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Thursday, February 26, 2009

community league opposition to edmonton ward changes.

David Dodge, President of the Evansdale Community League in north Edmonton has penned a letter to the Mayor Stephen Mandel and City Council in support of the current two Councillor per Ward system. City Council recently held public hearings on proposed changes that would see Edmonton move from the two Councillor per Ward to a one Councillor per Ward system (with smaller Wards).

Councillors Ben Henderson and Ron Hayter faced off on the topic of Ward changes in this week's Edmonton Examiner.

central alberta a hotbed of political revolution.

Central Alberta is becoming a hotbed of political attention this week. Yesterday, Green Party Deputy Leader Edwin Erickson released a statement declaring his departure from the Greens to help build the Alberta Progress Party. In 2008, Erickson was the Green candidate in the central Alberta riding of Drayton Valley-Calmar, where he placed second with 19% of the vote against PC MLA Diana McQueen. Erickson will be on CBC Edmonton's Radioactive (740AM) at 4:10pm today explaining his move. (h/t AGRDT)

This weekend, the Alberta NDP will be holding a revitalization conference in the central Alberta city of Red Deer. Though "revitalization" may not be the most accurate description, as it's probably a stretch to say that the NDP have ever actually been 'vitalized' in central Alberta, it does show an understanding of something the Federal Liberals are missing.

It's unlikely the NDP will be electing swaths of MLAs and MPs in rural Alberta anytime soon, but in the short-term, this is a clear strategy for any party wanting to build a base and increase the funds it receives through the federal campaign finance system (even if this strategy only increases the NDP vote by 1,000 votes in every riding in rural Alberta, it would still be a worthwhile investment of resources for that party). The NDP haven't elected an MLA in rural Alberta since 1989.

Speaking at the event will be MP Linda Duncan, MLAs Brian Mason and Rachel Notley, and Nova Scotia NDP organization Matt Hebb.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

alberta green goes progress.

Following up on Trevor Scott Howell's piece at the Weekly Albertan on the new Green Party Executive's push to change the party name to the 'Alberta Progress Party,' Trish Audette posted a media release from Green Deputy Leader Edwin Erickson. In the 2008 provincial election, Erickson placed second with 19% of the vote in Drayton Valley-Calmar, but now he's leaving the Greens to help form the Alberta Progress Party.

Here's the release:

Alberta Green Party Deputy Leader Leaves to Start New Party

BUCK LAKE, AB- February 25, 2009 – “Over the strong objections from the newly elected leader Joe Anglin and party executive, I have tendered my resignation as deputy leader from the Green Party of Alberta and withdrew my membership in the Alberta Greens today.”

“I have very high regard for Joe Anglin and the new executive. This group has both the capacity and the ambition to really get things done, and that is something that has certainly been lacking in the past. In fact, I would have resigned last year, if it hadn’t been for Anglin’s insistent encouragement that I stay on and help “fix the Green party”. Even after the ridiculous outcome of the September 27 AGM, I stayed on, hoping to help clean up old baggage and move forward.”

“But, the situation only seems to get worse. Aside from continued attempts by members of the old guard to undermine the new leadership, it has now come to my attention that important financial information from last year has been either withheld or is not made available, making it impossible for the new executive to file a year-end report. To make matters even worse, and I state this without prejudice, it looks as though certain members of the former party executive may have self-approved illegal loans to the Party, in what can only be viewed as an attempt to profit from tax-deductible donations intended for the party.”

“It is now totally obvious to me that there is no political future with the Alberta Greens – I think it’s a ship that’s about to capsize. I admire the efforts of Anglin and the new executive to patch things up, but I’ve had enough. ”

“I have argued since last spring that this province needs a strong centrist party that can truly be an effective and electable political force, one that is prepared to serve the interest of Albertans. I don’t believe we’ve had a government in this province that gave a damn about Albertans since the early days of Peter Lougheed. I’m leaving the Alberta Greens in order to lead the effort to register a new political party called the Alberta Progress Party. I am now in the process of organizing the collection of signatures as required by Elections Alberta and in the recruitment of new members. I intend to do everything in my power to bring members from various political backgrounds into the fold, people who truly want to make a positive political change in this province."


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

opposition grills alison redford on lorne gibson dismissal.

Opposition Liberal MLAs Kevin Taft, Kent Hehr, and Hugh MacDonald grill PC Justice Minister Alison Redford on the firing of Chief Returning Officer Lorne Gibson and the continuing Election 2008 fiasco in this video clip of Question Period in the Alberta Legislature.

AGRDT has a solid run down of the commentary on Gibson's dismissal.

