Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Does the struggle between supporters of Donna Kennedy-Glans and Rob Anders remind anyone else of the "mods" and "cons" in the Kansas Republican Party from Thomas Frank's book What's the Matter with Kansas?
And does this have anything to do with the homeless problem (h/t CalgaryGrit).
Monday, March 30, 2009
...the fight involves a group of six ranchers calling itself "the Big Loop Group" and includes two oilmen who happen to have active ranches in the region fighting energy giant Petro-Canada. The twist to all this is that Curtis Bartlett and Bruce Chernoff have dealt with similar issues as stewards of oil and gas companies over the years, but in this case have switched hats and are looking at the issues from an environmental perspective.See: Petrocant.ca
(h/t Kevin Grandia)
Posted by daveberta at 11:04 PM
“We need your help to keep the ALP office operating at a reasonable level, and ready to serve Albertans.”Over a year after the last election, the Alberta Liberals are struggling to pay their bills. It’s hard to understand why a political organization that earned 251,158 votes in the last election would have such a hard time paying off their 8-year debt, now sitting at around $400,000. The once $1 million debt-load was largely the product of the 2001 election campaign under former leader Nancy MacBeth. The Liberals went from 16 to 7 seats in that election, including a loss by MacBeth in Edmonton-McClung.
Two leaders and four years later, Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft led the Liberals to reclaim a majority of seats in Edmonton and gain a three-seat beachhead in Calgary. While PC leader Ralph Klein was unceremoniously shown the door in 2006, the Liberals had high hopes. Ed Stelmach was selected as PC leader, and the Liberals raised $1 million in 2007 and won the by-election in Klein’s abandoned Calgary-Elbow constituency. As the 2008 election approached, most people predicted the PCs would be re-elected, but with a reduced majority government.
On March 3, 2008, the PCs got their vote out, and everyone else stayed home. Well, that’s not really what happened, but it's almost true. The PCs surged from 63 to 72 seats, unseating Liberals, New Democrats, and Wildrosers across Alberta, but voter turnout dropped to record low levels. With only around 90% of Albertans registered to vote, the pathetic turnout likely sat under 40% of eligible voters (including 22 out of 83 ridings which had less than 40% turnout).
While the Liberals dropped to 9 MLAs in 2008 by losing seats in Edmonton and facing decreasing support in rural Alberta, they did manage to increase their seat and vote total in Calgary by electing two new MLAs. The election of Kent Hehr in Calgary-Buffalo and Darshan Kang in Calgary-McCall shifted the power base in the Liberal caucus to southern Alberta for the first time in recent memory (five MLAs from Calgary, three from Edmonton, and one from Lethbridge). In the contest to replace Taft, two Calgary MLAs quickly became frontrunners.
In December 2008, Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann won a first-ballot victory against fellow Calgary MLA Dave Taylor and former Edmonton MLA Mo Elsalhy to become the first Liberal leader from Calgary since Nick Taylor campaigned in that city during the 1970s (Nick Taylor was eventually elected MLA in the Westlock-Sturgeon and Redwater ridings north of Edmonton from 1986 to 1996).
Following his victory, Swann appointed Elsalhy to lead a committee tasked with proposing recommendations to renew the Liberal Party. Joining Elsalhy on the committee are Norma Block of Drayton Valley, Barry Cavanaugh and Stephanie Laskoski of Edmonton, Jade Boldt and Peter Willott of Calgary, and Zack Moline of Lethbridge. The committee has launched a website to jump start some discussion, and in a recent email, Elsalhy announced the launch of a survey for ALP members and non-members asking what Alberta’s Liberal Party can do to renew itself. At the Legislature, Swann has brought in former MLA Rick Miller as Chief of Staff, and Calgary Federal Liberal organizer Neil Mackie as Communications Director.
Can the Alberta Liberals renew by creating momentum, attracting new members, and paying down their financial debt? What will it take for the Swann Liberals to attract new strong candidates, as well as re-attracting the many former Liberal MLAs who have moved on to other levels of government (Edmonton City Councillors Linda Sloan, Karen Leibovici, and Ed Gibbons come to mind).
The Alberta Liberals are in a rough spot, financially and organizationally, and though it may be easy to criticize Swann’s choice to focus on open consultations rather than implement a pre-made strategy, consultation and dialogue are his style. At this point in the game, the Liberals have very little to lose, so my recommendations to them are to be bold, challenge their status quo, and turn things on their head, because if the current fundraising trends continue, the Alberta Liberal Party may not be in the position to do so after the next election.
Infrastructure Minister Jack Hayden may have convinced the AAMDC to vote down an a resolution opposing Bill 19 at their recent convention, but whatever influence Hayden has over rural Reeves and Mayors (Hayden is the former Director of the AAMDC and Reeve of Stettler County), it's not stopping a group of rural landowners in central Alberta in their steadfast opposition to Hayden's Land Assembly Project Area Act.
