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Thursday, July 31, 2008

money and elections in the oil-rich sultanate of alberta.

Campaign expenses from Alberta's March 3, 2008 Provincial Election were released a couple of weeks ago, here's a look at expenses by constituency from Alberta's two main political parties, and some lists of the expenses by the numbers (and the ridiculous amount of money that was spent in an election that produced a record low voter turnout):

Biggest Spenders
1) Sherwood Park - Iris Evans (PC) - $146,664.14
2) Edmonton-Mill Creek - Gene Zwozdesky (PC) - $140.283.18
3) Edmonton-Whitemud - Dave Hancock (PC) - $133,040.37
4) Calgary-McCall - Darshan Kang (Lib) - $117,137.44
5) Calgary-Glenmore - Ron Stevens (PC) - $110,979.96
6) Edmonton-Manning - Peter Sandhu (PC) - $90,853.23
7) Calgary-Elbow - Alison Redford (PC) - $87,846.02
8) Edmonton-Mill Woods - Carl Benito (PC) - $85,950.53
9) Calgary-McCall - Shiraz Shariff (PC) - $75,166.79
10) Lac La Biche-St. Paul - Ray Danyluk (PC) - $74,158.21

Biggest Liberal Spenders
1) Calgary-McCall - Darshan Kang - $117,137.44
2) Edmonton-Mill Creek - Aman Gill - $62,638.66
3) Calgary-Buffalo - Kent Hehr - $61,984.13
4) Edmonton-Ellerslie - Bharat Agnihotri - $57,496.63
5) Calgary-Elbow - Craig Cheffins - $56,109.10
6) Edmonton-Whitemud - Nancy Cavanaugh - $45,055.83
7) Sherwood Park - Louise Rogers - $44,461.28
8) Calgary-Bow - Greg Flanagan - $42,144.24
9) Calgary-Mountain View - David Swann - $40,522.36
10) Calgary-Currie - Dave Taylor - $36,891.07

Biggest bang for their buck (elected MLAs & cost per vote)
1) Battle River-Wainwright - Doug Griffiths (PC) - $2.65 per vote
2) Drumheller-Stettler - Jack Hayden (PC) - $2.43 per vote
3) Rocky Mountain House - Ty Lund (PC) - $3.07 per vote
4) Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills - Richard Marz (PC) - $3.16 per vote
5) Little Bow - Barry McFarland (PC) - $3.31 per vote
6) Strathmore-Brooks - Arno Doerksen (PC) - $3.48 per vote
7) Calgary-Hays - Art Johnston (PC) - $3.54 per vote
8) Lacombe-Ponoka - Ray Prins (PC) - $3.60 per vote
9) Edmonton-Riverview - Kevin Taft (Lib) - $3.88 per vote
10) Drayton Valley-Calmar - Diana McQueen (PC) - $3.99 per vote

Biggest Spender per vote
1) Calgary-McCall - Darshan Kang (Lib) - $27.48 per vote
2) Edmonton-Manning - Peter Sandhu (PC) - $22.11 per vote
3) Drayton Valley-Calmar - Norma Block (Lib) - $21.59 per vote
4) Lesser Slave Lake - Pearl Calahasen (PC) - $20.87 per vote
5) Edmonton-Mill Creek - Gene Zwozdesky (PC) - $20.44 per vote
6) Calgary-Buffalo - Sean Chu (PC) $19.58 per vote
7) Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview - Dawit Isaac (Lib) - $18.40 per vote
8) Edmonton-Mill Woods - Carl Benito (PC) - $18.09 per vote
9) Calgary-McCall - Shiraz Shariff (PC) - $18.05 per vote
10) Calgary-Glenmore - Ron Stevens (PC) - $17.23 per vote

PC v. Liberal - Biggest Spending Margin
1) Sherwood Park - Iris Evans (PC) +$102,203
2) Calgary-Glenmore - Ron Stevens (PC) +$88,029
3) Edmonton-Whitemud - Dave Hancock (PC) +$87,985
4) Edmonton-Mill Creek - Gene Zwozdesky (PC) +$77,645
5) Lac La Biche-St. Paul - Ray Danyluk (PC) +$66,245
6) Foothills-Rockyview - Ted Morton (PC) +$60,835
7) Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville - Ed Stelmach (PC) +$59,636
8) Edmonton-Mill Woods - Carl Benito (PC) +$59,381
9) Dunvegan-Central Peace - Hector Goudreau (PC) +$55,720
10) Airdrie-Chestermere - Rob Anderson (PC) +$55,276

"no rules" v. campaign finance reform.

