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Friday, July 31, 2009

what do you think? canada in afghanistan.

I'm in the process of writing a post on my thoughts about the role of the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan. Like many Canadians, I am torn on this complex issue and have struggled to balance my thoughts on our Armed Forces, the reasons for Canada's entry into this conflict, our current intentions, and our responsibilities now that our Armed Forces are there.

I would be very interested to learn: What are your thoughts about Canada's role in Afghanistan?

alberta electoral boundaries commission members to be announced.

Related to last week's post on the appointment of Ernie Walter as Chair of Alberta's Electoral Boundary Commission, the four members of the commission will be announced shortly:

Mr. Brian Evans, QC (Calgary) Nominated by the President of Executive Council

Mr. Peter Dobbie, QC (Vegreville) Nominated by the President of Executive Council

Dr. Keith Archer (Banff) Nominated by the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition*

Ms. Allyson Jeffs (Edmonton) Nominated by the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition*

* Nominations by Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition were done in consultation with the Leader of the third-party opposition.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

global youth assembly 2009 ignites edmonton.

It's been an exciting couple of weeks for north central Edmonton. City Council voted for the phased closure of the Edmonton City Centre Airport twenty days ago, the Edmonton Indy was held last weekend, and starting tomorrow morning on the NAIT campus over 500 delegates will converge at the Global Youth Assembly 2009 presented by the John Humphrey Centre.

I'm not able to attend the entire conference, but I will be there to hear former Foreign Affairs Minister and current President of the University of Winnipeg Lloyd Axworthy speak tomorrow morning on the topic of 'Global Community & Citizenship: Building Responsibility.' I'm very interested to hear what he has to say, especially in regards to the Canadian Armed Forces current involvement in Afghanistan.

In an event open to the public, Governor General Michaëlle Jean will be hosting a Friday evening 'hip hop' dialogue with conference delegates. Also on Friday, a panel discussion on apathy and political engagement will include local notables Councillor Don Iveson and federal election candidate Lewis Cardinal.

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited by the conference organizers to write a guest post on their blog and it's now been posted, so feel free to to peruse over and check it out. I'm not sure how often their blog will be updated during the conference, but you can follow #gya09 on twitter for instant updates from delegates.

Monday, July 27, 2009

carbon capture: this public relations facade is a pricey piece of unicorn science.

Last Friday, Jim Carter, formerly of Syncrude and more recently of the Alberta Carbon Capture and Storage Development Council, spoke to the media following the release of a report which indicated the cost of the unproven technology may be higher then had been previously believed.

Carbon capture and storage will "at least double" electricity prices in Alberta and require taxpayers to contribute up to $3 billion more a year to support industry's efforts to use the technology, says the chairman of a provincial advisory council.
Premier Ed Stelmach has used the funding of the unproven Carbon Capture and Storage technology as an attempt to convince international leaders and investors that Alberta can 'green' the oil sands, but a November 2008 leaked government memo written by University of Calgary researcher Dr. David Keith suggested that carbon capture would do little to reduce carbon emissions eminating from Alberta's Energy Beach.
[l]ittle of the oil sands' carbon dioxide can be captured because most emissions aren't concentrated enough.
But what of the two recent provincial studies suggesting that the emissions from Alberta's oil sands aren't as dirty as we thought? Read Graham Thomson's column from this past Saturday to debunk that spin.

Researchers like Dr. Keith have suggested that the technology would best be used to capture carbon from coal burning facilities, which does very little to reduce the fast growing oil sands emissions and nothing to reduce the impact of tailings ponds and open pit mining. With our politicians ready to invest billions of taxpayers dollars in carbon capture, it remains unclear what impact it will have if this technology can be implemented:
Air capture appears to be technically feasible. But the economics are still unclear, and the politics murkiest of all. Will developing countries build enormous air-capture plants, powered by coal, to offset the emissions associated with industrialisation? Will the technology discourage efforts to improve energy efficiency, or might it be a valuable tool in the fight against climate change? At the moment, air capture is merely experimental.
This public relations facade is a pricey piece of unicorn science. With the sheer billions of taxpayers dollars that may be spent on carbon capture, I can't help but imagine the world leader Alberta could become if even a fraction of those billions were dedicated towards smart innovation and R&D strategies in renewable energy and sustainable transportation.

