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Thursday, March 29, 2007

just go and build a new city...

I've been up all night re-writing a paper that I originally finished writing a week ago.

I didn't like the original copy, so I decided to re-write it last night. All night.

In other news... don't like the city you live in? Build another one!

New city rising
Highrise, pedestrian-friendly urban community planned for Strathcona County
Susan Ruttan, The Edmonton Journal
EDMONTON - A new city with highrise apartments and pedestrian-friendly streets is going to be built in Strathcona County.

The city will be built from scratch on farmland west of Highway 21 and north of the Yellowhead Highway. It could eventually grow to 200,000 people, said Cynthia Cvik, the county's long-range planning co-ordinator.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

on tenterhooks.

How exciting was this to watch? I was on tenterhooks all night watching the seesawing motion of seats and votes between the Parti Liberal Quebec and the Action Democratique Quebec. I was in Montreal during the 2003 provincial election (hanging out in Russell Copeman's Notre Dame-de-Grace riding) and I don't think that election came close to how tense this one ended up becoming.

I'm not going to pretend I understand Quebec Provincial politics, so I'm going to refrain from offering any sort of indepth analysis. That said, I don't think it can be understated how big of an impact this realignment of the PLQ-ADQ-Parti Quebecois shift will have on Quebec and National politics. Does Mario Dumont's ADQ's Official Opposition speed up the Federal Election timeline? Will Premier Jean Charest survive Quebec's first minority government since 1878? What does third place mean for Andre Boisclair and the Parti Quebecois?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

jim who?

Oh yeah, that guy...

Defeated former Tory Dauphin-child Jim Dinning released a list of the names of individuals and corporations who contributed to his failed Alberta PC leadership bid in Fall 2006.

Though it's only a partial list that doesn't specify individual contribution amounts, it's a huge list that totals over $1.7 million in donations to Team Dinning.

where to from here?

It's a balmy +4C here in Edmonton and in case there were any doubts I believe (*hope*) that Spring is here to stay!

A couple of things...

- Over the past couple months, Public Interest Alberta has released a number of discussion documents on some hot topics in Alberta.

This week, PIA released it's Post-Secondary Education plan - Where to from Here: A Vision and Plan for Post-secondary Education in Alberta and it lays out some solid recommendations for how to improve the affordability, accessibility, and quality of Alberta's post-secondary system. Democratic Renewal in Alberta: A Public Interest Alberta Discussion Paper is another hard hitting democratic reform document that PIA released a couple of months ago.

You can also check out to watch an interview with PIA Chairman Larry Booi.

- The Federal Budget. It seems federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is fairly pleased with himself for fixing the fiscal imbalance. Unfortunately for Minister Flaherty, a number of folks on the otherside of the "imbalance" tend to disagree.

- The Quebec Provincial Election is on Monday. I'll be spending a month or more in Quebec over the Summer, so I'll be watching this one with interest (I was actually in Montreal during the 2003 Quebec Provincial Election).

It should be close as poll after poll have shown the three main parties within striking distance of each other!

- And for you fans of election debates, this is for you!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

joe clark encounters of the random kind.

It's been quite the busy couple days!

- First of all, last Friday I took part in a political panel on blogging and 'new media' held by the Alberta Teacher's Association Political Action Committee (other panelists included Nicole Martel, Duncan, and Ken). There were some very interesting conversations that occuredand I wish the conversations could have gone longer (even though we went over our time by 30 minutes). But it was an interesting and engaging morning anyway! (Allie took pictures!)

- Duncan and I bumped into Joe Clark yesterday morning. Even more random is that it happened in a hallway in the Alberta Legislature Building. I'm happy to report that former Prime Minister Clark had a jump in his step and gave us a joyful "hey guys!"

Very random.

- I have yet to take an indepth look at the Federal Budget, so I'll save my comments for when I do.

- Election mania! The Federal Liberals are catching up with the wave by nominating a rash of candidates in Edmonton ridings in the next couple weeks in Edmonton Strathcona, Edmonton Centre, and Edmonton Mill Woods-Beaumont. I'll be posting a list reminicent of my 2006 elections tracker in the near future.

pse in qp.

I thought I'd post this a series of great questions asked by MLA Gene Zwozdesky (PC-Edmonton Mill Creek) during yesterday's Question Period in the Alberta Legislature.

Affordability of Postsecondary Education
Mr. Zwozdesky: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Everyone recognizes the value of having a postsecondary education and what a tremendous asset it is in our knowledge-based economy and our knowledge-based society. Earlier today I had a very informative meeting with three representatives from CAUS, the Council of Alberta University Students, who are with us still in the gallery as I speak and who raised several important points that pertain to university students and to those who hope to be university students. My questions are to the Minister of Advanced Education and Technology. With essential living costs and all other costs on the rise, what are you doing to reduce or at least address financial barriers that university students, and others for that matter, are facing as they pursue . . .