It shouldn't be a surprise that a lot of money drives politics in Alberta, but for those of you familiar/appalled with the City of Calgary's "no rules" municipal campaign financing mantra should find Naheed Nenshi's latest Calgary Herald column interesting.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

freelancers do it better.

As someone who is earning a living through 'freelance' contract work, I appreciated this list: 101 Reasons Freelancers Do It Better.

(h/t Brett Lamb)

Monday, July 28, 2008

beaver lake cree draw a line in the oil sand.

The Beaver Lake Cree Nation is taking legal action (pdf) against the governments of Canada and Alberta and is asking the court to rule government authorization for thousands of oil industry projects on the Nation's territory as invalid.

(h/t The Tyee)

let's look outside-the-antiquated-box.

After my last couple of posts on the dangers of nuclear waste and growing wind power sector, I received more than a couple of emails from readers ranging from fairly positive to the predictable "no, we can't, we can't, we can't" from those who's thoughts continue to float in an unmarked antiquated box somewhere.

With Ontario-based Bruce Power announcing that over 2,700 jobs would be created with the construction of a nuclear power plant in Alberta's Peace Country, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at a county that is rejecting nuclear energy, and as a result has seen its renewable energy sector flourish.

In 2002, German legislators turned their backs on nuclear power when they passed of the "Act on the structured phase-out of the utilisation of nuclear energy for the commercial generation of electricity." Since taking power in 2005, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government is continuing plans to phase out nuclear power by 2020.

German renewable energy sector jobs almost doubled from 160,500 in 2004 to 249,300 in 2007, leading some to suggest that as many as 400,000 jobs could exist in this sector by 2020 (over 100,000 more than some previous studies had predicted). In 2007, renewable energy sources in Germany generated 8.5% of that country's total energy consumption, and saved 114 million tons in carbon dioxide.

Sigmar Gabriel, German Minister for Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety was quoted as saying:

"The systematic expansion of renewable energy is not only good from the environmental and climate policy point of view but also for innovation, growth and employment in Germany."
Gabriel has also announced that Germany, the world's sixth largest greenhouse gas emitter, will expand its environmentally friendly energy production target to 27% by 2020.

A recent NASA report (h/t DSB) has reported that Canada's coastal areas have the wind power density to produced intense amounts of wind energy through offshore wind farms. The construction of offshore coastal wind farms on Canada's coasts would be a smarter way to meet our energy needs (and maybe make a couple bucks after selling surplus energy south of the 49th parallel).

As our provincial government continues its rosey-eyed high school-style relationship with nuclear power, we as citizens have a responsibility to understand that there are plenty ways to moving forward in filling our energy needs beyond nuclear power. There is a growing need for a larger energy supply, but we have a responsibility to ensure that the effects of our developments do not adversely affect the lives and well-being of the current population, as well as generations to come.

Maybe having antiquated thinkers drive our debate isn't the smartest idea in the first place?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

debunking lorne gunter on climate change.

Care of the good folks at the DeSmogBlog.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

it's about change dave.

What began as a colorful Internet fluke has blossomed into a full-fledged political movement - one that Republicans and Democrats alike are reluctantly having to acknowledge -- Cournoyer mania.

(h/t justin)

greenpeace punks syncrude.

Media Release

"Braving toxic fumes and the same toxic tailings waste that earlier this year killed 500 ducks, Greenpeace activists entered Syncrude's Aurora North tar sands operation early this morning and blocked a pipe into the two-kilometre wide tailings pond.

Shortly after 11:00 a.m today, 11 Greenpeace activists blocked the pipe to prevent further toxic contamination of Alberta's environment. The activists capped the opening of the pipe, locking a large device in place while several other activists erected a triangular banner over another pipe depicting a skull and crossbones which hung above the pipe's opening, giving the illusion of toxic water gushing from the "mouth" of the skull. Several other activists deployed a massive banner along the bank of the tailings pond, reading "World's Dirtiest Oil: Stop the Tar Sands."

on the nutritional value of white bread.

