this blog has moved to a new address:

Please update your RSS, bookmarks, and links to

Friday, October 31, 2008

add some ukulele to your all hallows' eve.

Care of the Edmonton-based Ukulele rock stars, The Be Arthurs, here's Ghostbusters...

guest post: how i became a former john mcain fan.

I began 2007 excited by the Presidential contest to come. The field for both parties was deep and varied. For the first time, I was rooting for a Republican. After watching the 2000 contest, I believed John McCain to be an individual with a history of personal sacrifice and unbending integrity: ingredients to be one of the great presidents. In the period following 9/11, I could not help but think that the war-hero senator would have been ideal to steer the western world into the New World Order. My impression of rookie Senator Barack Obama was less charitable. I found him to be all flash and no substance, as if he were giving clinics on stirring oration less than engaging in substantive policy debate.

However, in the course of my fascination/obsession with this presidential contest, my sentiments on both men have transformed immensely. As Senator Obama showed himself to be a visionary leader, speaking to my logical and emotional capacities, Senator McCain disturbed me with his seemingly insatiable desire to win-at-all-costs, blindly pandering to those whom he had so courageously held fast against in the past.

Throughout the course of the election, Sen. McCain has failed to articulate a cohesive, consistent message. Surveying the varied message themes of the campaign, a common thread begins to emerge: A promise to take care of current problems, which should get America back on track. The difficulty with this message is that it assumes that fixing the current state of things is all that is required to move forward; that a reversion to the Reagan Revolution will ensure the prosperity of America as if that period was its cultural, economic and social zenith. Indeed, in 2000, Sen. McCain tended to rely more on his compelling personal narrative than a political one, but even then his platform seemed more of his own devising than a pastiche of focus-group-tested planks designed to appease sections of the Republican base.

Conversely, Sen. Obama has developed a bold new paradigm for American progress. Rather than merely correcting the mistakes of the current administration, Sen. Obama seems genuinely intent on ushering in a New American Age. He has outlined a vision for an America that transcends petty dichotomies and has developed a heightened sense of purpose, focused on fulfilling the extraordinary promises ignored for the past 16 years in favor of political posturing and rigid ideological adherence. Sen. Obama reminds us that America’s greatest moments are not those when it reacted appropriately in the face of devastation, but when it forged a new way forward.

Irrespective of the fact that this decision is always made in the most animated of political climates, Vice-Presidential selection should never be a heavily political decision. While campaign promises are reiterated over and over, they can be discarded on the floor of the White House when they become inconvenient or untenable. A Vice-President is a decision that, except in very extreme circumstances, you are stuck with. In Senator Biden, Sen. Obama chose someone to provide much needed foreign policy muscle, both on the campaign trail and in the White House. VP picks don’t get much more straightforward than Sen. Biden.

Sen. McCain, however, made an inappropriate and, by most accounts, impulsive selection in Governor Sarah Palin. Setting aside any debate about her individual abilities, Gov. Palin was a cynical and purely political choice, designed to assure a drifting Republican base and scoop up any discontented Clinton voters making their choice on exclusively superficial grounds. Far and away the most myopic decision for any campaign in either party, the impulsive nature of this choice has backfired in spectacular fashion, locking in the base of the party while repelling independent voters that Sen. McCain was once uniquely positioned to deliver. To boot, the McCain team has spent most of the campaign treating Gov. Palin more like a decorative feature of the campaign rather than a genuine candidate for the second-highest office in the land.

The juxtaposition of temperament between these two candidates, especially in the last two months, has been stark.

While at his best when passionately sermonizing, Sen. Obama has displayed a capacity to be calm and measured when challenged, his confidence shining through in either case. Sen. Obama makes every effort to display his extraordinary leadership qualities and communicates with a conviction and sincerity that is difficult to come across in US politics. Since his convention address, his policies and priorities have been clear and consistent, yielding significant dividends.

In his speeches, Sen. McCain attempts to be reassuring and empathetic, but the open-ended nature of his attacks on Sen. Obama are the only component that manage to attract attention. By engaging in a series of Hail Mary campaign plays, bizarre debate behavior and a seemingly intentional effort to completely change, rather than hone, his campaign narratives, Sen. McCain has managed to undermine his previously well-earned reputation as an experienced, straight-talking candidate with the judgment to lead. His conduct during the initial days of the economic crisis could be charitably described as erratic. Like a desperate car salesman haggling at you rather than with you, his campaign has imploded into an embarrassing spectacle that betrays the ethos of the John McCain I came to admire in 2000.

As the election enters its final five days, Sen. McCain is faced with an unfavorable electoral map suggesting that this election will not be the nail-biting experience of 2000 or 2004. On the long road down, Sen. McCain’s campaign has devolved into a parody of itself. Attacks on Sen. Obama have become more outlandish, his policy communications have been reduced to gimmicks and infighting within his campaign is beginning to take its toll as staff turn their back on their central mission.

Even Joe the Plumber has left his side.


Chris Henderson is a political director based in Western Canada, where he spends his time holding democracy together. He is a former Chief-of-Staff to the President of Daveberta. He can be reached through his agent, the President of Daveberta.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

articulate eddie's quote of the week.

I'm not sure if this October 29 answer from Ed Stelmach says more about the PC government or the opposition, actually, I really don't have a clue what it says because I don't think it actually makes any sense.

Mr. MacDonald: ... The Canada Health Act is based on a set of five principles. My first question is to the Premier. Why are four principles of the Canada Health Act – comprehensiveness, universality, portability, and public administration – ignored by the board that this government created to run health in this province?

Mr. Stelmach: Mr. Speaker, you know, we can debate about these principles back and forth for the next 10 years. Our main goal here as a government is to make sure that this publicly funded health system is sustainable for the next generation. The way this opposition is going, we’re going to lose it over the next year not only in this province but right across this country.
Any guesses as to what he could have meant? Anybody have a Rosetta Stone handy?

