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Friday, June 27, 2008

sledisland ho.

I'm headed off to Sled Island and will be enjoying the long weekend in Calgary.

Until I get back, have a great weekend and Happy Canada Day!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

taft stepping down, toycen stepping in.

With Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft announcing that he will be stepping down by January 2009, a number of high profile contenders are stepping up for the challenge. Among the rumoured contenders are MLAs Laurie Blakeman, Dave Taylor, and MLA Bill Toycen.

Though not as well known as Blakeman or Taylor, Bill Toycen and his supporters have been at the forefront of a revitalization movement in the Alberta Liberals since the March 2008 election.

First elected in 2004, Toycen was narrowly re-elected as the MLA for Calgary-Gophercrotch in the March 3 election. Since his re-election, Toycen's supporters have launched a vigorous online campaign under the promiscuous moniker "Old Liberal." Having the support of many traditional Calgary-based Old Liberal supporters and a growing group of younger Old Liberals, Toycen's platform for change calls for Alberta Liberals to put "our necks on the line" as part of a new third way political movement: "The Old Liberal Giraffe Party."

"With our necks extended high above the trees, we can walk our own path. To be ready to appeal to the largest neck-section of Albertans, we must prepare to extend our necks so that when the spotlight shines on us we have policies rooted in our Old Liberal philosophy, but tailor-made for the long collars of our Alberta."
- Bill Toycen, MLA Calgary-Gophercrotch
Citing the success of Tony Blair's New Labour movement in the United Kingdom during the 1990s and the historical significance of this noble and populist animal in Alberta's 100 year history, Toycen's supporters feel that this move is a positive one that will allow the Old Liberal-Giraffe Party brand to develop a true connection with voters in Alberta.

explore alberta: your carbon-based vacation destination.

Planning your summer vacation?

Experience a carbon-based energy vacation with an Oil Sands vacation.

kevin taft's future.

Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft will be making an announcement at 11am this morning at the Alberta Legislature. It is widely expected that he will announce the time frame for his stepping down as Leader.

UPDATE: Kevin Taft has announced his intentions to step down as Party Leader by the end of January 2009.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A resolution passed at the annual conference of American Mayors in Miami, Florida has urged American municipalities to forbid the use of oil sands gasoline in municipal vehicles. The resolution was brought forward by Eugene, Oregon Mayor Kitty Piercy in an attempt to limit the flow of "dirty oil" into American cities. But rather than adapt to the realities of changing market forces, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (which includes some of the largest oil sands companies) has launched a public relations offensive in the form of a slick website - - in an effort to re-brand the oil sands.

The oil sands are driving Alberta's economic engine, and in a time of continental economic insecurity, Alberta can play a central role in providing some economic stability. But as I've previously written, the future environmental costs of how the oil sands are currently being extracted are too high for my liking (and apparently too high for many American municipal politicians).

Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier has invited a group of American Mayors to Alberta to allow them to see the effects of the oil sands. I'm sure there are some nice boardrooms in downtown Calgary, but you'll nary find a tailing pond in sight from Centre Street.

The chemical-filled tailing ponds that dot approximately 50 square kilometers of northern Alberta (equal to the size of 220,000 Olympic swimming pools) are only one of the problems facing the oil sands and other implications of oil sands extraction are easily identifiable. The effects of oil sands development have increased cancer rates in northern Alberta's aboriginal communities and have caused the rapid decline of indigenous animals such as the Woodlands Caribou.

Current oil sands operations use an unsustainable amount of water from the Athabasca River basin - using up to 4.5 barrels of water to extract and upgrade one lonely barrel of bitumen from an oil sands mine. Companies extracting the oil sands are currently allowed to continue extracting water from the Athabasca River, even when river levels are at sitting at dangerously low levels.

Ironically, with oil prices at record high levels and Alberta's Treasury overflowing, our Federal and Provincial governments have the funds and resources available to responsibly initiate real positive change in the oil sands by turning around the larger disasterous impacts that we could be heading towards in the future if we continue along the simplistic path we're on. correctly states that...

The oil sands are owned by the people of Canada through their governments. Companies buy rights to access the resource, and pay royalties to government on their production.
... and it's time that we as Canadians started taking responsibility for the environmental impacts we are allowing to shape our future.

