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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

eastward, ho!

I thought today's announcement by the Harper Governmement to fix House of Commons election dates and limit Senators terms to eight years was interesting.

Like everyone and the kitchen sink, I have some opinions on Senate reform. There is no doubt that it badly needs to be refromed, but I'm just not convinced of the whole Triple-E idea. In my opinion, it lacks imagination and is too simplistic an unimaginative. I much more rather like to see a form of Proportional Representation or Party list based on HOC popular vote by province for Senate elections. I believe this would allow Canadians to keep the type of good people in the Senate who would never run in an election - people like Tommy Banks, Frank Maholvlich, Romeo Dallaire, and Thelma Chalifoux - I think Canadian politics would lose a lot of character if that happened. The last thing Ottawa needs is more politicians (maybe Senate by lottery would be a fun idea...? Senate duty?).

Now, keeping this in mind, I agree that term limits are a small step in the right direction for Canada's Upper House.

Also, I'll be gone eastward for the next week and a half and am looking forward to some time in Ottawa and Toronto. I'll be leaving tomorrow morning and sporatically blogging live and on location in central Canada.

Any suggestions on things I should do in my spare time?

I think I'm going to check out the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Oh yeah, GO OILERS! :-)

marking his territory.

It looks like former Tory Minister Mark Norris will be making an announcement today.

In 2001, Mark Norris was called a “giant-killer” for unseating then-Alberta Liberal leader Nancy MacBeth in Edmonton McClung. In 2004, Norris was “giant-killed” himself by Liberal Mo Elsalhy (sources tell me that Mr. Norris took a week off during the campaign to go on a golfing vacation).

Currently with no seat, Norris faces an uphill battle to prove his legitimacy as a candidate for the Alberta PC leadership.

In March, Norris shocked and confused many political watchers with his comment "Separation if necessary, but not necessarily separation" in regards to Alberta's place in Confederation. While he who wasn't exactly a beacon of political savvy during his time as Minister of Economic Development from 2001 to 2004, Norris was most likely trying to draw attention to himself, as he has no longer has a Ministerial PR budget to throw around.

(Props to the ONE PARTY STATE for the heads-up)

Monday, May 29, 2006

daveberta on x-men: III the last stand.

If you have yet to see X-Men III: The Last Stand and are planning to see it DON'T READ THE REST OF THIS POST...

I'm a fairly huge X-Men fan, having collected about 300ish X-Men related comic books when I was a kid and having watched X-Men and X2 films close to eighty-seven times.

Overall, I enjoyed the film - and there were some really cool parts. The Golden Gate Bridge/Alcatraz Island battle scene was really cool - as was the Xavier/Jean Grey showdown. Colossus was cool, and Iceman taking on Pyro was a great follow up from Pyro's defection to Magneto's Brotherhood of Mutants in X2. Mystique losing her mutant powers was a cool scene. ;-)

Hugh Jackman was still great as Wolverine, and Halle Berry as Storm was actually able to show off her powers more in this film.

As well, I thought Kelsey Grammer as Hank McCoy/Beast was a good casting.

One the things I enjoy the most about the X-Men storylines are the political, ethical, and moral issues. X3's premise that a "cure" could be found for mutants causes a moral dilemma for many of the mutants in the film. As societal outcasts, they would now have the chance to become a normal human - but they would also be abandoning their natural selves to satisfy an intolerant society. What to do? Abandon who you are or prevail in the face of adversity?

Though I did enjoy X-Men III, there are some aspects of the film that bothered me - like the part when nearly all the main characters died. Cyclops dying wasn't even a big deal as it's implied and not even shown. Jean Grey dying played a bit into the Pheonix story, though it largely differed from the comic book storyline, but Professor Xavier's death was a little unexpected.

As well, Magneto losing his powers and then regaining them at the end in the lame "after-credit" sequence left a lot to be desired.

Overall, I blame Brett Ratner, who clearly did a sub-par job in directing compared to X-Men I and X2 which were directed by Bryan Singer. Ratner's directorship was clearly salvaged by the fact that it was an X-Men film, and the X-Men rock.

But, criticisms aside, it was a fun film and I would recommend it be seen far and wide.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

liberal leadership race... boring?

The Federal Liberal leadership race is on. Some people I know are excited.

Me? I've been having a really hard time getting excited about it.

Some of my blog friends have already thrown their support behind the candidates of their choice. Nicole and Bart are going for Gerard Kennedy, c-lo and Jason are going for Michael Ignatieff, and Mr. Cherniak going for Stephane Dion (You can check out other blogger endorsements here).