It's not hard to believe that being an opposition party leader in Alberta contains as much of a political future as white bread does nutrition, but that's not going to stop some brave citizens from believing that they can turn the Alberta Liberal Party into a multi-grain political experience (wow, that was bad...).

The first contender to step up after outgoing leader Kevin Taft announced his stepping down is Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor. Deputy Leader since he was first elected in 2004, it's probably been about just as long since I've heard rumours of the former talk radio star's impending leadership run. AGRDT, PTIMHB and Calgary Grit have some initial reactions to Taylor's announcement.

As a special nutritious treat for readers, over the coming months I will be providing some uniquely davebertan insight into my experiences with some of the candidates over the years -- including during my time as Communications Coordinator for the Alberta Liberals -- which could possibly kill my chances of getting a job in the next Liberal leader's office, but should have some nutritional value to it....

UPDATE: Former Edmonton-McClung MLA Mo Elsalhy is planning to kick off his campaign in the next few days.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

why country needs more banjo.

Consider this notice, music fans, because the best new amazing banjo-riddled three piece alternative country band -- Elliott Brood -- will be gracing Edmonton with their presence on September 17 at the Pawn Shop.

For the uninitiated, here's Elliott Brood's tribute to Wild Rose country... Oh Alberta!:

(I should also note, for my Calgary readers, that Elliott Brood will be playing in Cowtown on September 18 at The Warehouse)

some ideas people.

If it is intellectual stimuli you seek, look no further!

I recently discovered the incredibly intellectually-packed audio/video section of the 2008 Aspen Festival of Ideas held in Aspen, Colorado (the festival was recently featured on Studio 360). The 2008 annual event featured speakers such as Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Tobias Wolff, Thomas Friedman, Paul Hawken, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Charlie Rose among many others.

On the topic of ideas and festivals, as part of its 2008 Centenary Celebration (which includes a birthday party), the University of Alberta will be hosting its own Festival of Ideas from November 13 to 16, 2008. The Festival will feature leading thinkers including Salman Rushdie, William Alsop, Barbara Coloroso, Alta Charo, and Nelofer Pazira to name a few.

ADDITION: Make sure to take a listen to Sean Wilentz and Joseph Nye's fascinating takes on the Internet, the media, and the political centre.

Monday, July 21, 2008

don't mess with texas (wind power).

Following my post from last Monday on the Hanford nuclear waste storage facility along the Columbia River Basin, a couple of stories caught my eye this week.

A lot of money flows through the slots and poker tables in Las Vegas, and $9 billion probably isn't a ton of money when you're talking about nuclear research (which is how much has been spent on researching the nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain, Nevada), but the United States Department of Energy is now estimating that it will cost over $90 billion to open and operate that country's first nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain. With a Federal Debt of $9.5 trillion, I get the feeling that $90 billion may not be as easy to come by as it may once have...

Southeast of Nevada, utility authorities in Texas have preliminarily approved a $4.9 billion project to construct new transmission lines to carry wind-generated electricity from West Texas to cities like Dallas. From the Washington Post:

Texas is the national leader in wind power, generating about 5,000 megawatts. But wind-energy advocates say the lack of transmission lines has kept a lot of that power from being put to use and has hindered the building of more turbines.

Most of Texas's wind-energy production is in petroleum-producing West Texas, where nearly 4,000 wind turbines tower over oil pump jacks. The new plan would not build a slew of new turbines but would add transmission lines capable of moving about 18,000 megawatts.

Final approval of this project will lead the Lone Star State to produce more wind energy than the next closest 14 states combined. Following a $9 billion investment in wind power capacity in 2007, United States wind power capacity increased by 46% leading to March 2008, when wind power capacity had grown large enough to serve 4.9 million average households.