More here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"we’ve lost touch with just what the heck we’re all about in the first place."

I almost completely missed this post until someone of a more articulate nature pointed me in its direction (ht IP). With all the talk of renewal and reform of the somewhat directionless Liberal Party of Canada, Jeff Jedras hit the nail on the head in a recent post:

The question we, as Liberals, should be asking ourselves is not do we need to be centre or left, but what do we stand for? What does being a Liberal mean? What are Liberal values?

We’ve become, or rather, had become, so good at the strategic game, at morphing to suit political changing winds, that we’ve lost touch with just what the heck we’re all about in the first place.

federal election results in alberta (1984-2008)

I'm in the midst of doing a bit of analysis into the Alberta results of the October 14, 2008 federal election, but in the meantime, here's a look at the popular vote results over the past 24 years (partially to show off my excel skills and partly to impress my statistician friend).

*Imaged edited since posted.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

edmonton: budget town hall meetings.

I posted this on Twitter, but in case you missed it, Edmonton City Council is in the midst of hosting a number of open Town Hall Meetings on the 2009 City Budget.

The meetings in Ward 5 and Ward 4 will be held tonight and Thursday for people in those areas wanting to have a say about anything from taxes to bike transportation plans. My understanding is that the Mayor and Ward Councillors will be attending these meetings, so take advantage of it!

WARD 5 - Tuesday October 28, 7:30-9:30pm, Pleasantview Community Hall, 10860 - 57 Avenue.

WARD 4 - Thursday October 30, 7:30-9:30pm, Riverdale Community Hall, 9231 - 100 Avenue.

live on air, it's radio free daveberta... actually... it's cjsr's fundrive 2008!

I'm excited to announce that on Friday October 31 from 12pm-1pm, I will be making my radio debut by joining Miss Samantha Power in co-hosting that day's Newsroom on CJSR FM 88. Over the course of the hour, Samantha and I are planning to discuss the role of independent media, citizen journalism, and corporate ownership over the mainstream media in Canada.

It's going to be fun, so you can listen to the show by tuning your radio to 88.5FM or live over the internet.

The show is part of CJSRs week-long annual FunDrive -- which takes place all this week. Running a radio station is expensive, so along with collecting a dedicated student fee through the University of Alberta Students' Union, CJSR depends on listener support to stay on air, so I encourage you to make a donation. You can donate, donate, donate online (securely) or phone (780) 492-2577 ext 1.

Monday, October 27, 2008

arthur kent and sportsmanship.

Former PC star candidate Arthur Kent doesn't like how the media treated him in the March 2008 Alberta provincial election. Kent, who was unable to unseat Calgary-Currie Liberal MLA Dave Taylor, has filed a defamation suit against CanWest Publishing for a column written by Don Martin on February 13, 2008 (in which Martin stuck Kent with the moniker "Dud" as opposed to the more macho "Scud Stud").

Kent has started a blog to chronicle his cause and has also used it to criticize his former leader and party:

Worse, the promise of a new, revitalized, results-oriented Progressive Conservative government has not been realized. The legislative session immediately after the March 3rd election will go down in history chiefly for one measure: the government’s enacting of pay raises for the Premier, his cabinet and the members of the assembly. With Progressive Conservative MLA’s occupying 72 of 83 seats in the legislature, it was an unseemly display of me-first politics, the opposite of public service-minded government.

neil wilkinson and ethics.

The appointment of Neil Wilkinson as Alberta's Ethics Commissioner has spurned some legitimate debate surrounding his known partisan connections to the governing PCs (which includes publicly listed donations to Ed Stelmach's and Jim Dinning's PC leadership campaigns as well as publicly endorsing a PC MLAs re-election campaign).

Much like the returning officer fiasco during the 2008 provincial election, the issue isn't whether Wilkinson is a competent manager (which I don't believe is in doubt), but whether his partisan affiliations give him the credibility to serve Albertans as Ethics Commissioner without bias.

Created in 1992, as an effort to restore public confidence in government, the Office of the Ethics Commissioner is mandated to be a watchdog of the Legislative branch, with the power to initiate investigations when appropriate. The very suggestion that the person holding this office could be biased de-legitimizes the credibility of the Office of the Ethics Commissioner, and will undoubtedly contribute to the already prevalent public cynicism towards government and those holding elected office.

If the Members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta are truly concerned with restoring public confidence in government, they should appoint an Ethics Commissioner whose credentials are unbiased beyond repute.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

hillary clinton v. sarah palin via twitter.

A couple of minutes ago, it appears that an online prankster had a little bit of fun with U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton's twitter account. Though the pranksters mark was quickly removed only seconds ago, I was still able get a screen shot of the prank while it was still up.

As a friend said of an earlier prank involving Jack Layton's twitter account, it's "another great moment from the intersection of Eager and Careless."

Friday, October 24, 2008

carl benito: to the "simple people" of edmonton-mill woods.

Edmonton-Mill Woods PC MLA Carl Benito addressing Public Accounts Committee Chairman Hugh MacDonald on October 8:

Mr. Benito: Yes, sir. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. When I go back to my constituency, the people who live there are mostly simple people. When they ask a question, you know, they want me to answer either yes or no or some simple answer.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

blogging blackout until the end of the week. that's a full lid. thank you very much.

In order to catch up with life, school, and work, I'm going to be taking a bit of a break from blogging this week. Here are some links to satisfy your fetishes:

- Litfest 2008 was excellent. I hope to post more on this later.

- When 33% of Newfoundlanders vote Conservative and 25% of Saskatchewan voters cast a ballot for the NDP, but neither of these groups are represented in the House of Commons, it's pretty clear that something isn't working. Political hacks can have rhetoric-filled debates for or against electoral reform until they're red in the face, but the reality is that Canadians' votes aren't being reflected in the results and citizens are opting out of the system in droves. The status-quo isn't working.

