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Saturday, January 31, 2009

getting around.

- They get around. CBC has an interactive map tracking recent junkets by PC Cabinet Ministers.

- I've heard that oil companies are continuing to buy farmland to build Upgraders near Redwater, so I wasn't surprised to read this story.

- Jason Morris at has written up an easy to follow timeline following the RCMP raids of Alberta Justice and Service Alberta offices. More here.

- The Canadian Political Science Students' Association (CPSSA) are holding their national conference in Edmonton from February 4 to 7th. Hosted by the University of Alberta Political Science Undergraduate Association, the conference, 'Challenges to Peace,' will feature speakers from across Canada.

- Ken Chapman has written an interesting post on bonuses in the bailed out banking industry.

Friday, January 30, 2009

mla salary freeze honest or politically convenient?

I suppose Albertans are supposed to be grateful about the proposed voluntary salary freeze by PC MLAs? But just how seriously should we take this move?

It was only 8 months ago, when the price of oil was rolling high, that Premier Ed Stelmach and his Cabinet gave themselves a 30% to 34% pay hike in a closed-door meeting where Ministers hiked their salaries by $42,000, to $184,000, and Stelmach's by $54,000, to $213,450 (making Stelmach the highest paid Premier in Canada). As far as I can't remember, none of the 71 other PC MLAs publicly questioned the pay hike.

Albertans may also remember that in another closed-door Cabinet meeting nearly a year ago, Stelmach and his cabinet changed Alberta's proposed conflict-of-interest rules so that they wouldn't apply to any PC Ministers retiring or defeated after the March 3, 2008 election. This decision was made behind closed doors only hours before Stelmach called the 2008 election, and exempted out-going Ministers such as former Finance Minister Lyle Oberg and Energy Minister Greg Melchin.

So, when I hear Premier Stelmach tell Albertans that PC MLAs are "going to show leadership in this regard," I can't help but wonder why they didn't start showing leadership a year ago?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

david swann meets ed stelmach, and faces challenges from inside the liberal caucus.

Liberal Opposition leader David Swann and PC Premier Ed Stelmach met yesterday to discuss niceties and the upcoming provincial budget. This is a positive step for both party leaders, and I hope that for Albertans sake, some semblance of civility can be preserved between the two men.

Swann's challenge will be to balance the 'spirit of cooperation' while actually providing an effective opposition to the governing PCs in the Legislature (and this is probably as difficult as it sounds). It remains to be seen if the toxically partisan environment in the Legislative Assembly will allow any civility between the two party leaders to survive when the Legislature begins sitting in February. Up until the Fall 2008 Session of the Legislature, the tension between Stelmach and former Liberal leader Kevin Taft had gotten so heated that Stelmach would frequently accuse Taft of being a Red Menace.

He must also be weary of not taking a route too close to the one taken by former Liberal leader Ken Nicol. When replacing defeated leader Nancy MacBeth in 2001, then-Lethbridge-East MLA Nicol's quiet and polite tone made it easy for the Klein PCs to railroad over the Legislative opposition and the Raj Pannu-led NDP to garner much of the media attention, leaving the newly reduced Liberal caucus (7 MLAs elected in 2001, down from 18 in 1997) in their weakest position in over a decade.

While striking a conciliatory tone with Premier Stelmach may be a productive start, Swann is likely aware of the challenges he faces within his caucus.

Managing Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald and Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor are likely going to be key challenges in keeping the rag-tag caucus together. MacDonald, who appears to have become almost obsessed with unearthing PC scandals, has fine-tuned the exercise of crying wolf, diluting the opposition Liberals' position on many issues. As Swann's former leadership challenger, Taylor holds some forceful opinions on the direction of the opposition and the Liberal Party which clash with some of Swann's ideas (not that I believe a different name will solve the Liberal Party's organizational and psychological problems, but more on that later).

If Swann is to lead an effective opposition in the Legislature, his caucus will need to reign in wild card Hugh MacDonald, while managing Dave Taylor's recently bruised ego.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

canada's 2009 liberal budget.

Imagine that, Stephen Harper, Canada's 10th Liberal Prime Minister?

After taking a glance at the 2009 Federal Budget released this afternoon, I've come to the conclusion that if didn't know much about Canadian politics, I wouldn't have a hard time believing that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

And though it was presented by Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, the increased spending, tax-cuts, and bailout funding for declining industries made it easy to imagine that this budget could have been presented by past Liberal Finance Ministers John Manley or Ralph Goodale.