On the topic of the growing role of wind power in the United States, in a recent interview, Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute co-founder Hunter Lovins gave some interesting insights into this growing sector:
Again, wind last year came on—we brought on fifteen gigawatts. A gigawatt is roughly a nuclear-sized chunk of electricity. Fifteen gigawatts. If we’d have built fifteen nukes, you would have noticed. Nobody noticed. Wind is simply sweeping the market. It is either the first- or second-fastest growing energy supply, followed or led by solar photovoltaics, which are coming on equally rapidly.
According to Alberta Intergovernmental Affairs (pdf), Texas is "a priority state for Alberta." So, as Alberta's government continues its charge towards nuclear power, our political leaders would be savvy to take note of this move in energy diversification by Texas, rather than continuing to take our cues from States like Idaho and Montana.

Friday, July 18, 2008

how deep does your carbon footprint sink?

The City of Edmonton launched a challenge to Edmontonians yesterday through a nifty Zerofootprint calculator. The calculator and online community have been set up to challenge Edmontonians to set goals on how to decrease their environmental impact and be smarter in the ways they travel, maintain their yards, reduce waste, and save energy and water!

It's fairly easy to sign up (it only took about 5 minutes to figure out how the site works) and allows you to make personal goals and track the goals and challenges of fellow Edmontonians in their quest to take more personal responsibility over the carbon footprint they are leaving in their daily lives.

The City of Edmonton also gets points for recognizing that realistically decreasing individual environmental impacts will take more than one simple act.

(Take the challenge!)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

outside the 10-second box.

Here's a link to my column in this week's SEE Magazine.

feet on the ground.

Last Monday night, I attended the Town Hall on Democratic Renewal at Edmonton's Glenora Community Hall. With almost 200 people in attendance, I was pleasantly surprised (considering it was a political event in the middle of July).

Hosts David Swann and Laurie Blakeman were joined by panelists Sarah Arthurs (who has organized similar meetings in Calgary), Calgary Herald writer Les Brost, political consultant Ken Chapman, and past Green candidate Joe Anglin. Also, in attendance were MLAs Kevin Taft, Harry Chase, and Bridget Pastoor, City Councillor Ben Henderson, a number of past MLAs, and past PC candidate Wendy Andrews (who gets special props being the only past Tory candidate at the event). Also there were Blake Robert (the artist formerly known as Alberta Tory), Troy Wason, and their merry band of Blackberry-toting PC staffers.

Though this wasn't exactly the most Tory friendly crowd, the crowd of Liberals, NDs, Greens, and Independents contributed some good non-partisan discussion over the course of the evening -- ranging from how to revitalize our ailing and antiquated electoral system to how to re-engage Albertans in their democratic process to how to improve change the overly confrontational style of our politics. With potentially less than 40% of Albertans having voted in the 2008 election, there was lots of interest in finding positive solutions to move forward.

Overall, I was most impressed with Joe Anglin. After leading central Alberta landowners in the fight against Bill 46, Anglin earned an impressive 22% while running for the Green Party in Lacombe-Ponoka in March 2008. Though some might not like his "agitate, agitate, agitate" kind of style, I found him to be impressive on his feet and would be a formidable candidate no matter which banner he was running under. With no shortage of talk about the creation of a new political movement in Alberta, I hope that people like Joe Anglin are there to take a lead role. As Les Brost put it that evening, "labels are important when it comes to marketing, but mean nothing when it comes to substance."

Putting "feet on the ground" is how Anglin described his impressive results in Lacombe-Ponoka and how any new political movement needs to be founded -- by cultivating the sincere grassroots support that none of Alberta's current political parties can claim to have.

As Jason Morris at wrote in his very thorough rundown of the evening:

"In the end, I left the meeting no longer wondering if it was possible that a new political movement could be formed in Alberta, but wondering instead what form it will take."
After Monday night, I tend to agree.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

city x and our mall culture.

If you're in need of some simultaneously good and intelligent listening, check out the recent podcast from WNYCs Radiolab - City X.

Produced by Jonathan Mitchell and commissioned by Hearing Voices, City X tells the history of the urbanism and the modern shopping mall through perspectives of people living in an unnamed Middle American city.

who's walking, cycling, or using public transit?