Having not fully decided who I will be supporting, here are some of my thoughts on some of the "top-tier" candidates...

Stephane Dion, St. Laurent-Cartierville - An intellectual heavyweight. He's smart, a great debater, and would probably be a decent leader. He could easily take on Prime Minister Harper toe-to-toe in the House of Commons.

Michael Ignatieff, Etobicoke-Lakeshore - Unfairly treated in the Federal Election, no academic should be forced to defend their academic writings in 10 second news clips.

Though many people don't seem to have an issue with this (c-lo), I do have trouble thinking that the next Prime Minister-in-waiting has only lived the last 6 months of the past 25 years in Canada. He's untested, has very little political experience, and as far as I can tell hasn't yet to even speak in the House of Commons (care to correct me?).

I would not dare to challenge his intellectual capacity, but I'm still undecided if he could sucessfully lead the Federal Liberals through the next couple years.

Bob Rae - The worst thing that ever happened to Bob Rae happened in 1990 when he became Premier of Ontario. Erase Ontario's Rae-led NDP government from 1990 to 1995 and Rae doesn't look so bad. Extremely intelligent, articulate, and educated, if he weren't unelectable, he probably wouldn't do such a bad job.

Gerard Kennedy - Though I hear he can get a little flakey at times, I think I like what I see in Gerard Kennedy. Born in Manitoba, studied at the U of A, founded the Edmonton Food Bank, ran a major Food Bank in Toronto. It seems like he actually has real-world experience compared to the privileged lives of his competitors. He's young, supposedly bilingual, has experience in government (and is still popular), and isn't connected to the Martin-Chretien divide.

Though I have yet to throw my support behind any candidate, I think I like most what I see in Mr. Kennedy.

I didn't have many thoughts about the other candidates at the moment, but if you'd like to check out their websites, here they are...

Joe Volpe, Ken Dryden, Hedy Fry, Martha Hall Findlay, Maurizio Bevilacqua, Scott Brison, & Carolyn Bennett.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

equalizationation.

Just in case you missed it, check out this great editorial about Equalization from the Edmonton Journal.

(Props to iBrett for the linkage)

Friday, May 26, 2006

raucus at st. thomus.

From Inside Higher Education on May 24th.

A Commencement Turns Ugly
When people cry at graduation, it’s supposed to be the happy kind of tears.

That wasn’t the case Saturday at the University of St. Thomas, when the student speaker at the Saint Paul, Minn., institution’s graduation ceremony used his address to denounce as “selfish” those women who use the birth control pill. St. Thomas has been divided this semester by a debate over whether the Roman Catholic institution was correct to ban unmarried employees traveling together with students from sharing a room, so issues of sexual morality have been front and center at the institution. The student speaker also denounced as selfish those unmarried couples covered by the policy who had wanted to share a room with a partner.

Students and family members were shocked by the speech — and some left their own graduation in tears. Others booed or shouted. Still others are angry that the university administrator who followed the student speaker appeared to many to endorse his views. Read the rest here...
The best part about it is that the entire speech was captured on video and posted on YouTube. You can check it out here...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

rona ambrose's minivan adventure.

I got a new MacBook laptop yesterday and I am very very pleased with my purchase.

One of the many fun features of the MacBook is the cool camera at the top of the screen... hence my vainess being exposed through the ten minute self-photo session in my office... the only picture not being deleted ending up in this post.

It's also really light - so it will be great to bring around when I'm in Ottawa and Toronto next week. Oh yeah, btw, I'm going to Ottawa and Toronto next week...

I was invited to Environment Minister Rona Ambrose's Clean Air Day Celebration of Love in the Rain today. As you can imagine, it was pouring rain the entire time. Ambrose rode up in the train to Health Sciences Station and sped through a ribbon. I'm still not sure what the event was even for... maybe they were offering tax credits or something useless like that...

There were lots of RCMP everywhere. Ambrose jumped off the LRT, scrumed for 2 minutes, and then was swept off in a MiniVan to the Jubilee Auditorium as to not be lowered to the level of having to walk through the 100 or so environmental activists who gathered outside the station.

The most ironic part is that the Jubilee Auditorium was only a block away. Yes, Canada's Environment Minister needed a MiniVan to travel one city block on Clear Air Day... uh huh...

UPDATE: The Edmonton Journal covered Ambrose's minivan adventure... Fleeing Minister Takes Van over LRT.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

citizen's unite!