Related Posts

- story time: a tale of two ($2 billion dollar) funds [ccs and public transit in alberta].
- alberta budget 2009: tough economic times.
- the carbon capture pipe dream. alberta should abandon the public relations facades and plan for the future.
- albertans could leave carbon capture in their dust.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

ernie walter appointed chair of alberta's next electoral boundaries commission.

Through an Order-in-Council, former Provincial Court Justice Ernie Walter has been appointed as Chair of Alberta's next Electoral Boundaries Review Commission. Justice Walter will be joined by four commission members (two appointed by the Premier Ed Stelmach and two appointed by Official Opposition leader David Swann). The commission will be tasked to redraw the boundaries to account for the population changes since the last boundaries review in 2002/2003. The legislation governing this commission calls for it to be appointed before July 31, 2009.

New changes, introduced by Justice Minister Alison Redford in Bill 45: Electoral Boundaries Commission Amendment Act, mandate that the commission increase the total number of Alberta's electoral districts from 83 to 87 (in these (sic) tough economic times, one thing that we can apparently afford is more politicians).

It is suspected that the 4 MLA increase has less to do with increasing representation and more to do with preempting any increased urban-rural tension among PC MLAs. Even as many rural Alberta ridings decrease in population, its citizens have continued to benefit from being over-represented in the Legislative Assembly in comparison to citizens in Alberta's larger urban areas (ie: 23,645 people in Dunvegan-Central Peace and 55,570 people in Edmonton-Whitemud).

Not convinced? Last year, Municipal Affairs Minister and Lac La Biche-St. Paul MLA Ray Danyluk made his position clear when he told the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties that "Representation is not all about equal representation, it's about equitable representation." Actually, it is about equal representation.

As a result of the 2002/2003 Electoral Boundary Review Final Report, the quickly growing City of Edmonton lost a seat in the Legislative Assembly when the Edmonton-Norwood riding was dissolved (much of the area was merged with Edmonton-Highlands to become the current Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

guy boutilier's free agency.

There is a serious leadership vacuum in Alberta. Most of the time it appears that PC Premier Ed Stelmach is absent from the important political debates and indecisive as our provincial leader, but every now and then he sporadically overcompensates. We saw this overcompensation with his recent pledge to never raise taxes and again this weekend with the over the phone firing of Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Guy Boutilier.

I wasn’t shocked to learn that Guy Boutilier had been kicked out of the Progressive Conservative caucus and I have a difficult time believing that Boutilier didn’t know exactly what he was doing. Boutilier must have known that he was playing with political fire when he publicly accused Health & Wellness Minister Ron Liepert of “talking gibberish” and then criticized Stelmach for not wanting a cabinet minister “who graduated from Harvard with Barack Obama.” Boutilier admitted that he never met Obama while at Harvard, but I imagine that comment was a bit stinging to a Premier who never completed his University degree.

Boutilier's criticisms of Liepert stemmed from the state of seniors care in Fort McMurray, and while it would be easy to commended him for breaking from the party line, his 12 years in the governing PC caucus have given him many better opportunities to publicly champion health care in Fort McMurray. He is now on his way out.

This isn’t the first time that Boutilier’s bizarre political actions have raised eyebrows.

While testifying to the Alberta Energy Utilities Board in 2006, Boutilier told Mikisew Cree First Nation lawyer Don Mallon that at the time, he was not speaking as the Minister of the Environment, but as an MLA. When asked how he could do this, Boutilier testified that he could actually turn off the part of his brain where he was the Minister of Environment. An impressive feat.

Boutilier led a loose coalition of PC MLAs who had yet to endorse a candidate in their party’s 2006 leadership contest. The group called itself the C5 ("Conservative, Competitive, Caring, Conservationist Coalition") and included Clint Dunford, Ty Lund, Pearl Calahasen, Ivan Strang and LeRoy Johnson. Boutilier and Calahasen eventually endorsed Lyle Oberg, and were both eventually dumped from their cabinet positions after Stelmach became Premier.