The good folks over at Pundits' Guide have used recently released numbers from Statistics Canada's 2006 Census to put together a fancy list of the Top 10 Canadian ridings where people cycle or walk to work. I've taken a look at the StatsCan data and have put together a list for Alberta's two largest urban areas (but in a dramatic turn of events, I have included public transit, as well as walking or cycling):

Ridings having the highest percentages of walking, cycling, or using public transit to the person's usual place of work:

Calgary Centre - 29,305 - 24.4%
Edmonton Centre - 20,490 - 16.5%
Calgary Centre-North - 20,715 - 16.2%
Calgary-Nose Hill - 12,595 - 12.7%
Edmonton-Strathcona - 16,430 - 12.5%
Calgary Northeast - 13,125 - 11.6%
Calgary West - 14,560 - 11.5%
Edmonton East - 12,930 - 11.3%
Calgary Southwest - 14,370 - 11.1%
Calgary East - 12,080 - 10.3%
Calgary Southeast - 11,180 - 9.5%
Edmonton-Sherwood Park - 7,670 - 6.1%
Edmonton-Leduc - 6,550 - 5.9%
Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont - 7,320 - 5.7%
Edmonton-St. Albert - 7,350 - 5.6%
Edmonton-Spruce Grove - 6,365 - 5.3%

It's no surprise that people living in the urban cores are more likely to walk, cycle, or use public transit to travel to work, but keep in mind that the numbers are probably a little skewed because 1) five of Edmonton ridings include rural and surrounding communities (which suffer from a lack of regional transit service), and 2) Calgary gets points for having an arguably more effective transit and LRT system, but it's an interesting look none-the-less.

Monday, July 14, 2008

nuclear waste in the columbia river basin.

As the heat over the expansion over nuclear power in Alberta seems to have cooled down a bit over the summer months, a piece in the New Scientist on the long-term consequences of nuclear left-overs caught my eye last week.

The United States Government Accountability Office has released a report raising "serious questions" about the long-term viability of the underground nuclear waste storage facility in Hanford, Washington. The Hanford Site, considered one of the most contaminated places on Earth is a decommissioned nuclear production complex on the Columbia River, built in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project contains 210 million litres of radioactive and chemical waste stored in 177 underground tanks. With most being over 50 years old, 67 of the tanks have failed, leaking almost 4 million litres of waste into the ground in the Columbia River Basin.

At a length of over two-thousand kilometers, a basin of over 668,217 square kilometers, and a water discharge of over 7,504 cubic meters per second, the Columbia the fourth largest river in the United States and the largest river flowing into the Pacific Ocean from North America. The Columbia River Basin spreads over Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and British Columbia.

Robert Alvarez, of the Institute for Policy Studies:

"The risk of catastrophic tank failure will sharply increase as each year goes by," he says, "and one of the nation's largest rivers, the Columbia, will be in jeopardy."

A 2004 study conducted by Alvarez suggested that there "is a 50% chance of a major accident" while the United States attempts to clean up Hanford over the next thirty years.

Interestingly, in 2004, 69% of Washington voters approved Initiative 297 (PDF), which would halt the Federal Government's transfer of nuclear waste to the Hanford Site
until it cleaned up the present contamination there according to existing Federal and state environmental cleanup standards. Initiative 297 was overturned in 2006 by the U.S. District Court, stating that it was unconstitutional for a State to put demands on the Federal Government.

Though there is a growing need for a larger energy supply (which is increasingly unsustainable), we have a responsibility to ensure that the effects of our developments do not adversely affect the lives and well-being of the current population, as well as generations to come. As these three points frequently conflict, it is important that Albertans understand these
consequences as our provincial government continues the charge towards nuclear power.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

get on the bus.

Nolan Crouse is very close to becoming my favorite Alberta Mayor.

Nolan Crouse is the mayor of St. Albert and the chairman of the Capital Region's transportation planning committee. Right now, he says, his committee is still trying to figure out the region's transportation priorities. While he's pleased to see the province promising $2 billion for transit projects, he's not sure commuter rail would work.

"Right now, we only have 1.1 million people in this region. It's hard to imagine that some kind of GO-train system would be very cost-effective."

Even if the province were to fund the construction of such a system, he says, municipalities could be stuck subsidizing it. He'd prefer to let the region set its own transit priorities.

Investing $2 billion into transit initiatives is a positive move, but allowing it to derail current public transit initiatives and plans of Alberta's municipalities would be counter-productive.

