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Monday, December 29, 2008

year in review 2008: alberta mla edition.

As is tradition here at daveberta, I have created an annual list of Alberta MLAs who have caught my eye over the past year. Due to a large grouping of MLAs who through sheer numbers, appear almost indistinguishable as they sit in the backbenches of the 72-MLA PC caucus, I am only focusing on a handful of MLAs who caught my attention for various reasons:

Doug Griffiths: (PC Battle River-Wainwright) Griffiths is an up and comer in the PC caucus. First elected in a 2002 by-election, much of his attention has focused on rural development strategies. As parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Griffiths brings a younger voice to the traditionally stogy agriculture file, and is in a good position to carve himself a solid position in the future of his party. Griffiths is also a bit of an exception to the rule when it comes to tech-know how, as he actually seems to comprehend the importance of web 2.0 in the politics of 2008 (like twitter).

Kent Hehr (Liberal Calgary-Buffalo) One of two new Liberals elected in 2008, Hehr is one of the strongest additions to the opposition benches in years. His brash hockey player attitude hasn't stopped him from earning the respect of MLAs from all sides of the Assembly, and his well-spoken manner and compelling personal story have no doubt given him the credibility he has needed to focus public attention on Justice issues as Official Opposition critic.

Ken Kowalski (PC Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock) Since first taking his seat in the Speaker's chair 12 years ago, Kowalski has done very little to halt the deterioration of decorum and respect in the Legislature as he frequently chooses to ignore offensive remarks and heckles thrown by MLAs on the Assembly floor. I have heard of a number of school teachers who now refuse to bring their elementary-level classes to visit Question Period because they don't want their students to think the kind of behavior they'll see in the Legislature is acceptable. From an outside perspective, it seems that the only part of his job he takes seriously includes greeting foreign dignitaries and publishing overpriced anthologies. Fail.

Ron Liepert (PC Calgary-West) I'm sure Liepert has been called many things since assuming the role of Health Minister, and judging from his behaviour on the floor of the Legislature, 'arrogant jerk' is likely one of the more flattering. In charge of Alberta's surprise Health Care restructuring following the 2008 election, Liepert has gone on a restructuring rampage, not only raising the ire of those in the system while convincing some of the province's top public health professionals to resign, but has also created a new super-centralized provincial health board, dissolving the power of local health authorities.

Hugh MacDonald (Liberal Edmonton-Gold Bar) Somewhat obsessed with discovering scandal in Alberta's 37-year PC government (and lord knows there are many), MacDonald has fine-tuned the exercise of calling wolf, diluting the real irresponsibility's in environmental and economic management and stewardship by the PCs. As the PEI native continues to chase cars, I wonder if he'd know what to do if he caught one.

Ted Morton (PC Foothills-Rockyview) After being branded as the Great Right-Wing Threat of the 2006 PC leadership race, Morton has kept a strategically low-key profile over the past year. While not hitching his horse too tight to Stelmach's reign and gaining a reputation as a reasonably competent Sustainable Resource Minister, Morton has put himself in a good position to ease the fears of moderate PCs who believed he would lead their party even further to the Right of the political spectrum. If Stephen Harper implodes, I wouldn't be surprised to see Tom Flanagan pop up in a proximity close to Minister Morton.

Rachel Notley: (NDP Edmonton-Strathcona) While I remain unimpressed with her party's leader, I have been pleasantly surprised by the performance of my MLA over the past year. No less ideologically driven partisan then her caucus-mate, Notley has been the thoughtful and well-spoken member of the tiny NDP caucus since taking her seat after the 2008 election.

Raj Sherman (PC Edmonton-Meadowlark) This list won't be able to top the list of sexiest MLAs, but it would be hard to keep Sherman off my list. The former emergency room doctor is one of the brighter stars in the vast expanse of dim lights in the Alberta Legislature. Though I wish this parliamentary assistant could knock some sense into Health Minister Liepert, Sherman's experience in front-line medicine, and his openness about past challenges with mental health, give him insight into the medical arena that many other MLAs would have a difficult time understanding.

Ed Stelmach (PC Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville) Having helped quadruple this blog's readership over the past year, Alberta's Premier holds a special place in my heart. From quoting Cicero to comparing his opponents to communists, it's hard to argue that any other MLA has been as 'all over the board' as Stelmach during his second year as Premier. Since January 1st, 2008, he has lashed out at the United Nations and a dead Prime Minister, skipped a First Ministers' meeting, changed conflict of interest rules the day he called an election, and snuck himself a 30% pay raise all the while having been re-elected by Albertans on March 4 by running under the slogan "Change that works for Albertans." In a time when Alberta could be blazing a bold new trail, Stelmach's actions embody political mediocrity at its most deliberate.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

it feels like christmas.

I will soon be heading north to embrace my small-town Alberta roots with family, friends, and great food over the next week. I will be taking a break from blogging (and the interweb) until closer to the new year, so until then, I will leave you with a scene from a truly classic Christmas film.

I wish everyone a safe and merry Christmas. See you next week.

Monday, December 22, 2008

pope: dear gays, you are just as much a threat as climate change.

ZENIT.ORG: “The Pope warned against the manipulation that takes place in national and international forums when the term “gender” is altered. “The rain forests certainly deserve our protection, but man as creature indeed deserves no less,” he added.”


the prime minister is parliament.

For Canadians keeping score, in the last four months of 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has:

- Called an election and dissolved Parliament in October 2008, a year earlier than the Conservative Party's own legislation that set a fixed election date for October 2009.

- Had Parliament prorogued to avoid losing a vote of non-confidence by the majority of the elected Members of Parliament.

- Made 18 patronage appointments to Canada's unelected Senate.

- Filled a vacancy to the Supreme Court of Canada by bypassing a parliamentary review process that his own party fought to institute.

joe anglin's in.