One councillor, Anthony Heinrich, does not feel this is the best course of action. He was disappointed that council would not be voicing the concerns of the ratepayers directly while seeking support from other municipalities and counties in the area, something that has been done in the past.A group of landowners, including Green Party leader Joe Anglin, are continuing to host information sessions and public town hall meetings across central Alberta to raise awareness and opposition to Bill 19. The United Power Transmission Area Groups will be hosting two more town hall meetings in Innisfail and Crossfield on April 6 & 7:
Heinrich says he is disappointed in the way the MLAs are dealing with this issue. At a meeting in Warburg March 10 with the Warburg Pembina Surface Rights group three MLAs; Evan Berger, Diana McQueen and Ray Prins listened to the concerns of those present. Heinrich says he thought the constituents were being listened to, but, after reading some of the comments made by McQueen in a previous article in The Western Review, felt that perhaps this is untrue.
He says it is possible MLAs are speaking truthfully when they give their word that no Alberta resident will be taken advantage of using this bill. However, he is concerned that these MLAs may not hold the positions that they currently do when an issue arises.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Just as the Government of Alberta launched a $25 million national and international rebranding campaign to counter critics of current oil sands development practices, the latest Nanos Poll suggests that many Canadians, including here in the West, still have mixed feelings about our oil sands reputation.
Here are the national results and regional breakdown:
Do you believe that oil sands development has a positive, neutral or negative impact on Canada's reputation abroad?
The mainstream media has taken quite a beating over the past year, and while it's really easy to focus on the negative (especially when people are losing their jobs), it's important to recognize some of the great journalists and newspapers that are continuing to report, write, and publish print news in our communities.
Earlier this month, the Canadian Community Newspapers Association announced the winners of their annual awards. Congrats to the Alberta award winners, which included the Wainwright Star Chronicle, Elk Point Review, Jasper Booster (which has since shut down), Vaxhaull Advance, MacLeod Gazette, South Peace News, Taber Times, Hinton Parklander, Peace River Record-Gazette, Bonnyville Nouvelle, Banff Crag & Canyon, Rocky Mountain Outlook, Canmore Leader, St. Albert Gazette, Okotoks Western Wheel, Fast Forward Weekly, SEE Magazine, Sherwood Park News, Sylvan Lake News, Athabasca Advocate, Strathmore Standard, Provost News, Wainwright Edge, Drumheller Mail, and Lethbridge Community College's Endeavour.
While they have yet to announce the winners, three writers, one photographer, one cartoonist, and a team of reporters are among the Alberta nominees for the 2009 Canadian Newspaper Association National Newspaper Awards:
Beat Reporting: Michelle Lang, Calgary Herald, for health and medicine coverageArts and Entertainment: Elizabeth Withey, Edmonton Journal, for stories of three Canadian artists, two in music and one authorFeature Photography: Ian Martens, Lethbridge Herald, for a shot of a full moon as a backdrop for a wedding photograph being taken by another photographerEditorial Cartooning: John B. Larter, Calgary HeraldNews Photography: Ted Rhodes, Calgary Herald, for a photo of a distraught woman who has just learned her son was the victim of a murder.Breaking News: Calgary Herald team’s coverage of the Lall family murders
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Posted by daveberta at 1:25 PM
Elections Alberta (during 2008 election campaign)... $9.4 million
UPDATE: In retrospect, perhaps this post would be better summed up as:
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Municipal issues are a hot topic for MLAs introducing Private Member's Bills in this session of the Alberta Legislature:
Bill 202: Municipal Government (Municipal Auditor General) Amendment Act, 2009
Bill 203: Local Authorities Election (Finance and Contribution Disclosure) Amendment Act, 2009
Bill 204: Municipal Tax Sharing Act, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
For Immediate Release
March 24, 2009
Bill 19 was Drafted in Error?
(Rimbey, AB) Bill 19 – still looking for the right combination to debate Green Party Leader Joe Anglin over the proposed Land Assembly Area Act [Bill 19], the Hon Jack Hayden, author of the Bill, attended a public forum in Riley AB on Monday night to try his best to defend the Bill. Mr. Hayden accompanied with MLAs Mr. Evan Berger (Livingstone-Macleod), Mr. Ray Prins (Lacombe Ponoka), Ms. Diana McQueen (Drayton Valley/Calmar), Mr. Verlyn Olson (Wetaskiwin/Camrose), and Mr. Doug Griffiths (Battle River-Wainwright) failed to convince the crowd in attendance of the merits of the Bill or the proposed amendments, and may have embarrassed themselves.
Mr. Hayden told the crowd in the attendance, as the government has done at previous public forums, Bill 19 was needed because the Restricted Development Act was struck down in a previous court decision. When queried by Mr. Anglin over the referenced court decision, Mr. Hayden was informed that a Restricted Development Act has never existed in law in Alberta, and the Alberta courts have no record of a decision striking down any piece of Alberta Legislation called the Restricted Development Act.
