Reboot Alberta

Friday, February 27, 2009

Good News: Fort Chipewyan is Using Video Conferencing.

Here is a great piece of counter-intuitive good news that I just have to share. The Athabascan Chipewyan First Nation has just installed a high definition Lifesize video conferencing system in Fort Chipewyan, one of the most remote communities in Alberta. They are adding even more video conference capacity to their operations in Fort McMurray now too.

I will now be able to work with them face to face from my office with my system, on an on-going basis, without the time and cost of travel, accommodation and meals etc. The productivity increases and the improved effectiveness of our working together will be enormous. As well as well as improved communications and convenience we all will reduced carbon footprint with less travel.

Fort Chipewyan is one of the most remote and vulnerable communities in the province. The ACFN gets it and has taken a step into 21st century connectivity with this facility. Well done Chief Adam and congratulation to the rest of your crew in making this move.

It used to be that 70% of our communications was influenced by visual inputs. Apparently newer studies are showing this has increased to over 80% of visual clues that have influence over the effectiveness of our human communication. As the Internet goes more to video and we have had more television exposure over the years, the more importance we are placing on our visual communications. Video conferencing is a natural response to provide that need for improved visual communications.

I am using video-conferencing more and more in my day-to-day work and am encouraging everyone I can to adopt this technology for the obvious reasons. I get excited about new technology and the positive changes it can make to our world. I am an early adapter more than an early adporter. Video conferencing like I am using is now accessible physically and fiscally for small businesses like mine. It has been one of the big changes from technology that I am really excited about.

I hope the CRTC requires Telus to allow access to their unloaded copper telephone lines in Alberta A formal application has been made to the CRTC for that very purpose and a final decision from the Commission is expected shortly. If successful then anyone with a land line telephone service will be able to have this copper wire capacity used for Internet and other high valued added services like video conferencing. Imagine having that in you business, home or organization in rural Alberta. That will level the playing field for rural Albertans significanlty.

Connect those telephone lines to the SuperNet and all of a sudden rural Alberta's last mile SuperNet connectivity problem is also solved. Then more citizens and businesses all over rural Alberta willthen have fibre level internet services including high definition video access to the world using the power of the SuperNet. It can be there for them at a fraction of the cost of fibre and not expensive fibre installation costs. Telephone lines are everywhere in Alberta. They are very familiar and reliable technology that does not require expensive fibre optic installations. As one telephony consultant said recently, "Copper wire may be buried but it is not dead."

The SuperNet has enormous potential as an economic lever and a competative differentiator for our province. Alberta's SuperNet is one of the most powerful and unique 21st century infrastructures on the planet. Now all we need to do is to get Albertans hooked up and using it. Some policy decisions at the CRTC and shared SuperNet access policies need to come together to make this happen.

Harper Will Have to be Honest and Govern for a Change.

The Liberals are signalling a possible June election if Harper stays his usual course of announcing fiscal plans for stimulus and then sits on the sidelines. I don't think that will happen in June because Harper is more likely to just dig himself deeper in debt and trouble. Expect an election in the fall of 2009.

Harper is signalling now that he wants to take "short-cuts" and shovel the stimulus money out the door with minimal accountability for approval processes. He has already aid mistakes will be made but Harper would rather do this spending rapidly but not right. We need both test to be met Mr. Prime Minister.

Without proper oversight expect Harper to steer funds to those ridings where he needs to retain or gain political support. Equity and effectiveness for the country or the economy will not be Harper's operational principles for fund distribution if Harper has his way.

Harper now as an accountability problem. He has to report to the nation on his budget performance at the end of March and the and of June. Harper is now hamstrung and must be truthful and transparent for the first time. He actually has perform in his job as Prime Minister for the benefit of the nation and not just his personal pursuit of political power. If he continues to falter and fritter away time and time again with a continued negative ad campaigns, partisan political pranks and half-truths he will face certain defeat in the next election.

Harper has lied to us repeatedly and particulalry in the last election about the economic realities we were facing and about to face...even promising a fiscal surplus and no debt or deficit on his watch.

That deplorable dishonest behaviour is unacceptable. We need our political class to give us the truth that is delivered in a timely, straight and unvarnished fashion so we can forward plan from a factual base.

It is questionable if Harper and his government is even capable of this standard of character leadership - at least if you look at his past history. If they are not adaptable to change and honest government then the voter has to get involved. Citizens will have to take charge and invoke the necessary change of government so we can leave the planet and our place in it in better shape than when we came into the world.

Get ready for a fall election Canada.

