Sunday, April 20, 2008
The Edmonton Journal has a good piece today on Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett and the gusto with which he has embraced his new role.
This is something that you just would not have seen under Ralph Klein. To describe his relationship with the arts community as "standoff-ish" would be an understatement.
But things have changed. I have spent a lot of time over the last few weeks in Edmonton talking with our new MLAs and just generally observing the mood. There is a profoundly different (and positive) spirit in the corridors of the Legislature these days. It's encouraging. It's exciting!
As an aside, the story in the Journal reminded me of an episode before the election where Alberta's political leaders were asked to name their favourite Alberta artists. The Premier was a bit taken aback by the question and didn't really have a response, but I suspect Minister Blackett will be taking care of that.
For my part, I'd like to offer a shameless plug for 3 of my favourites: Tim Hus, Cam Penner & the Gravel Road, and Scratch Improv.
Finally friends and faithful readers, I must bid you adieu.
As some of you may know and as I have eluded to in my last few posts, I will be moving to Edmonton this evening to start a new and challenging job working for the men and women of the PC caucus in the Alberta Legislature.
I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts with you all over the past few years. Having an outlet for my take on politics in our province has been a great joy and, during my time in British Columbia, even kept me somewhat sane. Although I look forward to my new position in Edmonton, it means that I will no longer be blogging.
I want to thank each and every one of you who have visited this site over the last few years. I have very much enjoyed being a part of your regular reading and have been continually astounded by the calibre of people who read this blog.
Although I am removing myself from the blogosphere, I will remain a keen consumer of blog news and views and encourage you to do the same. I have often stated that I fell ass backwards into blogging and in no way profess to be an expert. That said, I have learned a lot about technology, the powers of social media, and about Alberta and Albertans in general. The blogosphere is indeed a wonderful thing and we should all embrace it.
Thanks again for reading! Stay in touch!
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Part of these efforts include engaging Alberta's political bloggers to provide some feedback on a couple of stories that are appearing in their upcoming May issue. When they spoke to your humble author, they were hoping to get some reaction from a few different viewpoints in response to one or more of the aforementioned articles.
As an aside, this whole idea highlights one of the positive aspects of the blogosphere. Alberta Views is, admittedly, not known as a conservative-friendly publication. But in the interests of a broad public discussion, they are trying to tap a variety of opinions and share them with their own readership. Kudos are well deserved.
By the time these articles are available for public consumption, I will no longer be in a position that would allow me to offer comment. Graciously, Alberta Views offered to send me an advance copy of a pair of articles they were hoping I'd offer my two cents on. As such, I will actually be offering a reaction BEFORE the articles are published. I know, I know... cart before the horse. After reading them, though, I thought they were definetly worth some reaction and hope that I can encourage you to go out and pick up a copy of the May edition (or just subscribe).
As I said, there are two articles in question. The first is a piece by longtime Alberta political reporter Darcy Henton entitled "The Year Alberta Stayed Home".
The title would suggest that this might to be a piece dedicated to outlining the left's many arguments against Alberta's electoral system. Turns out they only get a brief glance, the article is actually a supurb summary of the provincial election campaign. Liberal optimism... Tory stumbles... Union attack ads... it covers the whole damn thing and does it well.
I'm guessing that the magazine hopes the article will generate some discussion on re-engaging Albertans, though. I offered some thoughts at the tail end of a multi-issue post about a month ago which you can read here.
The second piece, "Urban v. Rural" by novelist Fred Stenson, is an extensive look at the urban-rural divide in Alberta from its earliest days right up to its influence on Premier Stelmach and the current government in Edmonton.
As someone who has spent a lot of time in many different parts of the province (not just Edmonton and Calgary), I was particularily interested in what take the author would have on the issue. I find myself agreeing with him almost entirely, particularly in his optimism for the future of rural Alberta.
One of the issues that the article touches on that I follow with great interest is electoral redistribution. I concur with the assertion that, after the next round of electoral boundaries redistribution, the majority of Alberta's seats in the Legislature will come from our urban centres. While I don't agree that we should greatly enlarge our rural constituencies (they're hard enough to represent as it is), I welcome the addition of seats in the urban centres to bring representation closer to the actual ratio. Calgary and Edmonton are due for more seats, especially since Edmonton actually LOST a seat in the 2004 redistribution.