Anglin went on to ask Mr. Hayden that if he could not produce a copy of a court case striking down the assumed Restricted Development Act, would he then agree that the premise for drafting Bill 19 was based on an error concerning a court ruling that doesn’t exist, and would he then withdraw the Bill because of this error?
Mr. Hayden did not respond to Anglin’s question, and the other five MLAs scrambled and shuffled paper. However, Mr. Hayden and the other MLAs in attendance would not comment further on the fact the Minister may have drafted Bill 19 in error – in view of the fact the courts have not struck down any legislation in Alberta called the Restricted Development Act.
Leader of the Alberta Greens
For those who missed it (and I imagine most Albertans fit into this category), Social Credit Party leader Len Skowronski waded into the great Oil Sands debate in February by releasing a nine-point plan for Oil Sands development. Social Credit formed the Government of Alberta from 1935 to 1971.
Monday, March 23, 2009
On March 20, I posted a video clip of Fox News' Greg Gutfeld and guests mocking the role of Canada's military in Afghanistan. Today, Gutfeld and Fox News are apologizing for the comments.
A Fox News host is apologizing to Canadians in the face of widespread outrage over comments he and his guests made on a late-night talk show.
`Red Eye' host Greg Gutfield says his comments `may have been misunderstood' and in no way were meant to disrespect `the brave men, women and families of the Canadian military.'
Fox News issued the Gutfield statement just after the Canadian government demanded an apology for what it called the `despicable' and `disgusting' comments.
Recent amendments removing sections of the controversial Bill 19: Land Assembly Project Area Act have satisfied some critics, but others remain steady in their opposition to the legilsation. Central Alberta landowner and Green Party leader Joe Anglin still has serious concerns about the legislation and has in recent weeks organized Town Hall meetings on Bill 19 in Warburg and Ponoka which attracted the attention of four PC MLAs who showed up to defend their government's Bill.
For Immediate Release
March 23, 2009
(Rimbey, AB) Tonight at the Ryley Community Center the Minister of Infrastructure, the Hon Jack Hayden, will be discussing Bill 19, the “Land Assembly Area Act”, along with Joe Anglin, Advocate for Landowner Rights and Leader of the Alberta Green Party.
This will be the first time the Minister, and sponsor of the controversial Bill 19, will defend his proposed Bill. Mr. Hayden and Mr. Anglin will answer questions from the public at the open forum.
The public and press are invited to attend. The forum starts at 7: 00 PM March 23, 2009 at the Ryley Community Center (Corner of 51 Ave and 49 St) in Ryley, Alberta.
Leader of the Alberta Green Party
They stood up to vote against it, but no PC MLA spoke up to explain why they opposed Lethbridge-East MLA Bridget Pastoor's March 18 amendment to remove Section 5 of Bill 18: Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement Implementation Statutes Amendment Act, 2009. In its current form, Section 5 will allow Cabinet Ministers to suspend or modify sections of the TILMA Act without seeking the approval of or having to deal with public debate in the elected Legislature.
UPDATE: MLA Laurie Blakeman raised concerns about this section of Bill 18 earlier in the week:
Friday, March 20, 2009
Fox News' Greg Gutfeld and guests on a recent taping of his show thought it would be funny to belittle and mock the Canadian military's role in Afghanistan. Four more Canadian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan today, bringing the total to 116 Canadians who have died in the conflict.
(h/t @ChrisLabossiere and @BPMDavidStone)
UPDATE: You can email Brian Lewis at FOX NEWS to demand an apology.
Usually not shy to criticize government spending, the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation has remained noticeably silent following the news that Alberta's Auditor General Fred Dunn has delayed or cancelled 27 of 80 planned financial or systematic audits because of financial constraints.
As an articulate commenter on a previous post wrote, the Office of the Auditor General exists to provide "clear, nonpartisan feedback on the finances of the various functions of government. Their job is to provide what amounts to constructive financial criticism to governments about the way programs, departments and ministries spend money. The better the auditor general, the tighter the financial ship."
The Canadian Taxpayers' Federation lists dedication to less waste and accountable government as two of its main goals, so it seems to me that if there were one area of spending that the CTF would publicly support, it would be for the people who are in charge of the audits that create less waste and more accountable government.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Alberta's Auditor General Fred Dunn recently announced the delay or cancellation of 27 out of 80 planned system and financial audits due to budget constraints and yesterday, after opposition MLAs once again attempted (and failed) to increase funding for the Auditor General, the remarks of two backbench PC MLAs really caught my attention:
Calgary-Egmont MLA Jonathan Denis:
"Realistically everybody would like more money, I would like more money, but the reality is we froze our paycheques this year. This is the first time in 15 years we froze our paycheques. And similarly we don’t want to ge giving extra money to departments where that’s not required.”Athabasca-Redwater MLA Jeff Johnson:
"We're in a time of great financial restraint," Johnson said. "I don't know how we (justify) going from $21.5 million to $25 million in one year...." "Nobody has enough money to do the job they'd like to do."The mandate of the Auditor General of Alberta is to 'identify opportunities and propose solutions for the improved use of public resources, and to improve and add credibility to performance reporting, including financial reporting, to Albertans.' Ensuring financial and systematic efficiency through these audits is one of our government's most important responsibilities to the hardworking citizens and taxpayers of this province. Albertans should not have to wait until good economic times for the Auditor General to have the resources to do the most effective job possible.