- Stephane Dion is moving on, but the Liberal Party of Canada will need a lot more than a new leader to become a national party again.

- Alberta's Oil Sands will pollute Great Lakes, report warns. As if Ontario, Michigan, Illinois, New York, Wisconsin, and Ohio need our help polluting the Great Lakes... (h/t Solve Climate)

- The bizarre story of how Edmonton Oilers organization doesn't tolerate bloggers in their press box. More here and here.

- You can be forgiven if you didn't notice that the Fall session of the Alberta Legislature is underway, most of the important decisions get made in closed door cabinet meetings anyway...

And for anyone who's ever been part of a leader's tour...

Friday, October 17, 2008

a closer look at some numbers from alberta.

Here's a closer look at how the Alberta results of this week's federal election compare to the two most recent federal elections over the past four years.

2008 Federal Election - Alberta

27 seats
NDP1 seat 161,409 12.7%
0 seats 144,36411.4%
0 seats 111,5058.8%
Independent0 seats 19,995 1.6%

2006 Federal Election - Alberta
28 seats
Liberal0 seats219,43115.3%
NDP0 seats167,56611.7%
0 seats93,9196.6%
Independent0 seats14,2611%

2004 Federal Election - Alberta
26 seats
Liberal2 seats279,21922.0%
NDP0 seats121,2499.5%
0 seats78,0955.7%
Independent0 seats5990.1%

creative happenings in edmonton.

I'm excited to be attending the 2008 Edmonton International Literary Festival this week.

Being Canada's only Creative Non-fiction Festival, Litfest 'brings together some of the world’s best selling, award winning and emerging authors, writers, filmmakers and artists with audiences at readings, panel discussions and presentations.' I'm especially looking forward to tonight's Writers Cabaret and Sunday's Politics of Hope talk, but there is no shortage of other great sessions this weekend.

The Western Canadian Music Awards are also being held in Edmonton this week. There are some great shows at venues across the city, so make sure to check out the festival schedule.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

rahim jaffer gets hitched and then concedes in edmonton-strathcona.

via Edmonton Sun:

Edmonton — Two days after the election, incumbent Tory MP Rahim Jaffer has finally conceded to his NDP challenger Linda Duncan.

Jaffer conceded late this afternoon at a press conference at his campaign headquarters

Jaffer said he also got married Wednesday to his fiance Ontrio MP Helena Guergis.

Guergis told Jaffer when he picked her up at the airport: "It's a minority government. I can't wait, let's get married."

stéphane dion to resign soon?

via CBC:

Federal Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion is planning to step down, possibly as early as Thursday, the Toronto Star reported.

The paper cites Liberal party insiders who say Dion will make an announcement then stay on as leader until a successor is chosen.

(h/t Mike Watkins)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

37 days, $290 million, and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt...

Some initial thoughts on the results of the 2008 federal election...

Edmonton-Strathcona: Linda Duncan's 442 vote win is a boost for progressive Albertans who were demoralized in the March 2008 provincial election. Duncan's team ran a strong campaign while focusing their message on the importance of voting strategically to defeat the Conservative incumbent, and it's clear that their message resonated with a large group of voters in this riding. Defeated Tory MP Rahim Jaffer isn't giving up and is hoping a recount will crown him as "Landslide Rahim" (his words). If he is interested in becoming MP again, my advice to Jaffer would be to put the lawyers away, be a good sport and congratulate Duncan on her victory, because your campaign for the next election starts today. Losing sucks, but no one ever said politics was fair.

Edmonton-Centre: I expected this to be a closer race, but in the end Jim Wachowich received just more than half the votes of Conservative incumbent Laurie Hawn. Though this result probably says a lot more about the weak Liberal campaign in Alberta, it's fair to recognize how hard Hawn had campaigned in this election. After fighting two tight campaigns against former Liberal MP Anne McLellan, Hawn proved that you can win by focusing on the doors in Edmonton-Centre.
Congrats to Laurie Hawn and his team.

Edmonton-Sherwood Park: Independent Conservative James Ford's near upset of Tory Tim Uppal was a bit of a surprise. I predicted that Ford would do well, but I didn't expect him to nearly defeat Uppal. Expect Uppal to be doing a lot of fence mending with conservative voters in this riding before the next election.

ABC: Premier Danny Williams wins this round as the Conservatives lose their 3 Newfoundland seats to the Liberals (Scott Andrews and Siobhan Coady) and NDP (Jack Harris).

"Wins" for Stephen Harper, Gilles Duceppe, and Jack Layton: They boosted their party's popular votes and seat totals. Stephen Harper was able to increase his party's minority hold on the House of Commons, but the inability of his party to gain a majority could cause him trouble in the future. Rising from his political grave in force, Gilles Duceppe's Bloc Quebecois pushed back the expected Conservative sweep in that province. Jack Layton's NDP may not have surpassed the Liberals to become the Official Opposition, but they increased their party's seat total by 7 seats from the last election, including new seats in Quebec and Newfoundland (NDP buzz words I will not miss: kitchen table, ordinary Canadians, working families).

"Loses" for Stephane Dion and Elizabeth May: After losing both seats and votes in this election, it's time for Stephane Dion to put up a vacancy sign in front of Stornoway. He is an intelligent man, but has failed to prove that he has the leadership qualities to lead his party to form government. Time for the Liberals to look to new blood (Michael Ignatieff or Gerard Kennedy, perhaps...). The Liberals also now have more seats in Nova Scotia than they do in the Prairie provinces. The Greens increased their popular vote to nearly 7% nationally, but Elizabeth May was unfortunately unable to defeat Peter Mackay in Central Nova. Interestingly, Green candidate Dick Hibma placed a strong second with 27% in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound.