My hometown of Fort McMurray is also long overdue for a second seat in the Legislature. The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo will soon become the 3rd largest municipality in the province. All of Alberta's other mid-sized municipalities (Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, Grande Prairie, St. Albert and Sherwood Park/Strathcona County) have two seats. Alberta's economic engine is long overdue for theirs.
I'm grateful that Alberta Views allowed me a sneak peek at these two articles so I could get my thoughts out while still able. Regardless of your thoughts on the issues presented, these two pieces are well-written and worth the read.
Stay tuned Sunday afternoon for the final post on Albertatory (and the explanation why).
Friday, April 18, 2008
Not long ago, there were many who speculated that the party's ability to fundraise in Calgary had all but dried up. Judging from the record-setting attendance of almost 1800, I'd say that speculation was pretty moot.
To his credit, Rick Bell did an excellent job in summing up the mood in the room last night. Corporate Calgary is getting used to the new group running the show in Edmonton, but they're rolling up their sleeves and are ready to play ball.
One of the items that the Premier touched on in his speech last night was the work that has been done to strengthen the western Canadian economy as a whole. There have been a number of articles recently raising alarm bells that the B.C. and Saskatchewan economies have been stealing some of our economic thunder. I think the alarm bells have more to do with the fact that we're not used to seeing this, rather than it actually being a bad thing.
Roger Gibbins has an excellent piece in today's Calgary Herald (which, sadly, I cannot find online) that outlines the positive effects of strong and vibrant economies across the west. The stronger these economies are, the more we benefit from each others successes as westerners and, more importantly, the better prepared we are to shield ourselves from economic turbulence abroad.
Shifting northward, the newly-elected Capital Region PC MLAs are already starting to earn their keep. Since session started earlier this week, a steady stream of Capital Region MLAs have been rising to seek information about the new Capital Region Integrated Growth Management Plan.
As someone who is about to become an Edmontonian (more on that on Sunday), I am a big proponent of this new plan. As much as I loathe to admit that some things in British Columbia are functional, some of the benefits of regional governance are quite easy to identify if we look at the Greater Vancouver Regional District.
One of the particular benefits is an integrated transit system. A friend of mine who lives in Burnaby joined me in Edmonton a few weeks ago and was shocked to see buses for the respective transit systems of the City of Edmonton, City of St. Albert, and Strathcona County all operating routes in and out of Edmonton. I hadn't really thought about it since I was so used to seeing all 3 transit systems in the Capital Region but, as someone who has often used Translink in the GVRD, I could certainly understand his confusion.
Questions about the possibility of the same for Alberta's Capital Region were raised by new Edmonton-Calder MLA Doug Elniski yesterday. That led me to do some digging and allowed me to find the transit-specific section of the Capital Region plan. I was encouraged to see that integrated transit is an important part of the overall vision for the Capital Region, and look forward to seeing it fleshed out as the plan moves towards implementation.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
First up, though, was Manmeet Bhullar, the new MLA for Calgary Montrose. Based on word count alone, Manmeet has probably done more for his constituents in his opening speech than had been done in the previous 13 years. The content, context, and exceptional passion in his speech, though, is what made it truly memorable.
You can watch his maiden speech thanks to the Legislative Assembly's online video archive here (he speaks from the 2:47:20 mark to the 3:05:08 mark). And while the words alone don't give Manmeet's delivery justice, I am pleased to share them with you below:
Mr. Bhullar: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Let me congratulate you on once again assuming the position and being elected to the position of Speaker. You, sir, are an ambassador for Alberta values, and I salute you and I thank you.
It is a profound pleasure for me to stand today and second the Speech from the Throne. It is an honour to have been asked by the Premier. It is especially an honour because we are the government that has a vision that will take Alberta to new frontiers. This, sir, is a moment that I will forever cherish.