Bank Shareholders Now Have a Say in CEO Compensation

Shareholders of three big Canadian banks have won the right to vote on top banker’s compensation. YES!!!

This is encouraging and I hope it is the start of a trend for a more activitist shareholder and investor approach. We need the individual corporate owners to particularly push their enterprises to pursue a more integrated economic and ecological approach to doing business.

Canadian banks are the best run in the world and some of our CEO’s have volunteered to reduce personal compensation and some have donated the difference to charity. The recent announcements of 1st QTR profits from 4 of the 6 top Canadian banks are very encouraging as well. Increased reserves for pending bad news are being made and loans to creditworthy customers are still happening.

The changing times are showing that shareholders and investors are getting more engaged as corporate owners. This move toward non-binding shareholder votes on executive compensation is a step the right direction. The non-binding vote is a smart move. It sets a tone and sends a message about shareholder mood.

The discrepancy between the most highly paid and the lowest workers in our society seem to be growing and will have serious social cohesion implications for the country.
It was the poorly managed banks and investment houses in the States and the negligence of bankers and investment “professionals” in the rest of the work who sold crap paper that that got the world wide into this economic crisis.

I expect to see a major housecleaning of many of the boardrooms of a wide range of Canadian public companies as the social license to operate responsibilities starts to sink in. Shareholders and consumers will start to act based on ethical investment and purchasing approaches. Then we will see a systemic and fundamental change in the role and responsibility of business.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Judge Won't Restrict His Inquiry Into Mulroney Schreiber Affair.

The Globe and Mail is reporting an interesting development on the Mulroney Schreiber Affair and the pending Judicial Inquiry.

Associate Chief Justice Jeffrey Oliphant, the man conducting the Inquiry, rejected arguments my Mulroney’s lawyers to narrow the scope of the Inquiry. The Chair wants to review the “appropriateness” of former Prime Minister Mulroney’s behaviour with “the closest possible scrutiny.

The Mulroney legal team was trying to get the Inquiry to agree that he could not consider the Criminal Code, the Income Tax Act, and anti-corruption legislation in his deliberations.
Thankfully the Chair decided that these laws are applicable for consideration when inquiring into the “appropriateness” of Mulroney taking a large cash payment from Schreiber for lobbying purposes shortly after leaving the office of Prime Ministers.

The Chair described his task saying “I intend to determine, on an objective basis, whether Mr. Mulroney…conformed with the highest standards of conduct.” He goes further to say “I believe that this standard is one that reflects the importance to Canadian democracy of the office of the prime minister, as well as the public trust reposed in the integrity, objectivity and impartiality of public office holders.”

Oliphant was clearly not amused by the Mulroney gambit to narrow the scope of the Inquiry. He noted that in 1988 then Prime Minister Mulroney distributed a document to his cabinet entitled Guidance for Ministers. That document apparently warned the Mulroney cabinet that they had an obligation to go further than “simply to observe the law.” Oliphant was pretty clear that he was going to hold Mulroney to the same standard.

I hope CPAC will be covering this Inquiry from gavel to gavel like they did with Adscam. Not just because of the politics but because it will help Canadians who are concerned about our democracy but also the quality of the character of our elected representatives.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Should Business Responsibility to the Environment be Governed by the State of the Economy?

I just got the teaser from the McKinsey Quarterly on the global survey they did on “valuing corporate social responsibility.” The findings are disturbing. First the good news! The survey indicates 2/3 of Corporate Financial Officers and ¾ of investment professionals “…agree that environment, social and governance activities do create value for their shareholders…” Here is the qualifying kicker. They restrict that belief to “normal economic times.”

Well these are hardly normal economic times and the survey finds these professionals now “…view some of these programs differently.” Guess what has changed. The importance of governance programs has increased and the importance of environmental programs has decreased. The needs of the environment and our responsibility to protect the environment are not seasonal and cyclical.

It almost seems like CFOs who run corporate finances and investment professionals, those folks who advise others where to put their money, think board of director issues like CEO compensation is more important than their environmental efforts.

Are these folks ever out of touch with what most people are thinking about the role, responsibilities and purpose of business today. This is especially true given the amount of greed and corruption that are at the root causes of this recession.

I expect more investors to be seriously considering ethical investing criteria when they return to the market. Share your heads CFOs and Investment professionals. Business is not just about business. It is about public trust and a social license to operate and that demands employing the best possible environmental practices. Don’t forget the economy is there to serve the needs of society and not the other way around.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Canada's Privacy Commissioner Not Amused on How Net Neutrality Can Invade Personal Privacy Rights.