Partisan gender-bending aside, it's not difficult to understand why the NDP and Bloc Quebecois are opposing the budget, but it may be more difficult for Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff to effectively oppose it.

A weakness Ignatieff may be able to grab onto is the funding of municipal infrastructure development, of which many projects are set up on a 1/3, 1/3, and 1/3 funding arrangement between the Federal, Provincial, and Municipal governments. This will pose a challenge to many municipalities who cannot afford the 1/3 (or are located in provinces unwilling or unable to provide their 1/3 of the funding). This afternoon on CBC Newsworld, Flaherty suggested that in certain cases, the Federal Government could provide up to 1/2 of the funding in order to fill the gap.

A positive solution to this problem would be for the Feds to provide a loan financing or transfer program for municipalities in these situations (I'm not competely sure that one does't already exist).

Here is a short list of some points in Budget 2009 that caught my eye:

- $12 billion infrastructure building program (including new and accelerated funds)

- $225 million over the next 3 years for broadband to unserved communities. According to University of Ottawa Professor Michael Geist, Australia has committed $4.7 billion to a similar project.

- $28.6 million over the next two years to the Canada New Media Fund, and $14.3 million annually thereafter.

- $30 million to community newspapers and magazines (not known how much will go to CanWest)

- National Securities Regulator: The Conservative Government will be moving forward with willing provinces (8 provinces, minus Alberta and Quebec) in creating a new National Securities Regulator.

- Up to $2 billion to support deferred maintenance and repair projects at Post-Secondary Institutions

Some Alberta Related:

- $130 million for twinning of Trans-Canada Highway through Banff National Park

- $37.6 million for Mackenzie Valley Gas Project (environmental assessments, coordination, and Aboriginal consultations).

- $81 million over the next two years for program management and additional assessments of federal contaminated sites, which may include Edmonton International Airport.

- Provincial-Federal Cost-sharing priority project: Telus World of Science in Calgary.

- No funding for the twinning of Highway 63 to Fort McMurray.

Word Count:

- Budget Document: Action (300 times), Tax (1,031), Spending (133). (h/t @mastermaq, @cbcnews).

- Budget Speech: Economy (29), businesses (27), recession (17), tax relief (15), stimulate (12), hope (1) (h/t the Hook)

- Mike Soron has created an entertaining wordmap of the budget speech.

municipal pre-budget wish-lists.

In advance of today's Federal Budget release, Alberta's municipalities have prepared their wish-lists:

- City of Calgary:

In anticipation, Calgary has provided a list of projects that could be started within 120 days, ranging from a ordable housing to new LRT lines to green initiatives.

The city, which is spending $4 billion on capital projects over the next three years, has a much more expensive list that is unfunded.

- City of Edmonton:
Edmonton has identified $2.4 billion worth of projects that could start immediately if federal funding becomes available in Tuesday's budget.

These include the $825-million extension of the LRT from downtown to NAIT, $462
million for new buses and $50 million to revitalize 118th Avenue.
- City of Lethbridge:

Lethbridge Mayor Bob Tarleck echoed those sentiments, saying tax cuts are not the answer.

Instead, he said, the government needs to do something "sharply focused" on a short-term basis, such as labour intensive infrastructure programs.

Tarleck suggested the creation of affordable housing or retrofitting existing housing to make it more energy efficient, would help the economy and those living on the streets.

- Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel also joined other Big Cities Mayors in calling for accelerated infrastructure funding.

- The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association:
...(AUMA) is encouraged to learn that tomorrow’s federal budget will contain new dollars for infrastructure projects, including for green infrastructure, in time to fight the recession.

AUMA President Lloyd Bertschi says this commitment today by federal Infrastructure Minister John Baird, along with the federal government’s pledge to accelerate existing infrastructure funding, will create thousands of new jobs and speed up much-needed repairs to Alberta’s municipal infrastructure

why does canada still have a governor general?

After yesterday's 7 minute and 30 second Speech from the Throne, I have some serious questions about the purpose of the Governor General in Canada (questions like, why do we still see fit to continue having a Governor General?). I posed this question on twitter, and received some great responses (I feel like @ricksanchezcnn!).

