Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Now i've said before that I disagree with the notion of leaving volunteers hanging out to dry, particularily if their homes are on the line. That being said, I really don't know any of the intricacies of this dispute and can't really offer any comment as to why the party is proceeding the way they are.
The loss of Hung Pham, on the other hand, won't really cause me to lose sleep. Hung may be a bright guy, but his attendance record at the Legislature suggests that he may be better suited to a career that doesn't involve the responsibilities required of an MLA.
As for the Liberals who are trying to make hay with this story, I would hasten to remind them of an MLA they weren't terribly fond of that they "dealt with" last year.
A little closer to my current locale (though not for long), Canada's Premiers have been meeting to discuss, among other issues, climate change.
The media was speculating that this meeting had the potential to turn into a beat-up-on-Alberta fest as the "green warrior" Premiers sought to further their agenda.
For the record, the Green Warriors are Gordon Campbell (BC), Gary Doer (Manitoba), Dalton McGuinty (Ontario), and Jean Charest (Quebec). All of these gentlemen have been critical of Alberta's green plan. For the most part, they're disingenuous sentiments that have little to do with a real committment to environmental action.
Gary Doer comes from a province with a lot of water and very little industry. It is in his best interests to promote a carbon-trading scheme that will increase wealth transfers to his have-not province.
Jean Charest is in the most precarious political situation of all the Premiers right now. He leads a shaky minority government with not one but two opposition parties hot on his tail. Quebecers are by far the most left-leaning citizens in the nation and still cling to the failed dogma of Kyoto. Any chest-thumping by Jean Charest is done purely to shore up support with his very fragile electorate.
Gordon Campbell, the unofficial leader of these green warriors, has a lot of political eggs in the enviro-basket. Some say he's genuinely concerned about the environment, others would suggest that he's just trying to pre-empt political damage from this brewing storm. To his credit, Premier Campbell is on record as saying "i'm not trying to convince anybody of anything."
As for Dalton McGuinty... my general rule is that if Dalton is pissed off, you're doing something right.
Thankfully, Atlantic Canada's Premiers decided that there were more important issues to discuss. In particular, New Brunswick's Shawn Graham and Nova Scotia's Rodney MacDonald were more concerned about the potential economic downturn in the U.S. and relaxing provincial trade barriers, both of which are very important issues that need to be tackled.
It appears that these two young men were successful in pushing the issue.
Rather than get bogged down in an issue that clearly creates partisan divisions, two young leaders from two of our oldest provinces managed to move an important, pan-Canadian issue forward.
Kudos to Premiers Graham and MacDonald. Some of their veteran counterparts could learn a thing or two from them.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Thursday, January 24, 2008
First, the Premier announced the Government's new Green Plan yesterday. Naturally, the left-wing and the environmental lobby are unhappy. They're always unhappy. They'll be unhappy until we shut down industry and send ourselves into a massive economic tailspin.
Well at least they've got an elected advocate, now.
Liberal Environment Critic and Kyoto Crusader David Swann reacted angrily to yesterday's announcement. In interviews, Dr. Swann said that a Liberal government would "slow down the growth of oilsands activity."
Naturally oblivious to the realities of the Alberta economy, Dr. Swann suggests that "it might have some impact."
MIGHT have SOME impact?
And this guy wants to be an Alberta Cabinet Minister?
The Premier got it right when he shot back that the plan would "create enormous economic devastation, massive job losses, and so on."
To add insult to injury, the Liberals would also scrap the natural gas rebate program.
This is important for you to know, Alberta: A Liberal government will put you out of work, then they'll drive up your cost of living.
That's not a risk anyone in their right mind should be signing up for.
The second thing I wanted to point out is how ridiculous Don Braid's column is getting lately.
He wrote a while back that the Wildrose Alliance is a serious threat to the PCs and that we obviously recognize that since we're thinking of changing the slogan on the Alberta license plate from "Wild Rose Country". That was an impressive feat of logical gymnastics, but I decided to leave it alone.
But today, Don and U of C windbag David Taras go on about how Premier Stelmach should call off the election because of a bad poll. Except, its not.
The poll isn't a ringing endorsement of the government, of course, but it isn't a ringing endorsement of any other political party in Alberta, either.
Don and David read a lot into these numbers without factoring in the undecideds. That's poor journalism and poor comment from a political scientist.
What I think some Albertans (more than in previous elections, anyway) are saying is that their votes are up for grabs. If this election is to be about a contrast of policies, visions, and abilities to lead Alberta, I think the best thing for Ed Stelmach to do is CALL the election.