As the Member for Calgary-Montrose it will be an honour to servethe community in which I was born. I was born in Penbrooke in 1980, and I was born in a family of immigrants, a family of individu-als that came to this country with not more than their dreams. I, like many of my constituents, am the product of the hard work and the determination of so many immigrants. I am the product of people that came to this country, leaving back a very comfortable life for a life of struggle, for a life of hard work, all so their future could have a better life.
My constituency is composed of Penbrooke, as I said, Abbeydale, Applewood, Marlborough Park, and Monterey Park. It is a very diverse area. It is diverse with respect to ethnic and religious backgrounds. It is diverse in socioeconomic conditions. Almost 32 per cent of my constituents are first-generation immigrants. Theseare folks that have come to this country with their dreams, just like my parents came.
Sir, we have come to this country, all of us. Some were born here, some families have been here for many generations, and others have just arrived, but the one common denominator is dreams. Every-body has come here with dreams. It is my hope and my pursuit toensure that new Canadians fulfill their dreams for their families and for future generations to come, but it is also my hope and my pursuit that they engage in Alberta, they engage in Canada, and they take an active leadership position in this country to help shape the future of this province and this country.
Beyond the external diversity of my constituents there are great similarities. There are grandparents, there are parents, there are siblings, there are many children, all of whom want the same things in life. Mr. Speaker, I’m proud to say that the young families in my constituency will be delighted to know that this government is working to create 14,000 new child care spaces in this province. Calgary-Montrose is composed of hard-working people, peoplethat do their part and expect the government to do the same. We have proved that we are sound fiscal managers of this province, and that is why we are able to get rid of health care premiums in a fiscally responsible manner. That is giving back to our constituents. The many mothers and fathers who I spoke with during thecampaign that spoke about and expressed their concerns about safety in Calgary-Montrose, that expressed their concerns about crime andgrowing violence: these folks will be pleased to know that we are working to ensure that we get a hundred new front-line policeofficers this year and 300 over the next three years.
Sir, the single mother from Calgary-Montrose that I met whoworks in a factory and has high hopes for her children to get a university education will take comfort in knowing that this government is committed to ensuring that we have a great post-secondary education system.
Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned before, this is very personal for me. That constituent is very similar to my mother. You see, my mother worked in a factory for many, many years. My mother worked in a factory for many years so that I could have opportunities that she never had. She had to leave school at a very young age in India because her mother passed away and she was left to raise her siblings. Upon coming to Canada, she’s worked many jobs, two jobs at a time, whatever it took to ensure that I and my siblings had opportunities they were never given. So this, sir, is so personal for me, and I will do everything I can to encourage young people in my constituency to complete high school and to get a postsecondary education.
Mr. Speaker, as you may know, I’ve devoted much of my time to working with young people. I have found that what young people often need is a mentor, a positive role model, someone that believes in them, because as Marianne Williamson once said, “ Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
Sir, I had one such mentor, a humanitarian like none other: Bhai Jasbir Singh, a humanitarian in India who started health care initiatives, who started four hospitals where the rich went because it was the best treatment and the poor went because they could pay whatever they could afford. He was a testament to true service. It is easy for us to stand and say that we are public servants, but he received no salary for his public service. He received no benefits for his public service. In my pursuit I hope and I pray that I can just do an ounce of what he was able to do in his life.
Mr. Speaker, I see hope all around us. That hope we need toinstill in our young people is all around us. The volunteers who give so tirelessly give us hope. The police officers and firefighters and EMS personnel that lay their lives on the line every single day give us hope. The teachers who see potential in children that children don’t see in themselves and in some cases potential that parents don’t even see in children: that gives me hope. The nurses who take an extra minute to comfort a patient give me hope. The single mother who doesn’t let the fatigue of a long day of work at home and outside of the home prevent her from reading to her children every night gives me hope.
Sir, the woman I met door-knocking who is raising her grandchildren because, as she put it, her daughter was not ready to grow up – this woman fought for legal custody of her grandchildren so that she could give them some opportunity, give them some hope – she gives me hope. Now, the beautiful part of that is that we chatted for some 15 to 20 minutes at her doorstep, and I said: “ You know, I applaud you. I applaud you for being so strong.” She said to me: “ You know, most days I don’t feel strong. Most days I actually feel quite weak, and some mornings I wake up thinking I don’t know if I can carry on with this.” I wasn’t quite sure what to say, but as I looked in her eyes, I could see the tears.
