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Sunday, April 11, 2010

this blog has moved: please update your rss and links.

Five years and two months since this blogger blog was born, I have finally taken the big step of migrating my blog to a new home. As of yesterday afternoon, daveberta will be hosted on on a Wordpress blog. This change has been a long time coming and will be a work in progress over the upcoming weeks.

If you are currently using in your RSS feed, please update to the new RSS feed for this new site. Also, if you are linking to from your blog or website, please update the link to I will no longer be posting on this blogspot blog, so make sure to read for new posts.

A big thanks to Duncan and Adam for their technical expertise and sage advice in helping make this move a reality.

Thank You!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

video: premier ed stelmach at the university of alberta.

Premier Ed Stelmach spoke to an audience of over 300 staff and students at the University of Alberta this afternoon at an event hosted by the Campus Conservative Club. I have seen Premier Stelmach speak on a number of occasions, and though public speaking is not his gift, this afternoon was not his best performance. I have to admit that even as I was video recording the Premier's speech, my mind wandered to other things like, what should I eat for lunch this afternoon?

It was a fairly unremarkable twenty minute speech and Premier Stelmach used most of his time justifying decisions that his party has made in government over the past three years. He did make some interesting comments, including criticizing the Province of Quebec for the amount of transfer payments that they collect and their low university tuition (see the third video). The Premier also made an interesting comment made about "the previous Premier" when referring to former Premier and gameshow host Ralph Klein.

Feel free to watch the videos, and if you are able to get through the entire twenty minutes, let me know what you think.

global edmonton embargoed over budget tweets.

Many Edmontonians who use Twitter might have noticed that Global Edmonton News anchor Lynda Steele recently deleted her Twitter account @lyndasteele. Ms. Steele was an avid and engaged contributor on Twitter and I assumed that her departure was caused by a loss of interest or time management issues. It turns out that her account may have been shut down because of four 'tweets' that were sent between 3:16m and 3:17pm on Tuesday, February 9, 2010 and were related to the provincial budget that was under a media embargo until 3:20pm.

A letter written by Public Affairs Bureau Manager Lee Funke to Global Edmonton explains the repercussions:

A breach of an embargo of any kind is a breach of trust. That is has to do with subject matter that can have market implications makes it all the more serious a matter. The Government of Alberta's budget embargo rules for media are extremely permissive relative to those of the federal government and some other provinces. In exchange for this flexibility, government asks only that media agree to respect the rules of the embargo.

Global Edmonton breached that agreement. In light of the fact that this is the second budget embargo breach in three years by an Alberta media outlet, we must now consider more severe restrictions on the entire media corps for future budgets and simmer events, including a strict lockup where electronic devices are removed.
The media outlets that are given access to the budget documents before they are officially released have agreed to the embargo on reporting information. The budget is one of the most important centre pieces of a government's governing, political, legislative, and communications strategy, so it is no surprise that they would react this way towards Global Edmonton (CBC Calgary found themselves in a similar situation in 2008). Having attended each budget announcement (or the Rotunda scrums afterward) since 2003, it is a big event that government and opposition politicians, business groups, and public interest groups craft many of their main messages around.

The question is: why does this embargo breach need to result in more severe restrictions on the entire media corps? Perhaps our government placing too much importance on the budget embargo, and even the actual budget speech. Do these breaches prove that more restrictions are needed or that perhaps the Public Affairs Bureau and their political master need to examine their role as communicators with less of a focus on 'command and control' and more of an open 21st century attitude.

(For more on the role of the Public Affairs Bureau, read this exert from Kevin Taft's 1997 book Shredding the Public Interest)

col. donald ethell is alberta's new lieutenant governor.

Lieutenant Governor Norman Kwong's replacement is expected to be announced this afternoon in Ottawa:

"CALGARY - Decorated Canadian peacekeeper Col. Donald Ethell will be named Alberta’s Lieutenant Governor this afternoon.

The veteran of 14 international peacekeeping missions, including Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and the Balkans, was leader of Canadian peacekeeping operations from 1987 until 1990. He also served as deputy force commander of multinational forces during the 1990 Persian Gulf War and went on to his final assignment in Yugoslavia before retiring in July 1993.

Col. Ethell was also deployed by the United Nations to provide reconnaissance for the Arias Peace Plan covering five Central America countries. His operational plan for the UN Force in Central America was tabled in the House of Commons.