And in the spirit of giving advice, Don... stick to City Hall from now on.
I was sitting in line for the ferry so I couldn't post the info right away, but was pleased to find this in my inbox upon my return to a computer:
And, for the record, the full text of the accompanying news release:
January 24, 2008 - For Immediate Release-
Union Leaders are Putting YOUR Money where THEIR Mouths are
Edmonton — "Union Leaders are putting YOUR money where THEIR mouths are" This statement is the theme behind an ad campaign co-sponsored by the National Citizens Coalition and Merit Contractors Association of Alberta.
The campaign responds to the recent series of attack ads launched by the so-called "Albertans for Change" coalition of labour unions headed up by leaders of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) and the Alberta Building Trades Council (ABTC).
In Edmonton, Stephen Kushner, President of Merit Contractors Association stated, "The AFL and ABTC are umbrella groups for individual unions comprised of thousands of workers who are forced to contribute to political ad campaigns through union dues. It is illegitimate for these union leaders to say they speak for all workers when many of the workers they purport to represent are forced against their will to pay full union dues simply to keep their jobs."
For decades, the National Citizens Coalition (NCC) has fought forced unionization and the misuse of union dues for political purposes. According to NCC President, Peter Coleman, "Trade unions and affiliated groups spent the most money in third party advertising during the last federal election campaign. Under Canada’s outdated labour laws, union leaders are free to take forced dues and use them to finance "pet" political projects whether employees agree with them or not. This is in spite of the Leger Research in 2003 finding that 76% of unionized employees opposed to having their union dues used for non-workplace activities such as supporting political parties and other causes. Yet, that doesn’t stop union bosses from playing politics."
Coleman’s comments were echoed by Kushner, "The recent attack ads show how little accountability there is with the current laws. Every employee should have the right to know where his or her money is going and should be able to opt out of contributing to political campaigns such as this."
Kudos to the Merit Contractors Association and the National Citizens Coalition for bring attention to this abuse of members' hard earned money. These kinds of tactics may be commonplace in other provinces, but Alberta's tradespeople won't be swayed by fancy rhetoric paid for out of their own wages.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
For as much as I disagree with my buddy Dave, he's been enjoying a streak of relatively rational arguments for his cause. Sadly, it came to an end today with his rant about a massive funding announcement for the University of Alberta.
I suppose it should have been expected that his left-wing academic zeal would get the best of him.
His post today dismisses the major announcement by the Premier and refuses to highlight some of the expenditures at the U of A. Allow me:
-$33.8 million for the Faculty of Pharmacy.
-$55.4 million for other Health and Science research facilities.
-$16.4 million in upgrades to Hub Mall and the Tory Building.
Now the title and recurrent message in Dave's post is "they didn't have a plan". Close to $90 million for Pharmacy, Health and Science sounds to me like a pretty proactive investment in those who will be taking care of an aging population to me. But I digress...
One of the first questions that popped into my mind was whether or not this was a sign of things to come from the Liberals during the election. Are they planning to run on a theme of "they didn't have a plan"?
If so, it seems awfully foolish.
Kevin Taft and his crew maybe don't realize that they're not running against Ralph Klein this time. They had that shot and got their clocks thoroughly cleaned. Running against Ralph's record might be a winning strategy if he had left office as a spectacularily unpopular Premier, but that's not the case.
And the whole "they didn't have a plan" schtick won't be terribly effective, either, given some of the announcements we're seeing of late.
Even though the never-satisfied campus rebels rail against it, we're seeing action on post-secondary education.
Even though Taft prefers his collection of band-aid half measures to address the problem, we're seeing action on housing and homelessness.
Even though the left are ramping up their campaign of gross misinformation, we're seeing action on greenhouse gases and climate change.
Kevin Taft and the Liberals may choose to spend the campaign whining about how the previous government didn't have a plan or claiming that the current government doesn't. Go ahead, I say.
Because if we get to spend the campaign correcting empty rhetoric and pointing out we're doing on behalf of Albertans, I very much like our chances.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Pam Barrett was the leading opposition politician in Alberta when I first got involved with provincial politics. Even though I knew early on that there was little that this woman and I would agree on, I was thrilled at the opportunity to meet her when I spotted her in a downtown Edmonton shopping mall in the late 90s. I suppose it was her straight talk and passion for issues that I admired. The online photo galleries remembering her today in the Sun and the Journal brought these memories flooding back.