During my time as Chairperson of the Council of Alberta University Students from 2006 to 2007, I met with many MLAs and Cabinet Ministers. None of the meetings I experienced was more bizarre than my final meeting in that role in May 2007, when I met with then-Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Guy Boutilier. In his office at the Legislature, myself and the CAUS Executive Director presented our post-secondary education advocacy points, only to be continually interrupted by Boutilier's gesturing to his wall-mounted Harvard degree and giant wall photo of his first Bull riding experience as Mayor of Wood Buffalo. He was obviously quite proud of both of these, but his focus on them may have prevented him from actually digesting anything we had to say during the meeting. It gave me a glimpse of how difficult a person he must have been to work with at the cabinet table, so I'm not shocked that he has quickly fallen out of favour with the cabal of Stelmach loyalists that replaced Ralph Klein's inner circle in 2006.

What are Boutilier's options now?

He could sit as an Independent MLA, as Oberg did, and then wait for a chance to return to the PC caucus if that opportunity presents itself. Not many Independent MLAs have been successful in their bids of seek re-elected in Alberta. In 1993, Clover Bar MLA Kurt Gesell left the PC caucus and ran as an Independent candidate in the newly created Clover Bar-Fort Saskatchewan riding. He was defeated by former Fort Saskatchewan Mayor and Liberal candidate Muriel Abdurahman.

He could join another political party. While there isn't much precedent of PC MLAs joining the Liberal Party in Alberta, a couple of PC MLAs have joined other parties. Former Edmonton-Norwood MLA Gary Masyk left the PC caucus in 2004 to join the fledgling Alberta Alliance after his riding was abolished. Masyk ended up running in the newly created Edmonton-Decore riding, but was defeated by Liberal Bill Bonko.

With three years until the next expected election, Boutilier has the option of representing Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo in Alberta's Legislative Assembly without having to adhere to the discipline of a party Whip. For better or worse, citizens in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo are no longer represented by a PC backbencher, they are now represented by a free agent MLA.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

stelmach boots boutilier.

Premier Ed Stelmach booted Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA and former Cabinet Minister Guy Boutilier out of the PC caucus today, over the phone...

Fort McMurray MLA Guy Boutilier is "shocked and disappointed" after being kicked out of the Tory caucus by Premier Ed Stelmach late Friday during a phone conversation. ...

"He (Stelmach) said 'you're out, you're not welcome at caucus on Tuesday.' I asked to meet caucus but he refused.

"I always thought you got to face your accuser, but the premier categorically refused to meet me or let me meet the members of caucus I've served with for 12 years."
Boutilier recently accused Health Minister Ron Liepert of "talking gibberish" on the poor state of seniors care in Fort McMurray. He recently endeared himself to Stelmach by criticizing him for not wanting a cabinet minister "who graduated from Harvard with Barack Obama."

Friday, July 17, 2009

is your bike rack breeding bolsheviks?

Usually I try to keep my witty retorts to these sort of items to Twitter, but this recent quote from Edmonton Sun columnist Kerry Diotte called for more than a 140 character response:

The socialist-style re-education campaign told us motorists and cyclists can get along -- and if they simply watch for one another and stick to the rules of the road, our streets will be a safe place for both.

Diotte was referring to the City of Edmonton's Share the Road education campaign which is aimed at improving traffic safety and reducing injuries between motorists and cyclists. While I completely agree with Diotte's arguments that Edmonton's Police need to crack down on cyclists who break traffic laws and that we need more proper bike lanes on our major roads, I think he may be the only person in Edmonton who believes that our bike racks are breeding Bolsheviks.

BikesBoris Johnson

The challenge for many North American cities is to create an environment on our roads that will make the average commuter feel comfortable cycling to work if they are able. Campaigns like Share the Road shouldn't be geared towards the already hyper-active bike enthusiasts who are already cycling in rain or shine, but to the average Edmontonians who would ride their bikes to work a little more often if they felt they weren't going to get plowed over by a motorist or sideswiped by a crazy cyclist.

As a long-term growth strategy for Edmonton it's smart, it's healthy, and it could even possibly cut down the ridiculous amount of traffic congestion that is increasingly jamming our roads.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

liberal & ndp nominations in edmonton-centre and edmonton-east.

Three federal candidate nominations have been scheduled in Edmonton for the last week of July. It looks like they will all end up in acclamation.