For those of you keeping score, Ontario recently launched its Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reform (which I imagine is similar to the British Columbia Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reform).

Ontario's Citizen's Assembly is made up of 103 randomly-selected Ontarians. In order for the Assembly properly reflect Ontarian society, 51 of the members of the Assembly will be men, and 52 will be women, as well as at least one member will be Aboriginal.

Members of the Assembly are randomly selected by Elections Ontario and every registered Ontario voter was eligible to chosen (with the exception of elected officials).

Beginning in September 2006, members of the Assembly will meet about twice a month for eight months with public meetings to be held across Ontario. Following these public meetings, the Assembly will recommend either keeping the same out-of-date first-past-the-post electoral system, or recommend that a new one be put forward to a referendum

Together, they’ll examine our current electoral system and learn about other systems. They’ll meet with people at public meetings to be held across the province. And then, depending on what they learn and hear, they’ll recommend either keeping our current electoral system or adopting a new one following approval through a province-wide referendum. The final report of the Assembly is due by May 15, 2007.

Wouldn't a Citizen's Assembly be a great idea for the Province of Alberta?

It's something the Alberta Liberals have been pushing for and it would be even better if a Tory leadership candidate got behind the idea.

Imagine that, TRUE CITIZEN INVOLVEMENT IN ALBERTA POLITICS. Wow.

It's tough to imagine.

elections nerd alert.

For those of you who find yourselves as election-nerd induced as myself - I've found some interesting links about Nova Scotia's provincial election on June 13...

Here you go...

Party Leaders
Rodney MacDonald - Nova Scotia Progressive Conservatives
Darrell Dexter - Nova Scotia New Democrats
Francis Mackenzie - Nova Scotia Liberals
Nick Wright - Nova Scotia Greens

Results of the August 11, 2003 Election
PC - 25 (36.33%)
NDP - 15 (31.01%)
Liberal - 12 (31.44%)
Other - 0 (1.22%)

Legislature at disolution
PC - 25
NDP - 15
Liberal - 10
Independent - 1
Vacant - 1

Election Links
- Nova Scotia Election Blog
- CBC Nova Scotia Votes 2006
- CBC Nova Scotia Votes 2003
- NS Elections Constituency Maps
- Interactive MLA Profiles
- Halifax Chronicle Herald

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

the mob wanted harlem back. they got taft...up to here.

Last Wednesday, I was a guest at Alberta Liberal leader Kevin Taft's annual Leader's Dinner Fundraiser. It was a great event with over 300 people attending.

There was lots of energy in the room that night as supporters, former and present MLA's, municipal politicians, and even a number of Lougheed-era Cabinet Ministers chatted and socialized while the Oilers/Sharks game 6 played on the two big screens in the room.

Also, Taft gave one of the best speeches I've ever heard him give.

Klein's exit hands Libs rare opportunity
Their 'Alberta Horizons' campaign steals the march on Tory leadership hopefuls
Graham Thomson, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The sun is hot, the beer is cold, the Oilers are very much in the playoffs. Can springtime in Edmonton get any better than this?
Considering how far we are into the post-season, our boys of winter are becoming our boys of summer.

Consequently, my usual skepticism has disappeared faster than the Calgary Flames. I am finding it difficult to muster the usual grumpiness necessary to write a political column. My high horse is riderless. I am out of a snit.

There is a sense of optimism in the barbecue-scented air. Come to think of it, that sense of anticipation is everywhere, and it doesn't just have to do with the Oilers.

It even permeates Alberta politics. Read the rest here...

Monday, May 22, 2006

edmonton strathcona, please?

I really wasn't sure how I felt about this a couple of weeks ago, but as nic said, this takes guts...

"Gerard Kennedy, one of eight Toronto-based candidates for the Liberal leadership, says he's willing to consider seeking a federal seat in western Canada. "I'm not closed-minded to that at all," the former Ontario education minister said in an interview."

While running in the West would be risky, Kennedy cast himself as a risk taker. He is the only one of the 11 candidates who actually had to give up his current job to run for the leadership, a sacrifice he called "a pretty modest thing to do."

"This is what I'm advocating as a sort of attitude for the party and the country. We need to be enterprising . . . and you don't get anything good to happen unless you take some risks." Read the rest here...
Coming soon, my thoughts on the Federal Liberal leadership race...

what do we do now?