Regular readers of this blog will know that public transit is one of my favorite urban growth topics. Investing in a regional transit service for the Capital Region would increase efficiency, cut down on duplication of services and cost created by the three existing transit services (Edmonton Transit Service, St. Albert Transit, and Strathcona Country Transit), and could serve as a key part of a larger transportation strategy to deal with increasing growth pressures in the region.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

a is for apathy

A is for many things, but in Alberta it seems like the biggest A these days is Apathy.

With quite possibly less than 40% of eligible Alberta voters showing up for the March 3 provincial election, there has been much speculation and armchair quarterbacking about why citizens of Alberta aren't participating in the democratic process. How do we solve this? Come and share your ideas on July 14...

Town Hall: Democratic Renewal

Hosted by MLAs David Swann and Laurie Blakeman.

Guest Panelists
- Les Brost - political commentator
- Joe Anglin - environmental activist and past Green Party candidate
- Ken Chapman - political consultant & blogger

July 14, 2008
7:00pm - 9:00pm
Glenora Community Hall
10426 - 136th Street

good. local. tunes.

For those of you interested in some good Alberta tunes, here's an update on some shows I've checked out lately...

Saturday afternoon was filled with the musical stylings of Manraygun at the Black Dog. Last night at the Empress (arguably the best bar in Edmonton...) had the always fun The Secretaries and near-legendary Headband playing early into the morning. Good local bands and good tunes all around.

For those of you interested in having some fun tonight, Carolyn Mark (recently of Sled Island fame) will be playing at the Empress tonight!

Also, on Thursday evening, Latitude 53 will be holding their weekly patio party. I went to the first one a couple weeks ago and it was a great time. This week, Jay Hannley will be bringing his music and CJSR stars to the best roof top patio party in downtown Edmonton...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Friday, July 04, 2008

who's your federal candidate?

I've updated the list of nominated federal elections candidates in Alberta - with some help from Alice at - I'm hoping that it's an accurate list of voter seekers. Here are some of the updates:

- Devinder Shory is the Conservative candidate in Calgary-Northeast. Shory will more that likely be elected to replace Reform Party-era MP Art Hanger.

- Former NDP MLA Ray Martin is seeking the NDP nomination in Edmonton-East. Martin served as Leader of the Official Opposition from 1984 to 1993 and NDP leader from 1984 to 1994. He was elected MLA for Edmonton-Norwood from 1982 to 1993 and Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview from 2004 to 2008. In March 2008, he was defeated by Tory Tony Vandermeer. Martin has previously federally in Edmonton-North (1997) and Edmonton-Centre East (2000).

- Hana Razga has been nominated in Edmonton-Leduc. Most recently, Razga was a provincial candidate in Edmonton-Whitemud and a municipal candidate in the 2007 Ward 4 elections.

And on the topic of a federal election... Stéphane Dion is in Edmonton this week to talk about his Green Shift tax plan. He'll be in town Monday, July 7 at the Polish Hall 10960 - 104 Street from 6pm to 8pm.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

making the bestest of edmonton.

Vue Weekly's Bestest of Edmonton 2008 is out and I apparently racked up points in one category...

Bestest Political Joke
Blogger Dave Cournoyer linking his appropriated Ed Stelmach website to the wikipedia page for Harry Strom. Zing! DB
I'm also glad to see that someone good rack up the points in the saving democracy category...
Bestest reason to have some hope for electoral democracy
It goes without saying that for people with left of centre (hell, for centre of right) political views, participation in elections at any level of government are typically an exercise in frustration and dismay. So Don Iveson’s Ward 5 victory over incumbent Mike Nickel in the October municipal election brought elation to many who had all but given up the process. A young, articulate guy with smart, forward-thinking ideas, a hard-working election team and the energy to knock on practically every door in the ward beats a conservative incumbent with whackloads of cash who ran an I’m-taking-victory-for-granted campaign? Who would’ve thunk it? SH

john kenneth galbraith on alberta's oil sands: wwjkgd?

In the face of growing American skepticism of Alberta's oilsands operations, it appears that Premier Ed Stelmach is assembling a Tarsands Coalition of the Willing this week as Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and Idaho Governor Butch Otter have jumped on board the bitumen train.

