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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

the quack heard round the world.

Deputy Premier Ron Stevens must have had a tough time during his last day re-branding the tar sands in Washington D.C. and the United States this week as his important government mission was rudely interrupted by 500 very inconsiderate ducks who broke provincial environmental regulations and landed in the Syncrude Aurora Northern Tailing Ponds.

Who do these ducks think they are? Interfering in Syncrude's important tar sands operation? Interfering with Ed Stelmach and Mel Knight's $25 million tar sands re-branding campaign? Interfering in the free market?

More shocking is the revelation that an "anonymous tipster" tipped off Alberta Environment and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development to the ducks' interference. Just who is this "anonymous tipster?" Probably some socialist-Greenpeace-Liberal-hippie type still bitter from losing the last election.

In Alberta, we tough things out. We shoot, shovel, and shut up.

This incident highlights the damaging impact of the "natural" ecosystem on Alberta's booming and prosperous oil economy.

who's running the misinformation campaign?

As Alberta's Tory Government unleashes its $25 million tar sands re-branding campaign, it looks like Premier Ed Stelmach and Energy Minister Mel Knight may be reading from different talking points...

Dr. Swann: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Will this minister and this Premier stand up and eliminate this $ 25 million propaganda campaign, redirecting the money to real change in Alberta?

Mr. Stelmach: No, we’re not going to do that. In fact, we do have a matter to deal with to make sure that all – all – people, those that invest in Alberta, those people that want to make Alberta their home, get the correct information. I can tell you that I’m not going to rely on that group or Greenpeace or Sierra Club to spread the misinformation not only in this province and this country but around the world.

And speaking of misinformation...
Mr. Knight: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for affording me the opportunity here this afternoon to clarify a statement that I made in this Assembly on Thursday last. The statement was regarding nuclear energy and the Sierra Club. I have since learned it was incorrect. As soon as I learned that the statement was incorrect, I called the director of the Sierra Club and expressed regret for the error and assured her that it was not done with intent. Today I just want to take the opportunity to correct the record in the Assembly as well. I understand that the Sierra Club does not operate in Europe and does not support nuclear energy. My statement that this organization took out ads in Europe was, in fact, wrong.*

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

alison redford: talking about human rights hunting

As the first session of the 27th Alberta Legislature continues, you just need to take a look around the Assembly floor to see some pretty impressive people. One of them happens to be Calgary-Elbow Tory MLA, Minister of Justice, and Attorney General Alison Redford. Though I was disappointed to see her defeat Craig Cheffins in the March election (I was the Communications Coordinator for the Alberta Liberals during the June 2007 Calgary-Elbow by-election), a quick glance at Redford's resume even impresses this blogging skeptic.

As Graham Thomson put it in a recent column:

Redford has a jaw-droppingly impressive resume that includes work as a human rights lawyer in South Africa, the Balkans and Vietnam. In 2005, she braved the war zone that is Afghanistan to work as a United Nation's Election Commissioner to promote democracy and free elections, something many Albertans take for granted given the record low 41-per- cent turnout for last month's provincial election.

Redford has the credentials of a real Progressive Conservative, so, I was a little surprised when she began her term as Justice Minister by refusing to talk about the inclusion sexual orientation under the Alberta Human Rights Act. Ten years ago, in Vriend v. Alberta, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the non-inclusion of sexual orientation, as a prohibited ground of discrimination in Alberta's Individual's Rights Protection Act (now the Alberta Human Rights Act), infringed and denied the rights guaranteed by Section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Instead of being the responsibility of the Justice Minister & Attorney General, human rights issues apparently fall under the responsibility of Culture and Community Spirit Minister Lindsay Blackett. Let me get this straight, the government's top lawyer now defers questions about Supreme Court rulings and human rights to the Minister in charge of arts and culture?
Even though Redford won't (or isn't being allowed) to talk about amending Alberta's Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, it seems that she doesn't have a problem (or is being allowed) standing up on the Assembly floor to talk about the importance of killing small animals in Bill 201 – The Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Heritage Act.
The Speaker: The hon. Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

Ms Redford: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I had not intended to speak in support of this bill, but I would like to thank my Hon. colleague from Cypress- Medicine Hat for introducing this bill.

Listening to the speeches that have been given today with respect to the importance of hunting, fishing, and trapping in our province, I was moved to speak. I have given a lot of thought over the years to these issues and respect the fact that as a government this province and this government have been able to develop a system where we have been able to responsibly manage the environment in such a way that Albertans that respect these traditions are able to participate fully in these traditions.