(h/t to MarvinMouse for the Youtube link)

auditor general investigating highwood communications.

Alberta's Auditor General has finally begun an investigation into the Highwood Communications affair.

After receiving $41.3 million in exclusive government contracts over a 10 year period, Highwood left $5.3 million in unpaid bills and applied for bankruptcy protection before closing its doors last November. At the same time Highwood was receiving these government contracts, its owner, Barry Styles, was a key player in Progressive Conservative election campaigns.

Since the early 1990s, Styles was involved in the election campaigns of former Premier Ralph Klein, and most recently Ed Stelmach's election campaign in March 2008. The day before the Auditor General's announced his intentions to investigate, Klein defended Highwood, stating that the government should "stay out of it and let the private sector deal with it."

In October 2008, Simon Kiss wrote a thoughtful explanation of precisely what happened in a guest post that summarizes the history of Highwood and its connections to the governing PCs. He has followed up on the recent news on his blog.

Monday, February 23, 2009

alberta's oil sands make national geographic.

- The March 2009 edition of National Geographic has a feature on Alberta's Oil Sands.

- Jason Morris has shared his thoughts on why he has joined some of the political conversations that have been happening in Alberta. Jason has been involved in some of the same conversations I've previously written about.

- Don Braid argues that the Lorne Gibson firing proves democracy cannot be trusted to politicians.

- Trevor Scott Howell has written a piece on how the new executive of the Alberta Greens have been courting a name change to the Alberta Progress Party.

- For all you fans of the Rodeo motion, please give a warm welcome to Linda Duncan's National Hockey Day and Carl "Northern Roughstem" Benito's 'official Mushroom of Alberta' motions.

- From the Wall Street Journal:

President Barack Obama's climate czar Carol Browner said that the Environmental Protection Agency 'will soon determine that carbon-dioxide emissions represent a danger to the public and propose new rules to regulate emissions of the greenhouse gas from a range of industries.'

Sunday, February 22, 2009

vancouver's 2010 winter olympic elephant.

Having spent the last week in beautiful British Columbia (well, Burnaby and Vancouver), I’ve really come to appreciate the size of the upcoming 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. At times, it felt as if I couldn’t walk a block in downtown Vancouver without seeing an Olympic logo, or a display of Quatchi, Miga, and Sumi peering through a storefront window or from a billboard perch. While it's exciting that British Colombians and Canadians are hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, I’m torn on how I feel about the games.

1) Is $6 billion for a one-time event a giant misuse of resources? The Olympics cost a lot of money, and with funding also coming from the Federal Government, it is clear that all Canadians will be paying a share of the Olympic sized-costs (including almost a billion dollars for security costs -- which equals the amount of Alberta's 2009 Budget Deficit). Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is also worried that Vancouver will be saddled with even more Olympic costs as the city struggles to deal with an increase in gang violence.

These kind of costs strengthen the argument for the creation of two permanent Olympic host cities that would host the games and infrastructure every four years (one each for the Winter and Summer games).

2) An Olympic-sized economic cocoon. There is a strong argument that the Olympic-related construction and investment in Vancouver has temporarily cocooned much of the Lower Mainland from the economic recession that has hit most of North America. Though this may be temporary, it’s hard to argue that the 2010 games aren’t providing a lot of people with jobs this year.

3) I actually enjoy the Winter Olympics. I offered some heavy criticism of the previous Olympic Games, but unlike the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, which were hosted in the free speech loving People's Republic of China (severe sarcasm alert!), cyber-dissidents like myself have yet to be rounded up for offering criticisms of our glorious governing leaders.

4) The politics of the Vancouver Olympics are fascinating. Depending on the results of the May 12, 2009 BC Provincial election, the Premier of British Columbia in 2010 could be a cheerleader or a critic of the Games. In the spirit of partisan maneuvering, BC Liberal Finance Minister Colin Hansen has already begun to point out the nightmares that may become a reality if NDP leader Carole James becomes Premier later this year. The games will be happening no matter who is sitting behind the Premier's desk, but it would surely be a lot less awkward if they were supportive.

Friday, February 20, 2009

on never putting alberta back into a deficit position.

Ed Stelmach (February 23, 2008): “A Progressive Conservative government will never put Alberta back into a deficit position”
Send your letter today.

johnsrude moving on.

News out of the Annex this morning is that Official Opposition Communications Director Larry Johnsrude's contract is not being renewed under new Liberal leader David Swann. Though it's normal to see changes in key staff when a new leader takes the helm, I wouldn't blame Johnsrude for wanting to move on. Handling communications for a rag-tag 9 MLA Opposition caucus likely isn't the most rewarding job when the competition is a 72 MLA behemoth with a massive communications budget.