The Canadian Privacy Commissioner has weighed in on the CRTC hearings on issues of Net Neutrality and he is not amused. In considering the invasive privacy issues that would ensue (sic) by allowing ISPs to "manage the network" in the way proposed would be "less than transparent."

The Commissioner noted that some Canadians have already complained to him about invasions of their privacy by ISPs and "These complaints are currently being investigated." Good.

He goes on to note his office is involved in "conducting ongoing research into the privacy implications of DPI and Internet throttling, from a legal, policy-based and technical perspective." Good.

He is soon to publish a series of essays on privacy and Internet ISP issues written by international experts and will also be launching an interactive website to "facilitate public discussion and education." Good.

Here is a link to his submission and hat tip to Michael Geist for the heads up on Twitter.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

U.K. Repatriates a Former Resident - Not Even a Citizen - from Gitmo! Omar Khadr - a Canadian Citizen - Still Rots

The U.K. expect the return of a Gitmo prisoner on Monday. This prisoner is not even a British citizen and was only a former resident of England but the U.K. government has been lobbying for his release and return to the U.K. since 2007

Omar Khadr is a child soldier and Canadian citizen who has been in Gitmo for a third of his life and our Prime Minister Stephen Harper could care less. Michael Ignatieff used some of his airport hanger time meeting with President Obama last week to bring up Omar's case. At least somebody in our government cares about the rights of Canadian citizens incarcerated in foreign prisons.

What is wrong with this picture? Pray you never get imprisoned in a foreign jurisdiction and tortured while Stephen Harper is still Prime Minister. This is not the first time this has happened. Just ask Maher Arar.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Juan Enriquez: Tech evolution will eclipse the financial crisis

I have met Juan here in Edmonton, had lunch wiht him and explored a fascinationg porject proposal on alterantive uses of CO2. I have to tell you this video of his recent TED presentation is the measure of the man's imagination and the implications of his mind. It is worth a view. It is thougth provoking, insightful and incite-full.

Obama's Ottawa Visit Marks the Beginning of the End of Stephen Harper.

I have been swamped this week and no time to post and frustrated because there is so much going on, both in my world and the rest of the world.

I wanted to share some preliminary observations on the Obama visit in a political and policy context. I will be doing a much more extensive analysis on events and implications over the week end and distributing it to the Cambridge Strategies subscriber list early next week.

The bottom line is there were no surprises coming out of the Obama visit. It really was so short and frantic time-wise that it has to be more of a pit stop than a State Visit. There was the usual commentator gushing coming from the MSM. They picked up on the human interest angle more than the politics or policy pronouncements, which while preliminary, were potentially profound. More on that next week but infotainment seems to be the default position of MSM these days.

I think the Ottawa visit was, from a Washington perspective a dress rehearsal for logistics and security when Obama travels overseas on more serious trips. I think Obama’s advance team used Harper as a shill to test out their Presidential travel and protection procedures in a very safe place like Canada. The meeting between leaders was abbreviated orchestrated and the new conference looked like they were filling time with homilies and platitudes.

Policy substance was hinted at but it was diverted into future “dialogues” to happen between officials. On the personality side it was good to see Obama extend his time with Harper to 90 minutes from an hour and with Ignatieff to 35 minutes from the 15 minutes the PMO allocated.

Typical shabbiness from the PMO to delegate the Obama –Ignatieff time to the hospitality of a hanger at the airport - but that is just what we have come to expect from the hyper-partisan Prime Minister Harper.

The new secret weapon Canada has on the diplomatic front is Governor General Michaelle Jean. Obama seems to be most comfortable and communicative with her and why not given the symbolic between them.

My sense is the Obama visit is the beginning of the end of Harper politically. The perfunctory visit to Canada that was a dress rehearsal for more serious international visits is one thing but I sense Obama’s advance team sized Harper up as a waste of time. He is in a weak and weakening position politically, an acolyte of the Bush White House and will only pay lip service to Obama’s progressive agenda.

The world orienting story and grand narrative changed when Obama got elected. Harper is lost and languishing in the past glories of Reagan and Bush years and is out of dated and out of touch. Obama knows that and decided to waste little time on Harper due to his tenuous grasp on leadership.

The PMO tried in the most self-conscious and inept ways possible to draw parallels between Harper and Obama and could only muster embarrassing linkages like both are “family men” and “outsiders.” One has the urge to divert one’s eyes in the face of even reading such embarrassing stretches of reality and pretenses of rapport.