Last night, Robert Redford was on Larry King Live speaking about America's oil addiction. One of the groups involved in exposing America's oil addiction, the Centre for American Progress (which is also connected to the CampusProgress group), has launched a new website called kicktheoilhabit.org, which includes a video from their campaigns.

Last night I watched one of my favorite movies - The Candidate - which stars Redford as Bill McKay, a young legal aid lawyer and activist running as the Democratic candidate for the US Senate in California versus the old guard Republican and 16-year incumbent Crocker Jarmon.

Wikipedia explains the theme the best...

The film highlights many criticisms of modern day American politics, such as the importance of money and the emphasis on the image of political candidates. In particular, the degeneration of McKay from an idealistic public-interest lawyer working for unpopular and then-little-known causes (the young environmentalist movement, civil rights for Latinos, integration through busing) and strong opinions on all issues into a construct of his campaign, dominated by idiotic little slogans (most notably "Bill McKay: the better way") and a road-weary nervous wreck, to boot.
It's a great political film. I would recommend that all political hacks take a look at it.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Friday, May 19, 2006

harper should chill out.

From CTV:

Harper may snub annual press gallery dinner

Updated Thu. May. 18 2006 11:33 PM ET
David Akin, CTV News

Ottawa -- The prime minister may snub the annual Parliamentary Press Gallery dinner this fall, a move he's considering in order to register his displeasure with an ongoing disagreement his office has with Parliament Hill journalists over the way his press conferences ought to be conducted.

CTV News has learned that Stephen Harper plans to tell his caucus at a future meeting that he will not attend the dinner, to be held Nov. 25 at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Que.

He will not insist that other caucus members boycott the Press Gallery dinner but many Conservative MPs and nearly all cabinet ministers are expected not to attend the dinner to show solidarity with their boss. Read le rest ici...

They must have removed his emotion chip when he moved into 24 Sussex...

(Props to nic for the newslink)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

would-be [still] wanna-be

**UPDATE (October 11, 2006) - Check out the entire list of MLA endorsements for the Alberta PC leadership race.**

As a follow up from my post "would-be wanna-be" from last June, here is an updated list of Alberta's PC leadership candidates with the usual remarks and side comments. I perfectly admit that it's a little early to predict much of what I do, but that's what blogs are for...

THE LIST.

Alana DeLong, MLA Calgary Bow (AKA Alana DeLongshot) – First elected in 2001, DeLong’s political career hasn’t progressed much further than nameless backbencher status.

Chances: None.
Backers: ???

Jim Dinning – (AKA Paul Martin). Alberta’s Treasurer and author of the dark day budgets from 1992 to 1997, Dinning has been bidding his time in the dark depths of corporate Calgary since leaving politics in 1997. He wants the job bad, but since launching his website a year ago, he hasn’t come up with any sort of substantive policy proposal or position, keeping himself on the extremely underwhelming side of the ideas spectrum. He’s the front-runner in this race, but only because he’s been running for PC leader for the past ten years. Interestingly, Dinning was the only Tory MLA to endorse Nancy Betkowski in the first round of the 1992 PC leadership race.

Chances: He’s the only candidate I can see winning on the first ballot. If it moves to a second ballot, look for strong “anybody-but-Dinning” opposition.
Backers: Brent Shervey, Rod Love, Walter Paszkowski, Tom Snell, Gord Rosko, Tim Boston, etc.
Dave Hancock, MLA Edmonton Whitemud – Now a Tory backbencher, Hancock was Alberta’s Advanced Education Minister until he resigned earlier this year to focus his energy of the Alberta PC leadership race. His Red Tory Edmonton roots place him in a vulnerable position within the race. Look for Hancock to drop off the first ballot and throw his support behind another candidate – potentially crowning him the “kingmaker.”

Chances: Slim. Probably close to the best Tory Premier Alberta will never have.
Backers: Ron Dunseith, Ken Chapman, Karen Lynch, Allie Wojtaszek, etc.

Ted Morton, MLA Foothills-Rockyview – Morton is the darkhorse of this leadership race. Not terribly charismatic, he benefits the most from Preston Manning’s decision to stay out the race. Expect him to draw out the “hard-line right-wing, old white guy from Gophercrotch, Alberta with an unregistered semi-automatic rifle who usually: a) votes Social Credit Party, b) votes Christian Heritage Party, c) votes Alberta Alliance, d) votes Alberta Separation Party, e) doesn’t believe in voting because of the NEP.