As I mentioned, it’s not something that I specifically have ever been involved in; I’m more of a hiker. However, what I would say is that when I look at the people in my constituency, in Calgary- Elbow, that talk about these issues, they are engaged in these issues. I think it would be a shame for us to think of this piece of legislation as only representing people that happen to live in rural areas. There are people in my constituency that are proud members of Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited. They are people that are passionate about environmental management. They are people that care about respecting the traditions of this province. I think one of the challenges that we have in the future in Alberta is to make sure that we can respect both the traditions of rural Alberta as well as the lifestyles of people who are living in the cities. I think this bill is a great example of how we can marry those two traditions and those two lifestyles.

So a very short speech. Thank you to my colleague, and thank you for the consideration today.

opposition watch alberta.

With the spring session of the Alberta Legislature in full-swing, here's a look at what's up with the Opposition parties...

- Maclean's has an interview with Alberta Liberal leader Kevin Taft. In the meantime, FFWD Weekly had an interview a couple of weeks ago with Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor on his aspirations for the Alberta Liberal leadership. More on this later...

- An NDP-Greenpeace conspiracy? It sounds a lot like the time someone accused me of being part of a giant Liberal conspiracy. Slow news day, I guess...

- Former NDP MLA Ray Martin has a letter in today's Edmonton Journal.

- I've also updated the list of Federally nominated candidates in Alberta.

Friday, April 25, 2008

a bad week to be bad on the environment in alberta.

Starting the week off with nuclear Bruce Power hiring PC campaign manager Randy Dawson as their top government relations guru, to the appointment of a pro-nuclear expert to a "neutral" nuclear study panel, to Ed Stelmach's dinner date with Greenpeace, to the completely misleading allegations by Energy Minister Mel Knight that the Sierra Club is pro-nuclear, it's been a rough week for Ed Stelmach's Tories on the environment file as they begin their million dollar re-branding campaign.

In response to the false claim that their organization supports nuclear power, the Sierra Club is demanding an apology from Energy Minister Mel Knight.

For Immediate Release
April 25th, 2008

The Sierra Club Demanding Apology to Slanderous Comments Made by Energy Minister Mel Knight

(Edmonton) On Thursday April 24th, 2008 Alberta Energy Minister Mel Knight made untruthful comments in the Alberta Legislature regarding the Sierra Club.

Minister Knight, in responding to questions from the opposition regarding the bias of his governments appointed Nuclear Energy Experts Panel, stated that “It might be very interesting for the member opposite to understand that one of the ... major forces working with respect to environmental concerns globally, the Sierra Club, runs ads in Europe in favour of nuclear energy, Mr. Speaker, in favour of nuclear energy.”

“The Sierra Club Canada in addition to the Sierra Club US have clear policies which highlight our belief that Nuclear Energy is not clean, it is not green, it is not economical and it is not a solution to climate change,” said Lindsay Telfer, Director of the Sierra Club Prairie, “The fact that our Energy Minister Mel Knight is resorting to slander in an attempt to discredit our organization is simply unacceptable. Our positions on nuclear energy are based on sound science, clear evidence and a growing body of literature on the industry’s impacts.”

The Sierra Club Canada and the Sierra Club US are the only incorporated organizations using the Sierra Club name. There is no Sierra Club counterpart in any European nation.

“We expect a public apology in the legislature in addition to a meeting with Minister Knight to clear this claim on the Alberta Record,” concluded Telfer, “we believe we can work with the Government of Alberta to develop an energy policy that meets its own stated principle to lead in the post-oil economy, and we believe we can achieve this without resorting to the risks of nuclear energy.”


For more information contact:
Lindsay Telfer - Director, Sierra Club Prairie (780) 710-0136

greenpeace drops in on ed stelmach.

God bless, YouTube.

guess who dropped by for dinner?

You get more than just a standard Ed Stelmach speech at Tory fundraising dinners now days:

Premier Ed Stelmach's $450-a-plate fundraising dinner was interrupted Thursday night by Greenpeace activists who lowered themselves from a catwalk and unfurled a big black banner which read: "$telmach: The Best Premier Oil Money Can Buy."

Stelmach had just launched into his speech in front of 1,650 people at the Shaw Conference Centre.

A murmur rose from the crowd as the banner was lowered at the back of the room between two giant screens that were broadcasting his remarks.

(Photo care of Greenpeace)

UPDATE: In response to criticism of their weak record on environmental protection in the tarsands, the Tory government has released a slick booklet as part of an attempt to "re-brand" the Tory government's weak image (Click here to listen to CBC Radio reporter Erik Denison on the tarsands campaign)

mel knight: the sierra club is pro-nuclear.

I paid a visit to Question Period at the Alberta Legislature yesterday afternoon and was sitting in the gallery when Tory Energy Minister Mel Knight gave his response to Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft's questions on the appointment of the pro-nuclear Dr. John Luxat to a supposedly "neutral" Tory appointed nuclear study committee:

Mr. Knight: It might be very interesting for the member opposite to understand that one of the, kind of, major forces working with respect to environmental concerns globally, the Sierra Club, runs ads in Europe in favour of nuclear energy, Mr. Speaker, in favour of nuclear energy. This is not – not – a consultation process. We’re going out to answer some questions for Albertans.
The Sierra Club is pro-nuclear? Really?