On the other hand, the parallels between Obama and Ignatieff were obvious. Both were Harvard educated, academics, teachers and accomplished writers. Harper is apparently writing a book – on hockey. Obama noted that he he has actually ready Ignatieff's books during their airport hanger meeting. Iggy appropriately played down the media musing on his similarities to the President by noting “Look, there’s only one Barack Obama…I’m a politician in Canada. Let’s keep it under control here.” Can you ever imagine Stephen Harper uttering such a self deprecating statement?

Canadians are tiring and distrusting of Harper and will soon dismiss his judgment, question his ability and worry over his commitment to actually deliver the stimulus needed to resolve the recession crisis we face. His only saving grace is the polls showing general feeling of optimism of Canadians indicating they believe that we will weather this storm before the end of 2009. That optimism was measured before the headlines of today showing that once mighty Alberta has also fallen into a sharp recession. Alberta has moved from an $8B surplus to a $1B deficit in a mere 6 months. That is sobering and serious stuff that will no doubt resonate adversely across the psyche of the nation. I will have more to say on that in later posts.

I still think we are into a fall 2009 election. This is ironically consistent with Harper’s fixed election law. remember that laws he blatantly ignored for reasons of retaining personal power and to hell with the best interests of the country? Right now Ignatieff holds the strings and the trump cards and Harper is forced to dance to a different tune than he wants to and it is music that he does not even seem to know. It is just a matter of time before Harper quits or losses and returns to private life as a fellow in the Fraser Institute.

Monday, February 16, 2009

American Drones Patrol Manitoba Border

The stated goal of the RCMP, according to a CBC story, is to " in the fight against smuggling of drugs, alcohol and people." The American version of the reason to use drone surveillance, according to a U.S border protection official is "these are dangerous times" and it is important to know who and what is crossing the border.

The "what"threat to American security and border concerns is apparently dangerous drugs, alcohol and people. Oh yes illegal drugs from Canada has to be a concern. Perhaps the Americans are cracking down on their own seniors stealthily coming across the border in busloads and smuggling those cheaper Canadian pharmaceuticals into the States. that has to be the major national security threat from drugs.
As for beer who can blame Americans for wanting to smuggle Canadian beer instead of having to drink the tepid and tasteless beer they make.
As for people crossing the border, they are likely Canadian tourists heading off to warmer American climates to spend money and help out America with some recession fighting using some Free Trade Canadian cash. Be afraid. be very afraid of Canadians with cash and a hankering to spend it.

Yes sir. These are dangerous times. Unarmed drones are watching out for our best interests. And some human drones are doing some pretty shabby thinking on our behalf all at the same time. Can't pass up a two-for bargain like that now can we?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Wordle Shows Dominant Themes in Alberta's Oil Sands Strategic Plan

Wordle: Alberta's Oil Sands Strategy
Here is a Wordle image of the text content of the recently released Alberta Government report entitled "Responsible Actions: A Plan for Alberta's Oil Sands." This technique measures the frequency of incidences of words and is a rough measure of relative importance of various concepts and themes in the document. Frequency of words is not the only measure of import and the absence of some key words and concepts may be even more telling of the mindset of the authors.

You can go to Wordle to see a larger vew of this image by searching for Alberta Oil Sands Strategy.

Responsible Actions is a very interesting document that I have just read and feel the need to take time to reflect on for a bit and to let the content and context sink in and gel. First impressions is that it is less than an action plan and more of a strategic framework, and for me that is a good thing. It is important to be asking the right questions before you rush to seeking answers.

Others, especially in the ENGO community are crititical of this and see it as a critical shortcoming of the report. They want more of an immdeidate action plan. I see that need for an immediate and urgent andb detailed action plan as the next step. But without a clear and considered working framework the outlines the principles and purposes a rush to action can be ill-conceived poorply executed and then do more harm than good.

The report takes a very integrated and comprehensive and long term triple bottom line approach that seeks to be responsible and sustainable and even adaptive. That is a significant difference in the consciousness of the way the Alberta government used to look at oil sands development which was growth was good regardless of the high costs due to the decade of break-neck development pace, physical and social infrastructure capacity limits or even the ecological consequences.

I commend the report as good reading, perhaps even required reading, for any engaged Alberta citizen who wants to see the thinking of their government on this most critical of economic, social and environmental issues for us and quite possibly for the planet. It is some very good thinking and now we need some serious commitment to effective and immediate implementation.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Is Warren Buffett Eyeing Nexen for Oil Sand Investment?