Big changes need to happen in order to address the environmental challenges that we've created for ourselves, but focusing on real positive change - such as changing the way we extract our resources (and lessening our dependence on unsustainable fuels), investing in the expansion and development of public transit and new smart growth initiatives in our rapidly growing municipalities, as well as developing more environmentally efficient and sustainable energy sources (and ways of living) are more positive solutions than a public relations campaign can offer.

Monday, June 23, 2008

renovate the federal building, but park the parkade on the drawing board.

Infrastructure Minister and Drumheller-Stettler Tory MLA Jack Hayden announced last week that the Government of Alberta will be renovating the long-empty asbestos-laced Federal Building.

Closed since 1989, it will cost an estimated $200 million to renovate the 1950s art-deco style building sitting on the northeast edge of Alberta's Legislative Grounds. While I agree that renovating and reopening the Federal Building is a smart idea, I take issue with the proposed construction of a $156 million underground parkade to be built during the renovations. I have a hard time believing that building a 650 car parkade in Edmonton's already traffic congested downtown core is a good idea on any level.

It seems to me that it could be a much smarter and more responsible use of $156 million for the Government of Alberta to work with the City of Edmonton to ensure that the redevelopment plans are coordinated with Edmonton's already existing transportation demand management plans and Downtown revitalization plans. This could include directing this funding towards the expansion of public transportation so that Edmontonians working in the area could more efficiently use the Grandin LRT Station, which is directly attached to the Legislature Grounds (especially as the LRT expands southbound).

The $156 million could also go a long way towards the creation of a regional transit service in the Capital Region (eliminating the duplication of services that currently exist between Edmonton Transit Service, St. Albert Transit, and Strathcona Country Transit). With St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse chairing a regional committee on transit issues, this kind of investment in a regional transit infrastructure could do wonders in creating a more efficient transportation system in Alberta's Capital Region (and maybe alleviate some of the tough financial situations that municipalities such as Edmonton and St. Albert are in).

Friday, June 20, 2008

green shift? carbon tax? kyoto? how about what's growing on your front lawn?

There's no shortage of blogosphere chatter surrounding Stéphane Dion's Federal Liberal "Green Shift" and carbon-tax, so rather than joining the gawkfest over some fairly obvious partisan maneuverings and electoral calculations, I'm going to focus on something a little more real.

As my interest in urban issues continues to grow, I've spent some time thinking about the concept of the 'front lawn.' I continue to be surprised at the amount of energy and focus that some homeowners put into manicuring the perfect patch of synthetic pesticide-laced monocotyledonous green plants* in front of their houses, as it seems like quite the disappointing allocation of land resources (and water) to only use a front lawn for mostly ornamental (or social status) purposes. There's also no shortage of studies linking the pesticides that many property owners use in their front lawns to health problems including cancer, leukemia, and birth problems, among others. This is why I was really interested to listen to the June 13 podcast of Public Radio International's Studio 360 in which Julie Burstein interviews author and architect Fritz Haeg.

Haeg's book and project, the Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn, promotes the replacement of traditional domestic front lawns by ripping up meticulously manicured sod and replacing it with an 'edible landscape' that will produce harvests of varieties of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Haeg first started the project in 2005 in Kansas, and it quickly spread to locations in California, New Jersey, London, England (read more here), Texas, and Maryland.

In the context of sustainability, the global food crisis, and increasing urban environmental concerns, this type of development could be a positive force in suburban and urban environments (and could help foster a sense of community in our sometimes hopelessly disconnected and individualistic society).

You can listen to Julie Burstein's interview with Fritz Haeg here:

*Many of Canada's largest municipalities, including Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Hamilton, have adopted by-laws (pdf) limiting the use of synthetic lawn & garden pesticides for cosmetic use on private property. Quebec enforces a province-wide ban and Ontario has proposed a similar ban through The Cosmetic Pesticide Ban Act (not without controversy, of course).

Edmonton has yet to adopt similar a by-law, but Calgary currently has a draft by-law waiting in the wings.

short book review: topaz by leon uris.

For some lighter summer blogging, I’m planning on posting a series of short book reviews from my summer’s reading (and re-reading) list. First up is the 1967 spy thriller novel Topaz by Leon Uris. I discovered Topaz at the Wee Book Inn on Whyte Avenue and for $2.50 it was mine.