It just so happens that I exchanged a friendly email with one of the kind folks from the Sierra Club yesterday evening. Not only did they assure me that the Sierra Club continues to be steadfastly opposed to the expansion of Nuclear power, but that the Sierra Club doesn't even have a European wing or any extension of activities in Europe.

Why would Mel Knight blow this kind of smoke? Is this out of character for the Tory MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky? Has he just spent too much time enjoying the fresh air of Alberta's tarsands? Well, in 2007, Knight didn't hesitate in his defense of the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board after they used taxpayers dollars to hire private investigators to spy on central Alberta landowners and their lawyers.

Is this just another step in Ed Stelmach and Mel Knight's nuclear agenda for Alberta?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

alberta's 2008 $37-billion budget: a confused "beacon of hope."

The Alberta Tories celebrated their 37 years as the governing party as rookie Finance & Enterprise Minister Iris Evans released a $37 billion "beacon of hope" budget yesterday. Not one to disappoint, I was happy to take in the show yesterday afternoon (a big thanks to Kevin Taft's office for arranging my ticket).

Overall, the 2008 Alberta PC budget looked and sounded like a confused 37-year old: still paying for the mistakes of its youth, not quite ready to settle down, almost ready to hit that mid-life crisis point (hello, Ferrari!), and not quite ready to save for the future. It felt like it could have been something out of the 10th season of Friends.

I will be elaborating on my opinions of the budget and what it means for Albertans over the next week, but until then, here are some quick thoughts on the day:

- The budget low balled the price of oil, basing the budget figures on a $78 barrel of oil, rather than the current $119 barrel.

- Bye bye, health care premiums. Alberta's health care premiums will be gone by January 1, 2009. Though this is a positive move, but I can't help but be a little cynical when I remember how many times I heard Tory candidates during the provincial election saying that it would be irresponsible to faze out health care premiums in a of less than four years...

- It's business as usual for the horse-racing industry with a $7 million increase to the now $48 million Horse Racing Subsidy Renewal Program.

- A 120% budget increase to the Alberta Environment budget is mostly a result of $52 million from the Federal government and $155 million from corporate emitter fines.

- My good friends at the Public Affairs Bureau will be getting a stiff 25% increase of $6.4 million to continue to dole out the press releases and spin. Upcoming projects include convincing Albertans that Ed Stelmach is an environmentally friendly Premier while he continues to support the tarsands and stands on the sidelines watching the potential construction of a Nuclear Power Plant in the Peace Country. More on this later.

- I had a nice chat with Dr. Raj Sherman, the Parliamentary Secretary for Health & Wellness. I made sure to encourage him not to hesitate to shake some sense into Health Minister Ron Liepert and his "health care reform."

- The best (and most insightful) quote of the day goes to Alberta Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Ken Kolby:

Ken Kobly, CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce, said the government must put some revenue aside for the future while revenues are still high.

"Personally, I don't want to be known as the generation that sucked all the oil revenue out of the ground and left the bill for our kids," he said.

I couldn't agree more with Kolby. Kolby for Premier.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

alberta budget 2008 today.

Tory Finance Minister Iris Evans will release her government's budget today and I'll be there to watch it happen. Just as in previous years, you can expect an honest and thorough observation of the afternoon.

Check out Ken Chapman's blog has more thoughts on today's budget announcement.

Also, speaking of a nuclear agenda...

Monday, April 21, 2008

change that works for albertans.

Blizzards in Edmonton at the end of April...

...can only mean one thing.

Albertans have provoked the wrath of God...

...for re-electing the Tories.

lloyd snelgrove on child poverty: an educational and character building experience.

I'll forgive you if you've been too buried under all this lovely April Alberta snow to notice that Alberta Legislature is in session. A new session, with new MLAs, will bring all sorts of intelligent hijinks's/painfully predictable heckles and intelligent intentional/painfully unintelligible quotes from the floor of the Legislature.

In today's edition of The Best of Hansard, we hear from the Treasury Board President and the Honourable Member for Vermilion-Lloyminster, Lloyd Snelgrove (yes, Lloyd from Lloydminster). In responding (but not answering) a question posed by Calgary-Varsity MLA Harry Chase during last week's Question Period, Snelgrove made a stunningly stunning statement:

Mr. Chase: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There is no excuse for child poverty in abundant Alberta. Sixty-four thousand Alberta children are living in poverty. Although more Albertans are employed now during this time of incredible economic prosperity than ever before, full-time work at minimum wage does not permit an escape from poverty.