He’s now familiar to Canadians as a defence analyst on the CBC and other media. Col. Ethell will meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in his Ottawa office where his appointment will be formally announced later today. 
Here is a July 2008 video interview of Col. Ethell used in the promotion of National Peacekeepers Day (h/t Joey Oberhoffner):

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

alberta politics notes 4/07/2010

- David Akin recently sat down with Liberal Senator Tommy Banks for a chat on Senate reform.
- Alberta has held Senate elections in 1989, 1998, and 2004, and is expected to hold a Senate election in the next two years to fill upcoming vacancies. Senator-in-Waiting Link Byfield has declared his intentions to seek the Wildrose Alliance nomination.
- Alberta will be getting five new federal ridings if new legislation is passed in Ottawa.
- The provincial Electoral Boundaries Commission will be starting their second round of public hearings on April 12 in Calgary.
- After originally being lukewarm to the idea of an urban riding for Grande Prairie as proposed in the Boundaries Commission's interim report, City Councillors have decided to support the two existing 'rurban' ridings of Grande Prairie-Smoky and Grande Prairie-Wapiti.
- Alberta Health Services CEO Dr. Stephen Duckett was given failing grades from employees and physicians this week. Friends of Medicare executive director David Eggen told the Edmonton Journal that the survey points to the need for new leadership: "To make a fresh start, I think it's important to make significant changes in senior leadership. This is a back-to-Australia kind of performance indicator."
- Advanced Education Minister Doug Horner caved to the wishes of the University Administrations by allowing them to increase their base tuition rates beyond what is currently allowed under Alberta's tuition policy for six programs. I wrote some background on the Universities quest for tuition hikes in November 2009.
- Premier Ed Stelmach will be speaking at the University of Alberta tomorrow at an event hosted by the campus Conservative club. The same club hosted an event with Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith last month.
- From Capital Notebook, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development paid $33,963 to a company called Borat High Five Consulting Ltd. between April 2008 and October 2009. This gives me a good excuse to post my favourite Borat clip...

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

hot air.

With recent political contribution disclosures showing the PC Party holding ground, maybe the Wildrose Alliance groundswell in Calgary is just a bunch of hot air...

Monday, April 05, 2010

from the earth to the moon.

This weekend some friends and I began watching the mini-series From the Earth to the Moon. The HBO mini-series ran from April to May 1998 and focused on the Apollo program that led to the first Moon landing on July 20, 1969.

Over forty years ago, human beings developed the kind of technology that could carry three men to the Moon. It is mind-boggling to think about change in thinking that it must have taken to develop the kind of technology that could carry a man to the Moon in the 1960s. Watching the mini-series really began to put into perspective how much our society has changed because of the Apollo program. Not only did the Apollo space program beat the Communists to the Moon, but it resulted in a huge number of technological spin-offs that helped push western civilization into a new kind of reality.

Over forty years later on March 30, 2010, CERNs Large Hadron Collider successfully collided beams of protons at the highest energy levels ever seen. While these technological advancements may not be directly (or indirectly linked), it is a perfect example of the leaps that have been made since.

It is likely that within my lifetime, there will be technological changes that could completely redefine how our society functions. In a field close to the hearts and paycheques of Albertans, how would the province of Alberta if a giant technological leap occurred in the field of energy? Would Alberta be prepared for the result of new energy technology that could decrease the world's dependence on oil and natural gas?

What would Alberta look like if this happened in 2010? What would happen to the oilsands and the billions of dollars that have been spent building the infrastructure around them? According to local futurist Kevin Kuchinski, "Alberta's oil belt will be the new rust belt."

In 1905, Alberta's provincial boundaries were defined with railway access in mind. What will our next boundaries be and what will define them?

Saturday, April 03, 2010

stop the calgary-edmonton rivalry habit.

I have been meaning to write about this for a couple of weeks. The Edmonton International Airport recently launched a semi-guerilla marketing campaign to convince Edmontonians and northern Albertans to "Stop the Calgary Habit." The campaign is geared towards stopping travellers from flying on departing flights from the Calgary International Airport (where there are many more connecting flights) and depart from the Edmonton International.

When I first heard about the campaign, I pictured the messaging being conceived by a group of grey-haired baby boomer marketers whose target audience was the +65 year old couple with a time-share in Boca. When it comes to travel, and in general, I do not feel any animosity towards Calgary (or their airport and its free wireless internet), nor do I feel that there is any point to a rivalry between the two cities.

In recent conversations with some friends, the question was raised: "Why would we want to compare ourselves to Calgary?"

A big deal was made in the mid-1990s by political groups like The Edmonton Stickmen and politicians like Mayor Bill Smith about the lack of corporate headquarters in Edmonton and businesses being lost to Calgary. The hockey rivalry does not interest me and now that Premier Ralph Klein has retired to become a gameshow host, the political rivalry feels practically inexistent and pointless. From the amount of cranes in its downtown skyline, it appears that Calgary is continuing its dream of becoming the Toronto of the West. As a proud Edmontonian, I say: "they can have it."

