues and concerns in the community. I saw first hand the now famous two-mouthed fish caught in the Athabasca river near the community.

Many years ago the Athabasca river was a sewage dump for the pulp mills along its shores. When ALPAC was approved in the late 80's it was the largest single line pulp mill on the planet. The water quality and related health issues became front and centre as a public policy concern. The net result was the environmental conditions on the ALPAC approval, suggested by ALPAC itself, BTW, actually enhanced the overall water quality of the Athabasca river. This is because they and all the other mills on the river also changed their corporate cultures and their ecological approaches to doing business in a more sustainable way. Full disclosure - I was advising ALPAC on issues management concerns over the mill approval process at the time

Environment and health are integrated and related concerns and the folks at Ft Chip are acutely aware of this reality. Nice to see someone taking the political lead on this public policy issue and not just shuffling it off to a report process.

Good for Rob Renner! I am looking forward to hearing what the Minister picks up and what resonates with him from this visit.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Obama Launches New Website on Transition

Obama has launched a new website on the transition and for the transition period. Sure there is only one President at a time and Bush is beyond a lame duck until January 20. He should become mute and emasculated until the Inauguration.

If I were to follow any developments in the US governance I'm thinking this Obama effort is the site to use.

Here is a link to the election night victory speech vidoe from the new site.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Harper Kills National Portrait Gallery & I'm OK With That

Prime Minister Harper has cancelled the relocation of the National Portrait Gallery project out of Ottawa. I always felt this institution should be in the nation's capital even though Edmonton (my home town) and Calgary spent time, cash and talent to put in a bid. I also never believed in the sincerity of the Harper Party in this project and it never had a political champion. It was always a non-starter in my mind.

Claiming no proposal was acceptable in cancelling the project is a political shifting of blame for a poor federal government policy decision in the first place. There is no need to spend that money for this purpose now as the feds flirt with recession.

The Alberta government pledged $40m to support the project. That culture funding is now freed up and ought to be reassigned by the province to support the new film and television funding program that is in the policy development process.

Alberta was the first province to support film and television production. It was so successful at developing creative and lucrative work for film industry workers that everyone else quickly got into the act. Alberta killed the program in 1996 with the focus on debt and deficit elimination and an ideological stance that government should not be in the business of being in business.

Well it is time to get back into supporting the infrastructure needed to support the cultural creatives in Alberta. Film and television industry is very viable even in these tough times. It provides huge investment multipliers for the bucks and is clean money that advances innovation as well.

There is $40m freed up now and Alberta should put that cash into the new proposed film and television fund. Full disclosure, I helped in a small way in the development the new funding deal. I also facilitated in getting some big new television series to come to Alberta. I even have a Co-Producer credit in the production of a home-grown sketch comedy series on APTN "Caution May Contain Nuts" that airs on late Saturday nights if you are interested.

Alberta Liberal Party Leadership PSA

So today is the last day for Albertans to participate in the forthcoming Alberta Liberal leadership contest. Three candidates are in the running and lots of challenges or the "winner." You can check them out at: Mo Elsalhy:, David Swann:, Dave Taylor:

A strong democracy and good government demands a strong opposition. Pick up memberships on-line today before 4 pm to participate.

I have sold lots of Alberta Progressive Conservative memberships to Liberals in the last two leadership contests. Many people resist "joining" a political party because they somehow feel it restricts them from speaking there minds. That has not been my experience. In fact it it pointless to join a political party if you don't speak your mind. that is what they are for.

I encourage Albertans to pick up an Alberta Liberal membership for the sole purpose of having some say and influence on who will be the Leader of the Opposition in YOUR government. It is money well spent.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Rural Alberta Broadband Access - More Than Connectivity. It's About Equality and Equity

Now the Canadian election is over and the US election is due to be decided next week, I am going to be writing a lot more about Net Neutrality and rural broadband access.

My net neutrality take is going to be about the need for free speech protections from private sector regulation disguised as proprietary rights of providers of broadband services. The rural broadband access to the Alberta SuperNet, the so-called First/Last Mile connection, is a major and transformative public policy issue for government.

This is also an issue in the Presidential election, at least for the tech-community. It is a differentiating issue that shows the spread of the consciousness and world views of McCain and Obama. McCain is so yesterday. He does not use a computer and has not sent an email and his stance on broadband shows his ignorance of what is happening in the so-called competitive wireless world today. No wonder the entire American technology community supports Obama.

I have a concern over the vacuum in the public policy leadership role to realize the potential positive impact of the Alberta SuperNet fibre optic system that is all over the province but still out of reach of citizens.

Rural broadband access is a key public policy issue for the Alberta government. It is about access but it is also about broadband equality - or at least equity for smaller communities and remote citizens. It has serious implications for free speech protections and consumer rights protections from the big providers like Telus, Bell, Rogers and Shaw and how they want to change things to reduce competition and "shape" access to the Internet. More on that later.

A collaborative community-based effort is emerging around these issues called Communities Without Boundaries. They just staged a successful province-wide SuperNet based day-long video conference event on October 31 on the various issues of rural broadband access, equity, and services.

In addition we see the Alberta government sponsoring a new wireless First Responder integrated province-wide system for use by police, fire, ambulance, emergency measures and others. The "others" have to enable the new towers for this system to be regulated so private sector wireless ISPs can co-locate on them to meet broadband needs of remote citizens. Competition amongst ISPs is a good thing but hundreds of individual and expensive ISP towers blighting the landscape is not a good thing.

I am working with The Internet Centre,the first commercial ISP in Alberta, seeking a CRTC ruling requiring Telus to province access to their copper telephone wires to be used for SuperNet access in communities all over Alberta. The old-fashioned idea of copper wire is an inexpensive, ubiquitous, reliable and robust way for individuals, community organizations and business in small towns and cities all over Alberta to get access to the SuperNet big pipe. This connectivity is as transformative for rural communities as rural electrification and telephony was decades ago.

Telus is opposing the CRTC application but AXIA, the operator of the SuperNet for the province is in support. We expect a decision before Christmas and here is the link to the CRTC page with the details on all the application submissions.

Lots of changes are in the wireless air and even buried underground in the form of copper telephone wire. The issues are a vast array of concerns about fairness, equality, free speech, consumer rights, competition and regulation, sustainable communities, productivity, connectivity and globalization. Stay tuned to this blog for new developments and commentary.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

American Political Culture Past and Present. What is the Future?

Here is a link to an important essay by George Monbiot about American political leadership and culture. It is deifintely worth a read.

Look at the videos in the footnotes and realize that if Obama wins or not, there will be lots of work for American Cultural Creatives to do. Not the least of which is an activitist re-engagement in politics.

The backward leaning Traditionalist that elected Reagan and the Bushes are threatened by more than 911. The consumption based striving model of the Moderns is about to end in recession if not depression. The new values of Cultural Creatives will have to emerge as a political force in the States and I suggest in Canada too.