I posted this on Twitter yesterday, but just in case you missed it, Andrew Nikiforuk's book 'Tar Sands: Dirty Oil & Future of a Continent' is available as a free pdf download until tomorrow (March 20, 2009).
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Former United States President George W. Bush had lunch in Calgary today, and 200-300 protesters showed up outside the 1,500 person luncheon hosted by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. At least three protesters have been reported as being arrested. According to the Toronto Star, the $400 per ticket luncheon will score Bush at least $100,000 in fees.
Gena Rotstein was at this afternoon's protest and posted a recap on her blog, and Aaron Braaten has shared his theory on the actual reason for Bush's visit to Calgary.
You can follow Bush's Calgary visit on Twitter at #gwbyyc and check out a photo gallery of the protests at CBC Calgary.
Monday, March 16, 2009
The following post is an attempt to create a central location to track the online and social media presence of MLAs and Provincial Political Parties in Alberta. If you have additions to these lists, please post them in the comment section or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
(Last updated on June 19, 2009)
Nearly all 83 MLAs have a profile or page on Facebook, but here are the main party leaders: Brian Mason (NDP), Ed Stelmach (PC), David Swann (LIB)
MLA/Party Blogs (description)
Doug Elniski (Edmonton-Calder), Doug Griffiths (Battle River-Wainwright), Dave Hancock (Edmonton-Whitemud), David Swann (Calgary-Mountain View), Wildrose Alliance Blog
Cindy Ady (CindyAdyMLA)
Lindsay Blackett (@LindsayBlackett)
Harry Chase (@chasemla)
Jonathan Denis (@jonomla)
Doug Elniski (@elniskimla)
Kyle Fawcett (@kylemla)
Doug Griffiths (@griffmla)
Dave Hancock (@davehancockmla)
Kent Hehr (@calgarybuffalo)
Fred Horne (@FredHorneMLA)
Darshan Kang (@darshankang
Brian Mason (@bmasonndp
Rachel Notley (@rachelnotley)_
Janice Sarich (JaniceSarichMLA)
Ed Stelmach (@premierstelmach)
David Swann (@davidswann)
Dave Taylor (@calgarycurrie)
Alberta Liberals (@albertaliberals)
PC Caucus (@mypcmla)
MLA Websites (click here for 2008 campaign websites)
Cindy Ady (Calgary-Shaw)
Rob Anderson (Airdrie-Chestermere)
Laurie Blakeman (Edmonton-Centre)
Harry Chase (Calgary-Varsity)
Iris Evans (Sherwood Park)
Heather Forsyth (Calgary-Fish Creek)
Dave Hancock (Edmonton-Whitemud)
Kent Hehr (Calgary-Buffalo)
Doug Horner (Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert)
Mary Ann Jablonski (Red Deer-North)
Art Johnston (Calgary-Hays)
Darshan Kang (Calgary-McCall)
Ron Liepert (Calgary-West)
Thomas Lukaszuk (Edmonton-Castle Downs)
Brian Mason (Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood)
Rachel Notley (Edmonton-Strathcona)
Verlyn Olson (Wetaskiwin-Camrose)
Bridget Pastoor (Lethbridge-East)
Alison Redford (Calgary-Elbow)
Dave Rodney (Calgary-Lougheed)
Peter Sandhu (Edmonton-Manning)
David Swann (Calgary-Mountain View)
Dave Taylor (Calgary-Currie)
Liberal Caucus, NDP Caucus, PC Caucus
Alberta Greens, Alberta Liberal, Alberta NDP, Alberta Party, Alberta Social Credit, Alberta PC, Communist Party of Alberta, Separation Party of Alberta, Wildrose Alliance
Sunday, March 15, 2009
A couple weeks ago, I wrote (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) about central Alberta becoming the revolutionary hotbed of Albert politics, but while it may not be an actual hot bed of revolution, politics in central Alberta have becoming increasingly interesting.
After Infrastructure Minister Jack Hayden introduced Bill 19: Land Assembly Project Area Act into the Legislature on March 2, 2009, the legislation has met strong opposition from landowners in central Alberta, including Green Party leader Joe Anglin. Anglin described Bill 19 as "a punitive Bill that is chock-full of consequences for any landowner or citizen who would defy the Minister of Energy," and is a member of a group of landowners who have organized town hall forums and information sessions on Bill 19 in communities across central Alberta. The opposition to Bill 19 appears to have caught the attention of the region's PC MLAs, four who have been seen attending these town halls to defend the legislation.