Edmonton-Centre Liberal nomination meeting
July 27, Westmount Community Hall
(I will post the time when I get confirmation)
Candidate: Mary MacDonald

Edmonton-Centre/Edmonton-East NDP joint nomination meeting
July 28, Alberta Avenue Community Centre, 6:30pm
Edmonton-Centre: Lewis Cardinal
Edmonton-East: Ray Martin

12 wards for edmonton in 2010.

Edmontonians won't notice a difference until next fall, but if City Councillors approve Bylaw 15142: Ward Boundaries and Council Composition Bylaw on June 22, our city will shed the 6-Ward/2-Councillor system in favour of a more modern 12-Ward/1-Councillor system.

The original motion to move to the 12-Ward system was introduced by Councillors Don Iveson and Dave Theile on February 17, 2009 and was approved in first reading by Councillors on April 15, 2009 (Councillors Jane Batty, Amarjeet Sohi, Tony Caterina, and Ron Hayter voted against the motion). I attended the April 15 meeting, and while watching the debate on Ward boundary changes was as exciting as you can imagine, the meeting reached a climax when former Councillor Sheila Mckay yelled her opposition from the Chamber seating area (Mckay was calmed down by Mayor Stephen Mandel).

Why are Councillors voting for this change? A new 12-Ward system will allow Councillors to more easily manage constituent requests (smaller population to represent) and will theoretically create more equitable representation for Edmotonians (in many cases, the more high profile of the two Councillors in the current large 6-Ward system receive the lions share of the constituents requests). Overall, I think the proposed 12-Ward system would be a positive move for our City.

The proposed new boundaries largely respect natural and community league boundaries, and in most cases are simple divisions of the current 6-Ward map. It's unfortunate that City Councillors are drawing their own electoral boundaries, which is something that should change in the future, but Edmontonians should be proud that their Councillors avoided the kind of gong show debate that recently engulfed Calgary's City Council.

Here is the map of the proposed new boundaries:

From a political perspective, Council will be taking a risk in accepting the new boundaries. Looking to the 2010 election, the new boundaries will likely play a factor in determining who runs for Mayor in 2010 and if any incumbents decide to run against each in the next campaign (I'm putting early odds on an Ed Gibbons versus Tony Caterina fight in the new Ward 4, and a Ben Henderson versus Jane Batty showdown in the new Ward 6).

Related Links:

Better Edmonton: 12 Councillors, 12 Wards: More Than A Dozen Reasons Why…
Don Iveson: 12 Wards
SEE Magazine
: Councillors stake out their territory

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

alberta green party de-registered.

The writing was on the wall... from the now former Alberta Green Party website:

The “Alberta Greens” Green Party of Alberta has been de-registered by Elections Alberta as a political entity in the Province of Alberta. De-registration of the party is an administrative opportunity to re-organize and rebuild the party into a viable political organization. The importance and mainstream acceptance of the Green Party’s values and principles are on the rise, and the Green Party's many supporters can now look forward to a fresh start.

The “Alberta Greens” Green Party of Alberta Society is now registered as a non-profit corporate entity in the province of Alberta for the purposes of advancing a “Green” agenda, and preparing the Green Party’s political future. A meeting will be announced in the very near future to plan a path forward.

........ more information will be released as soon as it becomes available.
(ht @grant)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

rich vivone putting klein era politics in print with a new book.

According to, former Insight Into Government* editor Rich Vivone is gearing up to release a new book of twelve essays, titled Ralph could have been a Superstar: Tales of the Klein Era.

An exert from Vivone's website describes the book:

Rich argues that the Klein Government had everything - the political power, a popular leader, a fragmented opposition, and loads of money - to be real leaders in reforming Alberta's political, economic, social and cultural institutions. They could have diversified the provincial economy to lessen its reliance on natural resources. They could have brought serious reforms to the money-draining health system. They could have been political and economic leaders in the country. Yet their failures far exceeded their successes.

Twelve essays in Ralph could have been a Superstar: Tales of the Klein Era deal with Ralph Klein's rise to power, his government's well-planned and well-executed manipulation of the mainstream media, the fear it instilled in people who dealt with government, its contradictions on issues involving children, its repeated failures to reform health care, the plight of the Liberal party, the story of Jim Dinning's rise and failure, and an assessment of scandals and scandalous political behaviour throughout 34 years of Conservative Government. The final essay is an open letter to Premier Ed Stelmach, defining serious political challenges that face his government and the province.