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Mr. Horner: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. Making postsecondary education affordable is a priority for this government – affordability, accessibility. In November of 2006 we released the affordability framework, which had a great deal of consultation not only with students but with other stakeholders in the system. We’ve rolled back tuition to 2004, and we’ve limited increases to the Alberta consumer price index, which I think was something that was supported in large measure by all stakeholders. That’s about 3.3 per cent this year. Without those changes, students would have faced tuition fees anywhere from 6 to 11 per cent this year. An undergrad-uate student would save over $ 3,800 over the four years.

The Speaker: The hon. member.

Mr. Zwozdesky: Thank you. When will your ministry return so-called tuition fees principles back to legislation, an action that will surely lessen the load of any possible tuition fee increases in the future?

Mr. Horner: Well, Mr. Speaker, it’s not necessarily true that it would lessen the load of any possible increases in the future because the process would be very similar. What we’re saying is that putting it into the regulation enabled us to do exactly what I just talked about in my previous answer, and it enabled us to do it very quickly. I can commit to the students of this province and I can commit to the stakeholders of this province that we have no intention of making any changes without very extensive consultation with them and with members of government and members of the opposition.

The Speaker: The hon. member.

Mr. Zwozdesky: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. To the same minister: from an infrastructure point of view how do you intend to provide a better balance for undergraduate facility improvements and expan-sions and so on in comparison with graduate facilities, research, and advanced research facilities?

Mr. Horner: Well, Mr. Speaker, again, a very good question and, I know, one that is on the minds of the student population. We had a meeting this morning with CAUS, and I’ve met with a number of the stakeholders in the industry or in the system about the Campus Alberta approach. Really, narrowing down into what the roles, responsibilities, and mandates are of each institution within that Campus Alberta approach and managing the growth pressures to build a stronger Alberta and a stronger Campus Alberta for all students and all stakeholders, we will come up with a collaborative, co-operative approach to making sure that we have a balance to our capital in all of those institutions.

yeah. so.

Oh, budget time... this was in my email box tonight...

"The long, tiring, unproductive era of bickering between the provincial and federal governments is over." Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, on the fiscal imbalance provisions of his budget today. [Umm... how about I buy him a beer if that is true in one year, and he can buy me one if some bickering occurs over equalization before then.]

Earlier today: "This is clearly a promise broken," Calvert said. "It's clearly a betrayal of a promise that was made not to the government of Saskatchewan but to the people of Saskatchewan." [Hmm... I already win!]
Also, I had a meeting with Finance Minister Lyle Oberg today. I didn't ask him what his thoughts on equalization and natural resource revenues were today...

Friday, March 16, 2007


It looks like the Edmonton Journal has finally picked up on the story that Premier Ed Stelmach and Finance Minister Lyle Oberg are still on different pages when attempting to determine where the Alberta Tories stand on the equalization issue.

EDMONTON - In the ever-delicate dance of federal-provincial relations, Premier Ed Stelmach and Finance Minister Lyle Oberg are having trouble determining who gets to lead.

Both men insisted Thursday they are not out of step with each other on how the Harper Conservatives should fix the so-called fiscal imbalance.

"I'm telling you, there's no rift," the premier said Thursday.

However, each lists a different priority on the issue, and lines up with different allies.
Although some would say that this is part of a larger strategy of softening the blow when one-half of the Alberta Tories don't get what they want from federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget (due to be released on Monday), I tend to think that nearly ANY other strategy would be better.

It hasn't been uncommon for Lyle Oberg to deliver a message extrememly different than his boss - which lends credence to Don Braid's observations in today's Calgary Herald - but in terms of optics, if a Premier and a Finance Minister continue to publicly disagree on an issue that they feel is this important, it doesn't exactly send out images of a greatly united Alberta PC caucus and cabinet (which may or may not be the case).

On a more legislative note, over 20 peices of legislation have been introduced by the Tories and Liberals in the first week of the Spring 2007 session of the Alberta Legislature.

ANYBODY but anders.

I was having a conversation about Rob Anders about an hour before I saw this online... bizarre...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

the alberta equalization contradiction.

As Nic has pointed out, the media has picked up on the equalization contradiction that I posted about earlier this week.

The Globe & Mail reported today:

OTTAWA -- Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach's office is overruling his Finance Minister and declaring that the province still opposes a controversial revamp the Harper government has planned for Canada's equalization formula.