After months of legal wrangling between himself and George Read, past Lacombe-Ponoka candidate Joe Anglin is now the leader of Alberta's Green Party.

Hard-working Anglin gained a reputation as a fighter after his high-profile battle with the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board launched him into politics in the March 2008 election. Anglin was the most successful Green candidate in that election, earning over 22% support from voters in the central Alberta constituency of Lacombe-Ponoka.

(h/t @taudette)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

value of progressive blogger coalition still hotly debated.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

With the 2009 Canadian Blog Awards now in the history books it seems fitting to look back on one of the biggest stories that came out of last year's awards in 2008. For those that don't remember, 3 attention deprived bloggers, Dave Cournoyer (Daveberta), Danielle Takacs (Galloping Around the Golden Horseshoe), and Dan Arnold (Dan Arnold) decided to form a coalition using their combined vote totals to try to overthrow the first place finisher 'we move to canada' in the Best Progressive Blogger category. It was officially a coalition between defending champion Dave Cournoyer and Danielle Takacs, but was supported from the outside by the separatist leaning Dan Arnold.

While these kinds of coalitions are very common in blogging awards in Europe, this was a first for our country. However, the reaction from across the country was fierce. Polls showed massive nation-wide opposition, everywhere except Western Canada, the home of two of the members of the coalition. In fact, the snubbing of the two Alberta based blogs, Daveberta and Calgary Grit, had a major impact on the separatist movement in their home province.

But what started out as a coalition merely trying to get some extra recognition for Calgary Grit who 'we move to canada' refused to acknowledge (at least that's their official story) spawned a whirlwind week in Canadian progressive blogging the likes of which was never seen. Rallies happened all over the country for and against the coalition, with each side seeing themselves as the true champions of democracy. Even Prime Ministers and Premiers got involved. Then came a late poor quality video aggress by the coalition leader Mr. Cournoyer that inflamed the media and many believe was responsible for his overthrow as leader of the coalition by his old nemesis Premier Ed Stelmach.

When Stelmach took over many coalition supporters were still optimistic of they would take power and Stelmach and Takacs would get to share the 1st place progrssive blog award button as outlined in their accord. However, the Canadian Blog Awards administration refused to cede them power immediately and, with time, the coalition began to fall apart. When it came time for a final showdown just before a deadline set by the Canadian Blog Awards Administration, Premier Stelmach had turned on his coalition partners and decided to prop up we move to canada. It's rumoured Premier Stelmach was given a jet ski and a wet suit in return for his support. Feeling betrayed and demoralized, the coalition fell apart and 'we move to canada' retained her title to defend in the next election.

Unfortunately for the coalition, 'we move to canada' went back to her old ways following their collapse, running smear campaigns against Mr. Cournoyer (who re-assumed his control of his blog after Stelmach lost interest in it). Daveberta's former coalition partners did likewise against Mr. Cournoyer, holding him responsible for the betrayal they experienced.

Premier Stelmach was also punished in his home province. At his first press conference after propping up 'we move to canada' he was pelted with a shoe which he apparently lacked the ability to dodge. It remains the defining moment of his Premiership. At the time of this writing the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party are at an all-time low in polling in Alberta and the Western separatist party is in lead and may in fact win a majority in the next provincial election. Albertans won't forget Mr. Stelmach's betrayal any time soon.

Could the coalition have done anything different to be successful? Some of their supporters believe if they had just held firm and continued their resolve to seize power than the Canadian Blog Awards administration would have been compelled to give them power based on precedent and we move to canada's own statements in favour of government by proportional representation. We'll never know how Canadians would have responded had that come to be, but supporters insist a coalition would have been popular with time. And many do credit the coalition with garnering more respect for Western Canada than we had seen before.

What we do know now though is how Canadians responded to the coalition bloggers in this year's 2009 Canadian Blog Awards. As many of you now know 'we move to canada' won a sizable majority of votes in the Best Progressive Blog category. Coalition leader Daveberta failed to make the finals, while Takacs fell back from second to fourth place. The only one that seemed to benefit was Calgary Grit who moved up to second.

However, all 3 bloggers faced their own forms of punishment for their behavior. Daveberta's readership steadily declined to the point of where he was only getting 20 hits a day. Ms. Takacs saw a similar decline in her readership, while both her and Mr. Arnold were kicked off Liblogs for "failing to follow the party line" during this affair. However, Mr. Arnold became somewhat of a hero in his home province and was showered with praise upon his return at Christmas time in the immediate aftermath of the coalition's collapse. It's believed that it was a freeping effort from Alberta that helped him bring home the number two prize this year.

Perhaps Canadians just weren't ready for a coalition or perhaps this coalition just didn't have what it took to be successful in such a cut-throat place as the Canadian blogosphere.

Read the legendary story:
ed stelmach takes over blogging coalition; future of coalition uncertain.
canadians take to the streets over blogging coalition.
motivations of blogger power grab revealed; public widely opposed.
coalition of progressive bloggers lose confidence in "2008 best progressive blog."

Friday, December 19, 2008

ed stelmach takes over blogging coalition; future of coalition uncertain.

The story of the fledgling coalition of bumbling progressive bloggers has taken yet more dramatic turns. After a day of rallies Wednesday, the leader of the coalition, Dave Cournoyer was to address the nation to make his case for why his coalition is best suited to hold the best Progressive Blog prize in these troubled times; however, Mr. Cournoyer's address never arrived. He sent a note to the networks saying "Super busy at work today, so I didn't get a chance to record the vid, sorry, maybe tomorrow or the next day." The video eventually surfaced (apparently filmed on a low quality webcam) but the networks were so furious that have vowed to give no further airtime to Mr. Cournoyer at all.