Johnsrude left the Edmonton Journal to join the Official Opposition caucus in 2007 after working for 30 years in the newspaper business.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

energy resources conservation board in bed with petro-canada?

Well, we don't know if that is the literal case, but only two years after Alberta's public energy regulator was caught hiring private investigators to spy on Alberta landowners and their lawyers, another hearing has been halted...

CALGARY, Alberta, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Alberta regulators suspended a hearing on Thursday on a controversial plan by Petro-Canada (PCA.TO) to drill sour gas wells in southern Alberta after one of its workers began a personal relationship with one of the oil company's employees.
(h/t abraaten)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

damn it all, ron liepert.

I wasn't so surprised to learn about this quote from Ron Liepert, but I was a little surprised to learn about this ad from the Friends of Medicare in the Calgary Herald today. Any thoughts on it's effectiveness? (or Ron Liepert's effectiveness for that matter...?)

(h/t @michaeljanz)

(UPDATE: The ad will be running in the Herald tomorrow. h/t Jason Fekete)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

welcome to 1990, rob renner.

Alberta's Environment Minister Rob Renner (at least partly and possibly) steps in line with 1990s thinking on climate change:

"I'm of the opinion (human activity is) at least partly responsible and possibly mostly responsible for climate change."

let's see some ward reform in edmonton.

Edmonton City Council will be holding a public hearing this afternoon about whether the time has come to change the current six Ward/two Councillor system to a Twelve Wards/One Councillor system. Though the Edmonton Journal framed the decision as a fait accompli late last year, this isn't the first time the idea has been debated by Council.

As Edmonton is one of the last of Canada's larger urban municipalities to still be using the two Councillors per Ward system, I think the time to change the system has come. With each Ward holding over 100,000 citizens, creating smaller and more manageable Wards will make it much easier for Councillors to represent the interests of Edmontonians in City Hall.

The public hearing is set to begin at 1:30pm in Council Chamber, second floor City Hall. To register to speak, call the Office of the City Clerk at 780-496-8176 or register online.

UPDATE: Council is moving ahead with plans for a 12 Ward system...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

space command alberta swtiches into high gear.

Just another day for the brave men and woman defending our skies from foreign threats...

Norad alerted officials in Ottawa, who in turn got in touch with emergency officials in Alberta.

Colin Lloyd, executive director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, said they set up an emergency command centre and alerted the premier.

Lloyd said a public warning notice was about to be sent out at 10:46 a.m.

"As one of our staff was about to press the button to launch the message that would go out to members of the public alerting them of the event, we received notification from the government operations centre in Ottawa that in fact the debris had … sheared off [in] the atmosphere and was now actually in the Atlantic Ocean."

Lloyd said it was a morning at work that he won't forget.

UPDATE: When I first heard of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, I couldn't help but think of another emergency management agency...

Friday, February 13, 2009

the answer is blowing in the wind.

I was surprised to see my name once again grace the glorious pages of the Calgary Herald last week. When I was first named as a member of a secret political conspiracy group in the Herald a month ago, I didn't believe the story was worth responding to on this blog, but as my name showed up again last week, I thought I'd provide my readers with a little insight into what I've been up to.

Since the March 2008 election, I have been involved in many political discussions and debates with a group of friends and colleagues about the best ways to achieve a more democratic, responsible, and sustainable Alberta. One of my goals is to find an effective way to help build a better Alberta by contributing to positive meaningful change for Albertans who aren't being well served by the current government.

As seen by the Herald story, even the mention of starting a new political movement can generate a lot of interest, and that's great, because there's no reason why political discussions in Alberta should be limited to the traditional political parties.

Will a new political movement be created? At this point, it has yet to go beyond the stage of conversation, but you can sure bet that you will read about it again if one does.

I have been a little shocked at the way these casual chats have been blown out of proportion, as I've had countless conversations (generally over coffee or beer) with different people across and outside of party-lines over the past year. Their political bents vary, but they have one thing in common, they are passionate accomplished Albertans who are hungry for something better, but don't see any of the current political parties as vehicles to create positive change.

If you're an Albertan interested in meeting me for a coffee and conversation about creating meaningful positive change in this province, send me an email at

And remember, everything is up for debate, and I like coffee (and beer).

Thursday, February 12, 2009

pastoor ponders joining pc caucus?

According to Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid, Lethbridge-East Liberal MLA Bridget Pastoor is considering crossing the floor to the PCs. Braid quoted Pastoor as saying:

"I think things are in flux and we need some major changes in this province. We need democratic reform, whichever side of the house it comes from."
I agree with this statement, but with a 72 MLAs, I have a difficult time believing that even a moderate democratic reform measure could pass through the institutional inertia of PC caucus. Ask Ken Allred.