Chances: Not as slim as people think.
Backers: The hard-line right-wing, old white guy from Gophercrotch, Alberta with an unregistered semi-automatic rifle who usually: a) votes Social Credit Party, b) votes Christian Heritage Party, c) votes Alberta Alliance, d) votes Alberta Separation Party, e) doesn’t believe in voting because of the NEP.

Mark Norris – The only Minister to be defeated in the 2001 election, Mark Norris has surprised many with his impressive list of committed campaign contributors. Having set up his Grassroots Leadership Group consulting firm as a front for his leadership campaign, Norris surprised everyone when he came out in favour of Alberta’s separation from Canada. Norris is close with Klein and was his Edmonton Campaign Chairman in the 1992 PC leadership race.

Chances: Seeing as how he has no seat and was the only Minister to be defeated in the last election, I don’t see how Norris can claim to pose any threat to the Tory throne. Slim to none.
Backers: Tim Shipton, Doug Horner, Mike Nickel, etc...

Lyle Oberg, MLA Strathmore-Brooks – Now an Independent MLA, Oberg was unceremoniously sacked from the Tory Caucus in April after threatening to expose the skeletons in Ralph Klein’s closet. Since then, this overly arrogant MLA has found a new office in the former Legislature smoking room and now walks alone to question period (even Paul Hinman doesn’t walks alone to question period…).

Chances: Slim. He’s running to lead a caucus that kicked him out of their ranks.
Supporters: In flux. Previous to him being ejected from the Tory caucus, his supporters included former Tory MLA’s Jon Havelock, Lorne Taylor, Brent Rathegeber, and former Liberal MLA Peter Sekulic.

Ed Stelmach, MLA Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville – Former Intergovernmental Affairs Minister, Stelmach resigned from cabinet earlier this year in order to dedicate more time to running for PC leader. Quiet, Stelmach style blends easily into the background of the Alberta political scene, but may surprise people when the leadership selection is held. Stelmach is setting himself up as a alternative candidate for the “anybody-but-Dinning” front. He has rural roots and isn’t as offensive on the ideological front as Morton. Look for him to place strong.

Chances: He will be easy to underestimate, but look him to place a strong second place finish on the first ballot.
Backers: Ken Kowalski, John Baldry, etc.

Thoughts?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

manning manning manning manning...

Is he in? We may just find out today... "Manning to announce today if he plans to seek PC leadership"

Next:

From Legislation and Public Debate to Regulations and Closed-Door Cabinet meetings: Democracy, Alberta Style.

UPDATE: Not surprisingly, Mr. Preston Manning is sitting this one out...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

yesterday.

My yesterday:

9:00am: Meeting with Dr. Raj Pannu.
11:15am: Took part in a press conference at the Alberta Legislature opposing Bill 40 and the de-legislation of Alberta's Post-Secondary tuition policy with Dr. Pannu, Dave Taylor, Bill Moore-Kilgannon from Public Interest Alberta, and ACTISEC.
1:00pm: Media Scrum at the Alberta Legislature.
1:30pm: Nearly escorted out of the Legislature by Legislature Security for doing a media scrum in front of the Premier's Office.
4:00pm: Met with Advanced Education Minister Denis Herard.

I wish everyday could be this busy!

whilst they sleep gently among the treelines.

From Duncan's Blog:

"I’m not going to defend the indefensible. The Bush administration has an obligation to level with the American people... I don’t think the way they’ve handled this can be defended by reasonable people."

Newt Gingrich on the Bush Adminstration's phone call database.
Way to call a spade a spade, Newt!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

workers, women, & youth.

Busy weekend. I was at a partnerships dinner last night at Ric's Grill Downtown.

Some interesting people at the dinner. Tory leadership candidate Ed Stelmach, Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Rick Miller, Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA Bharat Agnihotri, Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Raj Pannu, and Insight into Government editor Mark Lisac were among some.

Also, the steak was great.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

democracy is...

This is where I'll be tomorrow...

A More Democratic Alberta: How do we get there?

May 12th, 2006
University of Alberta, Tory Building

On May 12, 2006, the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights will be hosting a symposium entitled, “A More Democratic Alberta: How Do We Get There?” at the University of Alberta. This symposium is a dynamic community project which we are spearheading in partnership with: the University of Alberta; Public Interest Alberta; the Parkland Institute; YWCA Edmonton's One Woman One Vote initiative; Fair Vote Alberta; and, Equal Voice Alberta North.