At a forum in Warburg, PC MLAs Ray Prins (Lacombe-Ponoka), Diana McQueen (Drayton Valley-Calmar) and Evan Berger (Livingstone-MacLeod) were in attendance, and yesterday in Ponoka, Prins, McQueen, Berger, and Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA Verlyn Olson defended Bill 19 at an information session hosted by Anglin.
Rather than using the reliable 'ignore the opposition between elections' strategy that has served the PCs so well over the past 36 years, the very presence of these four PC MLAs have actually legitimized the opposition to Bill 19 in rural central Alberta.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Former Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pockington has re-entered the news after his recent arrest in California on charges of bankruptcy fraud, and his $1 million bailout by former Oilers and current New York Rangers General Manager Glen Sather.
Nearly 26 years ago, Pocklington was one of eight candidates to contest the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. Placing sixth on the first round of voting with the support of 102 delegates (3.41% of total delegates), Pockington threw his support to Brian Mulroney. Rumours from the convention floor said that Mulroney had promised to make Pocklington chairman of a proposed Royal Commission on Taxation in exchange for his support.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
- What is it about the current government and concealing information until after elections? In 2004, it was access to flight logs, and in 2008, it appears that the governing PCs didn't release information about charges that had been laid against Suncor in relation to the dumping of undertreated waste water into the Athabasca River. Meanwhile, on the topic of Oilsands, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers have published a response to a recent National Geographic feature on Canada's Oilsands.
- While the Council of Alberta University Students met with over 50 MLAs at the Alberta Legislature this week to advocate on Post-Secondary Education issues, the Alberta College & Technical Institute Student Executive Council practiced a much less effective method of advocacy.
- Former Cabinet Minister and Medicine Hat Conservative MP Monte Solberg is once again blogging. After writing a popular blog during his time in the opposition benches, Solberg stopped blogging when he became a Cabinet Minister in 2006. After serving 15 years in the House of Commons, Solberg did not seek re-election in the 2008 election. Solberg also writes a regular column for SunMedia (h/t @BreakenNews).
- Following Michael Ignatieff's visit to Alberta last month, two Liberal MPs will be visiting the province. Beaches-East York MP Maria Minna will be speaking at a Calgary Liberal fundraiser on March 20, and Willowdale MP Martha Hall Findlay will be speaking at an International Women's Day Brunch in Edmonton on March 22.
Provincial Affairs/Fish & Game columnist Neil Waugh was one of twenty staff laid off at the Edmonton Sun yesterday. A fixture of the Alberta political scene for decades, Waugh seems to have become one of the latest casualties of continent-wide media layoffs.
Though I wish him good luck in his future endeavors, in my humble opinion, Waugh was not an amazing political columnist, nor even a mediocre columnist. I struggle to name another mainstream political writer in Alberta who's columns were as qualitatively inconsistent as Waugh's. Perhaps he showed promise as a columnist at one point in his writing career, but over the past ten years, his columns had rapidly declined in their quality, and had come closer to resembling one-line rants rather than well-thought out columns.
I have had two experiences with Waugh that stick out in my mind. The most obvious was his January 2008 column that ingrained in infamy the quote "...Dave Cournoyer isn't some obscure fat frat boy with a sticky-up haircut" (or at least in the header of this blog). Though I appreciated the attention on the issue, I was surprised that Waugh didn't even attempt to contact me before accusing me of being part of an secret well-oiled Liberal Party conspiracy to tarnish the image of Premier Ed Stelmach (and as we all know, the same well-oiled political machine steamrolled to electoral victory in March 2008... oh wait...).
My second memorable Waugh experience sits more in the realm of bizarre. During a February 2008 media conference about the PC-connected Election Returning Officers, Waugh threw then-Liberal leader Kevin Taft a screwball question about Federal Liberal appointments to the Canadian Senate. Off-topic? Yes. Bizarre? Undoubtably.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Ken Chapman offered some thoughtful comments on Twitter and social media technology in the Alberta Legislature on CBC this afternoon:
Also, I was interviewed by CTV on the story.
Follow the debate on Twitter at #ableg.
Dear Speaker Kowalski,
As an active participant in what you recently described as the “virtual wonderland” of the Internet, I am hopeful that Internet technology and online social media hold great potential to reconnect citizens, elected officials, and government in our province.
I would urge you to revisit your initial reaction to the use of online communications from the floor of the Assembly. I agree that Members should respect the institution and proud traditions of the Legislature, but it is important to understand the limitless potential that these technologies now play in connecting elected Members to citizens outside the Dome.
During the February 4, 2009 Members’ Services Committee meeting, you warned MLAs about taking the advice of “hotshot” staffers in their Caucuses who were pushing the elected representatives to become more Internet savvy. These comments lead me to believe that you may not fully understand the power of these technologies to reconnect citizens with their democratic institutions, such as the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. A democratic institution remains effective only as long as those occupying it remain relevant and connected to the citizens the Assembly exists to represent. With less than forty percent of Albertans having participated in the last election, this is a very real concern.