UPDATE: A quote from Pastoor in a Liberal news release today:
"I will not cross the floor. I support Dr. Swann’s commitment to democratic reform."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

show me a throne speech that isn't long on promises and short on details.

- Alberta's Throne Speech 2009. Long on promises, short on details, as Throne Speeches always are. Check out David Climenhaga's take.

- Preston Manning is in today's Globe & Mail calling for a sustainable energy security strategy for North America.

- has been launched to raise awareness of the environmentally damaging effects of the oil sands before President Barack Obama's 5 hour Ottawa visit with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on February 19.

- Edmonton's Twestival hit the front page of the Edmonton Journal this morning.

- In a recent poll, new Federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was viewed more positively than negatively in every province except Alberta across all age and gender groups.

- More evidence of the continued implosion of the CanWest media empire. I was sad to hear that the Calgary Herald will be letting go many of its freelance writers, including political writer Les Brost.

- There's some interesting ongoing debate on the state of Liberal politics in Alberta in one of my previous posts.

Monday, February 09, 2009

alberta export running in bc election.

Former Albertan Michelle Mungall has been nominated to run for the NDP in Nelson-Creston in the May 2009 British Columbia Provincial Election. Mungall carried the NDP banner during the 2001 Alberta provincial election in St. Albert, placing third behind PC MLA Mary O'Neill and former Liberal MLA Len Bracko. Mungall later moved to BC and was elected to Nelson City Council.

Mungall won the NDP nomination to replace retiring NDP MLA Corky Evans.

state of the liberal party 'brand' in alberta.

Two news articles caught my eye this weekend:

- Jeremy Loome had an interesting column in the Edmonton Sun this weekend on the state of the Liberal Party brand in Alberta.

Loome raised an excellent point about former Liberal leader and Edmonton Mayor Laurence Decore. As much as many die-hard Liberals continue to believe that Decore is an example of how their party has been successful in Alberta, many of them seem to have a hard time recollecting that even Decore wasn't able to lead the Liberals to victory against the PCs. I understand that many long-time Liberals feel a personal connection to the Liberal Party of 1993, but it's not hard to argue that the electoral gains made that year had more to do with Decore's personal brand and his political connections than any party label.

- Decore-era Liberal Alex MacDonald was quoted in the Calgary Herald this weekend arguing that the Alberta Liberal Party is now in a better position than it was when Decore became its leader in 1988.

Having no personal experience with the Liberal Party of 1988, I can't say that this isn't the truth, but the political environment that exists today makes it difficult for me to believe that the Liberal Party of 2009 could attract the high profile leadership material like Decore.

MacDonald continued to argue that "[w]ith the right leader, and with the right strategy, and with enough support from people around the leader and in the party, it's very possible for a great deal of momentum to be created from a base of not very much."

'If everything were different, things would be different' is a hard argument to counter.

I have a lot of personal respect for current Liberal leader David Swann, but the cultural state of that political party has led me to step away from the Liberal Party and focus my energies elsewhere. With the recent news that the Liberals will be abandoning their 124th Street Edmonton Headquarters because of financial reasons, I am having an even more difficult time being convinced that the Liberal Party of 2012 will be in a position to present itself as the viable alternative that it did in 1993.

Clarification: I received an email from the Alberta Liberal Party this afternoon:

At this time there has been no decision made on the state of the “124th street headquarters,” our lease is coming up and we are in discussions with the landlord and looking at other options as well for less space for less money. We might end up moving as you state or we might not, no decision has been made.

Friday, February 06, 2009

winter 2008 pre-session primer.

With the Second Session of the 27th Alberta Legislature set to begin next week, here are a couple things that will be on my radar:

Throne Speech
: Having attended five out of the past six Speeches from the Throne, I'm having a difficult time raising my expectations this year. No matter what is read, PC MLAs will roar, Opposition Liberals and NDP will oppose, but in the end, everyone will still love Norman Kwong.

Provincial Budget: Expected in March/April, this will be the first provincial deficit budget that Alberta has seen in over a decade. After sending out mixed signals, it looks like dipping into the Sustainability Fund will provide short-term protection to Premier Ed Stelmach and Finance Minister Iris Evans from being lynched by the rabid fiscal conservatives in the PC caucus. Are the days of the Deep Six long gone?