The answer was that she is stronger than most of us because in spite of fear, she acts. In spite of being terribly afraid, she acted. In spite of being terribly afraid for the future of her children, she acted. I applaud her for her strength and courage to take such a bold step. She is the sort of individual that gives me hope.Yesterday’s Speech from the Throne offers hope for the present, hope for the future, and hope for taking advantage of all that Alberta has to offer. The government is putting forward an ambitious plan that appeals to Albertans’ wants and needs. This is a track that delivers on promises and offers an ever-increasing quality of life.
My constituents are going to be pleased with the new ring road around Calgary because that’s more time they get to spend at home instead of in traffic. By making it a priority to improve the effi-ciency and the effectiveness of health care delivery and providinghospitals to meet the needs of a growing province, we are demon-strating, sir, that the government has the right plan for health care. What gives me great pride to be an Albertan is the fact that one-quarter of new jobs created in this country are because of us. Thatis a profound thing. I am absolutely proud to be an Albertan, to contribute so much to this country. But that, sir, means that we must continue on a path of solid economic management and growth in innovation.
To ensure that we remain prosperous, the government is working on adding value to our exports and broadening our economy. As Canada’s largest producer of wind power and petrochemicals our energy resources afford us much prosperity, but we must strive to be as entrepreneurial as possible and to make the most of our skills and innovation. Just today I learnt of some of the great innovations coming about because of our nanotechnology strategies. We will be a leader in this field by 2020. This is solid vision, this is true leadership shown by the Premier, and, sir, this will make sure we have a place in the international community forever.
There’s one more story that I must share, and it’s of a constituent I met during the campaign. My volunteer knocked on her door and said, you know: I’m here with your candidate. We heard somerustling, and after about a minute the door opened. I was shocked to see a young woman standing before me in tears. I said: “ My apologies. I don’t mean to interrupt you. You seem to be going through something.” She said: “ No, I wanted to open the door for you. I’ve just lost somebody, but I still wanted to meet you.” That moment touched me because it shows us the great position we are in. The people of this province and the people of Calgary- Montrose have entrusted us with such a position. We shall never take this for granted. This shows me the importance of public life, something that we should remember when we take every action, something that we should consider every time we make a decision and have to consider whether it’s a decision for greatness or if it’s just a political move.
I want to inspire young people in my constituency. I want to inspire a generation of young people, and if I can inspire just one of them to get a postsecondary education, I will have done my job. In order to inspire young people, though, we need to ensure that instead of our young people feeling inadequate, we must instill in them the understanding that they have the seeds of greatness implanted in them. Instead of our young people feeling limited because of the financial means of their parents, we must express to them that they have unlimited potential and unlimited opportunity in our great province.
Instead of people seeing divisions and borders between people of different faiths and cultures, we must provide a venue for young people to experience human unity. Instead of our young people being marginalized by the way they dress, the music they listen to, or the one mistake they’ve made, we must accept them, we must love them, and we must give them a chance to change. Instead of teaching our young people to judge others, they must learn to bring out the best in others. Instead of young people feeling that beauty is based on shapes and sizes and that love is conditional, they must see and they must feel that they are beautiful and they are loved. Instead of our young people hearing that one person just can’t do anything or witnessing prejudice and judgment, they must know that the ability to do great things, to uplift humanity, to serve, to prosper, to contribute, to live in harmony with fellow human beings is their potential.
The greatness of humanity, the greatness instilled in every human being, the greatness of serving is to be realized and developed. That is my hope, that is my dream, and that is why I am the MLA for Calgary-Montrose. Thank you, sir.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
This will surprise absolutely none of you, but I was very impressed with some of the items being addressed by the Government as it moves forward with a fresh mandate.
A few items stood out in my mind.
First, I was pleased to see that the Government of Alberta have taken a solid idea from the Federal Government in identifying the following 5 key priorities:
- Ensure Alberta's energy resources are developed in an environmentally sustainable way.
- Increase access to quality health care and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of health care service delivery.
- Promote strong and vibrant communities and reduce crime so Albertans feel safe.