Question: davecournoyer Could someone please remind me why we have a Governor General?


crazydan @davecournoyer I wish we have a "strong" republican movement in Canada like Australia. But that's a long-shot dream.

dkaszor @davecournoyer To take ceremonial and some diplomatic duties off of the plate of the PM.

CitizenFish @davecournoyer Oh, you know. "Tradition"

bgrier @davecournoyer Uh, in case the government has '...fallen and can't get up.'?

ConalPierse @davecournoyer Because somebody needs to wear all those fancy capes we have lying around, and Mr Dress-up is gone, man. Gone

glenkruger @davecournoyer so the PM can tell them what to do

djkelly @davecournoyer Because no federal politician wants to re-open the constitution

jdarrah @davecournoyer I have no idea. "Throne" is keeping Canada from an identity as a place in the world.

phendrana @davecournoyer To represent the state in a non-partisan fashion - sometimes it is really needed. She was doing a different function today.

KenChapman46 @davecournoyer To give retired CBC on-air people a job?

chrishenderson @davecournoyer those sad European monuments don't tour themselves.

keppykarpala @davecournoyer not only that but why is the Queen still the head of state? It's all about tradition and ritual.

AB_get_rich @davecournoyer Because its one of the few visible things that make us not American.

chigaze @davecournoyer ;)

Monday, January 26, 2009

an oil sands poker face?

Just how strong a hand are the Oil Sands for the Provincial and Federal Government to play with the new Obama Administration? Not very, according to Robert Silver.

air ed.

The Alberta's taxpayer-funded Government’s fleet of airplanes flew empty 230 times in 2008.

Now, I have no problem with the Government owning and using airplanes, but it should be as cost and time efficient as possible, and this doesn't seems to be the case:

"Government officials have said an Edmonton-Calgary flight in one of the fleet's Beechcraft King-Air planes costs about $3,000. That works out to about $1,500 a seat, if there's just two passengers."
A WestJet Edmonton-Calgary return-flight would cost an estimated $342.65. That's over $1,100 more affordable (if the $1,500 is referring to a return flight, which I'm not sure that it is). The Edmonton Journal article reports that Lieutenant Governor Norman Kwong took 94 one-way flights last year, and Premier Ed Stelmach took 93 flights in 2008 and 111 in 2007 (often between Edmonton and Calgary).

It's probably pretty cool to have access to your own fleet of airplanes, but if the PCs are serious about trimming costs (a position which seems to change by the week), they should start with their own perks.

On the topic of the taxpayer-funded Government airplanes, the RCMP are continuing their investigation (which included raids of Alberta Justice and Service Alberta offices) into criminal conduct in the falsification of a misleading government memo submitted into a 2005 public inquiry conducted by Alberta's Information and Privacy Commissioner.

The public inquiry attempted to determine why Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation delayed release of the flight logs of the taxpayer-funded airplanes, and 2007, the Privacy Commissioner ruled (pdf) that the PC Government deliberately withheld the flight log information for political purposes until after the 2004 election.

Friday, January 23, 2009

live-blogging/freezing against the fees.

7:48am - I'm standing outside University Hall at the University of Alberta with over 500 students who got up early to protest tuition and residence fee increases. It's freezing cold outside, so it's really great to see so many people out facing the cold and being active citizens!

8:00am - I'm now sitting in University Hall and there's a nervous tension in the air. The Board of Governors are sitting, preparing for their meeting while the chants of "access now!" are coming from just outside room.

8:03am - The meeting has begun and I'm thinking this might be painful to live-blog. The Board Chair Brian Heidecker is now talking about agenda items. I think he might rival Premier Ed Stelmach for charisma.

8:06am - Chairman Heidecker is now praising Barack Obama.

8:16am - Not sure who the Governors of Alberta's largest public post-secondary institution are? Here's a list:

William Cheung
, Gordon Clanachan, Marc de La Bruyère, Brian Heidecker, John Hoddinott, J.D. Hole, Agnes Hoveland, Linda Hughes, Michael Janz, Don Matthew, Janelle Morin, Jay Nagendran, George Pavlich, Gerard Protti, Sol Rolingher, Oliver Rossier, Indira Samarasekera, Bruce Saville, Don Sieben, Ben Whynot, Dick Wilson

4 women, 17 men. Pretty reflective of the Alberta's population, student population, etc, etc, etc...