As Calgary charts its own course, Edmonton is charting one that will be shaped by its own unique identity, strengths, and opportunities. Outsiders might be shocked to learn about the vibrant and engaged communities that our city has  (last week's GalaGuru event at the packed Latitude 53 Studio was a great example of these vibrant communities). I used to believe that I would need to move to bigger cities like Vancouver or Toronto (or even Calgary) in order to find a great job and quality of life, but I share the perspective of a growing number of younger city-dwellers who believe that Edmonton is a place to be. There is a new confidence in a younger generation that perhaps was not there when the Edmonton-Calgary rivalry was at its hottest twenty or thirty years ago.

When I fly to other cities, I fly from the Edmonton International Airport, not because of loyalty or rivalry, but because it is the closest. If Calgary International Airport is attracting important international flights and airlines, I say: "good for them. It is good for Calgary, good for Alberta, and good for Edmonton."

Thursday, April 01, 2010

rainbows and unicorns.

It probably would have been more effective if they had kept their up the tongue-in-cheek theme, but before it devolves into a fairly predicable attack ad, this April Fools Day joke from the US Republican Senate Committee is pretty entertaining.

(h/t Huffington Post)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

alberta politics: state of the opposition.

They may have dropped to the fourth largest party in the Legislative Assembly in 2010, but the NDP are the first out of the starting gate to nominate a candidate for the 2012 election. The Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview NDP have scheduled their nomination for May 5, 2010. As far as this blogger knows, local teacher and 2008 Edmonton-Centre candidate Deron Bilous is the only candidate seeking the nomination. The constituency was represented by NDP MLA Ray Martin from 2004 until his narrow defeat to Tory Tony Vandermeer in 2008. Under the interim proposed boundary changes for 2012, the new Edmonton-Clareview constituency would reduce Mr. Vandermeer's 2008 margin of victory down to 101 votes. With recent polls looking quite different than those of 2008, past results could mean very little in two years.

Word has it that a recent shake up in the NDP was not limited to their departing Executive Director. Some recent turnover on the board of executive officers has introduced some fresh blood onto the tiny party's central bureau (since no table officers are listed on the NDP website, it is left to this kind of speculation). While they are reported to have raised $681,000 in 2009, insider sources have told me that slower economic times have contributed to a decline in individual donations in 2010, making staff layoffs likely.

Not too far behind in their search for candidates is the Liberal Party, who I have been told are hoping to nominate candidates in Edmonton-Decore, Edmonton-Glenora, Edmonton-McClung, Edmonton-Mill Woods, and Edmonton-Rutherford by Fall 2010. The Liberals are reported to have raised $768,000 in 2009, but are struggling to even hold their support in the polls, a problem that has some Liberals talking about a palace coup.

The Liberals may also be looking for a candidate to run in an upcoming by-election if rumors that one of two Calgary MLAs run for Mayor this Fall. A growing number of Liberals in Calgary are seriously talking about supporting a Mayoral bid by popular Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr. One Liberal told me that Mr. Hehr "is seriously considering running for Mayor, and is currently arranging lunches with former Bronco heavy weights." A by-election in Calgary-Buffalo would be an ideal opening for a new party with a potential candidate who has extensive experience organizing a winning election in that progressive downtown constituency.

Meanwhile, Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith is taking advantage of not being burdened with the responsibility of holding a seat in the Assembly by delivering campaign style stump speeches across the province. Ms. Smith's party remains strong in the polls and raised nearly $700,000 in 2009 (most since she became leader in October 2009.

Monday, March 29, 2010

alberta politics notes 3/29/2010

- Don Braid has all the latest news on the Highwood PC revolt, including the letter sent by Constituency officials to PC Party President Bill Smith.
- Sometime campaign manager Don Lovett is reporting insider rumours about heightened tension between Liberal Party leader David Swann and his party executive committee. As reported in the Alberta Political Notes 3/09/2010, the tension is nothing new and may create some interesting confrontation at the upcoming Liberal Convention in May 2010.
- According to How'd they Vote, since the beginning of the current session of Parliament on March 3, Alberta MPs Ted Menzies, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Linda Duncan, Mike Lake, and Rob Merrifield are the Alberta MPs who have spoken the most on the floor of the House of Commons. Alberta MPs Brian Storseth, Peter Goldring, and Rob Anders have not spoken a word since the beginning of the current Session.
- Calgary-West MP Rob Anders is the latest Conservative Party convert to the Wildrose Alliance (not to be confused with Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson).
- Via Trish Audette, a new politics magazine has launched in Canada. The first issue features an interview with Danielle Smith and includes a photograph taken by yours truly, which the editors failed to credit under the Creative Commons licensing (#FAIL).