Rumours have it the Warren Buffett is looking at buying or buying into Nexen. Can't think of anything more dramatic to reinstill investor confidence into Alberta's oil sands development.
Will wait and see.

Ken Chapman on CBC Wildrose (Feb. 11, 2009)

Here is my CBC commentary from last Wednesday on the Alberta Throne Speech. Working on a blog post about the Throne Speech, another one on the 20 Year Oil Sands Strategy and the Alberta agenda we need for the Obama-Harper Hour in Ottawa next week. Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

RMR: Canada explained

This is not only funny it is totally accurate(ish). Hat tip to the Calgary Grit for bring it to my attention.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lawyers Layout Omar Khadr's Repatriation Plan to Harper

We at Cambridge Strategies have been working with Omar Khadr’s Canadian lawyer Dennis Edney, to help bring Omar home. There was a news conference this morning about Omar’s case and outlining how his legal counsel has a plan to reintegrate him into Canadian society.

This Blog has commented on Omar’s case as a social justice issue over his incarceration and arrest as a child soldier. I have bemoaned the shoddy treatment and torture he has received while in the custody of the Americans and the breathtaking disinterest in his case by our own Canadian governments, both Conservative and Liberal

Here is the text of the letter Dennis Edney delivered to Prime Minister Harper’s office on Sunday evening in preparation for today's news conference.

February 08, 2009

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A2

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

Re: Omar Khadr and Reintegration Plan

I write on behalf of various Canadian citizens, scholars, lawyers, academics, medical doctors, Imams, social activists and human rights and civil liberties organisations. We have prepared a reintegration plan for Omar Khadr, the details of which follow in this letter.

We, concerned citizens, believe in human compassion and the principle that no child should be forgotten and abandoned.

We have long advocated the return of Omar Khadr to Canada to be afforded the opportunity for a full and healthy reintegration within the Canadian society.

The recent changes in US policy with respect to Guantánamo Bay announced by President Obama offer the Canadian government a remarkable opportunity to take action to defend Omar Khadr’s rights.

We urge you to act expeditiously and request the repatriation of Omar Khadr to Canada, without further delay.

In anticipation of the possible release of Omar Khadr to Canada, we have developed a reintegration strategy for Omar’s return which we ask you to consider very seriously.

Our plan is designed to allow eminent organizations, representing a broad cross-section of Canadian institutions and agencies, to take legal responsibility for designing, implementing, and supervising all aspects of Omar’s life in Canada, until such time as he is able to become a fully functioning member of the Canadian mosaic.

An Oversight Committee will include but not limited to institutions and organizations representing the legal system, medical system and community, the educational system and community, the public service system and community, and the spiritual institutions and community representing several major faith based traditions.

This Oversight Committee will guide, direct and supervise the work of specialist professionals comprising the Khadr transition team. The transition team will bring together physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, temporal and spiritual counselors, specialists in rehabilitation and reintegration of child soldiers, professionals versed in treating post traumatic stress, teachers and educators, and other professionals as requested and required by the Oversight Committee.

To illustrate, the Khadr Transition team would include educators who would deliver a custom–designed schooling curriculum for Omar (which will be designed by King’s University College, Edmonton, Alberta, at their expense, and delivered in a home schooling enviroment) to bring him to the level of passing standard Canadian achievement tests.

The spiritual team would include leading clerics of the Muslim faith who belong to the mainstream of Canadian Muslims who are the majority that categorically denounces and opposes terrorism and radicalism; to impart to Omar the core message of humility, public service, peace and co - existence that is at the heart of Muslim teaching.

We see Omar living separate and apart from his family in another family setting until the Oversight Committee is advised by the Transition Team that Omar has developed the strengths to re-enter everyday life in Canada. This approach has the understanding and approval of Omar’s immediate family.

Much of Omar’s financial living costs will be borne by Canadian Muslim Organizations

We believe our reintegration and monitoring plan is comprehensive and addreses many of the concerns raised by the Canadian public should Omar return to Canada.

A recent Harris/Decima poll suggests 54% of Canadians believe Omar Khadr be returned to Canada while 38% believe he should face the court system in Canada, if returned.

We would welcome the opportunity for Omar to clear his name, face his abusers and put Guantanamo Bay on trial.

We would be pleased to provide further details about our reintegration plan on request.

We would also invite you to meet with members of the Oversight Committee prior to the visit by President Obama so that you can pass along a formal request.

In conclusion, we wish to assure you that we are prepared to work with your government in the interest of justice to ensure the reintegration and monitoring plan will prevail.

