Friday, March 31, 2006
It was fabulous to see so many friends (both youth and not-so-youth) in attendance from all over the province. In addition to us regular-type delegates, the evening also saw 4 potential Leadership candidates drop by... Dinning, Oberg, Hancock, and Morton (although he left pretty early).
And then, of course, there was the guy who still has that Premier's gig. He delivered a short, written speech to the crowd that was assembled downstairs... hinted that he's going to talk about "the future" (presumably of the province, rather than his career) tonight during his speech to the PC delegates.
I'm looking forward to hearing what exactly the Premier has planned for the remainder of his term. And from what I could gather last night with the first die-hard tories to arrive at convention... the Premier's speech tonight will go a long way in affecting the outcome of his vote later on.
Completely different subject... last night I was also very humbled to find out that there are many many more people out in cyberspace who read this little blog than I ever would have thought. Its very flattering, and I sincerely appreciate your readership and comments.
One of the comments I got last night was that people wished I would be a little more outspoken. Fair game. I'm still going to try to avoid getting front page coverage in the Herald, but i'll try and spin things a little less before I post them.
I'll perhaps try that approach a little later today, after i've chatted with some more arriving delegates. In the meantime, though, its 6am and I think I may need some more sleep.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
I've run into a few folks who are also down early, and there's definetly a huge buzz about this convention.
My youth wing predecessor is extensively quoted in today's Calgary Herald (www.calgaryherald.com). I'm not going to comment on his comments, except to say that it will be very interesting to see the reaction they get.
Many media outlets have started referring to this weekend as a Leadership Convention. While that is technically not true (there are myriads of policies to be discussed), the Leadership question appears to be the one on everyone's minds (if not their lips).
That's all for now... more fodder for you tommorrow.
Monday, March 27, 2006
1. Dad is doing great. The doctors are very happy with his progress and expect to send him back to Fort McMurray (the hospital, not his house) sometime within the next week. Thanks to everyone who have passed along their thoughts and prayers, they have been truly appreciated over the past 2 weeks.
2. The PC Alberta convention is going to be one of the most exciting political conventions this country has seen for a long, long time. It is the first time that I can recall that Alberta networks are going to cut in with frequent live coverage. While they're obviously looking for blood (as most respectable journalists do), the party has a great opportunity to use this as a top-notch showcase. The key will be to make sure we come out of this weekend strong and united.
3. No one but the Ottawa Press Gallery cares about the Ottawa Press Gallery. A number of journalists, along with new Liberal apologist Pierre Bourque, have fabricated stories about outrage that the PM is not giving them the unfettered access that they used to enjoy under previous regimes. While it doesn't provide them the opportunity to catch the PM and Ministers on bad days, it will no doubt improve the accuracy of the message being delivered through the media... something that we all deserve.
4. I bought a new car. Its a red Honda Accord. Yes, you're surprised. So am I. But I still love it.
I'll try and blog from convention. Keep your stick on the ice until then.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Sorry its been so long since i've updated. For those who aren't aware, i've been down in Edmonton with my family since last Tuesday. Dad's down here in the hospital, and we're down here while he recovers.
A few quick comments:
1. THANK YOU WOOD BUFFALO COUNCIL for not letting a bunch of old, stuck-in-the-mud, non-visionaries sidetrack progress for our community with their anti-development agenda. And shame on said non-visionaries for acting like a bunch of sore losers.
2. PC Alberta AGM and Convention is coming up, it should be one for the record books so if you haven't registered, do so now.
3. Thanks to everyone who has sent emails or phoned to pass along best wishes for Dad.
I'll try and make the blogging a bit more regular, but it'll depend on my access to a computer.
Monday, March 13, 2006
1. AN IN-TOWN WORK CAMP WILL LEAD TO MORE SOCIAL PROBLEMS ALONG FRANKLIN AVENUE
Wrong. I don't necessarily disagree with the fact that the drug and alcohol problems are on the rise, but its wholly unfair to place that blame squarely on those who live in camp.