It is a blow to Ottawa's hopes that opposition is dying down over a proposed new method of calculating federal payouts to poorer provinces, expected to be unveiled in Monday's federal budget.

The move also could strain relations between the Harper government and Mr. Stelmach's regime, federal Conservatives warn.

I'm sure there will be more than one media outlet waiting to see what both Premier Ed Stelmach and Finance Minister Lyle Oberg each individually have to say about the equalization plan federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty lays out in his budget next week.

nothing to see here.

There's no reason why anyone would want to go to this website.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

mixing messages on equalization.

Is this what happens when Cabinet Ministers don't read their daily Public Affairs Bureau talking points?

Globe & Mail — Signalling a significant shift in tone, Alberta Finance Minister Lyle Oberg says he “won't object” to a controversial revamp the Harper government has planned for Canada's equalization formula — a development that could reduce political friction for next week's federal budget.

Mr. Oberg, a member of new Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach's cabinet, said his province will not oppose the new formula, which takes into account resource revenues, as long as Ottawa pledges to fix per-capita transfer payments so that his province gets its fair share — another move expected in the budget.

But wait!

QP - March 12/07 - Mr. Stelmach: Mr. Speaker, we have a letter. When I say we, the Council of the Federation, this is all of the 10 Premiers. This letter was of course written to the then chair, the former Premier Ralph Klein, and again reiterated the position that the federal government will not include natural resource revenue in the calculation of the equalization formula. All we’re doing is that we’re going to hold the Prime Minister to that commitment.

Not that this changes much, it's just quite surprising that the Premier and the Finance Minister aren't on the same page on an issue as big as equalization (or big as some would like to make it).

Monday, March 12, 2007

fire up your legislative agendas!

The spring session of the Alberta Legislature began last week and both the Tories and Liberals have put forward their legislative agendas.

Tory Premier Ed Stelmach introduced Bill 1: The Lobbyists Act, which implements a long-needed Lobbyist Registry. Hopefully this means they'll be less mini-buses picking up and dropping off Tory MLA's from the Petroleum Club on Wednesday evenings. The Bill introduces strict penalites of up to $200,000 for lobbyists who break the law. Though this is a very positive step for Alberta, as Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch points out, there are still some large loopholes in The Lobbyists Act:

"If you're friends with a cabinet minister, he can request you to come and give him advice, and then you don't have to register," Duff Conacher of Ottawa-based Democracy Watch said. "That has to come out (of the legislation) for sure."

Once the former Liberal government axed that same loophole from the federal lobbyist registry in 2005, the number of registered lobbyists more than tripled in a single year. In the category of in-house corporate lobbyists, the figure shot from 191 to 1,802.

Justice Minister Ron Stevens, who sponsored the Lobbyist Act, could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.

Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald quipped that such loopholes suggest the Lobbyist Act must have been drafted by Rod Love or Kelley Charlebois, two former government aides who have been embroiled in past lobbying controversies. "It's going to be business as usual," MacDonald said. "This is just a public-relations exercise."
Kevin Taft's Alberta Liberals have put forward Bill 201: Funding Alberta's Future Act. Bill 201 would create a number of new endowments and increasing the funding to others such as the long ignored Heritage Savings Trust Fund. Bill 201 would invest 30% of Alberta's resource revenues into the Heritage Savings Trust Fund and other funds into newly created Post-Secondary Education Endowment Fund, a Humanities, Social Sciences, and Arts Endowment Fund, and an Oppurtunity Fund while also provding funding to slay Alberta's massive infrastructure debt.

If Premier Stelmach's weak performance during last week's Question Period assaults by the opposition are any indication, it's going to be a baptism-by-fire for Stelmach in his first session as Premier. I wouldn't count the Tories out yet, but it's too early to tell how much Stelmach will get burnt.

Friday, March 09, 2007


This is great!

Voting wrapped up yesterday in a general election that saw undergraduate students at the U of A endorse the Universal Transit Pass by a wide margin in a show of support for affordable transit and the environment.

Students voted 84 per cent in favour of the $75 per term pass that will allow them unlimited access to regular scheduled transit service in Edmonton, St. Albert and Strathcona County. The vote represents the last political hurdle in the long-running process.

"This is a win for public transit, a win for our environment, a win for big ideas, and a win for students working together," proclaimed Samantha Power, President of the Students' Union, in a statement given today at the Students' Union Building.

The final price was the result of lengthy negotiations between the three municipalities, students and the University of Alberta.

nomwatch - march 9, 2007

With two upcoming by-elections in Alberta, the Spring Session of the Legislature could play a big role in determining the direction voters in these two ridings end sailing towards. The seats were vacated by former Premier Ralph Klein and former Finance Ministry Shirley McClellan.