I can't wait for it to hit the shelves!

*Now InsightAlberta.

Monday, July 13, 2009

who is running to be leader of alberta's official opposition?

Judging from the buzz, it looks like Danielle Smith.

The two-person contest (which also includes Mark Dyrholm) to lead the now seatless right-wing Wild Rose Alliance appears to be attracting a larger amount of interest than last year's contest to lead the official opposition Alberta Liberal Party.

The 2008 Liberal contest, which culminated in a December 2008 vote, attracted as contestants Calgary MLAs David Swann and Dave Taylor and former Edmonton MLA Mo Elsalhy. While the Liberal Party earned over 250,000 votes in the March 2008 election, the leadership candidates were only able to attract around 6,500 Albertans to join their party in anticipation of the vote. As far as I am aware, Alberta's only other opposition party in the Legislature, the Alberta NDP, haven't held a contested leadership race since 1996.

I remained somewhat skeptical following Alex Abboud's bold prediction and the recent columns in the Calgary Herald, but some of the latest buzz that I've been hearing has me wondering: could the Wild Rose Alliance under a leader like Danielle Smith could actually pose a serious threat to Ed Stelmach's Progressive Conservative Party?

The dominant PCs have become accustomed to facing a Liberal and NDP opposition that largely self-quarantines its resources in 20 to 25 urban ridings in Edmonton and Calgary, making it easy for the PCs to rack up massive majorities in the remaining 60 or so ridings. Both the leaders of the Liberals and NDP are having a difficult time gaining any traction in public opinion and voter turnout has dropped to a pathetically low ~40% in 2008, which has left the political environment in tinder dry conditions. A Reform Party-esq firestorm ignited by a smart and savvy libertarian like Smith could create a political challenge stronger than anything the PCs have seen since the dethroning Harry Strom's Social Credit Party in 1971.

Kevin Libin's National Post coverage has revealed that a number of prominent Conservative Party of Canada organizers in Calgary have joined Smith's campaign, which could destabilize what in many ways has become a delicate relationship between the governing Federal and Provincial Conservative parties in Alberta.

While the hype around the Wild Rose Alliance leadership contest may end up being little more than summer-time buzz, it will remain quite telling that at least in the short-term it is making some members of the governing PCs a little jumpy.

Related Link:
David Climenhaga: Danielle Smith to lead Wildrose Alliance? Remember where you read it first!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

is social media triggering a citizen engagement renaissance in our cities?

Edmonton Journal columnist Todd Babiak has written an interesting column on the use of social media in the Edmonton City Centre Airport debate. Babiak interviewed Mack Male (@mastermaq) and Jørdan Schrøder (@cleisthenis) and focused on how social media was used by many engaged younger Edmontonians to convince City Councillors to close the ECCA in favour of smarter urban development.

Enough evidence has been collected to show that social media can have powerful advocacy uses, but I'm not convinced that social media alone will succeed in "turning the channel on the old boys' network." While the organic nature of social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs allow for the kind of direct interaction and conversation that radio ads and giant billboards could never, the back rooms and cheque books will continue to play a large role in influencing political decisions in our cities. This is a key reason why the types of changes made in Athabasca-Redwater MLA Jeff Johnson's Bill 203 municipal campaign finance reform legislation are so desperately needed.

While the ECCA debate was only one example of how the positive merger between social media and citizen engagement is evolving, there are other shining and nascent examples of other emerging citizen groups that taking place in our province, including ChangeCamp, CivicCamp, Better Calgary, and Better Edmonton. Tackling a wide range of issues from smart growth (including Plan It in Calgary) to connecting citizens and government in dialogue (through ChangeCamp), these groups are forming around active citizens who are willing to take a public stand (both in person and online) for the kind of positive change they want to see in their cities and communities.

It is easy to become cynical about traditional politics, grandstanding politicians, and old-style political parties, but I am constantly encouraged by the exciting citizen engagement that is happening on the municipal levels in Alberta's cities.