Another important thing to consider is that, regardless of where their camp is located, if a group of guys working on the MacIsland expansion are thirsty after work, there's a good chance they're going to walk down to Franklin Avenue for a beer. Whether their camp is on the island or not, they're still only a 5 minute walk away at the end of the workday.
Either way, to paint people as social miscreants simply because they live in camp is unfair and prejudicial. A lot of these people who live in camp could well choose to make Fort McMurray home... although they might reconsider if we keep treating them like criminals.
2. THIS WILL MEAN THAT EVERY IN-TOWN PROJECT WILL HAVE ON-SITE WORK CAMPS.
If you actually bother to read the proposal, it is quite clear that this deals solely with MacDonald Island. That said, I don't entirely disagree with the statement.
I do, however, disagree with its use as an argument against the proposal.
There are two upcoming projects in particular which could quite easily see on-site project accomodation: the Water Treatment Plant expansion/upgrade, and Keyano College's Sport and Wellness Centre.
These projects are both very important to our community, and need to be completed as soon as possible. If that means an on-site camp for the people who are building these important assets, i'm all for it.
3. THERE ARE BETTER ALTERNATIVES AVAILABLE.
Forgive me, but that statement is utter garbage. I've heard the following 3 suggestions:
- Build a camp at the old AOSTRA site, 26 km north of town.
- Buy the Nomad Inn and turn it into rentable apartments for workers.
- Buy some of the 385 homes on the market and create long-term residents out of these construction workers.
Building a camp at the old AOSTRA site out in the middle of nowhere is a non-starter. From the money side, it will mean the added cost of bussing 250 people every day, as well as the cost of catering facilities (which already exist at Mac Island). Those 250 people on buses back and forth will only add to our already congested roads. And don't forget that it'll be hard enough to attract construction workers to work up here, even with camp available... now imagine what a prospective worker will tell you when you inform him/her that they'll also have to spend an extra hour on the bus each day because some community members would prefer to treat them like lepers and have them live in the middle of the bush.
Buying the Nomad Inn is equally ridiculous. Sure, it solves the problem of the "eyesore" of ATCO trailers, but it still puts these supposed deviants right in the downtown core. More importantly, i'm not sure how someone can justify taking hotel rooms off the market when its already near-impossible to get a room here during the week.
The idea of buying available houses, though, really does take the cake. What kind of construction company would budget buying a sufficient number of condos and houses (at $300k-$500k a piece) to house a temporary workforce. The key word is temporary. People who work in construction move from job to job and site to site, its the nature of the business. It was also suggested that the same people working on Mac Island could end up working on the Water Treatment Plant and the Sport and Wellness Centre. Ignore the fact that these projects will not all be identical and will require different numbers of different types of tradesmen... do people expect these projects to be built consecutively? If so, which project gets put on the backburner for the next 4 years?
I look forward to tomorrow night's Council Meeting. I suspect the extreme rhetoric coming from some less-than-visionary community members will be frustrating, but I remain confident that Council will look ahead to meet the needs of the next generation, rather than pacifying the leaders of the past.
Its funny, though, that in a city in the middle of the bush, people have such a hard time seeing the forest for the trees.
Thursday, March 9, 2006
That said, even I was surprised to see a couple of very well-written commentaries posted on none other than CBC.CA.
The first one, on drug use by oilpatch workers, talks about the need for the friends and families of drug users to take a more active role in their well-being.
The second, regarding Premier Klein's "Third Way" health reforms, takes a closer look at what the Premier is proposing and suggests that perhaps it is not the doomsday scenario that some people would have you believe. What's even more surprising is that the writer appears to have a fairly Central Canadian background... Dalton McGuinty could learn a lesson from this guy.
Wednesday, March 8, 2006
Let me backtrack and explain, for those readers from out of town...