CTV News reporter Mike Duffy was livid, "The single most important test in leadership is delivering a video in high quality and on time. I don't really care what you have to say, but there are no higher values than punctuality and cinematography skills in politics and these guys obviously just aren't cut out for the job."

A spokesperson for first place winner 'we move to canada' could hardly contain her glee, "If these guys can't do v-blogging right they are clearly not worth the risk of being handed the prize of top progressive blogger."

Though this was just the beginning of what will go down as one of the most surreal days in Canadian blogging. The morning after Mr. Cournoyer's video SNAFU, he found himself locked out of his blog, Daveberta. To his dismay he discovered through a breaking news report in the Toronto Sun that Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach had bought the domain name for Daveberta's blog and formally taken it over.

Premier Stelmach was defiant at the ensuing press conference, "Payback's a bitch isn't it Dave?" The comment was clearly in reference to the legal squabbles Premier Stelmach had with Mr. Cournoyer when Dave angered the Premier by purchasing the domain without his permission.

Despite Premier Stelmach's apparent disdain for Mr. Cournoyer, he made it clear that as the new proud owner of the Daveberta blog (which the Premier promptly renamed Edberta) he was entitled to lead the coalition of progressive bloggers and would respect the terms of the deal signed by Mr. Cournoyer with Danielle Takacs (Galloping Around the Horseshoe) and Dan Arnold (Calgary Grit). However, Premier Stelmach did leave the door open for a compromise with 'we move to canada', "Coalition if…umm…necessary, but we need…umm…a coalition…some of the time…uhh…unless it's needed," said the Premier.

Mr. Stelmach's coalition partners appeared unfazed by the change in the leadership of their coalition. "I could care less who leads the coalition as long as I get the 1st place progressive blog banner on my blog for a quarter of the year like I was promised in the accord," said Ms. Takacs.

Mr. Arnold who has been critical of Premier Stelmach in the past seemed willing to accept him this time around, "Sure I've campaigned against him, but everyone I've ever supported has always ended up losing so what do I know about winning? It's time I start doing the opposite of what my instincts tell me."

The coalition's efforts will now be bolstered by Preston Manning and Ralph Klein who will be launching a national tour to promote the coalition as the sort of democracy in action they've always championed. Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper has now come out in support, "We move to canada is playing the biggest political game of her life! Let me be very clear, if this coalition of bloggers is not allowed to take power, I think it's time for Alberta to seriously consider building firewalls around itself and start running these awards under their own legitimate jurisdiction. There's nothing more important in this country than blogging and mark my words, Westerners shall not take this lying down," said the Prime Minister.

Though despite the new heavyweights lining up to support them, there were the first signs from the coalition leaders themselves that perhaps they won't succeed in their ultimate goal, "We'll see what happens, but the coalition has definitely made a positive impact. Before the coalition existed we move to canada was refusing to acknowledge my existence, and lo and behold within 24 hours of our accord she was saying I had an "excellent blog". That kind of respect for Western Canada didn't come easy and we have to make sure to hold we move to canada's feet to the fire. But the ball is her court now, maybe we'll get a miracle," said Mr. Arnold.

The new tone in rhetoric may be due to the massive public opposition reflected in the latest polls. Even so, the coalition's efforts to take power have been put on hold for several days as the Canadian Blog Awards (CBA) administration have been refusing to answer e-mails or take calls from any of the coalition members wishing to discuss this matter. The members of the CBA administration pronounced that a "time out" was needed and they expressed hope that the warring parties would sit down and resolve this matter on the weekend and if extremely unethical or borderline illegal (e.g., offering life insurance policies) deal making was required to end this once and for all, so be it. A final decision shall be made following the weekend, should it prove necessary, the Administration said.

alberta energy vp runs for sask ndp leadership.

A little late, and might be old news for some folks, but I can't believe that I almost missed this one.

Dwain Lingenfelter, Vice-President of Government Relations for Calgary-based Nexen Inc, is running for the leadership of the Saskatchewan NDP. A Sask NDP MLA from 1978-86 and 1988-2000, Lingenfelter joined Nexen in Calgary after leaving politics in 2000. Interestingly, in the 1990s, under its former name of 'Canadian Occidental Petroleum,' Nexen purchased Saskatchewan's former crown energy company, Wascana Energy (formerly SaskOil), which was created by Allan Blakeney and later privatized by Grant Devine in 1986.

High level informants deep in Calgary's energy sector have heard that Nexen has given Lingenfelter a year-off to contest the NDP leadership, leaving an opening for him to return if his bid is unsuccessful. Having served in high level corporate positions in the energy sector and in the cabinets of Blakeney and Roy Romanow, Lingenfelter would definitely be an unconventional pick for the Sask NDP leadership.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

alberta government quietly acknowledges that the globe and mail is, in fact, the globe and mail.

Following up from last week's post on the same topic, I was very interested to read this...

Earlier this month, a spokesperson for Premier Ed Stelmach was insistent that the newspaper is the Toronto Globe and Mail — a clear jab at a publication that’s often criticized for being Toronto-centric. Ironically, the government used the incorrect name on a new website aimed at correcting inaccurate media reports about the province. Says the For the Record site: “All media outlets make mistakes, on occasion. Unfortunately, not all media outlets have a policy or forum to correct their mistakes.”

The government was considerably less worried about its own glaring error. “It’s the Toronto Globe and Mail. Don’t kid yourself,” said Stelmach spokesperson Tom Olsen in an interview after the mistake was pointed out. “We don’t see that as an error. We see The Globe and Mail as the Toronto Globe and Mail.”

Olsen, a former columnist for the Calgary Herald, didn’t say whether or not “we don’t see that as an error” is a good corrections policy for media outlets to emulate.

But presto! As soon as Fast Forward ran a story about the obvious mistake on the anti-mistake website, the error quietly disappeared. The word “Toronto” is now gone, and the newspaper’s correct title remains. Absent from the page is any mention of the error.
(h/t Jeremy Klaszus)

the caucus meetings must have been fun...

Former Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Maurice Tougas on ALP leadership candidate and Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor:

"...the supremely arrogant Taylor is an inveterate talker so infatuated with the sound of his own voice, he could perform his own eulogy."
(h/t @AB_get_rich)

canadians take to the streets over blogging coalition.

This week's showdown between 2008 Best Progressive Blogger and the fledgling Progressive Blogger coalition has galvanized thousands of ordinary Canadians, who took to the streets yesterday in massive political demonstrations.

In Toronto, about 4,500 coalition supporters flooded Nathan Phillips Square to hear bloggers Dave Cournoyer and Danielle Takacs explain why their united progressive blogging front, which is backed by well-known Western Separatist Calgary Grit, is better for Canada than We Move to Canada.

"we move to canada has done enough for progressive blogging and that is why the it has lost our confidence as 2008 Best Progressive Blog," Takacs told supporters.

Meanwhile in Ottawa, about 3,500 people converged on Parliament Hill to protest the possibility that a coalition of the progressive bloggers could try to unseat the 2008 winner without another vote.

"Canadians voted for we move to canada, and I believe that Daveberta and Takacs are trying to overthrow the legitimate winner," said 39-year-old truck operator Chuck Branson, attending his first demonstration. "I don't believe Canadians are used to a system of a coalition, and we have to stick to what we know . . . and Canadians should know that the current system is functioning well."

Angry though it was, the Parliament Hill protest was civil. Shortly before the kickoff, organizers asked one anti-coalition demonstrator to tone down the rhetoric of his sign, which read "Calgary Grit scum."

In Red Deer, an estimated 8,000 people gathered for a demonstration of solidarity with the coalition. Retired MP Myron Thompson, speaking at the rally, said holding another election would be too much exercise, so he proposed a different solution.

"Pistols at dawn. Let's settle this the old fashioned way," he said, adding that if any good has come from the turmoil, it's that citizens seem to be more interested in blogging.

In Vancouver, about 1,500 people gathered in the rain on the steps of city hall, where they heard rally organizer and former MP Svend Robinson argue that the coalition was wrong to try to steal something as valuable as the blog award.

In Edmonton, demonstrators gathered at West Edmonton Mall for what they called an anti-coalition "Canada rally."

"We love Canada," said rally co-ordinator Josiah Martin, 19.

Even though Canadian Blog Award Administrator Jonathan Kleiman has denounced the coalition, Martin warned that the coalition remains a threat.

"We love Canada," he said. "A lot of people feel the same."

Newly appointed Senator John Tory, one of the headline speakers at a rally in Toronto, said he hoped the rally underlined the need to work together to resolve the situation.

"Canadians have had enough of all kinds of political games-playing everywhere. They're saying if you're a blogger, there's an important responsibility we've given to you and we're scared and we're uncertain and we're worried," he said. "Let's see some adult behaviour and get back to regular blogging."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

police prepare arrest warrants on charges of illegal deficits.

Government deficits are illegal in Alberta, and will continue to be under a Stelmach government.

Finance Minister Lyle Oberg, Budget Speech, April 19, 2007

Tumbling energy prices are pushing energy-rich Alberta towards a deficit in the upcoming year - a huge turnaround for a province with 15 surplus budgets in a row.

Canadian Press, December 17, 2008
(h/t DR)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

motivations of blogger power grab revealed; public widely opposed.

Motivations of Blogger Power Grab Revealed; Public Widely Opposed

December 16, 2008

TORONTO/EDMONTON/GUELPH - There has been wild speculation across the blogosphere about what the Sun chain has dubbed "the coalition of the idiot bloggers" – an accord between three power thirsty bloggers which could potential wrestle the "Best Progressive Blog" title away from We Move to Canada. Our sources have the inside story on how the plot was hatched.

Liberal insiders close to Dave Cournoyer paint a picture of a man desperate to stay in the spotlight following his high profile dispute with the Premier over earlier this year. These anonymous sources say that upon learning of his 6th place finish, Cournoyer quickly concocted the plan to let him keep the title of "best progressive blog" for another year.

Cournoyer contacted Takacs who, according to blogging insiders, jumped at the opportunity. High profile strategists close to Takacs confirm that ever since the departure of Cherniak on Politics, she has been maneuvering to replace him as the pre-eminent Liblogger – "Danielle aspires to be not only as influential as the mainstream media, but more influential than the mainstream media" say well-connected anonymous bloggers. Takacs briefly consulted with Liberal elder and UFO enthusiast Paul Hellyer, as she does before making all major life decisions, and then signed on.

From there, Takacs and Cournoyer recognized they would need a third blogger, a blogger desperate for attention, with an unquenchable thirst for power so strong that he would abandon all principles to become their patsy. "After supporting yet another losing candidate, it was obvious that CG would jump at the opportunity for power." Said well-connected bloggers who asked not to be identified. "Plus, he figured it would play well into the 'Canada's Greatest Temporary Ad Hoc Rainbow Coalition' contest he had planned for his blog next summer." Many feel WMTC's dirty "not a Calgary blog" smear campaign prompted CG's involvement.

From there, an MSN 3-way was set up, where leaked transcripts reveal Cournoyer promising to make his blog a "warm comfy splash page with lots of fur" for the coalition. The deal was signed and made public yesterday, mere hours after John Ivison reported that a coalition led by Dr. Dawg would be taking power.

The first poll out on the matter indicates that the Canadian public is uneasy with the coalition. A nation-wide poll by Ipsos-Reid showed that 75% of Canadians are opposed to the coalition and 64% believe the three bloggers who make it up should be banned from blogging ever again. Close to half of Canadians (43%) agree with the statement "Dave Cournoyer, Danielle Takacs, and Dan Arnold should be hanged, drawn and quartered for their treasonous efforts."

However, the coalition has found some strong support out West, where a majority were in favour of the 3 bloggers taking power away from We Move to Canada. Even Mr. Cournoyer’s old nemesis Alberta Premier Ed Stemach has come out in support, "I support the...uhh....coalition accord because it...ummm....promotes responsible blogging...errr....Albertans need to blog...uhh...the NEP destroyed Alberta..."

Tomorrow looks to be a crucial day for the coalition with rallies scheduled across the country. As well, Mr. Cournoyer has asked for air time tomorrow night to address the nation in response to the Canadian Blog Awards Administration's address, and make his case for why the Canadian people shouldn’t fear him and his blogging coalition taking the reins of power.

Monday, December 15, 2008

coalition of progressive bloggers lose confidence in "2008 best progressive blog."

TORONTO/EDMONTON/GUELPH — Bloggers Dave Cournoyer, Danielle Takacs, and Dan Arnold announced today that an agreement has been reached among the three bloggers to support a coalition of Best Progressive Blogs in the 2008 Canadian Blog Awards.

"Since the recent election of We Move to Canada (WMTC) as 2008 Best Progressive Blog, it has become clear that the WMTC has no plan, no competence and, no will to effectively address the crisis faced by Canadian Progressive bloggers," the three bloggers wrote in an open blog post to all Canadians."

As 77% of voters in this category voted against the 1st place winner in the last election, we have resolved to form a new Best Progressive Blog winner who will effectively, prudently, promptly and competently address these critical times," said Ms. Takacs.

"Passing over Alberta blogs in favour of WMTC is sure to fire up the embers of western alienation. And WMTC didn't even acknowledge my existence in her post bragging about her win. We're tired of being treated like second class citizens! This is the biggest middle finger to Alberta since the NEP!" said Mr. Arnold.

Mr. Cournoyer informed Canadian Blog Awards administrator Saskboy of the agreement and requested that he exercise his webmaster authority to call on Daveberta, as the past 2007 Best Progressive Blog to form a new collaborative Best Progressive Blog coalition supported by nominees CalgaryGrit and Takacs.

Should Saskboy comply, then the defending champion in the progressive blogs category, Daveberta, will be named "Best Progressive Blog of 2008." However Takacs will have the privilege of posting the victory button on her blog for three months out of the year. This coalition will function thanks to Calgary Grit who, while not recognizing the legitimacy of these awards, agreed to support it.

"Although we all have very different opinions on the issue of colour schemes, and Danielle called me "an obscure frat boy with a sticky-up haircut" during the past campaign, we have managed to find common ground on the issues of Google analytics, RSS feeds, and Stephen Harper's blue sweaters," said Cournoyer.

Takacs has agreed to support the collaborative victory until next year's awards and Calgary Grit has agreed to support it until June 30, 2009.

A spokesperson expressed outrage on behalf of We Move to Canada, "This is nothing less that an undemocratic coup that will destroy the fabric of the blogosphere! Daveberta wants to take power after being resoundingly rejected in the last election in his worst showing ever. Canadians didn't vote for this! Worst of all Dave and Danielle have cut a deal with Calgary Grit, a well known Western separatist who doesn't even want these awards to function!"

Takacs expressed the hope that this matter could be resolved peacefully and without delay, "We're calling on We Move to Canada to accept this defeat gracefully. It's time to realize that you are going to be defeated at the next available opportunity, it's too late to make amends. The sooner you relinquish power the sooner we can get back to blogging for all progressive Canadians."

These events have set off a firestorm across the blogosphere, with large scale rallies being scheduled on in the week ahead. However, barring any unforeseen events it would seem a virtual certainty that the coalition will come to power next week in an arrangement that would be the first of its kind in our country's history.

can david swann change politics in alberta?

Alberta Liberals may have selected a new leader this weekend, but they still face the same serious challenges as they did a week ago. New Official Opposition leader David Swann, and competitors Dave Taylor and Mo Elsalhy were only able to convince 6,000 Albertans to participate in the vote, which raises some serious questions about the viability of the Liberal organization in Alberta. As leader, Swann will need to engage the +250,000 Albertans who supported the Liberals in the last election, while trying to reverse his party’s downward slide in popular support over the past 15 years.

The latter is a challenge not uniquely faced by Swann and the party he now leads. As voter turnout continues to slide across the board, it is clear that there is a serious disconnect between the average Alberta citizen and the political organizations and politicians representing them in the Legislature. This poses a serious threat not only to all of our political parties, but also to the existence of democratic vibrancy, a humbling reality that is lost on many of our current elected representatives.

The serious question also needs to be asked whether the Liberals are politically, organizationally, and financially past the point of saving. I have serious questions about the future potential of that party, which was only able to draw around 120 delegates to its recent annual convention. As I’ve written before, as none of our political parties have been able to successfully engage Albertans, it may be time to look outside the traditional party establishment (others have thoughts on this as well).

Though partisan opponents have already begun to label Swann as an 'out of touch academic,' I have a hard-time believing that most Albertans would categorize a family doctor as an academic. This type of behavior dilutes the political dialogue, and is the exact type of lowest-common denominator partisanship that keeps citizens away from political involvement in droves.

In the end, Swann may prove not to be the great leader who leads the Liberals to victory in Alberta, but he is certainly cut from a different cloth than the two other party leaders in the Alberta Legislature. He is not a career politician (both Ed Stelmach and Brian Mason have been politicians for over 20 years) and is not any more charismatic than either of his counterparts in the Legislature, but agree or disagree with his politics, Swann is a devout Christian, social justice advocate, and environmentalist who personally practices what he preaches when it comes to what he believes in, and you can't fault him for being genuine (he has also been one of the few MLAs to seriously engage First Nations communities on water safety and oil sands issues in northern Alberta).

As a politically engaged and frustrated Albertan who is looking to become involved in 1) an organization that is serious about engaging and challenging Albertans to be better citizens, and 2) a viable and competitive alternative to the current governing party, I have serious doubts that the Liberal Party fits these descriptions, but seeing engaged citizens like David Swann get involved in elected politics gives me a little bit more hope for democracy in general.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

david swann selected as alberta liberal leader.

The results of the Alberta Liberal leadership contest have been released and David Swann was selected on the first ballot. Here is the vote breakdown:

David Swann - 2,468 (54%)
Dave Taylor - 1,616 (35%)
Mo Elsalhy - 491 (11%)
Congrats to Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann who, depending how you look at it, now has either the privilege or misfortune of becoming leader of the Alberta Liberal Party and Alberta's Official Opposition in our Legislature.

More commentary: Can David Swann change politics in Alberta?

Friday, December 12, 2008

seeing the alberta liberal leadership contest.

In preparation for this weekend's incredibly low-key Alberta Liberal leadership announcement, SEE Magazine covers the contest in this week's issue - including an article from yours truly.

As well-intentioned as Mo Elsalhy, David Swann, and Dave Taylor may be, I believe the low amount of interest in this race says as much about the state of political engagement in Alberta as it does about state of any one party. With voter-turnout having dropped in the 40% range in the last election, it is clear that none of our current politicians or political parties are successfully connecting with Albertans on a meaningful level.

With the three leadership candidates only able to attract 6,000 Albertans to participate by taking out Liberal memberships, it is yet to be seen whether any of these men can successfully transform Alberta's official opposition Liberals into a competitive alternative to the long-governing Progressive Conservative establishment.

I will be posting the results of this race as they are released tomorrow (December 13, 2008) at 2:00 p.m. (first ballot) and 2:30 p.m. (second ballot).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

stephen harper has gone all blagojevich on us!

It's being reported that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is preparing to open a floodgate of Senate appointment before Christmas.

There are 18 vacancies in the 105-seat Senate and Harper will try to fill as many of those slots as quickly as possible in order to put them out of reach of a Liberal-NDP coalition.
Moves like these make it hard to believe that Harper was one of the original Reform Party Members of Parliament, a Party that had the creation of a Triple E Senate as one of its key principals. Though the Conservatives previously introduced moderate Senate Reform legislation, it died when Harper asked the Governor General to dissolve parliament and call the October 14, 2008 election. The 2008 Conservative election platform (pdf) stated that:
...Stephen Harper believe[s] that the current Senate must be either reformed or abolished. An unelected Senate should not be able to block the will of the elected House in the 21st century.
Principals, promises to Canadians (and to God) aside, it would be an understandable political maneuver on Harper's part, as Liberal Senate-appointees currently number 58 to the Conservatives' 20, but it raises some serious questions about what other principals and promises Harper is willing to toss aside in the name of politics. It makes me struggle to see how Harper's power play politics differ from those of former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien, whom some nicknamed the Friendly Dictator.

It's likely the case that many Canadians didn't even notice, but provinces with current Senate vacancies include Newfoundland and Labrador (1), New Brunswick (2), Nova Scotia (3), Prince Edward Island (1), Quebec (4), Ontario (2), Yukon (1), Saskatchewan (1), British Columbia (3).

Will Canadians bare witness to a Chretien- or Pierre Trudeau-style series of appointments? Who would find themselves on Stephen Harper's Christmas Senate wish list? John Reynolds in British Columbia? Michel Fortier or Mario Dumont in Quebec? Doug Finley or Ernie Eves in Ontario? Bernard Lord in New Brunswick? Loyola Hearn in Newfoundland and Labrador? Or will Harper surprise Canadians by appointing a broad range of independent-thinkers with political inclinations?

Or maybe Harper will go super-unconventional and appoint Julie Couillard, Leonard Cohen, Alanis Morissette, Donald Sutherland, and Don Iveson.

In the 21st century, it's hard to believe that an antiquated 19th century institution such as Canada's appointed Senate has succeeded in surviving.

(h/t @davidakin)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Alberta's Public Affairs Bureau and the Office of the Premier have launched a new website "For the Record." The website is meant to correct "mistakes" made by media outlets when reporting about Alberta.

Will this be another exercise in spin that portrays the government as a victim against the the big, bad media, or will it be an honest attempt at correcting information? Discuss.

(h/t ALC Blog)

UPDATE: It looks like this site is off to a great start. As reported by Jeremy Klaszus in Calgary-based FFWD Weekly:

So far, both entries are about the oilsands. The second entry addresses a recent report about the oilsands’ deadly effect on migratory birds, referring to a story about the report in the “Toronto Globe and Mail.” The entry links to a government PDF that assures readers that oilsands operations have “strict environmental requirements, including bird protection, and are required to collect dead birds and report the numbers.”

However, there is no paper called the Toronto Globe and Mail; the publication is a Toronto-based national newspaper called The Globe and Mail.

Despite its insistence on accuracy, the government isn’t admitting its mistake. “It’s the Toronto Globe and Mail — don’t kid yourself,” says Tom Olsen, spokesperson for Premier Ed Stelmach. “We don’t see that as an error. We see The Globe and Mail as the Toronto Globe and Mail.”

Olsen, a former columnist for the Calgary Herald, says the site was created “to get the best factual information to Albertans as possible.”

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

clean coal: this is reality.

How do you compete for public attention against an industry that spends millions of dollars on lobbyists and spin advertising?

Well, this is a good start:

(h/t desmogblog)

while 'crisis' envelops ottawa, canadians have landed in poznan.

As the ongoing political drama in Ottawa continues to unfold with Stéphane Dion's second (and near third) resignation, and Michael Ignatieff’s coup d’parti of the Liberal Party of Canada over Dominic LeBlanc and Bob Rae, there isn't much media attention being paid to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP14) being held in Poznan, Poland.

Representing the Government of Alberta is a delegation led by Environment Minister Rob Renner, who is expected to be joined by Calgary MP and Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice later this week. Also from Alberta, as part of the 26-member Canadian Youth Delegation (CYD), are Pembina Institute Policy Advisor Alex Doukas of Calgary and Christel Hyshka of Edmonton. You can follow CYD updates from Poznan over twitter at @CYDPoznan.

(UPDATE: Edmonton-Strathcona MP and NDP Environment critic Linda Duncan is also part of the Canadian delegation at the Poznan Conference)

Rumour had it that Premier Ed Stelmach might be attending, as it appeared the Government of Alberta had sent a point person to the City of Poznan a full two weeks ahead of the conference to "arrange things for the delegation" (which seems like a lot of effort for Renner).

The debate over CO2 storage and Carbon Capture (CCS) is being reported as a hot topic at the conference. Though the debate surrounds its use in Coal plants and transportation, I wonder if Minister Renner is feeling any heat over the recently released government report concluding that CCS would not be effective in Alberta’s oil sands. Research in CCS technology has focused on coal and transportation emission, contradicting speeches made by Stelmach during his trips across Canada, the United States, and Europe that the $2 billion tax-payer investment in CCS would green the oil sands.

Alberta's oil sands continue to be the fastest-growing source of CO2 in Canada and are set to increase from 5% to 16% of total emissions by 2020 under current expansion plans.

Closer to home, the Oil Sands Tailings Conference 2008 is being held from October 7-10 in Edmonton. For those of you who forgot about northern Alberta's toxic lakes after 500 ducks took a swim earlier this year, the Pembina Institute projects that by 2020, the oil sands will 'create enough tailings ponds to fill 400,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools—that’s a surface area five times that of Sylvan Lake.'

Albertans should also take note of a meeting today between former United States Vice President Al Gore, President-elect Barack Obama, and Vice President-elect Joe Biden to discuss the new administration's environmental agenda. With a new administration in Washington D.C. taking over in January 2009, Albertans should be prepared to embrace the kinds of change in our environmental policy and oil sands extraction practices that may need to happen to adapt to the market realities of new energy and environmental policies south of the border.

Monday, December 08, 2008

time for a little thing called 'reform.'

Putting all of the pro- and anti-coalition rhetoric aside, I am sincerely hoping that the situation in Ottawa over the past two weeks spurns some serious national debate about parliamentary democracy in Canada, and more specifically, the separation of powers in our system of government.

Anyone who pays attention to Canadian politics (both federal and provincial) should have no problem recognizing the political authority held by the executive (cabinet) over the elected legislatures (MPs, MLA, etc). The ability of the Prime Minister to request the Governor General to prorogue Parliament raises some concerning questions about the power that the occupant of Prime Minister's Office holds in our system of parliamentary democracy.

It's not a radical concept that executive should govern at the behest of the elected legislature, not vice-versa, and the executive branch should never have the ability to shut down an entire house of elected representatives; this is undemocratic at the core. Though Prime Minister Stephen Harper was perfectly within his legal right to request the proroguement, this move highlights the critical flaws within our system and political culture that allowed and accepted this move.

Though the proroguing of Parliament will likely create short-term stability in Ottawa, Canadians should be concerned about the long-term repercussions of this move. By requesting the Governor General prorogue parliament, Harper was able to avoid facing an unfavourable vote by our elected representatives in the House of Commons. Will this clear the way for future Prime Ministers or Premiers to effectively shut down the elected legislatures when things aren't going their way? Will it marginalize the already marginalized culture of independent thought and actions in the backbenches of our House of Commons?

This is only one of the ways in which the essence of our parliamentary system needs a complete overhaul, and creating clear separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches -- allowing checks and balances that help keep each branch accountable -- would be an excellent point to begin a national debate.

Last week, a friend (h/t A.A.) sent me an article on this topic from one of the key players in government today. Then President of the National Citizens' Coalition Stephen Harper made a similar argument for government reform in a May 2001 article in the Alberta Report:

Anyway, the question is: how do we fix the system? Over the years we've proposed many solutions: free votes, direct democracy, Senate reform, and on and on. But since no one in Ottawa seems to be listening, Link asked me to come up with a new one.

So how about this: why haven't any of the advocates of so-called "parliamentary reform" suggested that the essence of the parliamentary system itself needs to be fixed? By this I mean disconnecting the executive (cabinet) and legislative branches of government. Maybe what Canada needs is a system that separates the two branches of government along the lines of the American model,

To some, any such suggestion is an attack on Canada's British tradition of parliamentary government. I believe they are mistaken. Indeed, in British history the legislative branch of government evolved as a separate and essential check on the unbridled power of the Crown. The original concept of executive "responsibility" to the legislature was not a complete fusing of the branches because, until at least the early part of the 20th century, the concept of an impotent Crown (if one defines this as not just the monarch, but her wider family and segment of society) was unthinkable.

Just as importantly, it was inconceivable to British voters that members of their legislature (let alone the cabinet) might one day become mere "voting machines" for a single first minister, a man deriving his power from an institution (the party) operating largely outside of Parliament.

Friday, December 05, 2008

oh, canada...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

finally, some common sense.

"I think an awful lot of Canadians will be disappointed in all federal politicians for what's been going on."

NDP MP Peter Stoffer on CBCs The National

photo post: 400 rally for coalition in edmonton.

See more pro-coalition photos on Flickr.

canada: the (pro)rogue state.

If there’s one thing we Canadians can be proud of, it’s how this past week’s situation in Ottawa is being portraying in the international media that matters.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

i'm feeling alienated.

There have been some predictions that the Liberal-NDP coalition supported by the Bloc Quebecois may spurn a resurgent Western separatism movement, but before we start posting Alberta Sheriffs at the Saskatchewan border, I suggest we take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

If you're an Albertan suffering from Ottawa-alienation, you are probably not as alone as you think -- because it's hard to argue that Canadians living from coast to coast aren't feeling the exact same way -- something deeply reflected in the dropping voter turnout and political engagement levels across the country.

I'm not sure I've ever felt particularly represented by any of the parties in Ottawa, but I don't feel this is because I was born and raised in Alberta. The insulated political bubble in which Ottawa's political culture exists draws in politicians from across regional and party-lines, and it will only change when Canadians from across the country begin to take their responsibilities as citizens seriously. More Canadians need to become active citizens and demand more than political maneuvers and spin from their elected representatives, whether they be Conservative, Liberal, NDP, or BQ.

I support progressive politics in Canada, but truth be told, I have about as much trust in Stephane Dion and Jack Layton as I do in Stephen Harper, and that's not much. As I previously wrote, I hope that the long-term silver lining of this situation will help end of the extreme partisanship and negative politics brought to Ottawa by Harper and Tom Flanagan. By playing politics too fast and too loose, Harper’s Conservatives killed any real chance of forming positive working relationships with the three other parties. By the time the Conservatives backtracked on the more unpopular moves, it had become unreasonable to believe that the other parties in the House of Commons could still work with a political party that publicly held their eradication at the core of its political, and apparently legislative, agenda.

Finally, I thought that Chris Labossiere at A Rich Full Life presented some pretty thoughtful points about his frustrations with Canadian parliamentary culture (and I agree):

“I don't know enough about a Parliamentary Democracy to debate the nuances, but what I do know is that it punishes moderate, progressive thinking. We buy the nonsense that we must vote along party lines. Firstly at our riding level, but our whole system actually chastises MP's & MLA's who deviate from the party line. The whole system is set to punish those who may want to walk their own talk. Unlike the American system, where a party faithful can object to the party line for their constituents, we never let that happen. How can the shining stars ever rise out of the mix to make a name for themselves if they have to pretend to believe that everything their party believes in is gospel. The moderates are lost in the fray. The visionaries threaten the status-quo and for that they must be punished. Most great ones simply don't bother, and continue to be great in their industry, profession or calling."

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

#coalition versus #canadarally via twitter.

Like many online Canadians, I've been following the political drama as it unfolds in Ottawa through the near instant information updates and conversations on twitter (and was surprised to see one of my twitter updates flash across the screen for 3 seconds on last night's the National on CBC). Mack at Mastermaq has written a great post on twitter and the hashtags being used by politically engaged twitter users this week.

Initially used by Conservative Party/Rally for Canada supporters, it has been interesting to watch the #canadarally hashtag be slowly co-opted by supporters of the Liberal-NDP coalition, who have generally been using the #coalition and #libndp hashtags. It's a fascinating example of how the organic nature of social networking sites like twitter enforce their own version of online citizen democracy.

Also, Mike Soron has shared some thoughts on the newly sprung political websites like and the aforementioned Rally for Canada website.

UPDATE: coldacid dot net and the Blog According to Buzz have some interesting thoughts on twitter being used in the current political situation.

liberal-ndp jets and conservative sharks rally in edmonton.

Support a Coalition Government!
Edmonton Rally: Thursday, December 4th, 6:00 p.m.
1 Sir Winston Churchill Square.

When: Thursday, December 4th, 1:00 p.m.
Where: 10806 119 St: NDP Riding Association Office

With two opposing rallies happening on the same day, I can only imagine that the streets of Edmonton will look something like this on Thursday afternoon...

For the first time in my life, I am truly scared for the future of entertained by Canadian democracy.

Monday, December 01, 2008

invite moderate conservatives into the coalition cabinet.

As the only non-Conservative MP elected in the province of Alberta, there is a chance that newly elected Edmonton-Strathcona representative Linda Duncan could soon find herself sitting at a coalition cabinet table. But with only a handful of MPs from Western Canada, the Liberals and NDP won’t have a large variety of choice in handing out cabinet posts west of the Manitoba-Ontario border.

CalgaryGrit is predicting Winnipeg MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Vancouver MP Libby Davies, and Duncan as likely Western Canadian NDP MPs in the coalition cabinet, and I would suggest that Western Liberals could include Saskatchewan MP Ralph Goodale, and BC MPs Ujjal Dosanjh, Keith Martin, and Joyce Murray.

But with such little representation in Western Canada (and rural Ontario), building a broad parliamentary coalition by inviting moderate Conservative MPs to join the cabinet would send a strong signal to Canadians that the extreme partisanship and negative politics of Stephen Harper and Tom Flanagan are the politics of the past.

Perhaps it may be unlikely in this heated political climate, but smart moderate Tories like James Rajotte, Lisa Raitt, and James Moore could excel while working in cooperation with fellow cabinet ministers from other parties. Bringing Conservative MPs into a coalition cabinet could also serve to breakdown the tense partisan divisions between the Conservatives and the opposition parties in Parliament.

In the face of the 'Collapse of Global Capitalism*' a united 'Grand Coalition' including MPs from all parties would show Canadians that not only are our elected representatives able to put aside partisan differences aside, but that they can actually work together.

*h/t DW

let's not forget our basic mathematics.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind Canadians of a silly little thing called math:

Seats in the House of Commons
Conservative: 143
Liberal + NDP: 114
Bloc Quebecois: 49
Independent: 2
The political spin is thick as egg nog this holiday season, but the mathematical reality remains that both the Conservatives and the Liberal-NDP coalition are going to need to depend on the Bloc Quebecois if they wish to survive in this Parliament.