The symposium will focus on democratic renewal, with an emphasis on Alberta. This issue has become a topic of ongoing debate over recent years, and the symposium aims to stimulate debate and discussion on reforming our political institutions as well as enhancing the participation and understanding of our citizens in democratic processes. Other key themes will include the enhancement of the responsibilities of elected officials, as well as addressing new ways of voting.

The symposium will provide an opportunity for interested Albertans and organizations to share and expand their understanding of the democratic deficit and devise key strategies for moving ahead. Within Alberta, there is currently no vehicle in place to bring interested stakeholders and citizens together to advance a deepening of democracy. The symposium will act as a ‘springboard’ for discussions and collaboration and stimulate future action in Alberta.
You can check out more about the conference on the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights website.

calgary buffalo fight.

Alberta politics are shaping up to be pretty interesting these days. With things moving along in the Alberta PC leadership race, the Alberta Liberals have been taking advantage of the Tories inward preoccupations by nominating candidates across Alberta over the past six months.

With all their incumbent MLA's now nominated, there are some interesting nomination races shaping up around the province.

Kent Hehr and Keith Purdy have both declared their intention to seek the Alberta Liberal nomination to run for election in Calgary Buffalo in the next Alberta Provincial Election.

Kent Hehr is a 35 year-old quadriplegic lawyer with Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP. Hehr is also the President of the Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta) and Chairman of the City of Calgary Advisory Committee on Accessibility.

Keith Purdy is a Calgary-based same-sex rights advocate. Interestingly, Purdy ran for the Alberta NDP in the 2001 Provincial Election in Calgary Mountain View, and the Federal NDP in Calgary South Centre in 2004. Does Purdy's move to the Alberta Liberals signal a shift of New Democrat support to the Liberals in Alberta?

Here are the 2004 Provincial Election results from Calgary Buffalo:

Harvey Cenaiko, PC - 3,365 (43.5%)
Terry Taylor, AbLib - 2,815 (36.4%)
Grant Neufeld, Grn - 670 (8.7%)
Cliff Hesby, NDP - 457 (5.9%)
Nadine Hunka, AA - 294 (3.8%)
Elizabeth K. Fielding, SC - 73 (0.9%)
Carl Schwartz, AP - 56 (0.7%)
Voter Turnout - 7,730 (31.5%)
Calgary Buffalo has been represented by Solicitor General Harvey Cenaiko since 2001 and was previously represented by Alberta Liberal MLA's Sheldon Chumir (1986-1992) and Gary Dickson (1992-2001).

As usual, it should be a close race come next election.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

alberta, where the lobbyists roam.

Rod Love, former Chief of Staff to Tory Premier Ralph Klein is currently sharing the centre of some controversy with well-known scandal prone former-Tory Staffer Kelley Charlebois, who were both the focus of debate in the Alberta Legislature yesterday following the Calgary Herald's release of documents regarding payment Misters Love and Charlebois received from the Calgary Health Region.

The best part of the debate was when Klein claimed to Alberta Liberal leader Kevin Taft that he didn't know Love was deeply involved in Jim Dinning's PC Leadership campaign. Given that Klein and Love have been close friends since Klein's first Calgary Mayoral campaign in 1980, I find that quite hard to believe.

Was Premier Klein blowing smoke? Read the debate and decide for yourself...

Rod Love Consulting Inc.

Dr. Taft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Premier’s former chief of staff Rod Love seems to make his living selling access to the Premier’s office. FOIPed documents show that Love has moved freely from government contract to government contract, providing inside information through high-priced verbal advice. It’s a moneymaking scheme at the taxpayers’ expense. To the Premier: will the Premier admit that Rod Love is doing little more in these contracts than selling inside access to the Premier’s office?

Mr. Klein: Mr. Speaker, first of all, to set the record straight – straight, absolutely straight – Rod Love hasn’t had access to my office, and he doesn’t use his consulting business to gain access to my office. He was my chief of staff, yes, absolutely. But his contracts with various government departments or health authorities are entirely up to the ministries or the health authority involved. It has absolutely nothing to do with my office. It has had nothing to do with my office.

The Speaker: The hon. leader.

Dr. Taft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Again to the Premier: does the Premier recognize that Rod Love is peddling inside information obtained while serving as the Premier’s chief of staff?

Mr. Klein: I have no idea what information he is providing to the various ministries or authorities, whether it’s information he gained while in my office, which is very little, by the way – usually the opposition tells me what’s going on – or whether he’s providing other information. I have no idea, nor do I make it my business.

The Speaker: The hon. leader.