Leaders Overall: Canadians lose. It is apparently too much to ask that Canada have a political leader who will inspire Canadians to be better citizens, rather than just pander for their votes.

Voter Turnout: Predictably low, low, low. See alternatives here.

Taking Alberta for granted: I see this as being caused by a two-pronged problem. First, the Conservatives take it for granted that they will win all (or nearly all) of Alberta's 28 seats, therefor it's not surprising to see Conservative MPs (like Rona Ambrose and Jason Kenny) spending most of the election campaigning in battlegrounds like Ontario, rather than knocking on doors in their own ridings.

Second, with the exception of two or three ridings, the Liberals and NDP have given up on Alberta. If either of these parties were to look at the successful 50-State Strategy implemented by Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, they would appreciate the strategic value of fighting your opponent on all fronts and not conceding ground that may not look fertile in the present election cycle. Though it is unlikely to produce short-term results, spending time and resources in Alberta's urban ridings could produce positive electoral results for the Liberals and NDP in the long-term -- and if anything, it could keep some of those Conservative MPs from spending so much time in Ontario, rather than connecting with voters in their ridings.

behold the eye of layton...

(h/t GH)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

alberta's ndp mp: linda duncan.

I'm very pleased that my vote made a difference.

's new MP is Linda Duncan.

Good work.

edmonton-strathcona still in play.

CTV is reporting that NDP candidate Linda Duncan is ahead of Conservative Rahim Jaffer by 400 votes in Edmonton-Strathcona. 210/223 polls reporting.

UPDATE: 11:02pm:
215/223 polls reporting. Linda Duncan ahead of Rahim Jaffer by 415 votes in Edmonton-Strathcona.

polls have closed. edmonton-strathcona is close. tweet.

- Close race in Edmonton-Strathcona. Rahim Jaffer ahead of Linda Duncan by 390 votes with 170/223 polls reporting.

- James Ford kicking as an Independent Conservative against Tory Tim Uppal in Edmonton-Sherwood Park.

- The Liberals have more seats in Nova Scotia than they do in Western Canada.

- Live Twittering the results.

packed polls in edmonton-centre.

There were 500 people were packed into the basement of St. Joachim Church in Edmonton-Centre when I left there twenty minutes ago.

Polls are now closed. Safe night to all.

I'm off to an election night party!

it's voting day, so exercise your franchise!

I got up early and joined a couple of friends for a trip to our polling station in Edmonton-Strathcona this morning. Even though I'm not particularly excited about voting for the NDP, it felt good to know that my vote for Linda Duncan could make a difference in an expected tight race with the Conservative Party incumbent.

Across the river, I've spoken to a decent amount of NDP and Green supporters who will be parking their support behind Jim Wachowich in Edmonton-Centre in his bid to dislodge their Conservative incumbent.

Looking a little further north, after spending the Thanksgiving weekend back home, I was very interested to discover that most of my family living in Westlock-St. Paul will be voting for the Green Party candidate -- Aden Murphy -- partly to send a message to their invisible Conservative MP and partly to give their support to a none-institutional party. If more rural Alberta voters are thinking this way, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Greens rack up some second place finishes across Alberta tonight.

If you haven't already voted, you have until 7:30pm Alberta time to get to your ballot box, so get out and vote!

UPDATE: I've received news that many of the polling stations in Edmonton-Strathcona are seriously understaffed -- meaning that there could be long lineups at the polls this evening. If you can get out and vote before the evening rush, you will likely be able to vote quicker!

Monday, October 13, 2008

vote abc.

I had a 2000 word post written with some final thoughts on this election, but instead, I'm going to summarize it for you. In the immortal words of Premier Danny Williams:

'Vote ABC" Anybody but Conservative.

That is all.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

who will have a stronger mandate from albertans?

In March 2008, Ed Stelmach's PCs got 501,028 votes compared to Stephen Harper's Conservatives 930,817 Alberta votes in January 2006.

Who will have a stronger mandate to speak on behalf of Albertans on October 14?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

brian storseth hurts my brain.

After studying Political Science at the University of Alberta, Westlock-St. Paul Conservative MP Brian Storseth is putting his learned political analysis skills to good use on the campaign trail.

From the Morinville Mirror:

"In our area this election is going to be closer than people think. If a lot of people didn't come out and vote, there's a good chance that we will have a liveral* member of parliament," said Storseth.
I'm not sure what kind of polls Storseth is reading, but after having been elected in 2006 with a 23,000 vote margin of victory, I have a really hard time believing that he actually thinks he stands a chance of losing in this election.

*I'm assuming (hoping) that this is a typo.

before you turn to battleground b.c., ontario, and québec, take a closer look at quiet alberta.

With all the attention on Edmonton-Centre and Edmonton-Strathcona, voters in other Alberta ridings might be getting a little envious. Though I wouldn't describe any of the other races in this province as 'competitive' in any sense of the word or democratic concept, they could be the only things close to slightly interesting that Albertans will witness outside of Centre and Strathcona on October 14:

Calgary-Northeast: Though it is extremely unlikely that Art Hanger's former fiefdom will go anything but Conservative, I am interested to see how Independent Conservative Roger Ricard does against Tory nominee Devinder Shory. Other candidates include Liberal Sanam Kang, NDP Vinay Dey, Green Abeed Monty Ahmad, and Marxist-Leninist Daniel Blanchard.

Calgary-West: Crazy Conservative Rob Anders will once again be re-elected. Sigh.

Edmonton-East: A quiet race is moving along as former NDP MLA Ray Martin, Liberal Stephanie Laskoski, and Green Trey Capnerhurst take on comfortable incumbent Peter Goldring. Word on the street is that Goldring has refused to show up to any candidates forums, leaving constituents to watch the other candidates to debate amongst each other.

Edmonton-Sherwood Park: Jason Morris at has a great rundown of the battle between Independent Conservative James Ford and official Conservative Tim Uppal, including the recent Chamber of Commerce forum (which caused a bit of controversy in the media).