Related Link:
Adam Rozenhart: A shifting discourse

Thursday, July 09, 2009

phased closure of edmonton's city centre airport a smart step.

I am very pleased that Edmonton City Council decided to support the phased closure of the City Centre Airport. Yesterday's 10 to 3 vote (with Councillors Tony Caterina, Ron Hayter, and Linda Sloan being the three) puts an end to this portion of a debate that started long before the 1995 City-wide plebiscite on scheduled service.

I am proud of our City Council. They made a courageous decision and have taken up the challenge of implementing some (literally) ground-shifting positive change to how urban Edmonton will develop over the next twenty years. Mack Male was in Council Chambers yesterday and has written a good recap of the vote, amendments, and what the result means for the ECCA and our City. While Councillors stopped short of attaching actual dates to the closure, which may leave some people remaining skeptical about the decision, Mayor Stephen Mandel insisted that the motion was a clear decision to close to ECCA.

The group of Edmontonians supporting the closure were diverse, but it was likely one of the first times that social media has played a prominent role in such an important municipal decision as this. While it is impossible to know what decision Councillors would have made under different circumstances, (which was launched masterfully by Mack Male), twitter (see: #ecca), a large Facebook presence, and a very active group of young Edmontonian bloggers proved that the organic nature of social media can translate into a very powerful advocacy tool. I look forward to seeing more of this kind of grassroots advocacy on future municipal issues (I'm looking at you, Better Edmonton...)

One of the main groups opposing the closure was the Alberta Enterprise Group. While I joked yesterday that this now puts the group at 0 for 2 (AEGs predecessor group, the Grassroots Leadership Group, bankrolled Mark Norris’ campaign for the PC leadership in 2006), I believe that this was a significant legitimizing exercise for the AEG. Although they seem to have a larger focus on provincial affairs, as suggested by their recent trade delegation to Switzerland (which included Premier Ed Stelmach), I doubt that this is the last we will see of this group. With a municipal election ahead in October 2010, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the AEG throw their financial support behind candidates in the Mayoral and some Councillor races.

Edmontonians and their Councillors will now be challenged to put a great of thought and reflection into what kind of communities we want to see realized on the ECCA lands in ten or twenty years from now. It’s hard for me not to get excited about the unique opportunity that the closure of the ECCA is giving Edmonton because it is extremely rare for any major metropolitan area to be given the challenge of developing such a large piece of land so close to the city core.

As I wrote in my letter to Councillors Ben Henderson and Jane Batty earlier this week, the land which the ECCA now sits on has incredible potential for increased smart residential and commercial development. These include the three smart growth strategies that Peter Newman spoke about when he was in Edmonton for last month’s ICLEI World Congress: Pedestrian Oriented Developments, Transit Oriented Developments, and Green Oriented Developments.

There is no reason why Edmontonians should settle for less than the best to be built on the ECCA lands. If developed with thought and foresight, new smart growth on the ECCA lands will bring us a step closer to realizing that there can be a better Edmonton.

Related Links:
- The Edmontonian: Interview with CBC Radio (with @journalistjeff and @mastermaq)
- fusedlogic The Great Edmonton Airport Debate
- Don Iveson: City Centre Airport: Leaning Towards Closure
- Alain Saffel: Should Edmonton close the Edmonton City Centre Airport?
- Darren Barefoot: Edmonton's Airport Debate
- Scott McKeen: Fifty years of airport rancour must end with decision to close it

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

recovering from a bad bout of partisanship.

As someone who was deeply involved in partisan politics in the past, but has since abandoned any party membership or involvement mainly due to the negativity and hyper-partisanship that saturates party politics in Canada (negativity and hyper-partisanship that I once embraced), this article by Simon Jackson stuck with me.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

read my lips.

Ed Stelmach (February 23, 2008): “A Progressive Conservative government will never put Alberta back into a deficit position.”
April 7, 2009: Alberta to post $4.7B deficit

Ed Stelmach (July 7, 2009): "As long as I'm premier of this province, there will be no tax increases."
I'm just saying...

(h/t to CalgaryGrit for reminding me of the February 2009 quote)

UPDATE: Premier Stelmach has revealed his true motivation behind his decree and the rescinding of the Liquor Tax that his Government imposed in the April 2009 Budget:
'So just to close: cold beer, hot day, during very difficult economic times.'
(h/t the Chief of Staff to the President of Daveberta)

transparency and epcor privatization.