People on both sides of the political spectrum can agree that she was a strong leader who was steadfast in her principles. I think her most appealing quality, perhaps, was her ability to set partisanship aside and deal with other MLAs and activists as human beings. Her enduring friendship with former Premier Ralph Klein is a prime example of this.
For my part, I extend my condolences to Ms. Barrett's loved ones and to her compatriots and my friends in the New Democratic Party. As they mourn her loss, I know they will also reflect on the wonderful legacy that she has left her party and our province.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
My good friend Jonathan Denis has been elected as the Progressive Conservative candidate in Calgary Egmont!
I don't have any numbers yet, but will be posting them once/if they are made public.
I have spoken at length about Jonathan's stellar qualifications for public office and the reasons we need more people like him in the Alberta Legislature. Still, I encourage you to visit his website and learn more about the best choice for Calgary Egmont.
I, along with most other tories, aren't going to lose much sleep over this. For my part, I think these people fail to understand the mechanics of political change as much as the Liberals do.
Interestingly, it appears as though a battle is already being waged over its direction.
Film at 11.
Friday, January 18, 2008
A couple of comments ask me how I rationalize my belief that a Liberal government would be disastrous for the Alberta economy.
Its pretty simple, really. They're an extraordinarily weak team.
One of the comments talks about a lack of business sense from the like of Hugh MacDonald, Harry Chase, David Swann et al. Bang on correct.
As an aside, I find no logic from the person who comments that we don't get much business sense from Ray Danyluk, Luke Ouellette, or Lyle Oberg. Ray Danyluk runs a large family farm (Liberals wouldn't know anything about that anyway) and i've already posted on this blog about the skills required to do that. Luke Ouellette has been a successful small businessman for most of his adult life. And Dr. Oberg, although we may have our differences, is no fool.
Anyway, back to the Liberals. Remember that these people are getting out-oppositioned by the 4-member caucus down the aisle. Their arguments are often weak and their grasp of parliamentary procedure, even among veteran MLAs, is pretty shaky.
The Liberals haven't recruited any serious star candidates. Moreover, they're having trouble recruiting candidates period. We're a little more than 2 weeks away from an election and they've barely filled half their slate. What is particularily telling for me are their perennial troubles in my hometown. For as much as they've been pimping themselves as potential victors of the Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo constituency, the residents of the area know better. The local Liberal association is in shambles, they have yet to find even a warm body to run as a candidate (nevermind someone people might consider voting for), and Kevin Taft still goes undetected at local functions ("Who's the annoying bald guy?")
They're weak and they're disorganized. Two reasons why no one takes them seriously. The reason I think they would lead to economic disaster stems from the aforementioned.
Albertans are a pretty pragmatic lot. That, I think, is how you can explain such a broad swath of support for PC Alberta over the years. The reason PC Alberta was able to overtake the Social Credit party in 1971 wasn't because we outflanked them on the right, but rather because we covered most of their own base but with a younger team.
The last and, dare I say, ONLY provincial Liberal leader to understand this was Laurence Decore. Were it not for Ralph and his electioneers also understanding this strategy in 1993, Decore would likely have become Premier. Since that time, the Liberals have drifted further and further away from the your average Albertan. The pragmatists have largely defected or given up altogether and their donor base has dried up.
Because of this, the Liberals have become a collection of left-wing Trudeau apologists. This is evident in their policy documents that promote public everything (auto insurance, child care, and so on). The kinds of policies that the Liberals promote (and the kinds of candidates they are now scraping the bottom of the barrel for) are not all that different from the policies and people that ruined British Columbia in the 1990s.
I've now seen first hand the damage done by leftist politics here in BC. Its not a fate i'd wish on any province in this great land, especially not my beloved Alberta.
THAT'S why I think the Liberals would spell economic disaster for Alberta.
Thankfully, the coming election should make that pretty clear to the voters.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
The ads attack Premier Ed Stelmach and accuse him of not having a plan for a multitude of issues. Healthcare, Education, the Economy, and Housing are apparently all under threat with Stelmach in power. If you buy that, i've got some oceanfront property in Vulcan to sell you.
Albertans reaction has yet to be measured, but Graham Thomson has already chimed in with his thoughts. In a nutshell, Ole G.T. thinks these ads may backfire. For once he's right.
For my part, I don't think they MAY backfire. I think they WILL backfire... with the fury of a '78 Cadillac Eldorado.
