A victory for accountability and transparency in Calgary!

civiccamp

Personally I think partisan politics are a good thing in general for a number of reasons.

Many people think that partisan politics is a bad thing. I think that most can agree though that what is even worse than a political party in a partisan system is a hidden political party in a system that is expected to be non partisan. That is what the initial incarnation of the now defunct CivicCamp group was.

It was recently reported that CivicCamp has disbanded. That isn’t exactly true as the legally registered CivicCamp still exists and it was formed over a year ago.

What has happened is that the group that used to run Naheed Nenshi’s personal political party that wasn’t a political party have given up on the name that they purposely refused to register in order to dodge accountability.

Nenshi and some supporters formed CivicCamp prior to the 2010 civic election in Calgary. There are many advantages to having an organization of people focused on common policy goals trying to get a person elected. Without a formal party system in municipal politics however, the ever canny Nenshi formed CivicCamp which claimed to be non-partisan when it was clearly anything but.

The organization was purposely formed without being legally registered anywhere. This meant that the key people involved and the means of funding never had to be disclosed publically. That avoided the clearly sticky questions that would have come about if folks realized that this apparently non-partisan group was almost exclusively populated by Naheed Nenshi’s supporters. Official campaign financing has some pretty strict rules as well. With a group that isn’t a group however, finance questions could be dodged.

Let’s be clear. CivicCamp was a political party. “A political party is an organization of people which seeks to achieve goals common to its members through the acquisition and exercise of political power.”

After the 2010 election CivicCamp became a useful tool in promoting Nenshi’s policy initiatives and ideals to a divided council. Again, no disclosure was given on who ran this group or who funded it despite their making formal presentations to council and providing input on committee. Rather nifty politics.

In the 2013 CivicCamp went back into campaign mode. This is where the line really was crossed as this group that wasn’t a group somehow secured financing from the Calgary Foundation and then proceeded to go into full campaign mode for Nenshi and his chosen council members (an informal council political party).

While refusing to disclose their own financing until late into the election, the CivicCamp group hypocritically, selectively and relentlessly harangued candidates who were not a part of Nenshi’s slate by demanding that these candidates disclose their finances earlier than the legally required disclosure date. In one circumstance one of the CivicCamp gang even camped outside of the campaign office of one of the candidates. They were conspicuously silent on the disclosures of the Nenshi slate however even though some of them were pretty slow in releasing their backers too.

In a political move worthy of Frank Underwood, the CivicCamp group assumed control of all of the forums for mayoral and council candidates. Organizing forums is a tough and thankless task so when a group of folks raised their hands and offered to take on the task, alas few took issue with it.

In election forums, people can usually ask questions from the floor. This allows ground level concerns and issues to be presented directly to candidates and we can watch the unvarnished responses and answers from the contenders for the electoral spots. CivicCamp would have none of this however. What they did was “crowd source” among their supporters and created a set of ranked questions that would be presented to the candidates. Unsurprisingly the questions came out looking as if Naheed Nenshi’s mother (or likely his sister) wrote them. While tax increases polled high on the list of concerns of most Calgarians, somehow it didn’t even make the list of CivicCamp softballs for Nenshi. It was simply brutal and took away the whole point of open forums.

In one of the forums, Brian Pincott (hard left councillor and part of the Nenshi slate) didn’t like the moderator and complained. The CivicCamp group quickly obliged and replaced the moderator with one to Pincott’s liking of course.

Having watched this display I simply couldn’t stomach it any longer. I did a NUANS search and then formally formed and registered CivicCamp as a non-profit society. The initial group’s careful efforts to conceal themselves left them wide open for me to do so. Had they simply spent $80 and filled out a form they could have prevented that but of course that would have meant practicing the accountability and transparency that they tried to demand of some candidates in the election.

While the disbanded group is claiming that they are simply moving along because they have accomplished so much (sounds like Danielle Smith) The reality is that they simply cant do anything any longer now that I own the name. I even offered to give them the name and registration if they wanted to make things open and formal. They refused the offer which is rather telling.

To be clear here, many if not most of the people involved in that CivicCamp group were well meaning. These were not people trying to harm the city and they were volunteers. It is not like they were pocketing funds. Despite those intentions, they still were participating in an astroturfing effort that masked what was essentially a political party. I could not abide by that any longer.

There is nothing and there was nothing stopping this group from forming and operating as a registered non profit society. They just have to embrace accountability and transparency. As long as they refuse to do so though, I can hardly feel badly that their club just cant hold itself together.

Practicing accountability and transparency is more difficult than demanding others do so. It sure ads credibility when one practices these things as well as preaches them.

I do hope that the folks behind the initial CivicCamp group have learned from this.

 

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In a future not so far away….

In light of folks from the Pope to Muslim groups in Saskatoon calling for the illegalization of religious critique this little video is well timed.

We cant let free speech be impeded even in little increments no matter who may yowl that they are offended. People really need to get over themselves.

A short video well worth a watch on what the future may indeed be like if we keep caving to the chronically offended.