MacDonald Island is a recreation complex situated at the delta of the Athabasca and Clearwater rivers in downtown Fort McMurray. Right now, the complex houses an 18-hole golf course, curling rink, a small arena, a small gym, a banquet facility, baseball diamonds and a soccer field. Its a decent facility for a city of 30 or 40 thousand residents, but its absolutely inadequate when servicing a population of 70000+.
Because of this, MacDonald Island will be undergoing a redevelopment. In addition to its current facilities, it will expand and add a hockey ice surface, 2 field houses, a swimming pool and waterslide park, a suspended running track, and other various recreation/athletic facilities. In addition to this, it will be the new home of the Fort McMurray Public Library. All told, the new MacDonald Island will be the largest facility of its kind in Alberta... and deservedly so, if you ask me.
So where's the problem, you ask?
Well as i'm sure most people in Canada now know, housing in Fort McMurray is nowhere to be found. This is somewhat problematic for a large project such as this, which will require some 250 workers to build the facility. Now this problem is often dealt with by the large oilsands companies by providing project accomodation or "camp" to house workers. While not an ideal situation in terms of living arrangements, it fills a gap that would otherwise not see jobs filled/facilities built at all.
To combat the lack of local skilled workers to build the facility, those in charge of construction of the new MacDonald Island are suggesting a 250-person camp be set up in a large vacant area on MacDonald Island. In addition to providing cheap, conveniently-located accomodation for the men and women who are working on our new facility, it will save some $8 million in costs compared to having to house these people in apartments or hotels (of which there are precious few, certainly not enough for 250 people) or having to transport them into town from camps located closer to oilsands plants, thus adding to our already over-congested highway. As an added bonus, catering for this camp could be provided by the facilities at MacDonald Island, which would recapture some of the costs of construction.
Sounds like a simple plan, right?
There are two sides in this story: The Municipality, and a conglomeration of SOME long-term residents who are less than enthused about change... for the sake of this post, we'll call them Nimbys (Not In My Back Yard).
Now both sides are, in some ways, at fault.
When this idea first came along, it should have been clear to the bureaucrats and politicians at the Municipality that the stereotype of having a camp within city limits would not be attractive, given society's sensationalist tendencies vis a vis initial reactions. Instead of getting ahead of the curve and explaining to people what this would really entail, along with the economic and social benefits of getting this facility built, the Municipality seemingly did nothing. This has allowed the Nimbys to grab a hold of the news cycle and beat the Municipality with it like some kind of rented mule. As such, what should have been a common sense proposal has turned into a PR nightmare.
On the flip side of the coin, we see the Nimbys spouting off the usual lines. They say that they don't want a camp in town because of the social impacts. They say that the construction company and the Municipality should make this place attractive enough so that workers want to bring their families here to live, rather than just one income earner living in camp. Well that's a very noble argument, and certainly one I could side with if affordable housing were an immediate option.
However in reality, affordable housing ISN'T an immediate option. In order to build more houses, you need construction workers. Without any houses for the construction workers to live in, they need to be put in camp while they build homes for our community. Same thing goes for the MacDonald Island redevelopment. If we want to see more infrastructure, be it social or otherwise, built in this community, we are going to have to live with the fact that the people who build said infrastructure are going to need a place to live while doing so.
The longer that Council waits on this, the higher the cost of the project goes. Its right now sitting at $106 million, and goes up every month that startup is delayed. At some point, our already cash-strapped Municipality is going to have to "fish or cut bait" with respect to the redevelopment of MacDonald Island.
The Nimbys are always the first to complain about Quality of Life issues in Fort McMurray. Its ironic and unfortunate that their latest round of complaining could end up costing us the most important Quality of Life advancement in a generation.
Friday, March 3, 2006
I'm not going to comment on the "Third Way" proposals from the Government of Alberta vis a vis health care... not yet, anyway. Once i've read them in detail, then I suspect i'll have something to say.
Regardless of your thoughts on health care, you should WATCH THIS... its damn funny.