There are three reasons why this poorly thought-out campaign will fail miserably:
1. Its too early for attack ads.
Attack ads are usually reserved for the tail end of a campaign, especially when they're used in Canada. Attack ads are designed to motivate people to vote against something. In order to cash in on maximum fury of the voters, they are released as close to the vote as possible so that voters stay angry/disgruntled as they go to the ballot box.
Whether this is just the opening salvo in a series of negative ads or its a one-shot deal to get people thinking, it won't work. If we're going to see 6 weeks of attacks on TV, Albertans will get tired of it and turn on those who are promoting them in the first place. If these are the only attacks we're going to see, the message will be long forgotten by the time the election rolls around.
2. They're wrong
These ads picked the WRONG attribute to attack. You may be able to get away with saying that the Premier isn't the most dynamic speaker. You may be able to get away with saying that the PC Party is a little slow in modernizing. But suggesting that the Premier doesn't have a plan is mighty easy to debunk. Shall we?
No plan for Healthcare?
We've seen swift action on reducing the barriers of labour mobility and improvements to recognition of foreign credentials, helping more qualified healthcare workers get their foot in the door in Alberta. We've seen a plethora of new health facilities either completed or under construction, not to mention increased promotion of clinical telehealth to cut down on the need for hospital visits that clog our emergency rooms. We've seen dramatic legislation on preventative measures, namely the province-wide smoking ban. And we're seeing ongoing work on a pharmaceutical program to address the needs of an aging population.
No plan for Education?
We've seen English as a Second Language programs offered to children as young as 3 1/2, increasing their chances of success later in their education. We've seen a number of new schools built to address growing communities and the baby boom that Alberta is currently experiencing. And, of course, we've seen a historic agreement to make sure that Alberta's teachers aren't living in fear of a pension plan that might not have been their for them when they retired.
No plan for the Economy?
Give me a break. We've seen action on the labour shortage through a new Alberta-Canada immigration agreement and increased duration of temporary foreign worker permits. We've seen the development and release of a comprehensive report dealing with rural development so that the Alberta Advantage exists for ALL Albertans. We've seen action on the issue of oil and gas royalties. And we've signed a historic agreement with British Columbia to remove a number of trade barriers so that we are better able to take advantage of the Pacific Gateway projects that are currently underway.
No plan for Housing?
We've seen $285 million to address immediate housing pressures. We've seen a long-term funding agreement to direct $11.3 billion to municipalities over the next 10 years. And we've seen a very capable MLA assigned the specific task of dealing with the affordable housing shortage.
3. They're misguided
These ads have been put together by the Alberta Building Trades Council and the Alberta Federation of Labour. These organizations claim to represent over 200,000 working Albertans.
Now, presumably, these ads are asking their members and other Albertans to vote against Ed Stelmach and the PC Party in the upcoming election. They don't come out and say it directly, but its clearly implied. Fostering a debate, as the group claims is their motivation, isn't well-served when the discussion is entirely one-sided.
So what if we were to do as these ads tell us and vote for AFL-friendly parties, presumably the NDP and, to a lesser extent, the Liberals?
There is very little difference between the Liberals and the NDP in Alberta anyway, so the outcome of electing either party is fairly uniform. What would undoubtedly occur is the most massive evacuation of economic prosperity this province has ever seen. Those who think that what THIS government did with respect to resource royalties should shudder to think what would happen if Kevin Taft or Brian Mason ever took hold of the economic reigns of Alberta.
The guarantee, though, is that we would see some pretty spectacular job losses. Ironically, many of those jobs would be those who are "represented" by the Building Trades Council and the Alberta Federation of Labour.
Ron Harry and Gil McGowan are essentially asking their members to vote themselves out of a job.
Thankfully, Alberta's skilled tradespeople are smarter than to listen to the words of their union bosses and their vested interests.
Monday, January 14, 2008
As someone who was born and raised in Fort McMurray, I understand that what we mine up north are oilsands. It has been that way ever since the term was introduced by Karl Clark and Sidney Blair (two great pioneers, I might add) in the early 1950's.
The debate rages as to whether they are to be called "oilsands" or "tarsands". Interestingly enough, this is a non-issue in Fort McMurray.
We KNOW they're called oilsands.
Sadly, as our great resource has been rediscovered by foreign leaders and environmental activists alike, the use of the term "tarsands" has ramped up. Individuals ranging from Greenpeace spokesman Mike Hudema (one of Alberta's leading economic terrorists) right on up to U.S. President George W. Bush have been using "tarsands" as opposed to "oilsands". Their feelings on the subject are markedly different, i'm sure, but their use of the term "tarsands" stems from the fact that they are underinformed about the resource.