Yours sincerely,


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Blog From China Written by a Canadian

There is a new blogger on my links that I encourage everyone with curiosity and a global mindset to read. The Sinocanadian blog will give us some insight into what is happening in China from the perspective of a Canadian with a business and environmental bend.

Welcome to the Blogoshpere Rob.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Fort Chip Cancer Report Says There is a Concern and Calls for More Study and Monitoring

Reading the 91 page Alberta Cancer Board study on cancer rates in Fort Chipewyan one has to remember what the stated limitation of the study were to be sure you have an accurate context.

Those limitations were the small population size, the small number of cancer incidences in the study, migration patterns and impacts were not considered nor was any specific matters of potential unique characteristics of First Nations people in Fort Chip. Finally the study was not designed to determine the causes of cancers in Fort Chip nor if living in Fort Chip elevated cancer levels.

That said, the study found the incidence of overall cancer was higher than expected but could not say if is was due to chance of increased risk in the community. This could be determined by tracking more residents who have lived in the community for the past 20 to 30 years. Such a study would analyze risk factors form lifestyle, family history, occupational and environmental exposures.(emphasis added)

It is interesting that Fort McKay did not want to be used as a comparator in the study. They actually want their own comprehensive health study. They are closer to the oil sand action than Fort Chip is. The other comparison communities had some interesting findings. While Fort Chip had 51 cancer incidences against a statistically expected 39 cases, Fort McMurray and the Northern Lights Health Region had “significantly lower number of cancer cases than expected.” The women in Fort Chip had the same rates of cancer as women in the rest of Alberta but the men had higher incidences.

Detailed study showed that 2 out of the 6 rare kinds of cancer of concern to Dr. O’Connor were confirmed and three of 12 suspected colon cancers were confirmed. The others were not Ft. Chip residents, not cancer or different types of cancer. There were no childhood cancers found, no increases in middle aged or young adult cancers. All the increased incidences were in the 55+ age group and that is a larger than average portion of the Ft. Chip population.

Leukemia and diabetes rates were found to be significantly higher in Ft. Chip residents. Leukemia is 3 times higher than the expected rate. Age again is a factor as is family history. Studies have reported higher incidences of certain kinds of Leukemia where exposure to chemicals for workers in the petroleum, rubber, mining and agriculture industries where they are exposed to solvents, styrene, butadiene and ethylene oxides. Other studies did not report excesses of cancers with such exposure so there is nothing conclusive about these possible causes. Incidences of colon cancer in Ft. Chip were found to be within expected levels.

Other interesting findings from cancer studies that were reported in this study referenced comparing First Nations cancer rates with non-First Nations Alberta. There is no difference between the groups for lung and colon cancer. The lung cancer finding is surprising considering the rate of smoking amongst First Nations Albertans is twice the rate of non-First Nation Albertans. Something else that is counterintuitive is the fact that First Nation Albertans have “…significantly lower rates that non-First Nations for all cancer, leukemia and breast cancer. Conversely, the rate for cholangiocarcinoma, the rare cancers that caused the stir in Ft. Chip in the first place, was found to be “significantly higher” for First Nations than non-First Nations Albertans.

The report goes on to compare U.S. and Ontario studies comparing First Nations and non-First Nations cancer incidences. Interesting stuff that just serves to confirm the Alberta findings in the report. It is noted that a current study on the cancer incidences in Alberta based on this culture difference is in the final stages and will be published next year. That will be interesting reading I am sure.

So we know there are significantly higher cancer incidences, including the rare kind, in Ft. Chip. So what are the reasons? The report says they can and may include all three of chance, increased detection and risk due to lifestyle, occupational and environmental exposures. In discussing increased risk the report notes that Canadian studies up to 2004 showed one in two Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime. Risk of cancer increases with age and people are living longer and therefore more likely to be diagnosed with cancer. That said, Ft. Chip has a lower proportion of residents in the 55+ age cohort than Alberta as a whole and the aging pattern in Ft. Chip is similar to the rest of the province. So age and even sex cannot explain why there are higher than expected cancer rates.

Lifestyle, socio-economic factors, nutrition and work and environmental exposures all contribute to cancer rates but this study did not deal with any of those causal factors specifically to account for the differences.