8:21am - President Samarasekera is now talking about India and CANDU nuclear reactors. Here's an interesting read on that topic (h/t @AB_get_rich).

8:25am - Holy Web 2.0, Batman! Governor Michael Janz is tweeting from the meeting.

8:32am - Provost Carl Amrhein is about to start their presentation to justify this year's tuition hike. Amrhein takes the time to preemptively call the student position 'inaccurate' before starting his presentation.

8:37am - I'm curious how many people in this room find themselves in this category?

8:44am - University VP Finance Phyllis Clark is presenting the 'institutional budget risks.' Just about as exciting as it sounds.

8:49am - GSA President Ben Whynot is schooling the Board Members on the responsibility of Governors towards the institution while starting the presentation from Graduate Students. "Dissatisfaction with current investments" includes funding disparities across departments, hefty differential fees for international students, & lack of access to childcare for graduate students. U of A Graduate students accessing childcare pay an average of +$700 per month (it may be just me, but that sounds like a lot!)

9:02am - Thinking about how difficult it must be for Governors to actually wade through the positions of the administration and the students. How do you tell what is reality and what is positioning and agendas?

9:08am - Students' Union President Janelle Morin is beginning her presentation. Commenting on students' role on the board. "My obligation to highlight one area where the University is falling short" "gaps between students school costs and their expected revenue flow" "tuition is poised to pass $5,000 this year"

9:15am - Morin: Average accumulated debt for a U of A undergraduate student is $23,000. Over half of undergraduate students graduate with debt.

9:18am - Morin: Average earnings of an Albertan with a Bachelors Degree: Men: $70,000; Women $54,000.

Students' Union summary: improve access, improve quality.

9:21am - Heidecker has opened the floor to questions and observations from the Administration and the Board members on the three presentations. Having been to this kind of meeting in previous years, I know the kind of gold mine for quotes this can be. Let's go!

Provost Amrhein - 'Post-secondary education is a shared responsibility between the Government and the people.' Shouldn't the Government be the people?

9:28am - Calling this meeting frustrating would be an understatement. Can someone convince me to run to become the Students' Union Board of Governors Representative? They're all wearing nice suits. Maybe I'd be able to get a nice suit too? I don't think I'd wear a suit. This board needs less 'suits.'

9:31am - Governor Sol Rolingher:
"I made the decision to have a child while in University. It happened. I don't know why." Rolingher then went on to explain that 'it is a herculean task to overcome financial deprivation, but it's part of being on campus and learning.' (rough quote). Keep in mind that he said this while wearing a very very nice business suit. Doesn't it make you feel better that this public board is filled with men of the people like Rolingher?

9:43am - Provost Amhrein: The tuition increase covers salaries and benefits.

From Maclean's:

"According to the University of Alberta’s fiscal statements for year ended March 31, 2007, U of A president Indira Samarasekera was paid $591,000 in salary and benefits. Her Number Two, provost Carl Amrhein, earned even more: $599,000."
9:48am - 4.1% tuition increase passed. 17-3. Barely any debate from the Public Members of the Board. Alumni Representatives Dick Wilson and William Cheung voted for the increase. In 2008, Alumni Rep Ruth Kelly took a stand and voted against the increase.

10:15am - The presentations regarding residence rent increases are done. Good presentations all around. The University is still dealing with massive deferred maintenance costs caused by the cutbacks in the 1990s. Students are facing a 8% increase, giving students a 30%/$1000 increase since 2006 = $220 per month increase since 2006.

10:30am - Governor Michael Janz "the policy of student housing by our provincial government is unfortunate" "concerned that we are pricing students out" "original 6.4% increase in 2006 was supposed to be an emergency deferred maintenance cost. We are facing so much deferred maintenance costs that I'm afraid we'll continue putting the cost onto students" "I'm concerned that this is contributing to an unsustainable levels of costs that we're putting on students."

10:32am - The meeting is still going. Call me a cynic, but I'm going to assume that the rent increase will pass with about the same amount of debate and similar vote tally as the tuition vote. Two and a half hours after the meeting began, life calls and I must depart. Thanks for tuning in!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

restricted access.

You probably don't know it, but when you wake up at 7am tomorrow morning to the sound of your alarm clock, the Board of Governors of the University of Alberta will be preparing to increase student fees for the 2009/2010 academic year.