Originally published in 1967, the story takes place in the tense years of the early 1960s in the deep dark depths of the Cold War. Uris’ story follows the life of French SDECE agent Andre Devereaux and CIA agent Michael Nordstrom. Stationed at the French Embassy in Washington DC, Devereaux is the top French Secret Service agent in the American capital in the lead up to the Cuban Missile Crisis. The lead up to the crisis sees Devereaux and his American CIA allies deal with the interrogation of a high-level KGB defector who informs his Devereaux and Nordstrom of an intricate Soviet spy ring deep within the French Security Services which had infiltrated the top ranks of the French Republic – including a mole, codenamed 'Topaz', in the Office of French President Pierre La Croix (a character based on Charles de Gaulle).

The story takes Devereaux from Washington to Paris to Cuba (to the chagrin of his wife, Nicole) and does an interesting job at explaining on the geo-political mess of agendas and egos that existed between the French-American and Soviet-Cuban alliances during this period. Though a historical fiction, the story leans a lot on the history between American and French tension within NATO dating back to the toxic relationship between the French Resistance, the Free French, and the United States Army during the Second World War.

Flashback scenes throughout the book tell the story of La Croix's rise to power and his tensions with NATO during the 1960s (which in real life led to the French withdrawal from NATO command). Uris did a good job in highlighting the ambitions of the French President to return his Republic to the colonial world power that it was before WWII and the conflict that this created in a new Soviet-American dominated world power scene.

Overall, it’s an enjoyable and well researched summer read (and was well worth the $2.50).

(I haven’t seen it yet, but Alfred Hitchcock adapted the story to film in 1969).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

malkin on ap "quotation licenses."

I rarely find Michelle Malkin's blog palatable, but she wrote a pointed post yesterday on the Associated Press' "quotation licenses" decision and backcharging to AP for quotes they've used...

$1.32 gas getting you down? start pedaling!

As someone who rides his bike to work every morning, I'm glad to see that Bike Month in Edmonton is pushing forward at successful pedaling speeds. Not only is cycling the most energy efficient way to get around (other than walking, I suppose...), but it's also a good way to stay healthy and get some fresh air...

- Edmonton’s bicycle-sharing network, the People's Pedal is pedaling forward a social marketing survey to improve their service and identify barriers to cycling in the capital city. You can win cool prizes for taking their 10-minute survey!

- The City of Edmonton will be hosting an open house on the draft Bicycle Transportation Plan Report tonight from 4:00 - 8:00 PM at Stantec Centre (10160 - 112 Street). The draft Bicycle Transportation Plan Report will be presented to the public before heading to City Council in July for approval. All public input for the report must be received no later than Friday, June 20, 2008, so get your input in now!

- Edmonton Critical Mass meets for a ride at 5:30pm on the last Friday of every month.

- June 28, 2008 is Bikeology's velo-love in Wild Ride Festival will be at Beaver Hills House Park, Jasper Ave + 105th St. at 12noon.

- The Alberta Environment Network has a list of more Bike Month events.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

the copyfight continues...

As the fight around Bill C-61 and unfaircopyright reform continues in Canada, the Associated Press is now selling "quotation licenses" that will allow writers, bloggers, etc to use quotes from their articles...

In the name of "defin[ing] clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt" the Associated Press is now selling "quotation licenses" that allow bloggers, journallers, and people who forward quotations from articles to co-workers to quote their articles. The licenses start at $12.50 for quotations of 5-25 words. The licensing system exhorts you to snitch on people who publish without paying the blood-money, offering up to $1 million in reward money (they also think that "fair use" -- the right to copy without permission -- means "Contact the owner of the work to be sure you are covered under fair use.").

It gets better! If you pay to quote the AP, but you offend the AP in so doing, the AP "reserves the right to terminate this Agreement at any time if Publisher or its agents finds Your use of the licensed Content to be offensive and/or damaging to Publisher's reputation."

Welcome to a world in which you won’t be able to effectively criticize the press, because you’ll be required to pay to quote as few as five words from what they publish.
(h/t Making Light via Boing Boing)

Monday, June 16, 2008

cfs on the ball with education and copyright reform.