So the question of does the oil sands and even uranium deposits in the area contribute to increased incidences of cancer in Ft. Chip is still open. The report references some studies from the International Agency for Research on Cancer and says there is “inadequate evidence to classify crude oil as a human carcinogen, however, there is limited evidence for the carcinogenicity of crude oil in experimental animals.” That same source notes that two types of certain complex volatile organic compounds of petrochemical hydrocarbons, the stuff of crude oil, “…are probably carcinogenic to humans” and others in this group of organic compounds are also “…possibly carcinogenic to humans.” The reports notes that exposure to these potential carcinogens is usually by “…inhalation, ingestion and skin contact.” The most common non-occupational exposure to this stuff is by tobacco smoke and urban air inhalation.

That said, the report states that few epidemiological studies on cancer risks exist amongst petrochemical workers and residents living in close proximity to oil refineries and no studies exists in reference to oil sands mining. “Information about the occupational history of Fort Chipewyan residents and their possible exposures at work could be very important; however, this could not be collect at this stage of the investigation. Future studies should evaluate the occupational history and employment-related migration pattern of the cancer patients in the community.

Next steps call for on-going monitoring of Ft. Chip residences to see if the past increased incidences were random variances or if there is more to it. Given the extent and the long term nature of oil sands exploitation it seems to me that commitment for on-going monitoring and a deeper and more extensive set of studies is the appropriate course of action.

Dr. O’Connor may feel vindicated on the issue of higher incidences and the rare cancers. At the very least the College ought to get off his back. The community will likely be unconvinced and to a point they are entitled to hold that position because we have insufficient evidence to be conclusive about the causes and context of higher cancer incidences. Lifestyle and environmental/ occupational concerns seem to be the unknowns and worth pursuing for more information. All in all the report is a great start.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Harper's Defamation Action Folds Like an Old Lawnchair

Prime Minister Harper launched a defamation lawsuit against the opposition Liberal party for alleged comments they made allegedly implicating him in an alleged bribing attempt of deceased Independent MP Chuck Cadman for his vote in the Commons. Late Friday it was announced that the action was dropped by Prime Minister Harper.

Sorry to be using “allegedly” so often in this post but since nothing is proven and the combatants have gone silent as a result of the “settlement” of the lawsuit. We know nothing for sure and I don’t want to be sued on this matter either. Too bad the author Tom Zytaruk who taped the interview with Harper that formed the key evidence in this theatre of the absurd did not get an apology from the PM. He obviously deserves one now that Harper has folded.

We can draw some conclusions and implications from these events. Harper’s dropping the suit hardly makes his claim that the Liberal party comments on the issues and allegations were “the biggest mistake they ever made.” High hubris by Harper then and he has some very cold crow to munch on now.

The damage claim in Harper’s law suit for loss of reputation at $3.5m is now reduced to dick and each part pays their own costs in the action. That means that Harper wins nothing and the Liberals lose nothing and neither party will comment further. The downgrading of a political reputation loss allegation from millions to nothing and in fact costing the Plaintiff money for his own legal fees for pursuing the adventure come off like posturing and puffery at best.

This all may mean the Harper is hankering to govern now that he has to admit and accept that the country is in crisis and to stop bullying the opposition as his primary political goal. Heaven knows the country needs him to make the shift. My money says he has not really made the leap and will now be in leadership limbo and drift into disinterest and do neither.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Obama Invited to Alberta

Good move but more needs to be done to make this effort effective. We clearly need to be sharing information, developing a deeper understanding and looking for ways to make the exploitation of this vital resource more responsible and sustainable.

Albertans are up for that but we need our business and policians to catch up to the enlightened consciousness of the citizenship.

I see President Obama is planning a mere 5 hour meeting in Ottawa with Stephen Harper on February 19th. He clearly sees meeting with Harper as not a very productive use of his time. I will do a blog post soon on what I think will be and should be on the agenda.

Alberta Needs to Start Thinking for a Change. Ontario Is!

I am intrigued by the Ontario government’s support for taking advantage of the current economic crisis as an opportunity to transition to a creative economy from a dying industrial age. I guess it helps that Richard Florida who writes on urban cultural creatives has recently moved from the States to Toronto as his preferred city of residence. I like Florida but prefer the deeper insights of Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson’s work “The Cultural Creatives” about similar themes.

Florida has teamed up with Roger Martin the Dean of the U of T’s Rotman School of Business to write a report commissioned by Ontario’s Premier Dalton McGuinty to be released today. The report is Ontario-centric but is said to be transformational and transferable to all provinces and will show how to move from an industrial society to a creative one. Ontario has been studying the link between prosperity and productivity for some time now. They are clearly leading the way to add a creative link as a means to future prosperity as well. I am looking forward to getting a copy of the report and giving it a careful read.