As an aside, an oilpatch historian does an excellent job of highlighting just how underinformed Mr. Hudema really is when he explains how "oilsands" came to be used, debunking the uber-left spin from Greenpeace.
Anyway, my point to all of you is this: This is a tremendous resource that is important to securing our long-term energy and economic future. Use the right term when you talk about it.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
To chronicle the debacle over edstelmach.ca would be pointless at this juncture because, among other reasons, there are more than enough people being paid for it for me to justify doing it for free.
I do, though, have some thoughts on the matter.
First, I really do have to congratulate Dave. He managed to catch the Premier's team off guard and exploited it masterfully. In politics, we occaisionally salute our opponents for a firing a salvo with such precision. This is one of those times.
Moving forward, though, I worry about the possibility of Dave fighting this for any great length of time.
I'm not worried because I think this will cause a major drop in support for the Premier or the Party. Nor am I worried that the Party can't afford a drawn out lawsuit... far from it.
I worry because, partisanship aside, I really like Dave.
Like I said, he has won the first round without question. He highlighted a glitch in PC organization and has done incredible things for his future readership.
But Round One is now over. And, looking to Round Two, all the chips are lining up in the Premier's favour.
In other jurisdictions, getting away with cybersquatting (the internet term for what Dave has done with Stelmach's domain name) can be pretty easy. In Canada, however, the laws governing the registration of domain names are considerably more strict. Dave got away with registering edstelmach.ca because no one else had it. Now that someone named Ed Stelmach DOES want it, it will be exceptionally difficult for Dave to argue his point.
Moreover, Dave describes himself as a debt-ridden university student. I would hate to see a friend suffer financial hardship because he dug his heels into a fight he is sure to lose.
Dave, you've accomplished your mission and everyone who reads a newspaper in this country now knows it. To continue fighting at this point will only waste time and money while distracting attention from the REAL issues facing the province.
I think we both agree that a debate on those issues is far more important than a battle over a $14 domain name.
Well the signs are becoming increasingly clear that the aforementioned campaign will soon be upon us.
The Edmonton Journal has a good piece today about the preparations underway for the election. Its an election that I look forward to. As much as the left-wing opposition want to harp on about how Ed Stelmach has no personality or other nonsense, I look forward to a campaign with the Premier demonstrating how his grasp of the issues facing Alberta blows his competition right out of the water.
There will, of course, be outsiders trying to insert themselves into this campaign. One of the loudest is Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier. Don Braid outlines part of Bronconnier's plan to pressure the provincial government into funding a number of ventures for his city.
I'll admit that i'm not a big fan of Mayor Dave. As a former and future Calgarian, however, I like a lot of what I read in Braid's article. I think that the Mayor will find support for the plans outlined in the report drafted by an impressive array of Calgarians.
I also think that the kind of vision that the Mayor is promoting will be met with support from some of the great new candidates running under the PC banner in Calgary, particularily Alison Redford, Jennifer Diakiw, and Arthur Kent. These are all people who believe in a positive vision for Calgary's future as a leading urban centre in Canada. They are also running to replace ineffective Liberals who wouldn't understand a positive vision if it bit them in the rear.
In Calgary, just as in every other city, town and county in Alberta, people are readying for an important election that will chart the course for Alberta's future.
I know i'm ready for it.
Monday, January 7, 2008
My friend and former Library Board colleague Heather Kennedy is hard at work for the people of Wood Buffalo in her new role as Deputy Minister for the Oil Sands Sustainable Development Secretariat.
An article in today's Journal does a good job outlining a few of the things that Heather will be tackling in her two-year term.
It should be noted that the article points out that the Oil Sands Sustainable Development Secretariat was created by Premier Stelmach specifically to address growth pressures in the Fort McMurray area.
It should also be noted that John Vyboh, undoubtably Fort McMurray's best-known provincial Liberal, supports the Premier's decision to create the Secretariat and believes that she will do good work for the people of the region. This is in stark contrast to fellow Liberal Hugh MacDonald, who (like the NDP) was exceptionally critical of Heather's appointment.
The Liberals can't even get their story straight on something this important to Fort McMurray.
And people wonder why they don't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning the seat...
On the more human side of politics, someone passed this along to me this morning.
Dave Hancock is someone for whom I have the utmost respect. He is to be commended not only for his efforts to improve himself, but in setting a great example for all of us (yours truly included) by walking the walk as Health Minister.