Continuing on the topic of Bill C-61 and Canadian copyright legislation reform, I've discovered a pretty good brief (pdf) written by the Canadian Federation of Students detailing the implications of certain types of copyright reform on students and the education sector. Here is part of the section on exemptions for educational institutions:

Asking for special institutional-based exemptions is the approach that was taken in the last round of copyright reform in 1997. It resulted in a complicated, and not very useful, set of narrow privileges for educational institutions. Unfortunately, this approach is still being pushed by groups representing a narrow band of university and college stakeholders: administrators. Seeking further special exemptions that are not available to the general public is a fundamentally flawed strategy. The better option is an expanded and open-ended definition in the Act of fair dealing that reflects the principles laid out in the CCH judgement.
As of today, it looks like only one of Canada's national student advocacy organizations has publicly raised concerns about the implications of Bill C-61 and copyright reform on students and the education sector.

The other national student advocacy organization that my Students' Union fees (and food court purchases?) go towards seems to have yet to say a peep...

(h/t Howard Knopf)

Friday, June 13, 2008

bill c-61 and fair copyright for canada.

With Industry Minister Jim Prentice's introduction of Bill C-61: An Act to Amend the Copyright Act into the House of Commons this week, I am glad to see that strong opposition to legislation (which is similar to the United States Millennium Digital Copyright Act) is coalescing across Canada.

Not only does Bill C-61 seem to side with industry lobbyists over consumer protection rights, but it also poses a very real threat that could leave Canada with one of the most restrictive digital copyright laws in the world - posing a strong challenge for innovation, consumer rights, and free speech.

It has been suggested that this type of legislation would allow border guards and law enforcement officials to inspect laptops and iPods for music and videos that may violate copyright laws (which could even include the simple and very common transfer of DVDs to an iPod) and instituting stiff penalties, C-61 also poses a number of challenges to the education sector (which should raise red flags for University Presidents and Provincial Education Ministers across Canada).

The proposed legislation would limit the ability of post-secondary students and institutions to access copyrighted material for studies - including highly popular online exam banks and journal/periodical databases/e-braries that many post-secondary students use on a daily basis (the proposed legislation would limit the distribution of electronic library materials to less than five days) and could see an increase in copyright fees for institutions. I was glad to see that the Canadian Federation of Students has publicly raised questions about Bill C-61 and I hope that Canada's other national student lobby group - the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations - won't be too far behind in taking public action on this important issue.

I encourage you to read up on why this issue is important to Canadians. Check out Michael Geist, Digital Copyright Canada, Fair Copyright for Canada (and on Facebook), and Online Rights Canada to get up to speed. There’s a lot of good and accessible information online, so make sure to give it a read.

I’ve written a letter on the issue to my MP Rahim Jaffer, as well as Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Jim Prentice, Heritage Minister Josée Verner, and Industry Committee Chair James Rajotte. If you're not a fan of letter writing use a sample letter, or check out Geist's solid list of actions that any Canadian can take to raise their concerns about Bill C-61 and copyright issues.

Positive copyright reform is possible, but Bill C-61 does not include the ingredients of positive change that would recognize the growing role of the Internet and open source software, as well as emerging online tools and business models that Canadian are embracing.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

colbert, m & m, and the cesspooly trenches of partisan politics.

I was planning on taking a bit of a break from writing about the cesspooly trenches of partisan politics for the next couple weeks, but I'll make an exception today for the few points...

- By now, I'm sure everyone has seen what a $25 million public relations campaign couldn't even dream of coming close to accomplishing.

- Former Alberta Liberal MLAs Mo Elsalhy (Edmonton-McClung) and Maurice Tougas (Edmonton-Meadowlark) have started up a blog on Alberta politics. Not very often do Albertans hear from former MLAs, so this should be an ongoing interesting read.

- On the topic of former MLAs, former NDP Edmonton-Calder MLA Dave Eggen is the new Executive Director of the Friends of Medicare. Eggen fills the spot vacated by Harvey Voogd (Voogd stepped down to run for a Ward 3 City Council spot in 2007, he was defeated by Ed Gibbons and Tony Caterina).

- And finally, political differences aside, I want to wish my friend Anand Sharma all the good luck that I can muster in his run for the Presidency of the Alberta NDP at this weekend's convention in Calgary. Good luck, Anand!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

all about plastic bags.