Held at the ungodly hour of 7am each year, tomorrow morning's BOG meeting will increase tuition fees by CPI and hike residence rent by 8%. This means that over the past 3 years, Alberta students living in residences at the U of A have seen their rent increase by almost 30% (over $1,000). Put another way: residence rates at the U of A will have increased by $220 per month since 2006 (private University-area housing has only seen an average increase of $205 per month since 2006).

Highlighting the challenges created by increased costs, the U of A Students' Union has been running the Restricted Access campaign and will be showing their presence at a rally tomorrow morning. I will be joining them and may have a chance to post my thoughts live from the Board of Governors meeting if I can get a seat.

the judge has a nose ring.

'The Future: It's why Teachers Teach,' is the slogan used in a new set of new TV and billboard ads from the Alberta Teachers' Association that will run over the next couple of months. You can watch the TV ads here and here.

With the agreed 'labour peace' between the Teachers' Association and the Provincial Government set to last for another 4 years, it will be very interesting to watch how the ATA would react to potential cuts to education funding in the upcoming years.

4 years blogging.

I almost forgot, but this blog celebrated it's 4th anniversary on January 20. It's hard to believe that I've been blogging at daveberta since January 2005!

A big thank you to everyone for reading, contributing, and helping make this blog what it has become!

alberta politics this week.

1) With inspiration from Barack Obama and Malcolm Gladwell, Jason Morris at has some thoughtful insights on Alberta's political environment.

2) Oil Sands Smog. An Environment Canada study obtained under the Access to Information Act predicts that sulfur dioxide will rise by up to 34 per cent by 2017 and nitrous oxides will rise by up to 24 per cent. Are you ready for acid rain in Fort McMurray?

3) While Chief Electoral Officer Lorne Gibson has called for increased transparency and accountability in party leadership races, Kent Hehr is asking Minister Alison Redford why Alberta Justice isn't investigating 16 violations of election finances rules uncovered between 2006 and 2007 (including at least one violation committed by his party).

4) How are Alberta's financial and economic prospects, Premier Ed Stelmach? Good, really bad, not as bad as I told you 24 hours ago, and rosy depending on which day of the week it is.

5) Good luck and safe travels to Journal reporter Archie McLean on his trip to Afghanistan. You can follow Archie's Afghan tour at Assignment Afghanistan.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

uk conservatives gone green.

This shouldn't be news to anyone who pays regular attention to the politics of the United Kingdom (as I know many of this blog's readers do), but I found this article about the U.K. Conservatives move towards greener policies quite interesting.

Though it's only an ocean away, the contrasts between the British Tories and North American Conservatives on environmental issues seems quite stark.


Friday, January 16, 2009

michael ignatieff on alberta's tar sands.

(h/t Scott Ross)

mr. hancock goes to washington.

Besides that he's a good buddy of Alberta's U.S. Ambassador Gary Mar, can anyone give me a good reason why Albertans are paying $3,000 to send Education Minister Dave Hancock to Washington D.C. to watch the Obama Inauguration?

If Klein-era style cutbacks are on Premier Ed Stelmach's mind, I'd imagine these are the sorts of frivolities that would be on the chopping block.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

vote for monte.

With Mike Duffy gone to greener pastures in the land of patronage, now is the perfect time for a Westerner to take the reigns of CTVs On the Hill.

Vote for Monte Solberg!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

look outside the dome.

Alberta's Opposition should look for critics outside its ranks.

Though the Official Opposition has just released a new lineup of MLA critic roles for the upcoming Legislative session, newly elected leader David Swann should look outside the ranks of the nine-member Liberal Caucus to fill some roles.

Just as Stephen Harper appointed Josée Verner to represent Quebec in the Federal Conservative caucus in 2004, and Stéphane Dion appointed Bob Rae and Gerard Kennedy to the Federal Liberal shadow cabinet in 2007, similar moves in Alberta could be a game changer for the Opposition. As both the Liberals and New Democrats only succeeded in electing MLAs from Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge, appointing critics from outside the Legislature could: 1) strengthen voices from regions of Alberta that aren’t represented by the Opposition in the Legislature; 2) make critic responsibilities more manageable for sitting MLAs; and 3) strengthen the quality of opposition critiques and responses to Government decisions.