Medicine Hat
: Though Conservative candidate LeVar Payne (who's website biography is still "coming soon") is likely to walk away with 90% of the vote on October 14, it will be interesting to see what kind of affect Independent Conservative Dean Shock will have on the race. Having faced Payne for the Conservative nod to replace Monte Solberg, Shock obviously wasn't satisfied with sitting on the sidelines (and is being supported by fellow Independent candidate David Patrick).

Westlock-St. Paul: If you think that it's a forgone conclusion that backbench Conservative MP Brian Storseth will be re-elected with an unnaturally large margin of victory on October 14, you are probably correct. This is my home riding, so I am naturally interested to see how the results turn out. If you are an undecided voter in this riding, take a look at Green candidate Aden Murphy. He's a bright, young, up and comer in politics and is campaigning hard in this sprawling riding.

Voter Turnout: Voter turnout in the advanced polls dropped to 102,885 in Alberta, 24% lower than in 2006 according to Elections Canada, signaling that the suspected less than 40% voter turnout in the March 2008 provincial election could be more than a blip. The highest turnouts in Alberta were in Calgary-West, Edmonton-Leduc, and Wild Rose. Pundits' Guide has the list of the ridings with the highest advanced voting turnout, all of them being in Eastern Canada.

Friday, October 10, 2008

rahim jaffer's pot attack ad falls flat on flip-flop.

January 2000: Reform Party MP Rahim Jaffer fought for the decriminalization of marijuana at that year's Reform Party conference:

...MPs such as Keith Martin or Rahim Jaffer say it makes sense to decriminalize the drug, a move that would free up countless hours of expensive police and court time. They plan to rally support for the motion.
October 2008: After 11 years in Ottawa and in a tight race for re-election, Rahim Jaffer's campaign launches a series of negative attacks ads against the NDP, accusing them of supporting the legalization of marijuana:
"Jack Layton and the Ottawa NDP have publicly supported the legalization of marijuana. In fact when asked about marijuana Jack Layton called it a wonderful substance which Canadians should be free to smoke at home or in a cafe.

Edmontonians understand how difficult it is to make sure our children make the right choices especially on serious issues like drug use. The Conservative Party supports drug free schools and getting tough with drug dealers who sell illegal drugs to children.

Don't let our schools go up in smoke... on October 14th vote Conservative. Authorized by the official agent for Rahim Jaffer."

they've gone neg.

The Conservatives have released a series of negative radio ads as the Edmonton-Strathcona race between Linda Duncan and Rahim Jaffer continues to burn hot four days before the October 14 election.

After spending 11 years in Ottawa, I think it says a lot that Jaffer's campaign is resorting to negative attacks against his opponents, rather than running on his record in office.

conservative reaction to dion's atv interview.

I've never been a big Stéphane Dion fan, but I agree with Don Martin on this one. Dion's recent interview on CTV Halifax may have been bizarre and awkward, but Martin's thoughts on the Conservative reaction to the interview proved to be a more insightful than anything found in the video of the interview:

It was an undoubtedly awkward encounter and hard not to shake your head in amazement as Mr. Murphy incredulously tried to explain himself to a baffled Dion, who finally turned in exasperation to someone off camera for clarification.

But spare some empathy for Mr. Dion. It’s the end of a grueling campaign, the man has admitted to a hearing impairment and the question was open to interpretation while being phrased in Mr. Dion’s second language.

The bigger question is how the Conservative response fits with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s efforts to tame his hard-nosed cold-hearted image with sweaters and baby hugs.

To use his first spontaneous media appearance of the campaign to declare Mr. Dion the most unworthy of the two candidates for prime minister based on a minute of misunderstanding is not the most flattering reaction for the prime minister.

In the end the incident they hoped to use to define Mr. Dion as a confused ditherer may actually provide more telling insight into the character of Stephen Harper.
(h/t Andrew Potter & Dawg's Blawg)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

beyond the edmonton-strathcona buzz, the battle for edmonton-centre rages on.

With all the buzz going around about the battle between Linda Duncan and Rahim Jaffer in Edmonton-Strathcona, voters in the rest of Alberta must feel a little left out. Here's a look at what is arguably Alberta's only other competitive riding: Edmonton-Centre.

SEE Magazine has a great piece this week on the Edmonton-Centre race where similar to Edmonton-Strathcona, strategic voting will play an important roll in deciding who gets elected on October 14: consumer advocate and Liberal challenger Jim Wachowich or Conservative incumbent Laurie Hawn. Well-known for its close races, the last Edmonton-Centre race saw Hawn edge out former Liberal MP Anne McLellan in what ended up being the closest Alberta race of the 2006 election. But even though Edmonton-Centre has been competitive in the past, this riding risks falling into the same perennial vote-splitting category that Edmonton-Strathcona has found itself in the past -- with the Liberal/NDP/Green vote-split allowing for a Conservative to be narrowly elected with less than a majority of the votes.

With neither of the two main campaigns able to depend on the kind of name recognition that Anne McLellan could, it's not surprising that neither of them are taking anything for granted as they spar in a literal block-to-block ground war. This weekend, Wachowich's campaign is planning a major blitz of the riding with campaign volunteers door knocking in every neighbourhood in the riding in the push to October 14.

Having been endorsed by and positioned within striking distance according to DemocraticSPACE, it is clear that much like Linda Duncan in Edmonton-Strathcona, Jim Wachowich is the only candidate in the position to defeat the Conservative incumbent in this riding.

hoping for more than mini-stephen, stéphane, jack, and elizabeth.