- Enhance value-added activity, increase innovation, and build a skilled workforce to improve the long-run sustainability of Alberta's economy.
- Provide the roads, schools, hospitals and other public infrastructure to meet the needs of a growing economy and population.
We're seeing some serious cohesion between the mandate letters issued to the new members of Executive Council and the 5 priorities outlined above. The continued work on these priority areas means Albertans are going to see some pretty significant improvements in their daily quality of life.
One of the other big standouts in the speech was the specific mention of Fort McMurray on two key files: affordable housing and the twinning of Highway 63. The fact that these two items in one specific region were singled out as part of a speech that traditionally deals in more general terms should be encouraging and goes to show that Fort McMurray's voice is still very much being heard in Edmonton.
The third specific that I find to be in particular favour is the commitment to finalize the Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement with British Columbia. Breaking down inter-jurisdictional trade barriers has been a driving force behind those who have been involved with PNWER, yours truly included. The fact that the TILMA Implementation Act is the flagship bill of this session shows that the Government of Alberta is ready to take action on broadening and strengthening our already formidable economy.
From the gallery I was pleased to see former Livingstone-Macleod MLA David Coutts present for the introduction of this bill. Dave was one of the founding members of PNWER and should be very proud of the tangible results now stemming from the work he and the other PNWER founders started years ago.
While in the gallery, I also noted that the Alberta Liberal caucus seem to give off the aura of a small platoon of walking wounded. They seem totally demoralized and generally unenthused.
As the House moves from yesterday's speech to today's regular proceedings, it seems that they are indeed a directionless ship. Listening to Kevin Taft's retort to the Speech from the Throne confirms that he (and, presumably, his party) have learned nothing from the election.
His speech is in the same dry, lecturing, professor-know-it-all tone Albertans became accustomed to and subsequently rejected. He's complaining about the same things that managed to get his party slaughtered on March 3rd. And, rather than dealing with important issues, his party is choosing to filibuster and waste the Assembly's time by calling for division on two almost wholly procedural motions, losing by a vote of about 50 to 7 each time.
With respect to the opposition, their two-fold dilemma is becoming very clear: Kevin Taft is a lame duck leader living on borrowed time... and there seems to be no one interested in replacing him.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
A BUMPER CROP
I was fortunate enough to be in Edmonton on Wednesday to watch the members of the PC caucus get sworn is as Members of the Legislative Assembly. In his post-ceremonial remarks, Lt. Gov. Norman Kwong referred to the new caucus as a "bumper crop". I couldn't agree more.
I was particularily humbled to see so many first-time MLAs, including a few great friends, get sworn in. The looks on their faces as they took the oath was truly inspiring, I look forward to watching them in action as spring sitting of the Legislature gets under way.
As a brief aside on this item, there was one MLA missing from the swearing-in ceremony. Calgary Lougheed MLA Dave Rodney stayed in Calgary to be with his wife as she prepared to give birth to their first child. A healthy Baby Rodney (I don't yet know his/her name) was born late in the week. Many congratulations from this humble scribe to Dave and Jennifer on their new addition!
SOMETHING ABOUT WINDMILLS AND TILTING...
Speaking of the upcoming session of the Legislature, Daveberta gives us a heads up that Edmonton Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman will be running against incumbent Speaker Ken Kowalski for the right to play referee under the dome.
I seriously had to check if this was a late April Fools post, or if it was for real. Turns out it's the latter.
Based on the rhetoric coming from the pro-opposition forces, it seems as though Ms. Blakeman is doing this to take a stand for women across Alberta. The dismissal of her chances by those of us over on Team Blue is also being spun as a sign that we don't take women seriously.
Au contraire, mes amis.
The reason that I and so many other conservatives pay little attention to Laurie Blakeman isn't because she's a woman. Its because she's highly melodramatic and generally unpleasant.
On the other hand, the notion of Bridget Pastoor running for Deputy Speaker isn't at all ridiculous. Ms. Pastoor is pretty well-liked by those of us on the other side of the aisle. She works hard, is forthright, and doesn't go around wailing into any available camera.
Honey versus vinegar... makes all the difference in the world when doing the people's business.