Alberta is in need of this kind of thinking for a change. Alberta is still striving too much to sustain a sense of yesterday. For example we continue to subsidize conventional oil and gas drilling activity by reducing royalties and industry accountability for sound environmental practices and duties to reclaim abandoned sites. We have fragmented the boreal forest with well sites, seismic lies, roads and right of ways so badly that its sustainability for wildlife is under serious threat.

It is not all bad in Alberta but there are few serious signs of any significant transformational shift happening in Alberta anytime soon. We need to quit compromising to conventional industry demands and to embed a new consciousness of innovation and adventure that will take us to a new level of diversification. Examples of that kind of leadership thinking are around but they are sparse and segregated and mostly insignificant.

We have some political champions in Alberta for such a change but they don’t seem to be winning the agenda and priority battles in Cabinet and Caucus. Alberta seems more intent on perfecting yesterday with more and more concessions being granted to the conventional industries from oil and gas, to forestry to agriculture in an effort to try and sustain old models and methods in the conventional economy.

We Albertans have the necessity to adapt and change because fossil fuels have limits that are economic and environmental. We have the fiscal resources to change. We have the institutional and intellectual infrastructure and human ingenuity horsepower in our universities, technical schools and the Alberta Research Council to change.

We have a very creative group of people in our cultural industries and environmental and social services sectors as well. We can transform the province if we choose to. We seem to lack the visionary leadership in politics and business to actually engage in the new world we can see coming. We are too "successful" and complacent to have any sense of urgency and intentionality to get serious about the inevitable changes that are coming. We seem content to passively react rather than actively respond.

This recession is a perfect opportunity to revisit, revise and to shift to a new trajectory and to actively eschew the tyranny of the dead ideas of the past. Speaking of the tyranny of dead ideas, I just bought Matt Miller’s book of the same name. I intend to read it carefully. I will also be rereading Thomas Homer-Dixon’s “The Ingenuity Gap” to find a reframing of my own consciousness about these concerns about the need to rethink and transform our economy.

Time for Alberta to start thinking for a change. Ontario is on to it. Why not us?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Ignatieff Shows Strength of Character and Wise Leadership

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff understands and respects representative democracy. He has shown those qualities of character by the way he consulted and enabled those Newfoundland and Labrador members of his Caucus to take a stand and vote against the Harper budget. The wanted to take such a stand because the Harper budget serves to single out and punish their region and their constituents. Good for him and good for them.

Old line partisans who think political leadership is about dictating to Caucus in all circumstances and punishing transgressors will call this enlightened approach a mistake and a sign of weakness on Iggy’s part. Nothing could be further from the truth. The ultimate consequences of those 6 members taking a stand and representing the interests of their constituencies are insignificant in the large scheme of things but symbolically important to them and their people.

Politics is all about perception and the Harper cons will mule and mock as is their wont about this action shows Iggy can’t control his Caucus. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The overarching perception that needs to be appreciated here is the flexibility and wisdom of Iggy in accepting the principled position of those 6 disgruntled Liberal MPs. These PMs are supposed to represent the best interests of their region, an area of Canada that is being screwed by the Harper government – yet again.

The luxury of opposition is that the same level of party solidarity is not as necessary for the governing party. The risk in a minority government situation is too much of this self-actualization of MPs could actually unwittingly topple a government. Well that was undoubtedly considered at the MPS met face to face with their leader to discuss the situation and work out a solution. No fear of an inadvertent election happening in this case. This situation shows us Ignatieff’s superior wisdom, judgment and leadership qualities, not to mention his demonstrable personal respect for representative democracy.

You sure can’t say anything close to that about Mr. Harper. Last time Harper had a dissident MP was Bill Casey. His principled stand was to vote against the Harper position on the Atlantic Accord that screwed Nova Scotia where his riding is. Casey was drummed out of the Harper Party Caucus but got his revenge in the last election when he ran as an Independent and won his seat again.

Now the shameless Harper Cons have filed a bogus complaint to the RCMP against Casey making unfounded allegations of election spending irregularities. Bush-league Rovarian tactics are still alive and well in the bosom of the Harper Cons.

Compare the leadership qualities of Harper and Ignatieff in these two parallel circumstances and ask yourself why you ever voted for Harper in the first place. Don’t make the same mistake next time!

Ken Chapman on CBC Wildrose (Jan. 28, 2009)

Here is my lastest column on CBC Wildrose on the Federal Budget and what it means - especially to Alberta.