Though these critics would not have a seat in the Legislature, the Opposition in Alberta is hardly in a position to be picky. After 37 years of one-party government, it’s long past due for the Opposition to start acting outside the traditional political structure. With traditional politics failing to connect with Albertans on a meaningful level (as demonstrated by the 60% of Albertans who did not vote in the March 2008 election), this is one example of how the political establishment in the Legislature could approach politics differently.

A change like this may seem minuscule or insignificant in the short-term, but it has the potential to change the long-term culture of politics in Alberta. By bringing a larger diversity of ideas and voices into the political debate, there is a chance it could make democracy in Alberta a little more competitive, and in turn, a little healthier.

greening the grid within 20 years.

Can Alberta clean up its energy production?

The Pembina Institute released a major report today outlining a strategy for Alberta to switch its main source of electricity from coal to cleaner renewable energy within 20 years. Pembina's Jeff Bell and Tim Weis will be presenting and discussing the report tonight at an event hosted by the University of Alberta Energy Club.

Where & When
Humanities Centre Lecture 1, University of Alberta
January 14, 2009 at 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

the view on tuesday.

1) Oil is sitting at $38 a barrel.

2) Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr has launched a website to support Bill 201, a piece of legislation that would give Police more powers in fighting gang violence. Hehr will be introducing this bill in next session of the Alberta Legislature, set to begin on Tuesday, February 10, 2009.

3) The RCMP are investigating alleged misuse of Wheat Board voters lists by five Conservative MPs. Alleged to have been involved are Crowfoot MP Kevin Sorenson, and Saskatchewan MPs David Anderson, Randy Hoback, Andrew Scheer and Ed Komarnicki.

4) Molotov cocktails are reported to be the source of an arson against the Edmonton home of former Syncrude President James Carter.

5) The University of Alberta Students' Union has launched their Restricted Access campaign, and in today's edition the Gateway has an interview with Advanced Education Minister Doug Horner.

thirteen to one.

As an Albertan, I am naturally skeptical of any Federal program that has the potential to become too Toronto-centric, but I can't imagine that having 13 separate securities regulators across Canada is very efficient. Yesterday, Tom Hockin's Expert Panel on Securities Regulation recommended the creation of a single Securities Regulator for all of Canada.

My amateur knowledge of our Constitution leads me to understand that investment regulations fall under Section 92(13) of the Constitution Act, which acts as balance to the Provinces, while the Federal Government holds powers under Section 91(2), which gives the Feds the power to legislate on matters of internal trade and commerce.

With decentralization of power to the provinces having become a common trend over the past 25 years, it seems to me that economic agreements like the BC-Alberta TILMA have made the situation less clear-cut. The last major internal trade agreement successfully pursued in Canada was the 1994 Agreement on Internal Trade. Since then, the Federal Government seems to have taken a somewhat passive role in actually negotiating inter-provincial trade agreements.

Would a single regulator be more beneficial to Canada? I don't know, but with continued talks of impending economic doom, it is unrealistic to believe that Alberta can remain an island unto itself in Confederation.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

what's your freedom of information gpa?

The Canadian Newspaper Association has released its 4th Annual Freedom of Information Audit (h/t Archie McLean). Here's how the provincial and territorial governments placed in the audit:

Saskatchewan: A-
Manitoba: B+
Alberta: B+
Nova Scotia: B-
Yukon: C+
New Brunswick: C+
Newfoundland: C+
Quebec: C
British Columbia: C-
Ontario: C-
Though I have a hard time believing that the Government of Alberta excels at freedom of information, it's probably true that this says more about how poorly Ontario and British Columbia are doing than anything else. Here's how the Alberta-portion ranked:
Government of Alberta: B+
City of Calgary: B-
City of Edmonton: C+
C's may get degrees, but they don't mean much when it comes to freedom of information. As someone who is interested in urban issues and municipal politics, I am continually frustrated with how difficult it is to keep track of what initiatives my municipal government and City Councillors are actually working on.

No excuse, Edmonton, it's time to pick up your game.

cupdate: dateline saskatoon.

The second day of the Canadian University Press conference in Saskatoon is going well.

Still riding high from meeting Jonathan Goldstein last night, I joined Joey Coleman and the author of grrrl meets world for this morning's bloggers' panel. There was some pretty interesting discussion generated around the current and future role of blogs and bloggers in politics and local reporting (I have also had a lot of good feedback from my session yesterday, which is always reassuring). I've had a great time presenting and meeting with delegates at this conference, and thank CUP for inviting me to speak (Saskatoon is also a nice city, so it was even more of a pleasure to be here).