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Supply management. An economic anvil on the necks of Canadians.

eggs

Supply management in agriculture is a policy in Canada that is harming consumers and producers from coast to coast. It is hard to believe that we maintain an economic policy that is so detrimental to Canadians as a whole. Part of the issue is that most Canadians don’t even know that such a policy even exists and I suspect if most people realized that they are paying hundreds of dollars a year due to this market control system that they would happily support dumping this primitive policy.

There are nothing but benefits to be seen for Canadians if we get rid of our supply management policies. People will spend less on food essentials and have more opportunity to eat healthier while Canadian producers will be able to expand our export markets and diversify our economy.

Supply management is a socialist market control policy that allows government to micromanage supplies of dairy, eggs and poultry products through a system of quotas and tariffs. This protects a small number of producers who have production quotas thus forcing higher prices on consumers. A dairy producer pays roughly $28,000 for the right to keep one dairy cow. That means a herd of 70 (not terribly large) has a quota value of $2 million. That price is of course forwarded to consumers. Quotas are restricted and it literally is illegal to produce milk, eggs or chickens over a certain number without a quota.

The waste from this system is brutal too. My wife grew up on a small dairy farm for example. Her father had a quota to sell a certain amount of cream but was not allowed to sell milk. The cows were milked and the cream separated and sold. The remaining milk that was not consumed by the household was literally dumped. It would have been illegal to sell it. Sounds rather Soviet doesn’t it? These sorts of examples abound in all supply managed industries and we are all paying dearly for it.

In dairy alone families pay an extra $276 per year due to supply management. When chicken and eggs are taken into account, families are spending nearly $500 per year for these policies. These are premiums paid on staple food items. If families paid regular (much lower) market cost for these items, they would be more encouraged to purchase them of course meaning a likelihood of less processed and unhealthy foods being in the cupboards.

In Canada we actually had organized crime participating in cheese smuggling because our cheese costs so much more in Canada than right across the border in the United States. This sounds like a comedy but it really is happening. When supply of an item in demand is restricted by government, smuggling is always soon to follow.

Some people lamely try to claim that these market controls protect the family farm which is utterly untrue. Supply management has actually wiped out small farms and led to larger factory style production as only large companies can afford to operate under our quota system. From 1971 to 2011 the number of dairy farms in Canada dropped by 91%! This trend has happened in poultry and egg industries too. So much for the family farm.

Market diversification and creative production is stifled by these horrible policies. Free range chickens are much in demand by consumers. Nobody is allowed to produce more than 300 chickens without a quota however which is not enough to live on while a quota application could take years and may never be granted. Quotas are usually in the range of 70,000 or more birds too which hardly helps a small producer. How does one get started in this foolish system? The same applies to eggs.

Small farms making specialty cheeses or types of milk are nearly impossible. I remember a story of a small ice cream producer in Ontario being shut down because the cream costs were simply too damn high. How many other small to medium sized enterprises are we missing out on because of supply management?

Our policies are costing us billions in lost exports as well according to one report. Tariffs and quotas get our producers barred from foreign markets thus costing us countless jobs and tax revenue. Our outdated policies have been a sticking point in many trade negotiations with other nations too so we are losing on import and export opportunities that range outside of supply managed products due to these disputes.

Supply management is a losing policy that costs us all and only benefits a tiny number of people who hold those precious quotas. Most nations on Earth have moved away from supply management policies and have seen nothing but benefits in doing so. New Zealand is now known as “the Saudi Arabia of milk” now that they rid themselves of their supply management and let their economy develop and expand. With the size of our nation with so much viable farmland, we really are missing out on huge opportunities here.

Rarely is a single policy ever doing so much damage. People fight back and forth about the merit of cutting taxes to put more money back in the pockets of consumers. Well, if we got rid of supply management we would put billions of dollars back in the pockets of consumers and it would not cost the government a cent.

The protected dairy, egg and cheese producers are price fixing in a way that would be illegal if any other industry tried it. They are a strong lobby and are essentially racketeers sliding under the radar of public perception. Government hides from the issue for fear of angering the producers with quotas while all consumers and most producers pay the price.

We need to inform the public of the price they are paying for these idiotic policies and then have government repeal them. There is nothing but benefit to us all in doing so. As far as I can tell only the Libertarian Party of Canada is promoting such a repeal.  We need common sense and open markets and neither Harper nor Trudeau appear prepared to give them to us.

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Religion and culture are not the same as race.

rageboy

As the world is rocked yet again by barbaric violent acts perpetuated by Islamic extremists, the Western appeasers appear like flies to wring their hands and demand that people not condemn Islam. When these timorous twits find themselves cornered in debate by the simple hard fact that Islam is the most violent, intolerant and troublesome major religion on the planet as is demonstrated by a plethora of Islamic dictatorships and theocracies that violate every human right imaginable, who are constantly at war with their neighbors (and factions within their own nations) and who spawn, train and sponsor murderous lunatics that commit acts of terror throughout the world the callow apologists will invariably scream RACIST in hopes of quelling discussion of these facts.

This concept appears so simple yet somehow is utterly lost among the politically correct. The word that clearly defines the difference between race and religion and culture is CHOICE! Anti-freedom types loathe choice of any type of course so I guess I can sort of understand how they are confused.