To the President of the Treasury Board: with the paltry increase of 40 cents bringing the minimum wage to a mere $8.40 an hour, how can this government continue to justify token wage increases instead of establishing a realistic living wage which would act as an effective tool in ending child poverty?

Mr. Snelgrove:
Mr. Speaker, I grew up in a very poor family. We looked after each other, and we looked after our neighbours. There were very few government programs of any kind to do it. There was a certain pride that was developed amongst our community and each other in how we had to lift one another up. The hon. member is well aware that the minimum wage was never designed nor will it ever be an amount of money that you can raise a family on. In many ways it's an educational learning experience for some. It brings people with limited skills into the workforce, and it accomplishes that very well.
While I have no doubt that growing up in poverty gives a person different perspectives and values, calling it an "educational learning experience" makes it sound like a field trip to the museum...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

via canada: the obama transcontinental presidential waltz.

Brought to you by the good folks at the Texx Western International Theatrics Corporation...

Watch more videos on the daveberta youtube page.

Friday, April 18, 2008

ron liepert on health-care reforms and watch gary lamphier get spun.

There's been a lot of talk since after the election by Health & Wellness Minister Ron Liepert about reforming Alberta's Health Care system (or as the Department of Health & Wellness website called it yesterday, Action Plan on Health 2008?2009). Liepert says that he's putting everything on the table, including privatization. One has to wonder why Ed Stelmach, Liepert, or any of the 82 other Tory candidates mention anything about these types of reforms in that little thing called an election that happened only a couple of months ago (and politicians are confused when people don't trust campaign promises?).

As the Edmonton Journal's Graham Thomson has pointed out, though Liepert is boisterous and gutsy in his talk about health-care reform, he has yet to show any real details of the Tories' proposed action plan for reform. One has to wonder if Liepert's health-care reform plan is just as rock solid as the Tories' plan to improve the image of their environmental record? Forgive me if I sound like we're just the victims of another round of typically predictable government spin...

Speaking of spin, I was a little surprised by Gary Lamphier's column yesterday in which he wrote about Albertans detestation of spin. While I don't think anyone "likes" spin, Albertans certainly haven't done anything to actively put a stop to the assembly-line factory of political spin that is the Public Affairs Bureau (in fact, giving the Stelmach Tories a 72-seat majority only seems to endorse it). Ironically, Lamphier's article seems to be either an innocent victim or accessory to spin as he demonizes all those nutty environmentally conscious Albertans who have a problem with Alberta's environmental record and the tar sands. I can see it now... Jeez, if only they'd take a brisk mid-night skinny dip in one of those nice tailing ponds up near Fort McMurray, they'd see it really isn't all that bad...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

government 2.0.

To all my fellow techno-political types out there, I thought you might find this report on Government 2.0 from Deloitte Canada interesting...

The first wave of e-government offered significant benefits to constituents, with tens of millions of transactions now delivered online. Despite the plethora of new services, government itself has not been transformed. The next step is for government to move into the information age as it faces increasing pressure to do more with less.

It is clear that conventional government is unable to address society’s challenges alone and would be in a much better position if it could truly partner with other governments, not-for-profits, businesses and citizens to tackle immense policy changes.

Government 2.0 is the answer. As technology deepens its day-to-day impact and is increasingly used by successive generations, governments at all levels will have no choice but to embrace it, thereby overhauling the way they lead, serve and interact with stakeholders.

Why is this so important? Because it’s a strategy that allows today’s public sector organizations to reach across jurisdictions to access critical knowledge, adapt themselves to a fact-changing societal landscape and significantly improve their ability to deliver the services to which citizens have become accustomed.

Of course, developing a “Government 2.0” culture is more involved than simply setting up a wiki or a blog. It requires leadership, investments in technology, organizational change, and risk-taking to overcome cultural, process, technology and policy hurdles.

In the end, increased levels of collaboration will result in enhanced service delivery through all operational and policy-making functions of government. This culture will allow tomorrow’s government to do more with less.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

alberta's throne speech. take two.

With everything going on these days from the NHL playoffs, to Dick Pound and the Beijing Olympics, and RCMP "raids" on Conservative Party offices (an issue on which I tend to agree with Paul Wells) did anyone notice that Alberta had a Speech from the Throne this week? I wouldn't blame you if you didn't.

As this is Alberta's second Throne Speech of the year, the lessened fanfare is understandable. The first Throne Speech of 2008, which coincided with the election call, seemed to consist largely of the Tories' last minute change of heart on Health Care Premiums (which they promised to scrap in four years) and their vigilant fight against the Pine Beetle (something that was noticeably absent from the second speech).