I get the feeling that there are a lot of aspiring journalists at this conference who are seriously concerned about future job prospects in the industry. As coverage of local community and political issues will undoubtably suffer as the larger mainstream media companies continue to hemmorage staff and resources, I believe that new online media, like blogs, are well positioned to fill the gap in reporting. Though this may force the bigger newspapers to once again put resources into local reporting (which would be good), it also has the potential to critically change where Canadians turn to find their local community and political news.

Friday, January 09, 2009

i never imagined saskatchewan was actually this flat...

...and to be clear (in case you don't get the reference), I mean it in a geological sense. On the bus ride from Edmonton to Saskatoon yesterday, I could literally see for kilometers. As a kid who grew up in a small-town on the edge of a farmer's field, I never thought the openness of vast fields would actually startle me, but it did, and I feel like I've grown as a person because of it.

I am happy to report a successful first day at the 71st Annual Canadian University Press Conference!

After arriving by Greyhound in Saskatoon last night, I grabbed $6.80 taxi ride from the bus depot to the Sheraton Cavalier. Within my first minute of the 4 minute cab ride, the driver (who promptly informed me that he had recently moved to the Prairies from Montreal) warned me not to venture across the river to the west side of Saskatoon (which according to him, was 'sketchy'). Interesting.

I arrived at the hotel. Checked in. Found myself in a extremely comfortable hotel suite which included a bar, giant screened television, and massive king sized bed. Luxury.

This morning, I threw away the cab driver's advice and dared to venture to the 'sketchy' west side of Saskatoon (which actually seemed fairly nice) to the University of Saskatchewan and met Ward 4 City Council candidate Sean Shaw for coffee at the local Tim Horton's. We had a great chat and I would recommend you check out his website, as he seems to have some pretty good ideas for positive change in Saskatoon.

I returned to the conference in the afternoon and delivered my session on politics, blogging, and web 2.0 to conference delegates. The session went well, and though I didn't get the chance to record it, I may try to re-do it in podcast form for folks who are interested (thanks for the emails, facebook messages, comments, and tweets).

The conference is going well, and I was happy to join the crew from the Gateway at the conference dinner tonight, which featured Wiretap host and former This American Life contributor Jonathan Goldstein. As a huge Wiretap and long-time TAL fan, it was pretty amazing to see Goldstein speak in person. Win.

Tomorrow: Bloggers Panel with Joey Coleman and Rebekah Bennetch.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

governing myself accordingly: day 365.

It's hard to believe that it was actually a year ago today that my petite affair with Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach became public. Though we may have had some rough bumps over the past year, I think we may have discovered how to make our relationship work in this great province we call Alberta.

It's been a growing year for both the Premier and I. After the PCs won their first majority government under Stelmach, they finally decided to hire someone with more than a basic understanding of the interweb. Next week, the PCs caucus will be launching a new interactive website - If successful, it may have the potential to push Alberta's political-class into joining the world of web 2.0.

I'm not sure how Stelmach will be celebrating the occasion, but I will celebrate by hopping on a bus to Saskatchewan. I will be speaking at the Canadian University Press annual conference in Saskatoon this weekend. I'm excited to be be delivering a session on politics, new media, and web 2.0 on Friday afternoon, and to be joining blogger Joey Coleman in a panel discussion on blogging on Saturday.

(For those of you interested in some legal followup to the incident, in November 2008 the Alberta Law Review published an article titled ' and the Tort of Misappropriation of Personality,' which is quite interesting.)

Related Reading:
premier stelmach threatens to sue alberta blogger over / day 2 / the daveberta conspiracy / day 3 / day 4 / day 10 / day 23

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

saying goodbye to the garneau theatre we know?

We received our demolition notice ... on Christmas Eve. The owner of the building will be demolishing the front half of the Garneau Theatre after July 1, 2009.

I was a little shocked to read an email forwarded to me by a reader this afternoon. As a resident of the Garneau neighbourhood, I am disappointed to learn that the owner of the building has decided to change the face of this historic Edmonton landmark. In July 2007, Edmonton lawyer John Day purchased the building, and at the time was quoted saying "I will consult with the community" before planning any major renovations to the historic block. According to a 2008 article, the lease for the movie theatre was set to expire in 2009.