While the City of Edmonton publicly musing about taking the progressive step of joining the growing ranks of plastic bag-free/limited cities and countries around the world (Vancouver is debating a similar ban in British Columbia's Lower Mainland), I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some cool developments occurring in the world of plastic bags…

- In Waterloo, Ontario, 16-year old science fair contestant Daniel Burd may have helped find a way to rid the world more quickly of the plastic bag problem:

…Burd mixed landfill dirt with yeast and tap water, then added ground plastic and let it stew. The plastic indeed decomposed more quickly than it would in nature; after experimenting with different temperatures and configurations, Burd isolated the microbial munchers. One came from the bacterial genus Pseudomonas, and the other from the genus Sphingomonas.

Burd says this should be easy on an industrial scale: all that's needed is a fermenter, a growth medium and plastic, and the bacteria themselves provide most of the energy by producing heat as they eat. The only waste is water and a bit of carbon dioxide.
- Bill Given recently posted this video on his blog:

- Debbie Reynolds wrote on GoGreen about some good ideas on how we can decrease our dependence on plastic bags by describing two different types of bags being labeled as "biodegradable" – one is made from plastic (which are actually a combination of polyethylene and starch, which leaves small fragments of toxic plastic in the soil that last just as long as a regular polyethylene plastic bags) and another from corn starch:
The biodegradable corn-starch based bags are not only biodegradable but also 'compostable,' which means they will completely break down into carbon and water in under 120 days under industrial composting conditions. A compostable product will not contaminate the soil in which it was composted with heavy metals. Nor will it leave tiny fragments of plastic behind. Environmentally, compostable bags are the better choice of the two.

they haven't run me out of town yet.

If you're wondering why posting has declined since last week, it isn't because I've been run out of the province. It's because I've started a new job (as a Researcher at the Alberta Public Interest Research Group at the University of Alberta).

Saturday, June 07, 2008

ayla brook.

I saw Ayla Brook play at the Black Dog this afternoon and it was some good stuff.

(Check out more of my favorite YouTube picks...)

Friday, June 06, 2008

on the hockey night in canada song.

Good lord, I hope this is the only time I will post about this.

I would just like to point out how much fun I'm having watching all those "I hate the CBC because it's a waste of money" people be up in arms because the CBC might be having second thoughts about having to pay $500 every time they play the song.

Maybe Stephen Harper should Stand Up for Canada and nationalize the Hockey Night in Canada song. Now that's something I could get behind.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

the case of ronald labelle.

At the end of May 2008 Ronald Labelle was sentenced to four months in jail after being convicted on 31 counts, three for uttering threats towards Premier Ed Stelmach, his cows, and his property, and 28 for unauthorized possession and improper storage of firearms.

Now, citizen's shouldn't hesitate to pick up the phone and call their elected representatives, but I would suggest that doing it after a couple drinks, as was Labelle's case, probably won't get you the results you're looking for. Yesterday, I received an email from Brian Labelle, son of Ronald Labelle, asking if I would publish his father's side of the story. As someone who fully understands the media/spin storm that can envelope around unique situations such as this, I believe that allowing citizens to publicly present their case is an important part of living in a democratic society. Here's Labelle's statement:

Today I appear in court for sentencing to be held accountable for the statements which I was guilty of and admitted to making.

Charge #3 – Uttering threats against farm property.
When he was running for the leadership of the Alberta Conservative party, in an effort to appease oil industry workers and make any kind of statement that could win him an election regardless of the truthfulness of that statement, the "honorable" Ed Stelmach stated that sending our raw bitumen to the United States for refining was akin to stripping the top-soil off of Alberta's farm and trucking it down there for the U.S. to use. That would lead the average Albertan voter in rural, and even urban areas, to believe that sending our raw bitumen to the United States was something the Stelmach government was not interested in doing. However, once the leadership race was over, our bitumen was sent South.

I incorrectly assumed that the Premier's earlier statement about sending our top-soil along with our bitumen was true. I also incorrectly assumed that as the leader of this province, Mr. Stelmach would want to be the first farmer to set a good example for others and therefore be the first to send his own top-soil South of the border because, as he said in his own words, it made as much sense as sending our bitumen. I graciously offered to come to his farm and assist him with that endeavor and again, I was wrong. It appears Ed Stelmach is not nearly as interested in giving away his own resources for pennies on the dollar as he is in giving away the resources that belong to the tax-paying citizens of Alberta.