Dr. Taft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Can the Premier assure this House that Rod Love is not sharing confidential government information with clients, such as PC leadership candidate Jim Dinning?

Mr. Klein: Mr. Speaker, I have no idea. I didn’t even know that he was working for Jim Dinning. [ interjection] I didn’t. They can moan and groan all they want. Relative to the leadership campaign my policy is hands off, and I don’t give a tinker’s hoot who he works for.
Here's the second part of the debate surrounding Charlebois' involvement with the Calgary Health Authority...
Lobbyist Registry

Dr. Taft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. High-paid contracts to people like Rod Love and Kelley Charlebois are merely symptoms of a much deeper problem. This government’s sense of entitlement is so pervasive that it’s no longer capable of even identifying a conflict of interest: the Premier is fielding job offers while in office; a Tory Party VP sits on the government’s Internal Audit Committee; chairs of government committees use their positions to sell PC Party memberships; ex-MLAs get plum appointments. It goes on and on.

To the Premier: why does the Premier insist that Albertans don’t have a right to know who’s lobbying this government by his refusal to create a lobbyist registry?

Mr. Klein: Mr. Speaker, to set the record straight: again, I have no problems – I have no problems – with a lobbyist registry. I have said that for every upside there is a downside, and I want to make sure that when the Legislature considers a lobbyist registry, they consider the downside and they clearly identify those who are lobbyists and those who are not lobbyists. Now, I’ve raised the question: if a person who represents a school board or a university or a municipality is asking the government for money, are they lobbyists? I want to make sure that I know that the rules are clear.

The Speaker: The hon. leader.

Dr. Taft: Thank you. Again to the Premier: given that the Premier’s former chief of staff Rod Love signed on to a juicy contract with the Calgary health region very shortly after leaving his position with the Premier’s office, will the Premier commit to extending the legislative Conflicts of Interest Act to senior public officials?

Mr. Klein: I don’t know if I have the power to do that. I understand that a report on conflict of interest guidelines by the all- party committee that examined this issue will be coming to the Legislature, and I suspect that it will be fully debated in these Chambers.

The Speaker: The hon. leader.

Dr. Taft: Thank you. Again to the Premier: given that the federal Conservatives are proposing a five-year cooling-off period for ministers, will the Premier commit to extending the mandatory cooling-off period to a minimum of one year for Alberta’s cabinet
ministers?

Mr. Klein: Mr. Speaker, I have told the hon. Leader of the Official Opposition that I don’t give a tinker’s hoot whether it’s 10 or 15 or 20 or 30 years. I’m leaving. I’ve said that all I want is to have time to do what I want to do and time to golf and fish. Big deal.
Tinker's hoot, eh?

bill 40.

Advanced Education Minister Denis Herard introduced Bill 40 on Monday. This Bill removes the 30% cap on post-secondary tuition from legislation.

Yesterday, Herard announced that the Tory government would introduce a new tuition policy into regulation that would tie tuition to inflation.

This is dangerous and irresponsible for a number of reasons. Mainly, once de-legislated and placed in regulation, the tuition policy can be changed at whim behind closed door Cabinet meetings, rather than facing debate and public scrutiny by the Alberta Legislature, the media, and the public. With a new Tory Premier on the horizon, it is very possible that this if put into regulation, this policy could again be changed in the next several months.

From the Edmonton Journal:

Bill 40 gives the cabinet the power to make any future decisions on tuition rather than having these decisions made by all members of the legislature.

"This is a terrible development not only for students, but for families and all Albertans," said Samantha Power, president of the University of Alberta Students' Union.

"The government calls this 'enabling legislation' for a new tuition policy, but the reality is that it enables them to tinker with the tuition policy at the cabinet table without opposition scrutiny and without public debate."

Herard defended the decision to allow cabinet to make future decisions on tuition. The policy will give the government the flexibility to adjust the tuition policy as needed. He also said students will be consulted on any tuition policy changes that the cabinet makes in coming years, starting with the policy he plans to announce later this month.

The opposition maintains Albertans can't trust decisions made behind closed cabinet doors.

"The Tory government is asking students to trust the Conservative government by allowing the tuition fee policy to be put into regulations," said Raj Pannu, the NDP advanced education critic.

"This odious bill gives the Tory cabinet a free hand."

Liberal education critic Dave Taylor said Bill 40 opens the door to a wide range of abuses.
This fight is earily similar to the one that took place three years ago during the Bill 43 (Post-Secondary Learning Act) debate - a fight that forced the Tory government to back down in their attempt to de-legislate Alberta post-secondary tuition.