Edmonton City Council's vote to privatize the power production portions of EPCOR was held as a private shareholders meeting (the City of Edmonton owns 100% of the shares), but no rules were broken. What's the real issue? The privatization or how the decision was made?

- While I thought the Edmonton Journal's 'MAJOR ABUSE OF POWER' headline was a tad bit sensationalist considering that Council conducted itself within the rules laid out before them, I do think the transparency issue needs to be addressed for future decisions. Councillor Don Iveson has already said that he plans on introducing a motion that would require councillors to make decisions about significant Epcor asset sales or restructuring at council rather than shareholder meetings.
"There are a number of fair reasons why the recent Capital Power decision was made that way, but I don't want to be asked to make any further decisions that way."

"Our accountability is clearer when we are meeting as councillors than if we're meeting as shareholders."
- Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft has written an op-ed on the EPCOR issue, arguing that Council should put entire process on hold to allow public scrutiny.

- The Our Power Citizens Group is trying to start a larger debate on the EPCOR issue, but who is behind this group? The address listed on their website is the same as Public Interest Alberta. The group will be hosting a meeting on Wednesday, July 8th at 7:30 PM at the Central Lions Seniors Centre 11113 — 113 Street.

Monday, July 06, 2009

the great airport debate.

In case you missed it, you can watch the Great Airport Debate about Edmonton's City Centre Airport between Mack Male (@mastermaq) and David MacLean (@dmac666) on FusedLogic TV. Follow #ecca for more.

Congrats to the fusedlogic (@fusedlogic) team for putting on this debate!

close the edmonton city centre airport.

The following is the letter I sent Councillors Ben Henderson and Jane Batty:

Dear Councillors,

I am writing to you as a citizen who wishes to see the Edmonton City Centre Airport closed. While this historical facility has served our city well in the past, we should not allow the privilege of a small minority to limit our larger future potential.

My main concern is that while the ECCA uses of such a large piece of real estate in the centre of our city, potential smart development will be hindered in the downtown core (due to building height restrictions) and in the core itself (due to the large amount of space currently used by the ECCA). As a Ward 4 resident, I am also concerned with the amount of noise pollution that is caused by the many arriving and departing planes and jets that occur each day.

The land which the ECCA now sits on has incredible potential for increased smart urban development, including the three smart growth strategies that Peter Newman spoke about when he was in Edmonton for last month’s ICLEI World Congress: Pedestrian Oriented Developments, Transit Oriented Developments, and Green Oriented Developments.

There is no reason why Edmontonians should settle for less than the best for our future.

The closure of the City Centre Airport will bring us a step closer to realizing a better Edmonton.


David Cournoyer
Citizen, Ward 4

Edmonton City Council will be voting on the issue on July 8 or 10, so please email your City Councillor at For more information, visit

Saturday, July 04, 2009

former candidate jim wachowich speaks about edmonton-centre.

After reading a recent blog post by Ken Chapman, I took the opportunity to speak with former Edmonton-Centre Liberal candidate and consumer advocate lawyer Jim Wachowich over the phone yesterday. During the call, Wachowich confirmed the rumours that he will not be seeking the Liberal candidacy in Edmonton-Centre for the next election.

Wachowich explained that for personal, family, and professional reasons, it would have been difficult to dedicate the time and resources to run in an election that could occur at any time. Despite the legislated fixed-election date law in Canada, a minority Parliament and constant games of political brinkmanship in Ottawa have made snap elections a reality that potential candidates from all parties now face.

Following the June 30 Town Hall meeting that drew over 600 Edmontonians, Wachowich said he was excited about a renewed energy that Michael Ignatieff’s leadership has brought to the Liberal Party of Canada.

Describing the challenges facing the Edmonton-Centre Liberals, Wachowich suggested that “fatigue and political disinterest” as well as doubt about Stephane Dion's leadership and the Green Shift created difficult challenges for his campaign during the last election. The Liberals have always faced uphill battles in electing Members of Parliament in Alberta, but Wachowich pointed out “there is a strong base of Liberal support in Edmonton-Centre.” He plans to support whoever is nominated as the Liberal candidate (the first candidate openly campaigning for the nomination is Lawyer, Political Science Ph.D., and Anne McLellan's former Deputy Chief of Staff Mary MacDonald).