In November 2007, the popular Garneau restaurants the Sugar Bowl and High Level Dinner, avoided demolition when owner Patrick Turner sold the building to its current tenants. Turner had been offered truckloads of cash a developer who wanted to demolish the historic block and build condominium building, but decided to save the historic building instead.

Perhaps there are structural reasons for the demolition, or perhaps it will just be a well-intentioned face lift for the historic building, but it will be a loss for Edmonton if the demolition results in irreparable damage to a unique building that has helped shape the quirky character of the Garneau area for decades.

environmental groups launch legal battle against syncrude over 500 dead ducks.

From the Edmonton Journal:

Ecojustice launched the private prosecution, on behalf of Custer, in provincial court this morning against Syncrude under the Federal Migratory Birds Convention Act, which prohibits the deposit of a harmful substance in an area frequented by migratory birds. The prosecution is also supported by Sierra Club Canada and Forest Ethics.
More on the Tailings Ponds of northern Alberta

(h/t @taudette, Ken Chapman)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

second phase of alberta's innovative long-term savings strategy to be unveiled.

PC Finance Minister Iris Evans may be traveling to Norway to learn how to save money, but the real attention should be paid to the activities of Treasury Secretary Lloyd Snelgrove, who is rumoured to be preparing the second phase of Alberta's new innovative long-term savings strategy to be executed upon Evans' return at the end of January.

The key principle of the strategy revolves around the development of a flux-capacitor, which once installed into a proper vehicle and reaches a speed of 88 miles per hour (142 km/h), will transport Evans back to November 5, 1955.

Upon arriving in 1955, Evans will intercept young Ralph Klein at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance and attempt to convince him that properly saving for Alberta's future would be vitally important during his time as Premier. If Evans is successful, this will begin to cause what Doc Brown describes as a paradox that would cause Alberta's financial and infrastructure problems to disappear from existence (but if she's not careful, and does not bring any extra plutonium, Evans will have to find the 1955 version of Lloyd Snelgrove to help her return to 2009).

an odd start to the next election campaign in calgary-centre.

Calgary-Centre Green candidate Natalie Odd is getting a head start on the next Federal election by re-launching her campaign this weekend.

Odd, the Executive Director of the Clean Calgary Association, placed a close-third when she faced off against Conservative MP Jim Prentice Lee Richardson in October 2008. Placing less than 600 votes behind second-place Liberal Heesung Kim and earning 16.7% of the vote, Odd's 2008 performance was the strongest of any Calgary federal Green candidate to date.

Monday, January 05, 2009

will harper appoint 12 senators in 2009?

After having made 18 Senate appointments in December 2008, is there any reason to believe (barring an election defeat) that Prime Minister Stephen Harper won't make appointments to fill the 12 scheduled Senate vacancies in 2009?

edmonton-strathcona watch.

With NDP MP Linda Duncan having been the only non-Conservative MP elected in Alberta in the October 2008 election, I expect the Conservatives will pay a lot of attention to Edmonton-Strathcona in 2009.

It may be early, but the rumour mill has already begun generating names of potential Conservative candidates pondering a run in Alberta's only island of orange. One of the more interesting names I've heard mentioned has been Senator-in-waiting Betty Unger.

In 2000, Unger was narrowly defeated by former Liberal MP Anne McLellan when she ran under the Canadian Alliance banner in Edmonton-West. Running a woman candidate with campaign experience in a competitive riding would probably be a good move for the Conservatives as they bid to regain their political monopoly in this province. With Alberta's next scheduled Senate vacancy until 2011 (when Liberal Senator Tommy Banks turns 75), it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see Unger try to jump back into the political arena this early.

Friday, January 02, 2009

collective self-insurance.

In an era where many western politicians seem to have an almost illogical fetish with P3s, I thought this quote regarding the banking industry was quite interesting.

"Private banks collectively cannot self-insure against a generalised run on the banks. Once the state underwrites the deposits or makes alternative funding available as lender of last resort, deposit-based banking is a license to print money. That suggests that either deposit-banking licenses should be periodically auctioned off competitively or that deposit-taking banks should be in public ownership to ensure that the taxpayer gets the rents as well as the risks. - The end of American capitalism (as we knew it) | open Democracy News Analysis
(h/t Michael Janz Online)