A large part of this week's Throne Speech delivered by Lieutenant Governor Norman Kwong, focused on a new direction for "greener energy," which I can only assume has something to do with the Tories nuclear agenda for the Peace Country. As much as I would hope that Tory Premier Ed Stelmach and Environment Minister Rob Renner's new green agenda is more than just hot air, I wouldn't blame Albertans for having a hard time believing that an outspoken defender of the tarsands current environmental record is serious about protecting the environment, rather than just changing political perceptions.

A report card released earlier this year by the World Wildlife Fund highlighted the weak-environmental performance of tarsands developments in Alberta:

the most comprehensive comparative assessment of 10 of Alberta’s operating, approved or applied for oil sands mines. The mines, for the most part, get a failing grade.

The average score among all oil sands projects surveyed was only 33 per cent, demonstrating substantial room for improvement across the sector. The leading operation in the survey was the Albian Sands Muskeg River Mine, scoring 56 per cent. The weakest operations were Syncrude and the proposed Synenco Northern Lights Mine both with scores of 18 per cent.

Oil sands mines were ranked on 20 different environmental indicators in five categories: environmental management, land impacts, air pollution, water use, and management of greenhouse gases. Companies were invited to complete the survey questionnaire and provided with two opportunities to comment on their performance. In total, seven of the 10 projects participated in the survey. Three companies, Total E&P, Syncrude and Canadian Natural declined to respond.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

very bad men "the man without a conscience" - tonight.

And no, I don't mean Ed Stelmach or Snidely Whiplash, I'm talking about Michael Ritter. Tonight, Episode 12: The Man Without a Conscience of the documentary series "Very Bad Men" airs tonight at 10pm Alberta time on Global TV.

If you're not familiar with the story, former Edmonton "lawyer," Chief Parliamentary Consel to the Alberta Legislative Assembly, business owner, philanthropist, and international man of financial scandal Michael Ritter was charged and convicted as part of a $200 million dollar international ponzi scheme. This is a made for TV scandal that includes everything from investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice to fake Belizean passports. As the documentary puts it:
The high-flying entrepreneur who loved the limelight and adulation from the public was finally convicted on two counts of massive fraud and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Read more on the Michael Ritter scandal here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

greens to launch constitutional challenge.

The Alberta Greens sent out a media release today announcing that they will be launching a constitutional challenge against the Alberta Elections Act.

Media Release- Alberta Green Challenge Elections Act

(Calgary, Apr 14, 2008) The Alberta Greens have sent a letter to the Attorney General Alison Redford asking her to change the Alberta Elections Act by Sept 10th,2008, if not the party will proceed with legal action.

“Ed Stelmach was elected by only 20% of Albertans,” said Read. “Obviously, when only 40% of voters turn out something is seriously wrong with our democracy,” said Alberta Greens leader, George Read.

The constitutional challenge, to go ahead this fall unless the government amends the Act, says section 62(2) interferes with the rights of candidates and supporters of small political parties to participate in elections and therefore contravenes the electoral fairness required by section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Read said the provision, which denies the return of half a candidates deposit unless they receive at least half as many votes as are received by the candidate who is elected, cost the Alberta Greens a significant amount of money that it could otherwise use to promote its positions to the voters.

Both the Canadian government and the Ontario government have been forced to change similar provisions in their Election Acts because they were struck down by the courts. “We hope that the Attorney General will do the right thing for democracy,” said Read.
As much as I'd love to comment on this right now, I'm in the middle of wrapping up a paper on Section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the context of Mahe v. Alberta, so I'll have to tackle the Greens challenge later this week...

it's time for a new capital arts and culture policy.

When thinking about Canada's arts and cultural capitals, I wouldn't blame someone for turning their thoughts towards Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver or Ottawa, but the Edmonton Arts Council hopes to change that as they have drafted a new culture policy for Alberta's capital city in a new report titled "THE ART OF LIVING - A plan for securing the future of arts and heritage in the city of Edmonton 2008-2018." The report was submitted to Edmonton City Council last week and begins by recognizing why a new and strong arts and culture policy is important for Edmonton:

The need for a cultural plan for the City of Edmonton was first discussed at Edmonton City Council in December 2005 during the debate and approval of the 2006 City of Edmonton operating budget. This need for a unified and wide-ranging cultural plan for the City was spurred by:

• an ever-increasing realization of the importance of arts, heritage and culture to the city.

• an acceptance that the City has key responsibilities in arts, heritage and culture.

• an appreciation that the sector is becoming increasingly complex.

• an awareness that the current economic boom in Alberta has increased the pace of development in Edmonton and emphasized the need to be proactive in many areas, including arts, heritage and culture.
The report also includes testimonials and stories of support from Edmonton arts supporters ranging from Jeanne Lougheed, Todd Babiak, Terry Wickham, Ken Chapman, Greg Hollingshead, Marilyn Dumont, and fellow-former Morinville-ite Marty Chan.