Charge #2 – Uttering threats to farm animals.
As I stated on September 7, 2007 – Somebody should shoot his cows and livelihood right down the pipeline to the United States in the exact same fashion that he is sending perfectly good jobs down the pipeline. A glaring, documented example of that being the Keystone pipeline. Again, during his bid for leadership in the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party, the Premier feigned a great interest in the plight of the construction industry. He pretended to be worried about what would happen if he slowed down projects and how that could negatively impact Alberta's construction workers. The same concern for Alberta's labor force was not displayed after he won that leadership election. On September 12, 2007, then Labor Minister Iris Evans threatened Union Laborers with a "Go back to work or go to jail" order. It seems being responsible for 20 million more tonnes of carbon emissions than Ontario, a province four times the size of ours, is just not good enough for the Stelmach government and they believe we need even MORE carbon in our air to PROVE that not only are we the richest province in the land, we're also the best at contributing to acid rain and the destruction of the environment.

I believe it is important to mention that I have been found guilty and will be held accountable for the threats I made, but as of this date, Iris Evans has not been arrested or even charged for uttering threats of jail time against the construction workers of this province for their refusal to work for what they believed to be unfair wages, paid by oil companies operating in this province who are currently making profits as high as twelve hundred dollars per SECOND, on the back of their labor and are highly subsidized by the government to do so.

Charge #1 – Uttering a threat to harm the Premier
I said "Somebody should pop him", right in the nose. I admitted that I said it when the police came to my door. I admitted to saying it again during a videotaped interrogation. And I admit here again that I said it. I apologize to everyone reading this that it isn't quite as sexy as the "death threat" the Premier's secretary, Jennifer Dalmer-Hinse, allegedly received and was widely reported on, on the day of September 11th. This apparently necessitated the "Special" prosecutor from Calgary, Mr. Shane Clark, to fly up to Edmonton at the expense of the Alberta taxpayer so that he could assure the media that as the "Special" prosecutor, he was making sure that no "special" attention was being given to the case because the Premier was involved.

I would like to remind all Alberta voters that I made the phone call and was arrested on September 7, 2007. I am unsure as to why the Premier's spokesperson, Tom Olsen, waited a full FIVE days to announce the alleged "death threat" against the Premier (a process that according to an Edmonton Journal legal affairs writer, is normally handled by the spokesperson for the Edmonton Police Service) but I imagine it was a much better, more sympathetic story for the government on September 11, 2007 than it would have been on the day, the day after, or even three days after the incident allegedly took place. Not only was Tom Olsen's statement regarding the alleged "death threat" completely fabricated, the timing of the announcement from the Premier's office appears to have been deliberately made to play to the 9/11 invoked fears of Albertans or else it was purposely delayed until the day before this government threatened laborers to return to work or be jailed as another means of intimidation. Either way, this province used me and manipulated the media to create a sensational headline that wasn't true and cast the Alberta government in a more positive/sympathetic light during a time prior to the election when they weren't doing very well in the polls. The tactics of the current provincial administration when using the media need to be carefully scrutinized by all Albertans at all times.

I also question why members of the media did not stop to question why the Premier's office was giving them a week-old story to run but many were likely too blinded by the date they got their information on and interested in breaking their own "terrorist" story as a result of it. A simple phone call to the Police would have confirmed that the Premier received "Bizarre threats" to "harm" the Premier which "made little to no sense" (according to the Judge) but there was NO death threat. My family and I were definitely threatened with incarceration by Iris Evans, as were the wives, husbands and children of all of Alberta's laborers, but because she works for the government and was authorized by this province to make those threats, there is nothing any laborer can do about it but continue to make sure there is oil for those companies to gouge us on at the pump, and profit to pump into Stelmach's re-election campaign or… we can go to jail for striking illegally.

I apologize to Ed Stelmach and his family if my phone call on September 7, 2007 caused any undue stress or hardship on them. I understand from watching the news that he and his family were "shaken" by the statements listed above and for that, I am sorry.

ken kowalski: i'll die in office.

And the closed-door wage hike fiasco continues... keeping in line with the laws of god, Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock Tory MLA Ken Kowalski isn't going to let no laws of man get in the way of his political career...