I'm going to be honest, I'm not a big fan of party youth-wings. As a former member of one, I appreciate how much beer-guzzling and pot-smoking fun they can be, but I am also very aware of the kool-aid drinking peer-pressure culture that can percolate within them. For many senior political archetypes, youth-wings can be used as a tool marginalize, control, and indoctrinate the younger members of a party. I am fully supportive of young people getting involved in politics, but I would encourage them to take more central roles in their parties (rather than bowing to the will of the largely middle-aged gray-haired lawyers or business-types that saturate the aging ranks of the political-class).

Having got this off my chest, the University of Alberta Students' Union will be hosting a different type of political forum on Friday October 10 from 5pm-8pm at Dewey's on Campus by inviting members of the campus party clubs to participate in an open-forum.

I would encourage the representatives of the Green Party on Campus, U of A Campus NDP, U of A Conservative Association, Campus Young Communist League, and U of A Students' Liberal Association to provide the audience with a little more than the easy party line (or manifesto) on the sheet of paper in front of you. Don't be afraid to speak off the cuff and deviate from your party's official policies. If you think you're party is wrong on an issue, don't be afraid to say it.

In conclusion, prove me wrong about all the mean stuff I said about you and your kin at the beginning of this post. I will be enjoying a pint or two while I watch the debate, so my inhibitions towards heckling will undoubtedly be lowered. Consider this a warning.

lots of talk, not a lot of decisions: the annual alberta liberal convention revealed a party still reluctant to act boldly.

I've shared my thoughts on last weekend's Alberta Liberal convention in this week's SEE Magazine.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

how do you want edmonton to move in 2019?

The City of Edmonton has released its Draft Transportation Master Plan and is holding a series of open houses and information sessions over the next couple days to collect important feedback about this plan from Edmontonians. The TMP is the strategic document will provide the framework for how the City of Edmonton will address its future transportation needs as it grows over the next decade.

Whitemud Creek Community Centre
951 Ogilvie Boulevard
Wednesday, October 8, 3 – 8 p.m.

Evangel Pentecostal Assembly
4461 – 50 Street
Thursday, October 9, 3 – 8 p.m.

City Hall
1 Sir Winston Churchill Square
Friday, October 10, 11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.

elizabeth may kicks mike duffy.

Go, May!

the son of bill c-61.

Filed under: Things that worry me about a Conservative Party majority.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

young candidates on the attack in edmonton.

Just got back from tonight's interVivos young candidates forum at Ching's Asian Kitchen & Dim Bar in downtown Edmonton. The crowd of around 40 (who weren't watching the Obama-McCain debate) gathered to listen to and question candidates Stephanie Laskoski, Aden Murphy, Della Drury, and Brent Rathgeber (Rathgeber admittedly isn't really a young candidate, but I get the feeling that most of his Edmonton Conservative counterparts are off campaigning in Ontario).

Though most of the evening's questions revolved around the deepening economic crisis spreading north from the United States and east from Ontario, an array of other topics were also covered. Ward 5 City Councillor Don Iveson was in attendance and posed an articulate question to the candidates about federal funding of municipalities. Iveson raised the important point that while Edmonton is currently facing the possibility of a double-digit tax increase and even though municipalities are responsible for providing essential public services and infrastructure, cities like Edmonton only collect 5 cents for every tax dollar paid by Edmontonians (with the rest going to the provincial and federal governments).

correcting alberta's fiscal imbalance.

Why is it that with billions of dollars worth of natural resource royalty surpluses rolling into provincial government coffers, the City of Edmonton has been forced to propose a 10.7% tax increase for 2009?

Special interest groups, like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, may support the easy route of spending cuts, but after a decade of unsustainable zero-percent tax increases and ignoring increasingly deteriorating public infrastructure, Edmonton desperately needs to catch up to its mountain-sized infrastructure backlog. Constant criticism of government spending priorities is critical, but refusing to face growth pressures head on by passing the buck to the next City Council is fiscally irresponsible.

Though it is likely that the increase will actually be lowered by the time the budget is approved, the increase doesn't include the proposed 4% levy to repair older neighbourhoods. Spending increases also include $11 million for fuel costs and $51 million for higher wages and personnel costs. The increase is also a result of the City's move to transfer waste management into a utility funded by a user fee rather than a combination of fees and property taxes. According to the Edmonton Journal, "this means a jump in the monthly residential charge to $26.59 from the current $15.17, while taxes for the typical home assessed at $400,000 will drop $52."

Dealing with the growth pressures created by a booming provincial economy, while not having access to the vast wealth that is endowed to the provincial government, places Alberta's large urban municipalities in a difficult situation. With former County Reeves Ed Stelmach, Iris Evans, Ray Danyluk, and Jack Hayden gripping Alberta's land of plenty purse-strings, correcting Alberta's fiscal imbalance by introducing increased powers and funding to address the financial needs and increase the sustainability
of Alberta's municipalities would go a long way to correcting the fiscal imbalance in this province.

psst... alberta, your fiscal imbalance is showing...

- Alberta's provincial government surplus expected to hit $12 billion.

- Rising fuel costs, higher wages and the growing international financial meltdown mean City of Edmonton residents will face a proposed 10.7% tax increase in 2009.

Monday, October 06, 2008

lrt e-consultation.

Until October 20, the City of Edmonton will be conducting an eConsultation as part of ongoing consultations with Edmontonians on public transit and potential Light Rail Transit (LRT) routes.

barry kay on strategic voting.

(h/t People Powered Politics)

i'm voting for linda duncan in edmonton-strathcona.

I was originally going to wait until later this week to post this, but after having being confronted this past weekend by a supporter of the local Liberal candidate, who aggressively and awkwardly accused me of volunteering for the NDP, I have decided that today would be best.

After some long and difficult thinking, I have decided that I will be voting for Edmonton-Strathcona NDP candidate Linda Duncan.

Edmonton-Strathcona is a two-way race and Linda Duncan is the only candidate in a position to defeat the Conservative incumbent. Strategic voting may not be easy for some Liberal, Green, and independent voters, but if you want to change who speaks for you in Ottawa, it is critically important. Recent polls have flagged Edmonton-Strathcona as a tight race and the tracking website DemocraticSPACE has Duncan in a statistical tie with the Conservative incumbent.