With the Spring Session of the Alberta Legislature starting today, I would hope that Tory Premier Ed Stelmach and Culture and Community Spirit Minister Lindsay Blackett (Calgary-North West) take a serious look at this policy recommendation.

(h/t to Ken Chapman for the link)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

more on the bakken formation.

Following up on yesterday's post on the Bakken Formation, I'll direct ya'll to a post that Aaron over at Grandinite wrote last month on one of my newly favorite geological formations.

(picture from

Saturday, April 12, 2008

what's going on in the bakken formation?

Did you know that the United States Geological Survey has podcasts?

The latest podcast is on the USGS estimate that potentially 3.0 to 4.3 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil exisists in an area known as the Bakken Formation. The Bakken Formation is a 200,000 square mile blanket of rock stretching over Saskatchewan, Montana, and North Dakota.

Friday, April 11, 2008

ed stelmach's steers his steady plans along another steady path.

After a year-long province-wide debate on royalties, which included a high-profile royalty review panel, Tory Premier Ed Stelmach stayed steady on his promise that Albertans would get their "fair share" from the royalties collected from oil and gas exploitation. With Fort McMurray and the Tar Sands booming, Ed Stelmach led his steady fight against the evil dogs of looney environmentalism and the socialist opposition on the left who claimed the royalties increase was just not enough, and hard-line free market wing-nut ideologues on the right who screamed that the increase was too much. Ed Stelmach stayed steady. The increase was just enough, Albertans deserved their fair share, and Ed Stelmach was going to stay steady to make sure they got it.

Ed Stelmach was steady as he not only steered steadfast with his royalty plan into 2008, but also had the courage to stand up for his new royalty plan by launching it in front of Albertans during a General Election. On March 3, 2008, Albertans got up and cast their ballots for Ed Stelmach, endorsing his new royalty plan. Much rejoicing was seen in the streets. Ed Stelmach has achieved his new majority. A mandate and an approval of his plan.

Now, with an enlarged caucus and Spring Session of the Alberta Legislature beginning next week, Ed Stelmach is staying steady by not changing his steady plan, but steering his steadfast plan on another steady path. Ed Stelmach has the courage to do what's right and won't let small things like year-long debates, campaign promises, and election results get in the way of his steady plans.

Billion- dollar royalty break
Five-year holiday bid to attract new energy investment

Renata D'Aliesio
Calgary Herald; Canwest News Service

Friday, April 11, 2008

CALGARY - The Alberta government is giving oil and gas producers a $1-billion break on royalties over the next five years in a bid to attract investment it fears is being chased away.

Energy Minister Mel Knight revealed in Calgary on Thursday that the province has tweaked the new royalty regime to address the "unintended consequences" of its plan announced in October.

The government was assailed over that plan, set to take effect next year. The energy sector charged it made some oil and gas plays uneconomical, while opposition critics contended it shortchanged Albertans on resource riches.

"These (new) programs will help generate hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties and countless new jobs for decades," Knight said.

"I believe this is good news for most of the industry."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

suiting up for spring session #4: laurie blakeman v. ken kowalski.

Get ready for the clash of two very different political worlds as two of Alberta's arguably most opposite MLAs vie for the Speakers chair.

In the right corner, you have incumbent Ken Kowalski. As previously mentioned, after 29 years in the Legislature Kowalski is returning for his 9th term as the Tory MLA for the Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock area. Kowalski is also the type of rural conservative who campaigns for re-election on hard hitting points like "while human beings can create laws, the laws of God must take precedence" (which is totally appropriate for someone who has been the Speaker of the Assembly since 1997...).

In the left corner, you have the challenger, Laurie Blakeman. Blakeman is the Alberta Liberal MLA for the very urban downtown constituency of Edmonton-Centre. Returning for her fourth-term in the legislature since 1997, Blakeman is tough, outspoken, and a strong advocate of the arts, GLBTQ issues, and women in politics. Blakeman is probably the closest to an anti-thesis to the type of rural politics that Kowalski practices that you can find.

Though it won't be a surprise when the 71 members of the Tory caucus jump to vote for the good old boy when Ed Stelmach and Kowalski give them the signal, Blakeman will be challenging Kowalski with the express intent of opening new horizons for women MLAs. Bridget Pastoor (Lethbridge-East) will be joining Blakeman in challenging the Tory majority by running for Deputy Speaker.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

let's talk about the west edmonton lrt.


A study has been completed to plan the extension of the LRT from Lewis Estates (87 Avenue and 199 Street) to the University of Alberta. As part of the study, open houses will be held to share information and details about the project and the study before it is presented to City Council.

(h/t to the always great Councillor Don Iveson's office for passing this along)

suiting up for spring session #3: getting ready to celebrate 40 years.