Health Care: Health Minister Ron Liepert will be in the spotlight over restructuring, layoffs, and the daily delisting and (un)delisting of services. Focus will be on Liepert, but I will be keeping an eye on his Parliamentary Deputy, Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman, says or doesn't say on the issue of privatization during this session.

New Official Opposition Leader: Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann will lead the Official Opposition into his first Legislative Session as leader. Can he lead the rag-tag Liberal Caucus as a cohesive unit? Pay attention to what Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor does in this session.

: Stelmach has invited President Barack Obama to visit Alberta's Oil Sands, but this isn't about oil, this is all about Climate Change. The PCs are clearly concerned that Obama's Climate Change agenda could force the traditional oil industry to clean up its act. It's a market, and if the consumers (the United States) change their standards, it's up to the producer (the oil companies) to either adapt or perish. It's not hard to see what direction the energy market is moving towards when large energy companies, such as BP, continue to move resources into renewable energy projects in the United States. Albertans have a unique opportunity to become leaders in innovation in new cleaner energy markets, but as long as our leaders continue to focus on the old economy, we risk being left behind.

Land-Use Framework: Sustainable Resource Development Minister Ted Morton has the job of navigating his proposed land-use framework through the minefield that is the Alberta Legislature, and more specifically, the PC caucus. This is a very important step for Alberta, so critical debate and public attention towards this issue will be important.

Respect: Swann wants to tone down the rhetoric and dramatics in the Legislative Assembly, but it will take more than nice wishes to change an entrenched political culture. Without a joint statement between Swann and Stelmach, it is likely that it won't become anything more than a nice idea. Bets on how long it take for Stelmach to accuse Swann of being a communist?

Post-Secondary Learning Amendment Act
: Advanced Ed & Tech Minister Doug Horner will introduce amendments to the PSL Act that will pave the way for Mount Royal College and Grant MacEwan College to become Mount Royal University and Grant MacEwan University. Last week, representatives from the AUCC were spotted at Mount Royal assessing the transition.

Bill 201. Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr will be introducing Bill 201: Traffic Safety (Seizure of Vehicles Containing Illegally Held Firearms) Act.

Lobbyist Registry. After years of promising to create a Provincial Lobbyist Registry, is there a chance that we might actually see some concrete movement this spring? (fingers crossed...)

being lorne gibson.

After a rough couple years as Alberta's Chief Electoral Officer, it remains to be seen whether Lorne Gibson's will continue to hold the position when his contract comes up for renewal in March 2009.

During the 2008 Provincial election, the impartiality of the electoral process came under question when it was discovered that a large number of local Returning Officers had strong links to the governing PC Party. In 2006, Gibson submitted a long list of recommendations to the Legislative Assembly to change how elections are organized by giving more authority to the non-partisan elections office and he recently called for a revamping of Alberta's financial disclosure rules.

Word on the street is that Gibson will soon be inviting each of Alberta's registered political parties to appoint two representatives to a committee that will be charged with comprehensively reviewing Alberta's elections processes from their standpoint.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

b.c. has deficit accountability.

As far as I know, Alberta's anti-deficit law, the Fiscal Responsibility Act, has no accountability enforcement mechanism, so I was surprised to learn that British Columbia's Balanced Budget and Ministerial Accountability Act does:

...cabinet ministers and Premier will still lose 10 per cent of their ministerial salaries, the penalty prescribed by the balanced-budget law. For the Premier, that's roughly $9,000 of his salary next year, while his cabinet ministers will pay a penalty of about $5,000. (Globe & Mail)

Both Alberta and BC are set to run deficit budgets (although Alberta will be running a 'technical deficit' while dipping into the province's Sustainability Fund).

I should also note that I have a hard time believing Alberta's anti-deficit laws are much more than legislated political spin (and even more so if there is no accountability mechanism).

Monday, February 02, 2009

alberta's democratic renewal project.

A group of New Democrats, Liberals, and Greens supporters uniting under the banner of the Alberta's Democratic Renewal Project have launched their website. I haven't been involved in this group, but a friend who has described it as being focused on uniting Liberals, New Democratic Party, Greens, and Independents to create an alternative coalition to the ruling PCs.

Being involved in Alberta politics can be pretty disheartening, frustrating, and alienating if you're not a member of the Progressive Conservative or Conservative parties, but I am easily refreshed when I see politically engaged Albertans looking beyond traditional party stripes to engage each other in dialogue about Alberta's future.

imagine reading the news on your computer.

(h/t BoingBoing)

Also, here's a great CBC news piece on 'internet' from 1993.

decorum and respect.

As a good friend put it, this would mean something if it were in a joint statement, or publicly agreed upon by the Speaker of the Assembly.

It was not, and will therefore be easily brushed aside.