I cannot choose to be another race. I could aspire or wish to become another race I guess but I simply can’t change the reality of which race I was born to be. Michael Jackson proved that with almost bottomless resources, one still can’t change their race. That is why racism is so odious. How can you condemn somebody for a reality that they had and have no choice in? Racism is ridiculous, divisive and repugnant and is worthy of social condemnation.

Religion and culture are choices. I can choose and convert to any religion I like at any time. I can choose to practice any cultural thing I like as well. Because of this reality, I should be open to all and any critique of my choices in these regards and I sure as hell maintain my right to be critical and even insulting of the religious and cultural choices of others.

I am allowed to point out that the cultural practice of mutilating the genitalia of little girls and then trading them off like cattle in arranged marriages is a disgusting and unacceptable practice. I am allowed to point out that stoning women to death for their having been raped or whipping people to death for their being gay is vulgar and that the world must not accept this. I have every right to point out how forcing women to cover themselves and banning them from such simple things as driving and education is a stone-aged bullshit practice. The most important right that I have is in being able point out that all of these cultural practices and facilitated and justified by claims of being adherent to Islam.

I have no use for any religion personally. I can and will pick and choose however which ones I find to be the most destructive and repellent. I do think all races are equal, but I damn well know that not all cultures or religions are and I will point out the ones that are most egregious in the world. Today Islam is by far the most primitive and damaging religious choice on the planet and I am not a racist for saying it.

When I call out the religious or cultural choices of others, I can (and often am) called everything under the sun. I can be called intolerant, shallow, simple, stupid or simply an asshole. All of those are arguable. One thing I will not tolerate though is being called a racist as Islam is not a race.

We have a real and worldwide problem caused by radical Islam. It is hardly a minority thing when one considers that dozens of entire nations practice it. We need to discuss and address these issues. In order to do so, we must tell those who try to quell discussion by shouting “racism” to kiss our collective asses.
Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) summarized it much more concisely than I in the image below as Britain fought a battle to protect free speech from Islamic nuts and their facilitating apologists.

bean

 

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No religion is above critique or satire.

Note to stone age cultists who feel that killing the innocent serves your religion:

The more innocent people you assholes kill, the more cartoons and depictions of your vile “prophet” will be produced and the more people like me will keep spreading them around.

When the hell will Islam join the 18th century already?

mohammed-cartoons-charlie-hebdo-muhammed-cartoons-2012-206-02-21-toonaphobia-xMoPigJPG-vimuhammad1prophet-mohammed-with-first-wife

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Governing by form letter.

One would think that the nine opportunistic floor crossers who betrayed their constituents would at least stand up and try to explain themselves in their own words.

In thinking that, one is in for some disappointment yet again. The “Wildrose 9″ have either sunk into cowardly hiding or at best have purchased ad space in local papers where they have cut and pasted a form letter with talking points from their new Progressive Conservative masters and then vanished.

It has been said many times how the treacherous, self-serving move by Danielle Smith and her handful of caucus mates has been an affront to democracy and that is utterly true. Look how poorly their constituents are now being served. The “Wildrose 9″ are now nothing more than a legislative joke. They hold no leverage any longer and Prentice will not expend any more political capital on them. These short sighted fools are now to be relegated to the back benches and will only speak or communicate as ordered as we can see in the lame form letters that they obediently released.

Yes, opposition MLAs have limits on their influence at times. The nine MLAs who defected in pursuit of power used to have individual voices at least and could openly speak up for their constituents.

As can be seen in their sad little letters, the “Wildrose 9″ will no longer speak for their constituents. They will bark as the trained seals that they have become and will only communicate what they have been told to by their Progressive Conservative Party superiors.

Simply sad.

haleandersonHale and Anderson changed little other than the name at the top and bottom of their assigned form letters.

Gary Bikman posted his assigned form letter on Facebook here. It is easier to read this way in the literal sense but still stomach turning in it’s callow supplication to their new communications masters.

Portions of this letter are appearing in regional papers and in digital communications from the 9 Wildrose opportunists and it gives a good indication of what to expect from these shallow MLAs in the future. They will simply follow orders.

I can’t wait to see Danielle Smith stand in the legislature to toss a scripted, puffball question to Prentice as she will be ordered to do. Will she be able to retain that standard smile of hers or will some shame be showing through?

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Leaked email demonstrates hypocritical MLA flip-flop

bikmanWildrose floorcrosser Gary Bikman never really stood out over his years in the legislature aside from the time when he wrote “shill” on a piece of paper regarding a stance taken by Speaker Zwozdesky at the time and held it up in the house. It is an ironic picture considering the shilling that Bikman is doing today.

A supporter of Bikman’s had sent an email encouraging him to cross the floor on December 10th of this year. Bikman wrote a lengthy reply and then copied the document to the entire caucus on the 11th as can be seen below.

—–Original Message—–
From: Gary Bikman [mailto:*******]
Sent: Thursday, December 11, 2014 6:37 AM
To: Bruce Rowe; Jason Hale; Shayne Saskiw; Jeff Wilson; Rod Fox; Heather Forsyth; Pat Stier; Drew Barnes; Rick Strankman; Rob Anderson; