this blog has moved to a new address:

Please update your RSS, bookmarks, and links to

Saturday, November 29, 2008

edward burtynsky and the global conversation on sustainability.

I posted the link to this video on Twitter earlier in the week, but I thought it was so interesting that it would also be worth posting on the blog.

Edward Burtynsky is one of my favorite Canadian landscape photographers. For those of you not familiar with his work, some of his best photographs show sweeping views of natural landscapes altered by industry into mine tailings, quarries, scrap piles. This is a video of his excellent acceptance speech of the 2005 TED Prize in which he describes his
wish: 'that his images, stunning landscapes that document humanity's impact on the world -- help persuade millions to join a global conversation on sustainability.'

Relevant Links:, WorldChanging Canada

Friday, November 28, 2008

cooperation and coalitions, not constant partisan brinksmanship, should be what canadians get in a minority parliament.

It was only last week that I lamented hopelessly to an associate about what a boring duty paying attention to Canadian politics had become. I felt that Stephen Harper was becoming a reasonably decent (but uninspiring) Prime Minister, I didn't expect the opposition Liberals to soon deviate from their lackluster hand-sitting performance during the 2004-2006 Parliament, and I was waiting to see how Jack Layton's NDP were going to nudge out the Liberals by staking out more territory in the political centre.

But everything changed this week. Any warm feelings I held towards Harper quickly went cold when the partisan maneuvering of his Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, grabbed national attention. Though I quickly became intrigued with the prospect of the opposition parties introducing a motion of no-confidence and forming some sort of progressive coalition/Liberal minority government in the Commons, I can't help but wonder what it's going to take to change the political culture in Ottawa from one of constant partisan brinksmanship to one where MPs from all parties can actually cooperate for a period longer than five minutes.

To be clear, I don't feel that any of the parties have a legitimate claim the moral high ground in Canadian politics, as I don't believe for a second that a quick role reversal would see the Liberals or NDP kick a financially vulnerable Conservative Party any softer. This said, the rhetoric and positioning would suggest that the proposed economic stimulus package is just as unpalatable to the opposition parties as the canceling of the party funding formula (which is now split from the economic package and part of a future Bill).

The quick moving political action in Ottawa has made it quite difficult to differentiate between media speculation, insider meddling, and actual happenings, but if the Liberals and NDP have indeed brought in Jean Chretien and Ed Broadbent to facilitate negotiations for some sort of symbiotic parliamentary relationship between the two parties, it would signal a monumental shift in Canadian political history. Not since the First World War has an actual 'coalition government' existed in Canada.

Though the Conservatives have protested this move as 'undemocratic,' parliamentary alliances are normal in many western democracies. In the October 14, 2008 Federal Election, no party received a majority of the seats in the House of Commons, nor votes in the general election, therefore no one party can claim to have the confidence of the majority of Canadian voters. Yes, the Conservatives received the largest share of votes and seats (37.65% of the vote and 143 seats), but the other parties combined received more in both cases (163 seats and 54.76%) - a fairly basic Grade 6 Social Studies concept.

Can a Liberal-NDP coalition/alliance govern? Who would lead this coalition? (Stephane Dion? Jack Layton? Ralph Goodale? Michael Ignatieff?) Or will the Conservative minority government continue to hold power? What ever the result in the upcoming confidence vote, I'm sure that more than one Member of Parliament is going to lose some sleep this weekend while being haunted with the mathematical reality that the political survival of either of these groups depends on a group of 49 Quebec Nationalists: the Bloc Quebecois.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

two comments on jim flaherty's "economic update."

A lot has been said in the past 24 hours about the economic update proposal to cancel the public funding of political parties, so I won't take up space repeating arguments that have already been articulated. I will, however, offer two comments:

1) I believe that Canada should strive towards political parties being funded by citizens alone. I believe that there should be a reasonable limit to contribution amounts and that both corporations and unions should not be allowed to fund our political parties ('Joe's Oil-Rig' is not citizen, but a legal entity created for tax purposes, therefore it should not be in a position to fund political parties). The sustainability of modern political parties should depend on the cultivation of a large membership and individual donor base to fund itself (a major weakness of the Liberal Party of Canada).

2) It is very clear that Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's proposal is a purely political maneuver aimed at choking off the already cash-strapped Liberal Party (who should be taking advantage of this opportunity to rally their supporters and fundraise). At a time when Stephen Harper's Conservatives should be governing, they are busy playing political games with Canadians tax-dollars.

If Parliament wishes to cancel public financing of political parties, then that is the will of Parliament, but it would be much more equitable for this program to be phased it out over a four year period so that by the time the next "scheduled" election rolls around (is anyone still pretending that we have fixed election dates in Canada?), all of the parties will have completely received the round of $1.95 per-vote funding that Canadians granted them with their votes in the October 2008 Federal Election.

Canadians (myself included) may not have much sympathy for political parties, but Flaherty's move smacks of the worst kind of partisanship that drives so many Canadian citizens away from political involvement.

UPDATE: November 28, 2008 10:02 am- Conservatives won't include party funding cuts in economic update, Jean Chretien & Ed Broadbent broker possible coalition talks, and je ne comprends pas anglais.

UPDATE: November 28, 2008 12:13 pm - What's going on? Cuts to Party Subsidies will Stay: Flaherty

beginning on the point of active and passive homophobia in alberta.

1) On Active and Passive Homophobia in Alberta with Dave Rodney, Laurie Blakeman, Rachel Notley, and Lindsay Blackett.

2) Stupid Questions and Stupid Answers from Ron Liepert and Hugh MacDonald. Does Speaker Ken Kowalski even bother showing up anymore?

Ron Liepert and Brent Shervey, it's a 'were are they now?' of Team Dinning.

4) Rachel Notley petitions against Nuclear power.

5) Lindsay Blackett on rodeo. Nov 7: "
I have no problem supporting that motion." Nov 26: "Does a province need a provincial sport? I frankly don’t think so." ...

6) Flying very low under the radar is the Alberta Liberal leadership contest. Dave Taylor v. David Swann v. Mo Eslalhy. Listen to the podcast.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

november 24 to 26 in the alberta media. cynicism is inevitable.

Number of news stories in the main stream media covering Kevin Taft's non-binding Private Member's motion urging the Government of Alberta to adopt rodeo as Alberta's official sport: 14 (G&M, G&M, CP, Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Sun, Calgary Sun, Calgary Herald, CP, Metro, iNews 880, Canadian Cattlemen, CTV Calgary, iNews 880, 630 CHED)

Number of news stories in the main stream media covering a "secret" Ministerial Briefing written by a scientific expert detailing why Carbon Capture & Sequestration (CCS) is not viable in Alberta's oilsands, contradicting speeches made by Premier Ed Stelmach during his trips across Canada, the United States, and Europe that the $2 billion tax-payer investment in CCS would green the oilsands: 2 3 (CBC, Metro + Edmonton Journal)

Monday, November 24, 2008

cba 2008 and agrdt for best new blog.

Voting in the first round of the 2008 Canadian Blog Awards have begun and this blog has been nominated in three categories this year:

- Best Blog
- Best Political Blog,
- Best Progressive Blog

As you may remember from last year, the vote for in the 2007 CBAs campaign cleaned up in three categories (placing first in the Best Political Blog, Best Progressive Blog, and Best Blogosphere Citizen categories). I won't be harnessing the power of Facebook to get out the vote this time, but I invite you to vote for this blog if you do so feel inclined.

Also feel free to throw your vote behind Alberta: Get Rich or Die Trying in the Best New Blog Category.

the carbon capture pipe dream. alberta should abandon the public relations facades and plan for the future.

"Alberta's engine drives Canada" is the title of an opinion-editorial attributed to Premier Ed Stelmach in today's Toronto Star. The op-ed suggests that Alberta is in a position to drive Canada’s economic engine and is part of Stelmach’s oilsands rebranding campaign, which includes a visit to the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships today in Toronto. I fully agree that Alberta should take this unique opportunity to drive the direction of Canada’s economy, but I disagree with the direction the op-ed suggests.

The op-ed suggests that the $2 billion Government of Alberta investment in carbon capture and sequestration technology is "the best way for Canada to meet its emissions reduction targets." Untimely for the article is a confidential Ministerial report obtained by CBC which advised that “[l]ittle of the oilsands' carbon dioxide can be captured because most emissions aren't concentrated enough.

The lead scientist on this report, David Keith, is a professor of petroleum and chemical engineering with the Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy at the University of Calgary. Keith was also named Environmental Scientist of the Year by Canadian Geographic in 2006. CBC reported that a frustrated Keith believes that because of the low concentration levels, 'rational people shouldn't focus on reducing emissions in the oilsands through carbon capture and storage.'

As the oilsands are the fastest-growing source of CO2 in Canada (set to increase from 5% to 16% of total emissions by 2020 under current expansion plans), a shift towards responsible stewardship of the oilsands could not only cut emissions, but also help address both the environmental and public health challenges facing the people who call northern Alberta home.

Downstream from the Athabasca oilsands is the community of Fort Chipewyan, which has been feeling the dramatic effects of the oilsands and tailing ponds on its water.

Canadians and Albertans shouldn’t have to choose between our economy and environment. By centralizing our economy around a non-renewable resource, we are creating an economy that is completely unsustainable in the long-term. Rather than celebrating mediocrity and resting laurels on public relations facades like carbon capture & sequestration, Alberta could be driving Canada’s economy in a sustainable direction, moving towards the development of human capital and a world-class renewable energy sector. Alberta has the financial resources and know-how to be a world leader, but as long as we continue to look to non-renewable resources as our future, we will just be digging our heads in the (oil)sands.

Additional: Mike Soron, AGRDT, Four Strong Winds, Straight Outta Edmonton, The Galloping Beaver, Far and Wide, Climate Progress, jpro86.

Editor's Note/Correction: I have removed the section of this post referring to Dr. John Connor's situation with Alberta Health & Wellness, due to inaccurate sources. You can read more here. Thank you to the reader who pointed out the inaccuracy of the linked article.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

(dave) taylor-made to jump from radio to politics.

Having a well-known name in Calgary has served Dave Taylor well since making the jump into politics in 2004. A standby of Calgary's radio circuit since 1985, Taylor hosted a popular radio show on CHQR77 until he made the jump to politics in 2004. Hoisting the Liberal banner in Calgary-Currie, Taylor unseated MLA Jon Lord in 2004 and held off a strong challenge from PC star candidate Arthur Kent in 2008.

Taylor served in a number of high profile opposition roles since 2004, including Advanced Education and Municipal Affairs & Housing critic, but since becoming Liberal Deputy Leader in 2004, it became fairly clear to political watchers that he was setting his sights on something more than deputy. And shortly after Kevin Taft announced that he would be departing the leader’s chair, Taylor was the first to step up.

As leader, Taylor would bring a different element to the Alberta Liberals: leading via sound bite. If Taylor wins, Albertans can expect better media performance than in the past as he would be quite a contrast to Ed Stelmach, and could be expected to regularly kick Stelmach's ass in Question Period and in the media. And if his leadership campaign material is any indication, the Alberta Liberal Party can expect to have an aesthetic face-lift if he wins.

Troubling is the number of MLAs (past and present) who have spoken to me about the difficulties they have had trying to get Taylor to work as part of a team. There may be no doubt that he rubs some people the wrong way, but though he may have had challenges with colleagues, one of his largest challenges as opposition leader would be to raise his profile outside of Calgary, where, much like fellow candidate David Swann, he is largely an unknown quantity.

If it's a plan that Alberta Liberal members are looking for, Taylor’s team has unveiled the most detailed programme of any candidate, including a wide-range of policy positions and an ambitious plan to pull the Liberals out of the dregs. Appealing to the party base, Taylor has branded himself as the "unapologetic Liberal” of the race, choosing to embrace the toxicity of the Liberal brand. But as good as his intentions may be, the question needs to be asked whether the Alberta Liberal Party is past the point of saving, and it’s not hard to argue that it may be.

Though I haven't shied away from criticizing Taylor’s campaign, I have had positive experience working with him in the past. During my term as Chair of the Council of Alberta University Students in 2006, Taylor joined former NDP MLA Raj Pannu in the media to help us challenge short-lived Advanced Education Minister Denis Herard’s first and only piece of legislation Bill 40, which de-legislated Alberta’s tuition policy. Bill 40 passed, but it wasn’t for lack of opposition by either Taylor or Pannu.

Dave Taylor's right combination of media personality and great radio voice have worked to his advantage as an opposition MLA, but can it jump-start the Liberals high enough towards the road of dethrone the long-governing PCs? I remain skeptical, but Taylor would definitely make politics in the Alberta Legislature more interesting.

Friday, November 21, 2008

the ghost who haunts us.

Some may naively accept the giant flash of light over Western Canada from last night as being a “meteor entering orbit,” but it should be apparent to anyone of intelligence that it was in fact something much more sinister, and our Premier warned us of the coming apparition just days ago.

The flash was not in fact an act of nature, but the angry ghost of Pierre Trudeau’s NEP returning to terrorize Albertans and thrust us into another world-wide recession (which was also the cause yesterday’s dip below $50 per barrel of the price of oil).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

does saudi arabia offer more economic certainty than alberta?

September 18, 2007 - The Royalty Review Panel recommends that royalty rates in Alberta be increased. Panel Chairman Bill Hunter: "Albertans do not receive their fair share from energy development and they have not, in fact, been receiving their fair share for some time."

October 1, 2007 - Auditor General Fred Dunn gives Alberta's royalty tracking system a failing grade, stating that "the principals of transparency and accountability, I believe, were not followed. I'm not impressed" and that "the department's monitoring and technical review findings were communicated to decision-makers. The question is: Did they hear or were they listening? At the end of the day, I don't know, but they chose not to act."

October 2, 2007 - Energy Minister Mel Knight dresses down the Auditor General for criticizing senior government officials.

October 11, 2007 - NDP call for legislation enshrining royalty changes. CBC reports that "Paul Stanway, Stelmach's spokesman, said Thursday that the premier will stick with whatever decision the government makes on the royalty report, and that it's too early to tell if legislation will be necessary."

October 19, 2007 - Premier Ed Stelmach defends the old royalty regime.

October 23, 2007 - Liberal leader Kevin Taft announces that he would increase royalty rates by 20%.

October 25, 2007 - Stelmach proposes changes to the royalty regime, introducing a plan to increase royalties by 20%, or $1.4 billion annually, beginning in 2009. Finally, Albertans will get start getting their fair share... in 2009.

October 26, 2007 - Energy stocks gain value the day after the royalty increase announced. The sky does not fall.

October 28, 2007 - Alberta PC members support royalty increase.

October 30, 2007 - Former Premier Peter Lougheed endorses the royalty increase.

January 2008 - Oil tops $100 per barrel. People lose all perspective and start talking about permanent $180 per barrel oil.

January 23, 2008 -
NDP leader Brian Mason hangs out with Sarah Palin in Alaska and likes their royalty system.

February/March 2008 - ... Alberta Election... Stelmach defeats Pierre Trudeau!

October 2008 - Alan Greenspan: capitalism is broken.

November 2008 - Global Economic Crisis continues. Oil prices drop and hover around $50 per barrel. Perspective returns.

November 18, 2008 - The Government of Alberta inks a new royalty deal with Syncrude.

November 19, 2008 - A year after announcing increases to royalties (starting in 2009), Stelmach announces cuts to royalties, putting Alberta in a position to lose $1.8 Billion in revenues over the next five years.

As a friend of mine put it:

"The ever-changing business rules will ultimately hurt the hard working people of my home province, and will tear apart Alberta's international reputation as a good place to do business. At this point, I think the Saudi Arabian government can offer more economic certainty than Premier Stelmach."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

smart savings recommended.

The report of the Alberta Financial Investment and Planning Advisory Commission has been released, and includes seventeen recommendations that look pretty smart at a glance (haven't had a chance to look in detail yet).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

pierre trudeau, not the declining world economy, responsible for worsening financial crisis.

Having been only one year old when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau stepped down in 1984, I can’t claim to have experienced the havoc and devastation that his destructive NEP cast on Western Canada, but as an Albertan who grew up hearing what an awful man he was, I can admit that I'm pretty sick of listening to people complain about it. Twenty-four years later, it’s pretty clear that the fall back position of blaming the problems of 2008 on a Prime Minister who was elected forty years ago sounds just about as ridiculous as Sarah Palin claiming that Barack Obama is a Marxist.

This was the case in Question Period today when Opposition leader Kevin Taft asked Premier Ed Stelmach how the government planned to deal with the worsening financial crisis. You can listen to the exchange below:

It would be really nice if the next time Premier Stelmach decides that he doesn’t like a question asked to him in the Legislature, that he not blame an ancient Prime Minister for his inability to come up with a quick and clever response, but just answer the damn question.

mo elsalhy's longshot run for the leader's chair.

As the ‘giant killer’ of 2004, pharmacist Mo Elsalhy entered his first foray into electoral politics by defeating PC Minister Mark Norris in Edmonton-McClung. Playing a significant role in Liberal mythology, the Edmonton-McClung area was held by former Liberal Leaders Grant Mitchell and Nancy MacBeth from 1986 to 2001. In March 2008, Elsalhy was unseated by PC David Xiao. Months later he launched his run for the leadership of the Alberta Liberal Party.

While in the Legislature, Elsahy had a reputation as a moderate MLA which earned him the respect from MLAs from all sides of the Legislature. He spent much of his time as MLA focusing on issues ranging from democratic reform (hosting town hall forums which included members of British Columbia’s Citizens’ Assembly) and youth issues (including the Young McClung group). Though he did get a B-grade from the dubious Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Elsalhy is an unmistakably common sense kind of guy.

Some may dismiss Elsalhy as an underdog candidate in this race (which would be accurate), but I wouldn’t be surprised if he places stronger than expected among ALP members when the results are released. He is enthusiastic and has the kind of energy that will be needed to build a viable alternative to the governing PCs as they approach forty years in office. As one of the youngest MLAs when he was elected four years ago, his age affords him the opportunity to work towards a future in Alberta politics, and he will likely use this leadership run to boost his profile for a rematch against Xiao in Edmonton-McClung.

Monday, November 17, 2008

and so it begins...

I still haven't decided whether I'm going to buy a Liberal Party of Canada membership to vote in this race, but I will be paying attention, as I need something to fill my time now that the American Presidential election is over...

alberta liberal leadership race endorsements.

The following is a running list of MLAs, past-candidates, and others who have endorsed the three candidates running for the leadership of the Alberta Liberal Party, which is being held through a mail in ballot (results to be released on December 13). I have emailed each leadership campaign requesting a list for this post, the following are what I have received to date.

Past-MLAs & Others
Bill Bonko
(Edmonton-Decore 2004-08)
Maurice Tougas (Edmonton-Meadowlark 2004-08)
E. D. Blodgett (Edmonton's Poet Laureate)

MLA & Past-MLAs
Harry Chase (Calgary-Varsity 2004-Present)
Yolande Gagnon (Calgary-McKnight 1989-93)
Jack Flaherty (St. Albert 2004-08)
Bruce Miller (Edmonton-Glenora 2004-08)
Nick Taylor (Westlock-St. Paul 1986-93, Redwater, 1993-96)

Past-Candidates & Others
Karen Charlton (Medicine Hat 2001, 04, 08)
Herb Coburn (Foothills-Rockyview 2004, 08)
Dale D'Silva (Calgary-North West 2008)
Bill Kurtze (Calgary-Hays 2008)
Carol Oliver (Calgary-Fort 2008)
Avalon Roberts (Calgary-Glenmore 2004, 08)
Patricia Robertson (Banff-Cochrane 2008)
Mike Robinson (Calgary-Foothills 2008)
Stan Shedd
(Highwood 2008)
Frances Wright
(Calgary-Foothills, 1993 & Founder of the Famous Five Foundation)
Senator Romeo Dallaire
David Kilgour
(Edmonton MP 1979-2006)
Joe Ceci
(Calgary Alderman, Ward 9 1995-Present)
Rev. Bill Phipps (former Moderator of the United Church of Canada)
Alex Macdonald (Laurence Decore's former Chief of Staff/EA)

MLAs & Past-MLAs
Kent Hehr (MLA Calgary-Buffalo 2008-Present)
Craig Cheffins (MLA Calgary-Elbow 2007-08)
Barry Pashak (NDP MLA Calgary-Forest Lawn 1986-93)

Garth Davis (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake 2001, 04, 08)
Augustine Ebinu (Grande Prairie-Wapiti 2008)
Keith Elliott (Wetaskiwin-Camrose 2004, 2008)
Beth Gignac (Calgary-West 2008)
Aman Gill (Edmonton-Mill Creek 2004, 08)
Ron Hancock (Cardston-Taber-Warner 2001, 08)
Bill Harvey (Calgary-East 2008)
Lisa Higgerty (West Yellowhead 2008)
Ron Reinhold (Calgary-Cross 2008)
Brad Smith (Edmonton-Calder 2004, Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood 2008)
Cathie Williams (Calgary-Egmont 2008)

Constituency Presidents & Others
Darryl Raymaker (2008 ALP Campaign Co-Chair)
Kyle Olsen (President, Alberta Young Liberals)
David Bullas
John Casuga
Paul Doherty
(Calgary-Fish Creek)
Gerald Forseth
Jamie Gairdner
(Grande Prairie-Wapiti)
Rachelle McDonald
(West Yellowhead)
John Murray
Linda Nicholson
(Dunvegan-Central Peace)
Chris Wolfenberg
Terry Yagos
Kamaal Zaidi

Sunday, November 16, 2008

the gospel of green.

CBCs The Fifth Estate has produced an excellent documentary on Germany's transition to renewable energy and the challenges and roadblocks facing renewable energy entrepreneurs in Canada.

The documentary also features an interview with Hermann Scheer, a German parliamentarian who is:

...leading the way to increase Germany's reliance on renewable energy sources such as wind power and solar power. To date, 15% of Germany's energy comes from renewable sources. Scheer estimates that if Germany continues on this course, by 2030 that will be 100%.

the week ahead.

- I will be posting profiles of Alberta Liberal leadership candidates Mo Elsalhy, David Swann, and Dave Taylor this week (CalgaryGrit has already posted profiles of Swann and Elsalhy). ALP members will be voting by mail over the next couple weeks and the results will be released on December 13. The final leadership candidate forum will be held in Calgary on November 28 (pdf).

- For all the folks who called me a naysayer when I shook my head as just a year ago as they boasted of a world of permanent $200 barrels of oil, take a look at it now (at $57). If you can say anything about economic booms in Alberta, it's that it really helps people who should know better lose all perspective and objectivity. Pay attention to what PC Finance & Enterprise Minister Iris Evans does in the next couple weeks to react to this drop.

- The 2006 Federal Liberal leadership race saw Gerard Kennedy elect the most convention delegates from Alberta (117), followed by Michael Ignatieff (115) and Stephane Dion (81). Bob Rae placed distant fifth with 37 delegates elected (behind Joe Volpe). With Kennedy out of the race, and some former Kennedy supporters backing Ignatieff, it should be interesting to see whether it translates into a rout for Team Iggy in Alberta. There's also no shortage of bloggers lining up to board the Ignatieff train (Scott Tribe has a living list).

- I'm looking forward to heading to a reception for Preston Manning this week at the University of Alberta, where he will be receiving an honourary degree. More comment on this Alberta political icon to come.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

the moral of the story: art, culture, media and politics.

Though I will unfortunately be unable to attend, I am excited to hear that the Parkland Institute's 2008 Fall Conference will be focusing on the the role of art, culture and media in political discourse while the conference discussions will focus around two main questions: “Why do we talk about what we talk about?” and “How can ideas with social justice values become the dominant discourse?

The conference will take place from November 14-16 on the University of Alberta campus and speakers will include Tariq Ali, Megan Boler, and Nora Young, among others.

Registration and tickets are still available.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

cross-pollinating pc & liberal membership lists.

Last week, I received an email from a friend asking me if he knew how an Alberta Liberal leadership candidate could have got his email address. As a former PC supporter, my friend had never held a Liberal membership and was understandably a little confused when he found himself on Dave Taylor's email list.

It seems that my friend isn't the only one in this situation

alberta could blow more than hot air.

While Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach continues his tour of Europe this week (skipping last weekend's First Ministers' meeting), he should take note of recent moves by energy giants BP and Royal Dutch Shell. As expansions in Alberta's dirty oilsands are slowing and the price of oil continues to drop, both companies are also looking beyond oil by continuing to expand their investments in clean energy markets.

Shell made the announcement months ago, and last week BP announced that they will be halting plans to build wind farms and other renewable energy projects in the United Kingdom and will focus developing renewable energy in the United States, taking advantage of government incentives for clean energy projects. Though wind is unlikely to replace demand for oil anytime soon, forward thinking moves like this by leading world energy companies should make Albertans think twice about being duped into supporting the short-sighted building of nuclear power plants in northern Alberta.

Also of note is a recent report from the Centre for Study of Living Standards on the Valuation of Alberta's oilsands (h/t DeSmogBlog):

As the CSLS notes, the tar sands are "the largest contributor to Canadian emissions growth. Since the early 1990s, output growth in the oil sands sector has been so great that total emissions from this source have increased even as emissions per unit of output (intensity) have declined by as much as 45 per cent. These trends are expected to continue into the foreseeable future and the oil sands are projected to account for 41-47 per cent of 'business-as-usual' Canadian emissions growth between 2003 and 2010."

If Canada and the United States are going to get serious about reducing GHG emissions, it seems obvious that they would start with the biggest and fastest growing point source on the continent. There are, unfortunately, 1.5 trillion reasons why that will be one of the hardest places to make progress.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

alberta's first minister should be representing alberta at the first ministers' table.

As Premier Ed Stelmach jets off to the old Continent to hobnob with European businessmen, he is skipping this weekend’s First Ministers’ meeting on economic issues called by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Now, I can sympathize why Stelmach wouldn’t want to attend this meeting. Can you imagine how awkward the first post-election meeting between Harper, Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, and Quebec Premier Jean Charest will be? Probably not very fun, but that’s not the point. As Alberta’s First Minister, Stelmach has a responsibility to represent Albertans at First Ministers’ meetings.

After officials in the Prime Minister’s Office rightfully rejected Stelmach’s bizarre request to join the meeting by phone, he announced that he will be sending his (arguably most competent) Minister, Dave Hancock, in his place. But, Stelmach should not be quickly forgiven for his absence. He may be miles above Stelmach in competency, but as Minister of Education, Hancock is in no position to make the types of commitments on economic policy that a Premier can. Hancock is not the leader of the Government, and does not have the authority to fill the role of a Premier at that table.

When it comes down to it, Stelmach’s absence from the meeting is embarrassing for Alberta. It’s embarrassing that the leader of the most economically powerful province in Canada doesn’t grasp the important role that Alberta should have at the big table. After all his big talk about protecting Alberta’s energy interests against Ottawa during the federal election campaign and recent demands about wanting to attend future meetings between Harper and incoming American President Barack Obama, Stelmach shouldn’t have thought twice about taking Alberta's seat at the table.

speak out: edmonton for human rights and the return of omar khadr.

(h/t Elle Bee)

Friday, November 07, 2008

american energy independence, 37 years and waiting.

With American President-Elect Barack Obama's team preparing to move into the White House, they've made one of their goals to achieve self-sufficiency in energy by eliminating current oil imports from the Middle East and Venezuela within 10 years. With this in mind, ask yourself if this sounds familiar...

...One month following the outbreak of the Yom Kippur Middle East war of October 1973, with the United States deep in the grip of Watergate fever compounded by the anxiety over the Arab oil boycott, former U.S. President Richard M. Nixon appeared on American television to prescribe strong medicine, his antidote for the energy crisis.

Nixon named it "Project Independence." The challenge facing the United States, he declared, was to regain the strength of self-sufficiency in energy. This was a key to Americans predominance among the nations. "Our ability to meet our own energy needs is directly linked to our continued ability to act decisively and independently at home and abroad in the service of peace, not only for America, bur for all nations in the world." Calling for "focused leadership" to achieve self-sufficiency by 1980, Nixon likened his challenge to earlier crash programs to develop the atomic bomb and to put a man on the moon. He went on to promise massive public funding for the exploration of American's remaining energy resources-Alaskan oil and gas, offshore oil reserves, nuclear energy and synthetic fuels from coal and oil shale....
Source: Pratt, Larry, The Tar Sands: Syncrude and the Politics of Oil, Hurtig, Edmonton, Alberta. pp 49 - 50, 1976.

(h/t to Climateer Investing for the reminder)

photo post: 2008 canadian finals rodeo.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

yee-haw! rodeo as alberta's official sport.

In what should be described as one of the more light-hearted moments of the Fall Session of the Alberta Legislature, Alberta Liberal leader Kevin Taft will be introducing a motion into the Legislature calling on the Government of Alberta to adopt rodeo as this province's official sport.

As the Canadian Finals Rodeo kicked-off in Edmonton yesterday (which I am excited to be going to tonight!), Taft's announcement this afternoon was timed-well, and received a surprising amount of media attention, as witnessed by the media presence at Taft's announcement (even Edmonton Sun columnist Neil Waugh was able to find his way to the scrum before it ended).

There was a bit of confusion when Taft entered the Assembly in his western gear this afternoon, as Speaker Ken Kowalski nearly kicked Taft out for his clothing choices. In a bizarre move, Kowalski asked for the consent of the MLAs present to allow Taft to stay while wearing his western wear. Most of the MLAs, both PC and Liberal seemed a little more than quite confused as to why a pair of jeans would pose such a threat to the decorum of the Assembly. They unanimously voted to let the jeans stay, and democracy lives to fight another day.

The motion is scheduled to be introduced on the floor of the Legislature on the evening of Monday, November 24.

Here's some (albeit, rough) video footage of Taft's announcement (the Legislature Rotunda can be a bit of an echo chamber sometimes):

*In the interests of full disclosure, I believe that it is important to inform my readership that I have accepted a short-term communications contract position with the Official Opposition Caucus at the Alberta Legislature. But don't worry, I'm going to continue writing this blog, and I'm hoping to earn my chance to sit at the cool kids table in the cafeteria by the time my job is complete.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

is ed stelmach stealing sarah palin's talking points?

I kid you not, this is from an exchange between Liberal Leader Kevin Taft and PC Premier Ed Stelmach during Question Period at the Alberta Legislature on October 22, 2008:

Dr. Taft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This government can’t control the price of oil, but it could have controlled the rampant increases in costs by simply managing growth. Will the Premier admit that by ignoring industry requests, requests from former Premier Lougheed, and just about everyone else to manage growth, this government has made a serious mistake?

Mr. Stelmach: Obviously, now we see the true colour of the Leader of the Opposition. He sure as heck isn’t a capitalist, talking about managing growth through the government. Sounds more like what they were doing in the former Soviet Russia.

a kind letter to a nation voting today.

Dear Americans,

Please vote for Barack Obama today.

Also, Californians please Vote NO on Prop. 8!



Monday, November 03, 2008

edmonton journal adopts 12-ward system.

Never mind the public hearings scheduled for February 17, 2008, the Edmonton Journal seems to have framed Edmonton City Council's proposed Ward changes as a fait accompli.

Though I support changing Edmonton City Council representation from the current 6-Ward/2-Councillor system to a 12-Ward/1-Councillor system (for various reasons including size, population, etc), I also believe that public hearings are an important part of this decision-making process and should not be overlooked as a formality.

Also, this isn't the first time that the Ward debate has come up...

"The ward issue languished until shortly after the 1986 election, when two city council members, Ron Hayter and Jan Reimer, announced the ward system was totally inadequate and called for changes to be made. After Reimer moved that the wards be increased from six to twelve, with one member elected from each, council referred the proposal to a committee chaired by Hayter. Although he made a concerted effort to obtain support for ward reform, public response was unenthusiastic, and reform efforts collapsed when Mayor Decore, who had just been re-elected with one of the largest majorities in the city's history, announced that he needed a lot of convincing that "we should shake up the system" and he had "difficulties" accepting the idea of single-member wards. In September 1987 council narrowly defeated a proposal calling for twelve wards with a single member elected from each. Alderman Lilian Staroszik explained that, in her opinion, Edmonton already had "probably the best possible representation."*
*Masson, Jack; Edward C. LeSage Jr. (1994). Alberta's Local Governments:Politics and Democracy. University of Alberta Press, pp. 297