Online social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, have developed quickly, and it is understandable that someone in the position of Speaker would not be fully exposed to their nuances. Instead of instituting a blanket ban on technology during Question Period, I would ask that you reflect on the changes in technology that have occurred since you first stepped into elected office nearly thirty years ago.
This technology has the real potential to engage citizens with MLAs on the floor of the Assembly.
If you are interested in learning more, it would be my pleasure as a citizen of Alberta to meet with you and offer reflections on my personal experience of how online social media and internet technology can re-energize citizenship in our province.
PS. I’ve taken the liberty of posting this letter on my blog, http://www.daveberta.ca, so that other Albertans can have the opportunity to join this debate online.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Candidate nomination season has kicked off in Alberta with Ezra Levant taking aim at Donna Kennedy-Glans, accusing her of being a "Liberal saboteur" and promoting "Marxist feminism." Kennedy-Glans recently announced her intentions to challenge incumbent-MP Rob Anders for the Conservative nomination in Calgary-West.
I'm going to bet that this nomination battle is going to get much nastier before it comes to a vote.
Ladies and Gentlemen, MLA Carl Benito, representing the simple people of Edmonton-Mill Woods, introduced Motion 502 on the floor of the Legislative Assembly yesterday:
Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the government to introduce amendments to the Emblems of Alberta Act to designate Leccinum boreale, also known as northern roughstem or red cap, as the official mushroom of Alberta. MLAs rising to speak to the motion included Neil Brown, Rachel Notley, Jonathan Denis, Genia Leskiw, Doug Elniski, Evan Berger, and Bridget Pastoor.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. It is my pleasure to rise and introduce Motion 502. I acknowledge that there are pressing economic issues that currently exist; however, this motion is important to my constituents and 2,500 Albertans who have chosen this mushroom to be designated as Alberta’s provincial mushroom emblem.
Monday, March 09, 2009
Highlighting the power of online social media, Saturday's IDEAfest, which was largely organized through Facebook and Twitter, drew over 100 Edmontonians to the University of Alberta on a snowy Saturday in March. The event was open to the public, and saw three presenters in three different rooms present every half an hour on an idea or topic of their choice. A big congratulations to Michael Janz (@michaeljanz) for organizing the excellent day-long event.
There were many great presentations, but the two that stuck out in my mind were Andy Grabia's (@agrabia) presentation what the experience of listening music means to him on a personal level, and Alex Abboud's (@alexabboud) "15 Steps to Making Edmonton a Better City." Both were excellent, well-prepared, and very interesting. Other great IDEAfest presenters and participants included @zoomjer, @bingofuel, Colby Cosh (@colbycosh), @chrishenderson, Mack Male (@mastermaq), Walter Schwabe (@fusedlogic), Ian Bushfield (@thzatheist), Alain Saffel (@alainsaffel), Shawna McConechy (@out_inc), Cam Linke (@camlinke), @brendantrayner, and many more....
Thanks to everyone who showed up to my afternoon presentation, "The Fall of the Media Empires and Rise of Citizen Journalism." My presentation focused on the evolving nature of mainstream media, and the growing number of citizen journalists filling the gaps in community and political media coverage created by layoffs in the industry (which you can follow at @canmedialayoffs). Though some people may argue that examples like CanWest teetering on the brink of bankruptcy protection will herald the extinction to the mainstream media, I argued that the downfall of the major media corporations is simply an evolution of the media industry. I was glad to read that the event and my presentation were reported on in Sunday's Edmonton Journal (and I can understand why a CanWest-owned newspaper wouldn't want to include the main point of my presentation in their article).
While Chris Laboissiere (@chrislabossiere) and Ken Chapman (@kenchapman46) wrote some positive blog posts about the event, I was surprised to read a blog post by presenter Derek Warwick (@derekwarwick) in which he argues that the lack of gender or skin-colour diversity among the presenters was due to an "embedded racism" among those involved in the event. I should probably know better, but as someone who was involved in the event I feel the sheer ridiculousness of this accusation requires a response. Warwick's visual observation are fair, but his "embedded racism" theory doesn't seem to be grounded in any sort of reality. IDEAfest grew though a very open and organic word of mouth process (over 1,000 people were invited to the event over Facebook) and offered the opportunity for anyone interested to present on the idea or topic of their choice.
I could spend all day writing about the diverse range of topics and ideas covered in the presentations, but you will just have to come to the next IDEAfest (date to be announced) and enjoy it for yourself!
Saturday, March 07, 2009
IDEAfest 2009 started this morning, and presentations will be happening until 5pm in the Tory Building (Room B95) on the University of Alberta campus.
I've made a last minute change to the topic of my presentation. At 1:30pm, I will be presenting "The Fall of the Media Empires and Rise of Citizen Journalism." It should be an interesting day, and there are a lot of cool presentations coming up, including "Countdown to Copenhagen: International Climate Negotiations and the Quest" (10:30am) "15 Ways to make Edmonton a Better City" (11:00am), "Twitter and social media..." (11:00am) and "Underground Media and the Importance of do-it-yourself local media" (12:00pm).