A FALLEN STAR IN OTTAWA
There are few people in the House of Commons who command respect like York Centre Liberal MP and former hockey great Ken Dryden.
Between his years of experience on the ice and in the boardroom, people know that when Ken Dryden says something, its worth listening to.
Or at least it used to be.
You see instead of getting Mr. Dryden to stand up and actually ask questions or make statements about things that actually matter to Canadians, he has become Stephane Dion's point man on the Chuck Cadman non-scandal.
This is perplexing for a couple of reasons. First, there are a plethora of nauseating attack dogs in the Liberal caucus. Mark Holland or Ruby Dhalla would love to have this file, I'm sure. And yet, for some reason, they gave to one of the few people who had any shreds of credibility left in the Liberal caucus.
The other reason that this is perplexing is that the only reason that the Liberals keep hounding on this non-story is to try and make some gains in British Columbia. And yet they get an MP from several thousand kilometers away to try and make their point. To me, this shows just how weak and inept their strategy AND the BC caucus is.
FINALLY, A WORD ABOUT THE U.S. ECONOMY
I have made little secret that I'm a big fan of Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths. His ability to see the big picture and apply it to circumstances in Alberta is exceptional. Recently, Doug wrote a note on Facebook about the current economic situation in the United States which he has graciously given me permission to share with you:
Sunday, April 6, 2008
"I wouldn’t be getting up at 5 a.m. and going to bed at 2 a.m. if I didn’t believe I would be the better candidate to beat John McCain," Clinton said to a cheering crowd.
My friend rightly asks an important question:
If she's going to bed at 2 a.m. and getting up at 5 a.m., who the hell is answering the phone at 3 a.m.?
Friday, April 4, 2008
The most rampant rumour is that Taylor is getting ready to hang up his spurs as the MLA for Calgary Currie... partly because he's growing tired of elected office, partly to avoid being pressured into taking over the leadership of the Alberta Liberals.
Last night, though, I heard a shocking departure from the aforementioned widespread rumour.
Normally I wouldn't give something like this much creedence, but the person from whom I heard what I am about to share was, aside from Taylor himself, about the most credible source a blogger could ask for.
Apparently, Dave's frustration doesn't stem from being in elected office in general. Rather, it stems from being in the Alberta Liberal Party.
I don't have any details of what specifically irks him about the state of affairs in Alberta's Official Opposition but I'm told that, if the right person were to make the ask, he would consider crossing the floor to join the PC caucus.
I wouldn't have believed it myself if it didn't come from such a reliable and knowledgeable source.
One of the most interesting stories in Alberta politics this season just got a whole lot juicier.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
While you may not be making the playoffs, you do have a team of exciting young players who will certainly be fun to watch next season. For all of your short-term worries, you can take solace in the fact that you are not nearly the worst team in the NHL.
No, that title, the awful and shameful distinction of being the absolute worst team in modern hockey history goes wholly and unequivocally to the Toronto Maple Leafs...
... and MacLean's goes a great job explaining why.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
I say it was only "mostly" motivated because, given an ACTUAL rumour swirling around, we may yet see Hugh MacDonald (or Laurie Blakeman, or any number of the other Liberal MLAs) throw their hat in the ring to lead Alberta's Official Opposition.
This is because the hot word on the street in all kinds of Alberta political circles is that the perceived front-runner for the eventual race, Calgary Currie MLA Dave Taylor, is getting ready to quit.
It seems that when Dave-o signed up as a candidate for the Alberta Liberals in 2004, he figured he was about to embark on a juggernaut that was set to replace the PCs as the governing party in Alberta.
We all know how that story has turned out.
And so, politicos all over the province are hearing that the Member for Calgary Currie is ready to jump off the sinking red ship and swim back to the private sector.
Now I will admit that I'm not totally sure what Dave Taylor will DO in the private sector, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that he'd be happier in just about any position other than Deputy Captain of the Titanic.
Everybody will be on high alert for this development. Potential candidates for the ALP Leadership... potential candidates in the by-election... the Liberal campaign team who will somehow have to try and mount a campaign with almost zero money and no more star MLA... a lot of people will be watching Calgary Currie very closely in the weeks and months ahead, including yours truly.