The provincial government's contentious new wage hikes for MLAs have Premier Ed Stelmach and Speaker Ken Kowalski in line to each reap at least $250,000 more in severance pay, with both on pace to top the $1-million mark when they leave office.


Kowalski, 62, also will pull the rip cord on a second golden parachute when he retires, as he'll receive hefty annual payments through an MLA pension plan that was axed by former premier Ralph Klein in 1993.

At the time the plan was killed, Kowalski was in line to receive about $61,500 a year in pension, but that number may have increased substantially over the years. Government officials, however, wouldn't provide detailed information.

A defiant Kowalski insisted Wednesday the pay increases weren't large enough and suggested he has no plans to leave politics for decades.


He suggested he plans to run for re-election four more times. "I'll never collect it," he quipped. "I'll die in office."

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

barack obama is a rock star.

In case you missed it, Barack Obama's speech to his supporters in St. Paul, Minnesota last night was incredible. Attracting over 32,000 people to the rally, the presumptive Democratic nominee for President of the United States is an amazing orator and gives the feel of a rock star rather than just a typical political candidate.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

nextfest 2008.

I'm pretty excited to be volunteering for nextfest 2008 this and next week. From June 5 to 15, Edmonton's up and coming artists will be showcased at shows, exhibits, and genuine good times at venues across the city.

All Shows are $10, Day Passes are $18, and Festival Passes are $40. For tickets and information call the Roxy Theatre at 453-2440.

Check it out if you can, it's going to be fun!

rebranding new liberals.

A group of Liberals from Calgary launched a website and manifesto-like document yesterday calling for changes that they want to see in the Alberta Liberal Party.

I've written quite a bit about this topic in the past couple months, so I'm not going to repeat a lot of what is already posted on this blog. In short, I'm not convinced that any of Alberta's current political parties have enough public credibility to "re-engage" with Albertans in any meaningful way. Vision documents like this one make things feel all warm and hopeful about the future, but until voters start to feel like politics are relevant to their lives, it's probably not going to make much of a difference. That is why I am more interested in what David Swann is doing.

For more, Calgary Grit has given his take on it.

Monday, June 02, 2008

kerry diotte still riled over 2007 election.

Still bitter with Ward 5 voters for turfing Edmonton Sun love-child Mike Nickel in the 2007 election, pundit Kerry Diotte has taken aim at Ward 5 Councillor Don Iveson for being concerned with issues like "global warming," rather than only just the same old tax issue.

Following the 2007 municipal election, Diotte accused Iveson of being part of a well-financed left-wing conspiracy to defeat right-winger Mike Nickel. According to public records (available at the City Clerk's Office), Iveson's well-financed left-wing conspiracy of a volunteer-run election campaign cost just $22,546.63 compared to Nickel's $62,453 ($50,400 of donations to Nickel's clearly under-financed campaign were in sums larger than $300, compared to the massive sum of $12,766.40 for Iveson*).

Having only had to spend one-third of what Nickel did on his campaign, maybe Diotte should give Iveson (and Ward 5 voters) a little credit for being creative and fiscally responsible with what he had and what the ideas he brings to the Council (like Smart Growth initiatives) can do to build Edmonton into a better place.


let's justify that closed-door pay hike!

Two members of Ed Stelmach's Cabinet have won the prize for trying to justify giving themselves an +30% pay hike in a closed-door meeting last week.

1) Health Minister Ron Liepert (MLA Calgary-West):

Albertans have made it clear they want decisive action from their government and that determining their own wage saves time and keeps voters happy.

"We will inevitably come to the conclusion it's deserved, so if . . . it makes sense, then we just do it," Liepert said.

Translation: Albertans re-elected the Stelmach Tories with the specific intent of allowing Ministers to vote themselves a +30% pay hike in a closed-door meeting. This keeps voters happy.

2) Tourism, Parks, and Recreation Minister Cindy Ady (MLA Calgary-Shaw):
"Every time we go to an independent body, people always say to triple our salaries."
Translation: An independent review would have given Cabinet Ministers a 200% pay-hike, instead of the 30% pay-hike that they gave themselves. Therefore, the closed-door pay hikes save Albertans money!

I don't have a problem with Cabinet Ministers being paid well, I would just prefer it if their increases were determined in an open and transparent way (apparently, they disagree).