Follow IDEAfest on twitter: #uaif.
- Cal Nichols has stepped down as Chair of the Edmonton Oilers to lead the Alberta Enterprise Group in its fight to keep the Edmonton City Centre Airport open. AEG was created in 2007 from of the ashes of the Grassroots Leadership Group, a corporate entity that essentially existed for the purpose of providing financial backing to Mark Norris' 2006 PC leadership bid (donations to party leadership campaigns are not tax deductible, but donations to GLG were eligible for tax deductions as business expenses). AEGs current President is former PC Party Director and Norris campaign manager Tim Shipton. With support coming from many well-heeled Edmonton business types, I wouldn't be surprised to see this group become a launching pad for a Mayoral candidate in October 2010.
- Bill 19: The Land Assembly Project Area Act, introduced by Infrastructure Minister Jack Hayden, is meeting some resistance in central Alberta. Leading the charge is Green Party leader Joe Anglin, who described Bill 19 in a recent media release as "a punitive Bill that is chock-full of consequences for any landowner or citizen who would defy the Minister of Energy." Over the past two years, Anglin has led a vocal group of central Alberta landowners in their fight against numerous provincial regulatory bodies and legislation. Former Green Deputy Leader turned Progress Party advocate Edwin Erickson joined the opposition to Bill 19 in an open letter.
- Federal Conservative nomination campaigns are beginning to ramp up in Alberta. In Calgary-West, Donna Kennedy-Glans will be challenging Rob Anders (and I wish her good luck). In Edmonton-East, it appears that Matt Altheim may be mounting a nomination challenge against MP Peter Goldring. Both Anders and Goldring were first elected to Parliament in 1997.
- Arthur Kent is continuing to publicly voice his disappointment in the current PC government. In a recent blog post, the internationally-known journalist and former Calgary-Currie PC candidate wrote that he believes Alberta will only regain its economic edge "once we deal with the disadvantage of a government that lets patronage trump free enterprise, and stubbornness get in the way of common sense." Damning words from a former star candidate.
Friday, March 06, 2009
If you're looking for something (free and open to the public) to nourish your mind this weekend, check out IDEAfest 2009 at the University of Alberta this Saturday (location: Tory 95).
Based on the format of DemoCamp and BarCamp, IDEAfest 2009 gives interested people a chance to host their very own session (kind of like TED). 3 speakers every half hour, 3 different rooms. Choose the room that interests you.
For those of you lucky ehough to be there tomorrow afternoon, I will be presenting at 1:30pm on some of my personal experiences using social media.
Thursday, March 05, 2009
This week's FFWD Weekly has two interesting articles covering online social media in Alberta.
Alberta political conversation thrives on Twitter by Jeremy Klaszus covers some of the interesting political debates happening on Twitter. In a recent trend that has taken the Wild Rose province by storm, Twitter users from across Alberta have been "live-tweeting" commentary of the Alberta Legislature's daily Question Period. You can follow the live commentary by searching for the hash-tag #ABLeg using Twitter Search.
Alberta MLAs on Twitter include Doug Griffiths, Jonathan Denis, Doug Elniski, Kyle Fawcett, Dave Hancock, Kent Hehr, and Dave Taylor.
The Rise of Political Blogs by Trevor Scott Howell gives some good insight into the state of political blogs in Alberta, and includes interviews with bloggers Ken Chapman, David Climenhaga, Enlightened Savage, a member of the AGRDT crew, and yours truly.
After recently naming Rick Miller as the new Official Opposition Chief of Staff, David Swann today named Neil Mackie as the Communications Director, replacing former Director Larry Johnsrude.
Mackie comes from Calgary with some interesting (and perhaps mixed) partisan roots.
Having served as President of the Calgary-Southwest Federal Liberal Association, Mackie ran unsuccessfully against former Calgary-West PC MLA Karen Kryczka in the 2007 Board of Education election, and is listed as having supported Michael Ignatieff during the 2006 Federal Liberal leadership race.
Mackie will be leaving his position as President of the Calgary-based Vincero Communications, a subsidiary of Ivrnet Inc. In the recent past, Ivrnet/Vincero have done political polling for Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor during his unsuccessful Liberal leadership bid, and former Edmonton-Riverview PC candidate Wendy Andrews during her run against former Liberal leader Kevin Taft in March 2008. I'm told that while working with the company, Mackie also handled polling in up to 53 PC held ridings during the 2008 election, and in Calgary-Buffalo for the campaign of Liberal Kent Hehr.
Well-known politicos with Ivrnet/Vincero connections include its current Vice-President, former Calgary-Centre Reform Party MP Eric Lowther, and former Calgary Herald reporter David Heyman. Heyman was employed as Director of Communications for Ivrnet/Vincero before becoming Calgary Communications Manager for Premier Ed Stelmach.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Alberta Auditor General Fred Dunn has delayed or canceled 27 of the planned 80 systematic audits because of budget constraints (apparently, in Alberta, our politicians underfunds two of a government's most important responsibilities, Audits and elections).