When asked how the entry of NDP nomination candidate Lewis Cardinal could affect the race, Wachowich said he believed that Cardinal’s candidacy “would make the race all the more interesting” and that having good candidates from all parties could increase the voter interest and turnout in the next election. Voter turnout in Edmonton-Centre dropped from 64% in 2006 to just over 50% in 2008, which Wachowich speculated hurt his campaign on Election Day.

As our conversation wrapped up, Wachowich emphasized the need for stronger representation for the citizens of Edmonton-Centre in Ottawa, “I don’t know where [Conservative MP] Laurie Hawn stands, because he doesn’t tell you.”

mp carolyn bennett: dissolving alberta's regional health boards was obscene, nuts.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

michael ignatieff's town hall in edmonton.

Yesterday may have felt like a normal June 30 to most Edmontonians, but unbeknownst to most citizens (but not all ) Official Opposition leader Michael Ignatieff was in the Provincial Capital City taking part in an open Town Hall meeting at the Santa Maria Goretti Community Centre .

The event was large in numbers, but the 600 person crowd felt subdued as they seemed more curious to hear what this Ignatieff fellow had to say, rather than to simply cheer the Liberal Party battle cry. The room was filled with party faithful and also attracted a good mix of interested non-partisans who were likely also just as curious to hear what Ignatieff had to say. Of course, the meeting attracted a number local political names such as former Liberal MP Anne McLellan , Liberal MLAs David Swann, Laurie Blakeman, and Hugh MacDonald, and City Councillor Ben Henderson, as well as Senators Tommy Banks, Grant Mitchell, and Claudette Tardif. Alex Abboud has a good review of the question and answer session, so I won't duplicate his blog post.

While I don't believe that anyone in the building (including Ignatieff) was under the impression that his presence alone would lead to Liberal Party gains in the next election, there did seem to be a positive energy that wasn't evident during Stephane Dion's short tenure as Liberal leader. Of the Liberal activists I spoke to last night, they carried a renewed optimism, especially for the chances of winning over voters in ridings like Edmonton-Centre, Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont, and Edmonton-Strathcona.

Following Ignatieff's time on stage, I had a good conversation with local lawyer Mary MacDonald, who is seeking the Liberal nomination in Edmonton-Centre. MacDonald, who's previous electoral experience included placing a scant 58-votes behind NDP candidate Raj Pannu in 1997, was positive about her chances and was realistic about the hard work ahead of her. Over the course of the evening, a number of Liberals approached me to inquire if I was supporting former candidate Jim Wachowich, who according to Ken Chapman is no longer seeking the nod. Edmonton-Centre Liberals are expected to choose their candidate at a meeting in September 2009 (I have been told the date may be moved sooner).

From a practical politics perspective, the Liberals would be smart to put the Conservatives on the defensive in key urban ridings in western Canada. In Alberta, this would include focusing on ridings like Edmonton-Centre, Edmonton-East, Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont, Edmonton-Strathcona, Calgary-Centre, and Calgary-Centre North in order to force the Conservatives to focus funds and resources on ridings where they have become accustomed to taking voters for granted. After a dismal few elections in Alberta, the Liberals need to also focus on rebuilding their province-wide support, which fell from 22% in June 2004 to 11% in October 2008.

I may be labeled a crazy wing-nut traitor for not believing that the Liberal Party of Canada is secretly hatching a conspiracy to steal Alberta's God-given oil (or building a Death Star behind the Moon), but I actually get the feeling that Ignatieff is bothered that his party has burned so many political bridges in western Canada. That said, the largely Ontario-based Liberal Caucus hasn't done much to distill perceptions that it is biased against the politics and economics of western Canada.

My cynical views of Canadian federal politics may remain in place, and while I not yet convinced Michael Ignatieff would be a great Prime Minister for Canadians, I am convinced that he would probably be a decent and open-minded Prime Minister for Canadians. I remain open-minded and curious.

( Photo credit to Alex Abboud )

happy canada day.