For those of your looking forward to the beginning of Spring Session in the Alberta Legislature, here's a sneak peak at what awaits...

- In members statements, expect a member from the Tory caucus to make a statement in remembrance of the passing of former Moses and NRA head, Charlton Heston.

- Health Care Premiums will be gone in four years, starting... now?

- Speaking of Health Care, newly appointed Health Minister Ron Liepert says health care reforms he plans to bring in will be modeled on the Klein cuts of the 1990s.

- A Blue Ribbon committee is expected to be appointed to plan for the 40th Anniversary Celebrations of Progressive Conservative rule in Alberta in 2011. Expect plans to include the construction of a 50-foot statue of Ralph Klein overlooking the crossing of the Bow and Elbow Rivers in Calgary and military parades across the province...

- Land-use struggles! The fight by rural landowners continues! The Round Hill-Dodds Agriculture Protection Association is fighting to stop the construction of a new coal and gasification plant south of Tofield. Major investors in the project include the City of Edmonton-owned EPCOR and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

suiting up for spring session #2: the valentine report.

Just in time for the Spring Session of the Alberta Legislature to start, former Auditor General Peter Valentine's long-time coming report, "Building Confidence: Improving Accountability and Transparency in Alberta’s Royalty System," on the accountability of Alberta's oil and gas royalty review collection system has been released and the reaction seems to be a bit scattered...

Disappointing Valentine royalty report makes things murkier than ever (Paul Simons, Edmonton Journal)

New report looks like a whitewash (Graham Thomson, Edmonton Journal)

No "super-ministry" needed to handle royalties (CBC)

Valentine's massacre more like a pillow fight (Don Braid, Calgary Herald)

I Read Dunn and Valentine and I Still Don't Know If Albertans Are Getting Their Fair Share of Royalties (Ken Chapman)

Gov't says it may have gotten it wrong (Edmonton Sun)

A Billion Questions (Jeff Cummings, Metro)

Royalty Regime up in the air (Neil Waugh, Edmonton Sun)

Public Confidence Continues to Erode in Department of Energy (Alberta Liberals)

Valentine Report New Spin on Bad News (Alberta NDP)

Expect this to be a hot topic when Spring Session begins... leaving

Just a quick note to let readers know that I’ve officially requested to be removed from As I no longer associate myself or this blog with the Liberal Party of Canada, it seemed like the honest thing to do (as opposed to the dishonest thing to do). As previously mentioned, I haven’t held a membership or been active with the Liberal Party of Canada for a couple of years and the recent quality of federal-level leadership from all parties have convinced me to keep my federal partisanship at an equal null (also, if someone figures out what the Liberal Party of Canada is standing for today, please let me know).

Like many politically active and aware Canadians, I've had a difficult time getting excited about politics with the current lack of political leadership in this country. This has led to a pretty strong disenchantment with the current pack of political leaders. Though I continue to support individual MPs and candidates on the federal scene (such as Elizabeth May, Irwin Cotler, Jim Wachowich, Olivia Chow, and Nathan Cullen), I can’t help but wonder what the days of Canada’s exciting leaders felt like – Lester B. Pearson, Robert Stanfield, Pierre Trudeau, etc and etc. I'm sure that I'm not the only Canadian look forward to the day when we will again witness some real debate on the federal political scene in Canada.

One would have hoped that three well-educated leaders like Stephen Harper (M.A. in Economics from the University of Calgary), Stéphane Dion (Ph.D. from Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris), and Jack Layton (M.A. from York University) would be able to raise the level of debate in the House of Commons, but it seems to have degenerated into something that would be more appropriate to a group of political bloggers…

Even imagining what the days of notable provincial leaders – Peter Lougheed, Allan Blakeney, Bill Davis, and René Lévesque – felt like leaves this politico wondering how Canadians ended up with their current (and for a large part uninteresting) group of provincial premiers. Is being boring an electoral strategy? Premiers Ed Stelmach and Dalton McGuinty would certainly lend credence to this theory.

dear rahim jaffer, mp edmonton-strathcona.

Above is a pamphlet mailed out by my MP, and below is a letter signed and sent by my house mate and I to Rahim Jaffer, the Edmonton-Strathcona Member of Parliament in question.

Rahim Jaffer, M.P.
7516 Gateway Blvd.
Edmonton, AB T6E 6E8

April 6, 2008

Dear Mr. Jaffer,

On April 4, 2008, we received a pamphlet from your office featuring a
graphic of Jack Layton's giant floating head and a hopelessly out of
scale CN Tower. We were somewhat puzzled as to why our
Conservative MP would be advertizing for the NDP until we noticed the
text, "NDP Opposition: Selling Out Hard-Working Alberta Families."