Among the delayed includes a recently announced audit into the now defunct Highwood Communications that has been postponed until October 2009 (for more on Highwood Communications...).
Other important audits that have been delayed or canceled include investigations into the collection process of Alberta natural resource royalties (delayed indefinitely), post-secondary education facility capacity and utilization (canceled), post-secondary program planning (canceled), Sustainable Resource Environmental Management (delayed until 2010), and measuring the effectiveness of the fiscal regime of the Department of Finance and Enterprise (delayed until 2011). A full list can be found here.
(h/t Trish Audette)
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Following the recent trend of staff departures at the Alberta Legislative Assembly that have included Larry Johnsrude and Troy Wason, Official Opposition Chief of Staff Judy Wilson is now the departing the Dome.
After serving as Director of Operations at Government House for 13 years, Judy Wilson joined the Official Opposition caucus in 2007 as Chief of Staff under former leader Kevin Taft, and remained in her position after David Swann was selected as leader of the Liberal Party in December 2008. Wilson will be succeeded by Rick Miller, who served as the MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford and Finance Critic from 2004 to 2008.
Media ReleaseOne of the first challenges faced by Miller will be to boost the moral and provide internal direction in Alberta's Official Opposition caucus, which fell to 9 elected MLAs in 2008. Miller will also face the challenge of plugging leaks that have contributed to a rumour mill of anonymous gossip emanating from the Liberal Caucus over the past couple months. Many of the anonymous rumours surrounded Wilson's participation in conversations being held by various groups of Albertans dissatisfied with the state of democracy in this province (including myself and Jason Morris from Gauntlet.ca).
March 3, 2009
Alberta Liberal caucus sees change in Chief of Staff
Edmonton – Judy Wilson, Chief of Staff of the Alberta Liberal Caucus will be leaving her position, effective Friday March 6, 2009. Rick Miller, former MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford, will be stepping into that role.
“Our caucus has a new leader, and he has decided to take a new direction,” said Wilson. “I wish Rick all the best in his new role.
“I’m looking forward to new challenges and opportunities, and to having time to focus on other projects that are important to me – like the Student Refugee program at the U of A, and my Rotary club. I’ll have more time to devote to coaching my daughter’s soccer team,” says Wilson.
“I have appreciated working with Judy and all that she has contributed to our Caucus in her nearly 2 years here”, says Dr. David Swann, Leader.
Rick Miller will assume his new role effective Monday, March 9, 2009.
“I see this as an opportunity to contribute to democracy in this province, which has always been important to me,” said Miller.
“I feel very fortunate to be able to come into an organization where a strong, solid foundation has been built, thanks to the commitment and talents of Judy Wilson. I’ve known Judy for many years – we are in the same Rotary Club and worked together in caucus when I was an MLA. I have tremendous respect for the skills that she brings to any endeavour in her future,” concluded Miller.-30-
On March 3, 2008, less than 40% of Albertans ventured into the March cold to exercise their democratic responsibility, and a full year later the debate around that election still rages.
There are likely many reasons why the large majority of Albertans failed to cast their ballot on that day, but one that continually arises in conversations is cynicism. It's hard to argue that any of our political parties gave Albertans a compelling reason to race to the polls in droves a year ago, and I don't believe that much has changed a year later.
Entering the second year of Ed Stelmach's first term as Premier, our province is facing many challenges. No longer rolling in the billion dollar surpluses that we had been told were thanks to the now dead Alberta Advantage, Finance Minister Iris Evans now tells us that this year's $1.4 billion deficit is 'market induced' (and not the fault of a political party which has been happy to take credit for Alberta's fiscal prosperity over the past decade).
Should Albertans blame the Stelmach PCs for the economic downturn? Of course not, because it's not their fault, but nor should Albertans praise them for the (also market induced) boom.
In their March 2009 edition, National Geographic shined a powerful international spotlight on Alberta's oilsands, dealing an unintentional blow to the yet to be launched replacement for the Alberta Advantage. The $25 million taxpayer-funded public relations campaign is set to brand Albertans with a new identity by combating international criticism of the oilsands. Do Albertans really need government-hired public relations consultants to determine our identity? Albertans are more than just a brand, and our identity will be determined by our actions, not by government-hired public relations consultants.
The death of the Alberta Advantage has led the Progressive Conservatives to once again return to the realm of budget deficits, and as the government cuts important programs like the $2 billion GreenTRIP funding for public transit in our cities, they are continuing to funnel $2 billion into a Carbon Capture and Storage project.
It wasn't that long ago that the governing PCs would claim and shame the opposition parties for wanting to spend Alberta back into a deficit. Now faced with a billion dollar deficit, the same PCs are willing to push aside 15 years of fiscal dogma to continue spending billions of dollars on an unproven technology, that if developed would put Alberta at the forefront of collecting yesterday's dirty pollution, while the rest of the world focuses on tomorrow's new and renewable energy.
Maybe Albertans are right to be cynical?