"nearing the precipice of moral insolvency to govern."

I bet there are some people who were wishing this letter would have just been a cruel April Fools joke:

In a blistering, unprecedented letter to Premier Ed Stelmach, a key Progressive Conservative riding association says the party is "nearing the precipice of moral insolvency to govern."

The Highwood riding board charged that the Tory party "is bereft of policy, planning, execution, follow-through and communication to the members of the party, and, most importantly, to the citizens of Alberta."

Without a rebirth of grassroots participation, the letter says, "this party can expect no mercy from the electorate on the election day, which is just two short years away."
Highwood PC MLA George Groeneveld was dropped from cabinet in January 2010 after serving as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development since December 2006. After his departure from cabinet, Mr. Groeneveld told the High River Times:
"I was a little surprised to be removed," he told the Times. "I was hoping for another year. But at the same time I was there three years, which is about par for a minister."
He said he is getting a "little long in the tooth" (a term his wife hates), he said with a laugh, and he thought that may have been a factor as well. The premier might have been trying to bring in new blood.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

foster care fiasco.

For many reasons, so much about politics in Alberta's Legislative Assembly reminds me of the above scene from The West Wing.

I used to believe that the toughest job in the Alberta cabinet was held by Health & Wellness Gene Zwozdesky, but lately I am starting to believe that it is actually held by Children and Youth Services Minister Yvonne Fritz. Following this week's shenanigans and resignation over foster care funding, it is clear that something is not functioning properly in our government.

On Monday morning, NDP leader Rachel Notley held a media conference leaking a public document that outlined changes to foster care funding in the Edmonton region. Ms. Notley claimed that the plan was to cut foster funding, and called on Minister Fritz to rescuing the new funding formula. She did and insisted that she told department officials not to cut support. Paula Simons raised the issue in her Tuesday column: Was Minister Fritz sabotaged? Does the Minister actually have a handle on the decisions being made inside the Minister of Children & Youth Services?

Minister Fritz was appointed to the portfolio in January 2010, replacing Banff-Cochrane MLA Janis Tarchuk, who had not excelled when faced with challenges in that Department.

Yesterday, Premier Ed Stelmach undoubtably breathed new life into the foster care issue by accusing the NDP of playing politics with the issue. While he may have been trying to save face, his point is somewhat well taken. Should Ms. Notley have brought the issue directly to Minister Fritz? Ms. Notley claims that if she had brought the issue directly to the Minister, it would have been buried (not an unjust assumption). At what point does this kind of political gamesmanship become irresponsible? Like so many issues raised in the Assembly, what was really accomplished when they devolve into this kind of weekly round-robin?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

207 days until mayoral vote 2010.

Following Mayor Stephen Mandel's recent announcement that he will be running for a third-term in office, I have a couple of quick thoughts on the October Municipal election:

1) A cake-walk through the park? It is really too early to tell whether Mayor Mandel will face an easy re-election in October. In the non-race for Mayor of 2007, second place challenger Don Koziak earned 25% while only running a semblance of a city-wide campaign. I would not underestimate the electoral potential of an even moderately organized & well-funded outsider/anti-Council candidate, especially if it looks like Mayor Mandel is going to cruise to another victory.

2) Opposition is split. Mayor Mandel enjoys wide-spread support and the opposition he does face appears to be fragmented around varying issues. The people who are furious about the closure of the Edmonton City Centre Airport or annoyed about the funding of the Art Gallery of Alberta are unlikely to vote for the same candidate as the people angry over the Capital Power-Epcor decision. At this point, no champion challenger apparent has emerged with the potential of galvanizing this dissent (watching Season 3 of The Wire has taught me that even two or three reasonable challengers could bleed a Mayor's support and create some interesting results).

3) What issues? There are no shortage of issues that I hope will be the focus of debate in this election (urban sprawl, inner city schools, regional amalgamation, and others that I plan to write about over the next six months), but the one issue that may have the potential to create a major wave is the Katz Group's desire to have the City of Edmonton to fund $400,000,000 for a new downtown arena. The Katz Group has hired long-time PC-insider Peter Elzinga as a lobbyist and launched a political campaign to "Revitalize Downtown" in advance of the election. Mayor Mandel was an early supporter of the downtown arena, but remains publicly coy about his position on the actual Katz Group proposal.

Meanwhile in Calgary, the race to replace retiring Mayor Dave Bronconnier remains eerily quiet. Former PC MLA Jon Lord and food activist Paul Hughes are in the race. Former Ontario NDP MPP George Dadamo entered the race last Summer and has since dropped off the political map. Game show contestant and Alderman Ric McIver is widely expected to join the race and an online campaign to draft Mount Royal University professor Naheed Nenshi is growing.