In Drumheller-Stettler, consultant and former President of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties Jack Hayden is lining up for the PC nomination. Hayden had previously ran for the PC nomination against former MLA Judy Gordon in the former riding of Lacombe-Stettler in 2000. The Alberta Greens have scheduled a nomination meeting for March 5. Kevin Taft's Alberta Liberals have yet to set a nomination date, but word through the grapevine is that a credible local candidate will step up to the plate.

There should be a full slate of candidates in Drumheller-Stettler, but being one of the deepest backwater conservative strongholds, it will take a strong camapaign to move Drumheller-Stettler any closer to the centre than a deep blue conservative. Look for the main opposition parties to be gunning for strong showings rather than victory.

Calgary Elbow presents a different picture. Located in what some political observers have coined the "Latte Belt," Calgary Elbow showed strong support for the Alberta Liberals in 2004 against-the-odds of an incumbent Premier. There will likely be a full slate of candidates including Social Credit candidate Trevor Grover (I'm sure Social Credit will hit a highwater mark of 200 votes this time around). The Alberta Liberals have scheduled their nomination meeting for March 22. The Tory nominations in both ridings will occur in mid- to late-April.

I'm predicting both by-elections to occur sometime in June.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

pomping the speech from the throne.

This afternoon Lt. Governor Norman Kwong delivered Alberta's Speech from the Throne. Being the first Speech from the Throne of the Tory Government under Ed Stelmach, I made sure I was there to see it happen.

Anyone who knows anything about the Speech from the Throne will know that it has more to do with pomp, ceremony, and feel goodery than actual substance or policy. Though brief mentions of policy poped up from time to time in Kwong's long speech (the delivery was a little slow) it stuck to formula.

Much of the Speech centered around Stelmach's "Five Priorities" (All of which seem fairly common sensicle).

  • governing with integrity and transparency;
  • managing growth pressures;
  • improving Albertans’ quality of life;
  • providing safe and secure communities; and
  • building a strong Alberta.
More substantial points include the creation of a long-needed lobbyist registry, finally dealing with the affordable housing and economic growth crisis, and review of the resource royalty system (all of which had been previously announced).

The Stelmach Tories are now appearing to be jumping on the now all-popular "green" bandwagon with the announcement of the creation of a long-term energy strategy and greenhouse gas emission regulation. Feel goodery aside, I'm not convinced that the Alberta Tories have any real sincere intention to take substantial action on the environment or climate change file. I'll believe it when I see real action.

This Speech remains atypical of most other speech's of this type. Hopefully the Spring Session will be a little more exciting.

And of course, the scrums and schmoozing in the Rotunda is where the real action is.

Of note:
- Thanks to the Alberta NDP caucus for my invitation to the Visitor's Gallery and for letting me in to their pre-Speech Reception at the Legislature Annex.
- Tom Olsen was sporting a slick new suit. I'm sure he's making a better salary at taxpayer expense than the Calgary Herald would ever afford him.
- Fred Horne is Dave Hancock's new Executive Assistant. Horne ran for the Tories in Edmonton Riverview against Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft. Horne recieved 22% of the vote to Taft's 65%.
- Lots of new Ministers with new hangers on.
- Lots of old Ministers with no hangers on.
- I'm still shocked and disappointed at the job that Todd Babiuk is doing as the Edmonton Journal's Legislative Columnist while Graham Thomson is on assignment in Afghanistan. COME BACK, GRAHAM!
- And I think Norman Kwong likes the attention he gets when he enters a room.

Monday, March 05, 2007

in the land of.

Things are moving fast in the land of daveberta and I will have more time for some more quality substancial commentary after the end of this week.

A couple of things...

1. Alberta's Speech from the Throne is on Wednesday. I'll be there and will be providing my post-game thoughts following the first Speech from the Throne of the first Ed Stelmach PC government.

2. Ken Chapman and Larry Johnsrude have provided some good commentary on the recent semi-release of PC leadership campaign contributor lists from Ed Stelmach and Dave Hancock. I am in the process of writing a more detailed post about this, so look for it in the near future.

3. Just as the Federal Conservatives have finished nominating their Alberta candidates, the Federal Liberals are now beginning. The Edmonton Centre nomination date has been set for March 24. One of the candidates for nomination happens to be Nicole Martel.

4. Art Spiegelman will be speaking at the University of Alberta on Wednesday night as part of the University of Alberta Students' Union's Revolutionary Speakers Series.

5. Finally, on two completely non-political related points, I saw finally saw Borat this weekend and I have tickets to see The Police at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on June 2nd!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

weekend nonsense...

This was forwarded to me... wow...