Monday, May 08, 2006

neighbourhood interests.

This afternoon, I went to the University of Alberta's launch of the Institute for United States Policy Studies. The launch included a well-attended panel discussion, titled Sharing a Continent. The panel included Naim Ahmed, United States Consul-General in Calgary, Amira de la Garza, Acting Director of the North America Center for Transborder Studies at Arizona State University, Michael Hawes, Executive Director of the Canada-U.S. Fulbright Program, and Jeffrey Simpson, the National Affairs Columnist at The Globe & Mail.

Some of the notable attendees I noticed included former Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, U of A Political Science Professor Linda Trimble, Alberta Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Gary Mar, and U of A President Emeritus Rod Fraser, and what looked like nearly the entire U of A Political Science department...

It was really an interesting panel discussions. Though I've seen him speak a number of times, and had a nice little chat with him at the Public Interest Alberta PSE conference a couple months back, I thought Jeffrey Simpson was more articulate that I have seen him before - in his thoughts about border issues and US-Canada relations.

As well, I was very interested to hear what Michael Hawes had to say, as he sounded like he had a wealth of information he wanted to speak to (though he only had 10-12 minutes to get it all out).

Overall, it was an interesting event and I'm glad I went.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

abstractism on the beat...

Like most of my recent addictions, I think it's safe to blame mr. face for this one.

For those of you who haven't seen these clips from the MTV2 show Wonder Showzen, they're awesome.

The clips are called "Beat Kids" and they make me laugh...

Beat Kids on Wall Street
Beat Kids and Little Hitler
Beat Kids at the Vet
Beat Kids at a Beauty Pagent
Beat Kids at Horse Apple

HIGH FIVE!

Enjoy.

Friday, May 05, 2006

more substance please.

Well, I AM back in Edmonton and slightly busier I usually (so the blog posting action may be a frugal over the next while). I started my new job this week and am enjoying every moment of it. Plus, it's a really nice day outside.

It was interesting to see what the first Budget of the new Conservative Government had in it for Post-Secondary Education.

Though it’s nice to see this government at least talking a bit about PSE issues, I really hope it doesn’t turn in to the same situation which came about with the previous Liberal government (a main course of talk with a side-order of piece-meal change – with the exception being the creation of the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation in 1998, who’s mandate comes up for renewal in 2008 and should cause an interesting amount of debate on student finance issues).

Last week's budget did have some PSE related changes in it, but I can’t see these changes having a large effect on the majority of Canadian students.

- Tax credits for textbooks. Canadians attending university or college can claim an annual $500 tax credit on textbook costs, which translates into a benefit of about $80 a year for a typical full-time student. Though it sounds nice, this doesn’t address the reality that because most students already have enough education credits to cover their limited incomes, these new credits won’t make buying textbooks or any other educational expense easier. Not to mention that if it did, students still have to wait until the following year to receive their miniscule $80 rebate.

- Increasing access to student debt. More people will be eligible for Canada Student Loans because of a reduction in the amount parents are expected to contribute toward the cost of post-secondary education, effective August 2007. This is a shortsighted move which doesn't address the long-term problems caused by students graduating with large amounts of debt. Increasing students' access to loans, and henceforth, debt, doesn't even begin to address the problems facing the student finance system.

-100% Scholarship and Bursary exemption. All scholarship, fellowship and bursary money will now be income-tax exempt, compared to the current exemption limit of $3,000 a year. This tax exemption for all scholarship and bursary money from taxation is negated by that fact that the first $3,000 in scholarship and bursary money is already tax-free, and few students will receive even that much. Even if they did, their other tax credits would likely cover it. This measure will only make a difference for a few super-elite scholarship recipients, and thus cannot be said to be of any benefit to the average student.

Here are some suggestions on what the Tories could add to the budget to make it more effective and positive for Canadian students:

- Create more scholarships and bursaries, which would reduce students reliance on loans, and hence, the creation of large amounts of student debt, instead of raising the amount students borrow for their education.

- Implement the Council of the Federation’s request for an immediate $2.2-4.9 billion injection for post-secondary education.

So, overall, the PSE portion of the budget seems to be a victim of the band-aid reaction of trying to fix things by using the tax system instead of actually facing and dealing with the issue head-on.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

get back, get back to where you once belonged!

After a week just outside of the wonderful town of Rocky Mountain House, I'm officially back in Edmonton - woot!

More posts soon.