As these types of pamphlets seem to be the only type of
correspondence that we receive from your office, we can only assume
that your full-time job as a member of the governing party is not to
govern, but to attack the opposition (which already finds itself in a
weakened position without your help).

As two constituents and voters in Edmonton-Strathcona, we would
much rather see you earn your re-election through hard work rather
than American-style smear tactics which I can only imagine contribute
to the decision of hordes of voters who chose to not participate in our
democracy. As we evaluate our voting options in anticipation of the
next federal election, we hope that you refocus on representing us,
your constituents, rather than the Conservative Party war room.

Govern yourself accordingly,

(The Undersigned)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

violence of the lambs.

If you're looking for a movie to rent this weekend (because of all the snow, if you're in Edmonton...), here's what happens when good sheep go baaad...

Friday, April 04, 2008

alberta views magazine blog.

As you can probably tell from the title of this post, Alberta Views Magazine has launched a blog.

As part of their new endeavour into cyberspace, the good folks at the Alberta Views Blog will be issuing a series of challenges to Albertans every month. I took them up on their first challenge and this is what resulted...

For those of you not familiar with Alberta Views, it's a great Alberta-based magazine focusing on the "unique political, social and cultural life of Alberta from a progressive perspective." And they do a pretty good job at it.

suiting up for spring session #1.

With the Spring Session of the Alberta Legislature set to begin on April 14, here's a part of the pre-game show that I will be spotlighting over the next ten days...

- Back for a 9th season. It's unlikely that anyone in the Tory caucus will take a run to unseat the Boss Hogg of Alberta politics from his throne. Yep, I'm speaking of Speaker Ken Kowalski (Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock). Kowalski was re-elected to his 9th term in the Assembly on March 3 after having been first elected MLA in 1979 (which also happens to be the same year that the Dukes of Harzzard aired...).

- Keep an eye on the guy from the north. After getting the boot in Tory Premier Ed Stelmach's post-election cabinet, Guy Boutilier (Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo) might not be too happy-go-lucky about his new backbench real estate (in both Legislature office and assembly seating terms). Boutilier was first elected MLA in 1997 after serving as Mayor of Wood Buffalo. If anything, he'll at least have former Klein-era Ministers Heather Forsyth (Calgary-Fish Creek) and Pearl Calahasen (Lesser Slave Lake) to keep him company in the backbenches...

- New faces in the 11-member opposition. Newly elected Alberta Liberals Kent Hehr (Calgary-Buffalo) and Darshan Kang (Calgary-McCall), and New Democrat Rachel Notley (Edmonton-Strathcona) are the new faces in Alberta's opposition benches. It will also be interesting to see how Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft (Edmonton-Riverview) and New Democrat leader Brian Mason (Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood) carry themselves in this session following their setbacks in the March 3 election.

- Who art thou? With Tory MLA Sharaz Shariff's defeat to Darshan Kang in Calgary-McCall, the Assembly will be looking for a new Deputy Chair of Committees. Following the last election, Shariff was outsted as Deputy Speaker by fellow Tory MLA Richard Marz (Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills) in a seemingly obvious Rural clique v. Calgary power struggle in the Tory caucus. Though most all Albertans could probably care less who the Deputy Speaker and Deputy Chair of Committees are, they are important indicators of the power politics of the governing caucus.

- License Plates. As far as I can tell, Heather Klimchuck (Edmonton-Glenora), a rookie Tory MLA and Minister of Service Alberta is going to be spending most of her time overseeing the important project of designing Alberta's new licence plate.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

what about alberto-canadian?

Looks like we're a country of mutts. Your's truly included.

About 53 per cent of the province's population reported having more than one ethnic origin in 2006, compared with 48 per cent in 2001.

Across the country, the proportion of people who reported multiple ancestries was 41 per cent in 2006, compared with 38 per cent in 2001.

and in oily tar sands news...

A major oil sands expansion has been thrown into doubt as it has lost a critical permit to proceed. The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has revoked the water permit for Imperial Oil’s Kearl expansion in the Athabasca oil sands.

A spokesman from the DFO said “[Imperial Oil has been notified by letter that they are not authorized to procees with any works or undertakings that will cause harmful alteration or disruption or destruction of fish habitats or that destroys fish.”
Imperial Oil is majority owned by the Exxon Mobil Corporation.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

100-miles from your kitchen table.

After picking up Discovering the Unknown Landscape: A History of America’s Wetlands by Ann Vileisis while I continue my research on wetlands habitat protection, I stumbled upon an online video interview Vileisis gave on her newer book, Kitchen Literacy: How We Lost Knowledge of Where Food Comes From and Why We Need to Get it Back.

Kitchen Literacy sounds like a fascinating book and as I am planning to spend part of my summer seeing how long I can last on the 100-mile diet, I plan to pick up Vileisis' book and give it a read.