I can only suspect that the Governors of Montana and Idaho have about as much influence on the direction of American energy policy as the Prince Edward Island Premier Robert Ghiz would on Canadian energy policy (and so go my chances of becoming Premier of Prince Edward Island anytime soon...).

A couple of months ago, I picked up John Kenneth Galbraith's book The Good Society: A Human Agenda. Born in Iona Station, Ontario, Galbraith had a long career as a working for the Presidencies of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, as American Ambassador to India from 1961 to 1963, and serving as the President of the American Economic Association. He was an Officer of the Order of Canada and was a two-time recipient of the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom (awarded to him by both Truman and Bill Clinton). He also taught economics at Harvard University and was the author of over 30 books.

Though I wouldn't rush to agree with all of his findings, after reading Galbraith's handbook for a compassionate and fiscally sound nation, I would recommend that Stelmach, Schweitzer, Otter, and the seemingly untouchable energy executives in the comfort of their downtown office towers (
this means you Charlie Fischer at Nexen, Tom Katinas at Syncrude, Rick George at Suncor, Bruce March at Imperial Oil, and friends) put this book on their summer reading list. The exert below, from Galbraith's chapter on the environment, was one that I believe is particularly relevant to Alberta in the context of how we exploit our oil sands (with their 50 square kilometers of tailings ponds filled with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and naphthenic acids).

"The market system and its incentives are an accepted part of the good society; this is not in doubt. But there is no divine right of free-enterprise, or free choice, for the producing firm. Or for its consumers. The largest community interest must be protected, as also the future climate and well-being, and there must be concern as to depleatable resources. Since automobiles must be built, have fuel and be driven, and other consumer goods and services must similarly be supplied and utilized, a compromise between the current financial and long-term public interests in essential and inevitable. As a broad rule, however, this compromise must favor the larger community interest and the interest of those to come. That is because the business and political voice and money are allied with the current economic power - with the firms that produce the goods and services, their lobbies and captive or susceptible politicians. The community and the longer public future draw on less specific support."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

sled island adventure 2008 = great success!

As you can tell from the title of this post, last weekend's trip to Sled Island in Calgary surpassed all my expectations.

Not only was the weather amazing, but with acts ranging from Broken Social Scene, Drive-By Truckers, The Cops, The Dodos, Carolyn Mark, Wire, Still Flyin', Jose Gonzalez, The Secret Machines, the Gutter Twins, Jonathan Richman, Of Montreal, The Fellas, Mogwai, Heat Ray, The Ostrich, Fucked Up, Enablers, The Absent Sound, Spiral Stairs, Hot Little Rocket, Portastatic, and Katie Stelmans to name a few, Sled Island 2008 is in serious contention for one of the best music festivals I've been to!

Kudos to the organizers, volunteers, bands, artists, and sponsors for putting together this awesome festival. It will definitely be on my list of weeks not to miss in 2009!

And not content with complacency or afraid of controversy, Sled Island Festival Director Zak Pashak wasn't afraid of controversy as he used his message to festival goers to start some debate on the state of Calgary and Alberta's cultural scene (and also raised some interesting questions around the very subtle societal differences between being 'rich' and being 'wealthy'). The following are exerts from Pashak's letter in the festival guide:

Calgarians are searching. The city is gradually learning that pretending to be what you think another city is, is an empty path. Visit one of our various new $10-a-beer-resto-lounges to get a first hand experience of emptiness. I don’t think we really want pathetic interpretations of New York, what we want is that thing that New Yorkers have - we want real pride in where we live.

Calgarians want something vibrant, meaningful, and homegrown that holds up to anything in the world. Celebrating our creativity while hosting the best and most interesting music and visual art adds to civic pride. That is why Sled Island is successful.

Alberta could be so many things. We could be an unrivaled center of education. We could have free, high quality education for every citizen of this province. Money is there by the bucket load - but where is it going? How different would Calgary look if we focused on educating ourselves and attracting bright minds to our city? Would the epicenter of our greatest civic celebration still consist of drunk millionaires renting cocaine dusted barbie dolls at an outhouse smelling parking lot behind a downtown theme-bar? Is that really how we want to represent ourselves to the world? Is that at all real?