I strongly urge all Edmonton-Strathcona voters who want to stop Stephen Harper's Conservatives from taking Alberta for granted to vote for Linda Duncan on October 14.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

harper conservatives soft on crime: stelmach.

And something about lobbying the Supreme Court... I'm not sure how that works...

Criminal law experts dismissed Stelmach's warning as "rhetoric" and part of a "disturbing" trend by politicians at all levels to deflect the blame on the important public issue.

Criminologist Doug King said Stelmach, like other politicians, is simply trying to pass the buck on the crime file because nobody wants to take responsibility for ensuring safe streets. ...

"You can't just pressure the Supreme Court of Canada. How do you do that?" wondered King, an instructor at Calgary's Mount Royal College.

"It sounds to me like it's deflecting (the blame) outside the province to find out why things aren't going so well in Alberta in terms of gun and gang activity."

Friday, October 03, 2008

guest post: taking a closer look at highwood communications, the pab, and the alberta pc's.

Highwood Communications’ recent bankruptcy has raised some important questions about its relationship to the government of Alberta, the news media and the provincial Progressive Conservative party. There are some real problems here, but it is important to get the facts straight.

If you haven’t been following the story, the brief outline is this. In 1996, the Klein government, in the full swing of privatizing as much of government as it could, decided to change the way that advertising agencies were paid for work for the provincial government. Previously, an advertising agency would win a contract and do all the work: they would meet with the client, map out a plan, design the creative artwork and then purchase the advertising space with the relevant news media. The agency was paid a commission of the overall cost of purchasing the space in the media. The problem, in the government’s eyes, was that this created a conflict of interest. The advertising agency had a strong interest in designing campaigns that were as expensive as possible: the larger the media buy, the larger the commission. So, to remove the conflict of interest, the Klein government proposed separating the media buying function from the other advertising functions (strategic planning and creative artwork). Ultimately, they tendered three media buying contracts: one for the recruitment advertising (civil service positions), one for legal / tender advertising (regulatory announcements) and one for everything else. The last contract was the largest of the three.

Enter Highwood Communications, the Calgary advertising firm led by Barry Styles won the largest of the three media buying functions. This firm was one of the leading Calgary advertising agencies through the 1980s, while Klein was mayor. It repeatedly was awarded the account for the Calgary Stampede. At that time, there was no real evidence (as far as I can find) that Highwood was either closely linked to the Progressive Conservatives or to government business. Of course, neither was Klein during his time as mayor. Nevertheless, when Klein ran for the leadership, one of Highwood’s executives joined the leadership team. Later, in preparation for the 1993 general election, a number of Alberta advertising executives formed the “Buffalo Group” to plan the advertising and publicity for the party’s election campaign. Barry Styles was a charter member of the group and remained with it through to Klein’s last election campaign in 2004. He was also involved in some of Stockwell Day’s campaigns when he was leader of the Canadian Alliance party. In short, Barry Styles was very closely linked to Ralph Klein, his government and his leadership of the Progressive Conservatives.

At the same time that Styles joined the party’s communications committee, Gerry Bourdeau, one of the government’s top civil service public relations officials was sitting on the same committee. Bourdeau remained on the party’s communications committee at least for the 1997 election and possibly later. In 1994, he became the Managing Director of the Public Affairs Bureau. So, when the government decided in 1996 to award the contract to Highwood, Bourdeau and Styles were sitting on the same committee of the Progressive Conservative party. Highwood maintained that contract until July 2008 when it suddenly – mysteriously – dropped. Weeks later, the company declared bankruptcy.

On the surface of it, this appears to be the crudest form of patronage and abuse of the public purse. However charges of patronage and abuse are serious and have to be grounded with evidence. In this case, the picture is a little bit clouded. First, the contract is actually not all that lucrative. Highwood charged a commission of 4% of all the media buying that it performed for the government. As far as I can tell, over the life of its contract this commission would net the firm anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000 in annual commissions. Second, there actually is a compelling case to be made for hiving off the media buying function from the rest of the advertising work to remove the conflict of interest noted above. This is a widespread trend within the advertising industry. Third, to hear the government tell it, the contract was always tendered, open and adjudicated by lower-level officials in the Public Affairs Bureau. Perhaps more importantly, it was a renewable contract. All this is entirely possible. The rules, properly applied do not preclude an advertising firm with close political links to the governing party from gaining government business.

However, while each of these three reasons are valid and should temper our accusations, there are problems with each and given that, there is a very good justification for some sort of inquiry into the affair. Let me address each one in turn.

First, although the commissions were small, there were not insignificant, either. I wouldn’t turn down a $100,000-$200,000 a year government contract. That is guaranteed income for an advertising firm, which is an unstable industry that fluctuates along with the wider economy. In Styles’ own words in his bankruptcy application, losing the government contract was the last straw that drove the company under.

Second, although there is a compelling case to hive off the media buying function from the rest of the advertising work, there is absolutely no reason why this function must be outsourced to the private sector. The work is exactly the kind of work that civil servants can be very good at. The entire rationale behind setting up the Public Affairs Bureau in the first place was to improve the professionalism of public relations professionals in the government of Alberta. In one important way, the most important lesson from the Highwood bankruptcy may not be one of corruption and patronage but yet another mark against the deregulation and privatizing fetishes that have swept the western world.

Third, and finally, the only evidence that we have that the rules were properly applied comes from government officials, and people who are involved in the transaction. This is hardly reliable. Moreover, even if the rules were properly applied, maybe there is something wrong with the rules. For example, in the government of Canada, deputy ministers are forbidden by law from participating in partisan politics except for voting. In Alberta, no such restriction applies and this allowed Mr. Bourdeau (who at the time was the equivalent of a deputy minister) to play politics for the Progressive Conservatives while serving the government of Alberta at the same time. Furthermore, even if there was nothing wrong with the way the contract was tendered in the first place, how do we know that the contract was sufficiently monitored and executed. One red flag within Highwood’s bankruptcy documents is that Highwood transferred $1.5 million in assets to Styles’ personal holding company. The bankruptcy advisor wrote to creditors saying that, in his opinion, it would be nearly impossible to claim these funds to repay creditors. Is such a transaction legitimate? I don’t know, I’m not a bankruptcy expert. But surely it is grounds for closer examination. The only way to determine whether these concerns are grounded is some sort of inquiry.

But at the end of the day, there is a broader lesson here. While the concerns about patronage and abuse of the system are real and valid, the chances that any inquiry will find a smoking gun are small. It is entirely possible that all the rules were properly applied. Instead, this incident is yet another example of how business elites move in and out of the government of Alberta, the Progressive Conservative party and the private sector, helping each other along the way. At the end of the day, the problem is not necessarily ethical, or even legal, but political. And for some reason, Alberta’s voters ignore this situation, let it continue and Alberta’s opposition parties are totally incapable of doing anything about it. But that’s a whole other story. Or PhD thesis.


Simon Kiss is a PhD student in the department of Political Studies at Queen’s University. Prior to beginning a PhD he worked for the Alberta NDP caucus from 1999 to 2002. His dissertation will be defended in November 2008 and examines the evolution of government communications in Alberta from 1971 – 2006. He knows more about the history of marketing, media relations and public relations in the government of Alberta than any sane person should.

why i am supporting david swann.

Having purposely backed away from the cesspooly trenches of partisan politics after the March 2008 election, I've taken the time to think long and hard about who I would want to support for the leadership of the Alberta Liberal Party. This was a difficult decision, I wasn't sure whether I actually wanted to support a candidate in this race.

Since 2004, I have had the opportunity to work with Dave Taylor during my terms as Vice-President (External) of the University of Alberta Students' Union and Chair of the Council of Alberta University Students, and Mo Elsalhy while I worked for the Alberta Liberals, and though I believe that either of them would make fine leaders of the Opposition Liberals, I am interested in supporting a leader who is not iron-clad attached to one political brand-name. I am looking for a leader interested in creating a viable progressive alternative to the ruling PCs -- and I believe that David Swann is the only candidate in this race to fit this description.

A reluctant and non-traditional politician, David Swann has the personal sincerity and professional integrity to understand and adapt to the realities of a shifting political environment. After nearly forty years of one-party rule in Alberta, it is clear that the traditional political parties aren't cutting it. Change will not come in this province as long as the only alternative to the ruling PCs is seen by many Albertans as a branch office of the Liberal Party of Canada, and I believe that David Swann understands this.

I strongly believe that a viable alternative to the ruling PCs will not come from those parties already existent in the traditional political structure, but from a new political movement which has the ability to engage the over 60% of Alberta voters who are not participating in their democratic process -- something that none of the current political parties have proven successful at doing.

Whether it be risking his professional career by taking a stand on climate change, being the only MLA to attend the Fort Chipewyan Keepers of the Water conference, engaging Albertans on international issues like Darfur and Iraq, or openly talking about political realignment -- I believe that David Swann has proven his ability to look beyond traditional brand-name politics and engage disengaged Albertans to build something viable and new.

I invite you to join me in supporting David Swann.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

auditor general to investigate highwood communications.

Only days before the Alberta PC annual convention is to begin in Jasper, Auditor General Fred Dunn has confirmed that he will be opening an investigation into Highwood Communications, a firm operated by PC-insider Barry Styles. After leaving $5.3 million in unpaid bills, Highwood applied for bankruptcy protection after receiving $41.3 million in exclusive government contracts over the past 10 years.

The day before the Auditor General's announcement, former PC Premier Ralph Klein defended Highwood, stating that the government should "stay out of it and let the private sector deal with it." Styles was a key player in Klein's election campaigns since the early 1990's and most recently helped current Premier Ed Stelmach in the March 2008 election.

Highwood's Saskatchewan branch, the advertising agency for several departments of the Saskatchewan government, filed for bankruptcy in 1998, leaving liabilities of $582,000.

Related Posts
September 26, 2008

September 23, 2008
September 24, 2008

Background: Court Documents pertaining to Highwood Communications
Court Report of Trustee on Proposal
Creditor Package
Notice of Intention-Creditors
Minutes of the First Meeting of the Creditors

leaders' debate party -- tonight at the blackdog.

From approx. 5:30pm to 8:00pm at the Blackdog, care of Raymond Biesinger.
And we even have a drinking game to go with it.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

albertans rally for the arts.

Just got back from tonight's Rally for the Arts in Churchill Square.

Hosted by Ken Chapman and featuring speakers Margaret Atwood, Maria Dunn, Alice Major, and other local artists, the rally attracted around around 300 Albertans who support the arts and oppose recent comments made by Stephen Harper. The rally also attracted an array of local elected officials and candidates including City Councillors Ben Henderson and Ron Hayter, former Councillor Michael Phair, MLA Laurie Blakeman, Edmonton-Centre candidate Jim Wachowich, and though I didn't spot her, there were a pack of Linda Duncan volunteers handing out pamphlets.

If you want to get involved and spread the message about the importance of Alberta's creative economy, join the Facebook group -- Albertans for the Arts.

three enter alberta liberal leadership race.

The nomination deadline for the Alberta Liberal leadership race has passed and three candidate have thrown their hats in -- David Swann, Dave Taylor, and Mo Elsalhy will contest the December vote to replace outgoing leader Kevin Taft.

Elsalhy, Swann, and Taylor will face off in a Sunday morning debate at this weekend's Liberal convention in Edmonton.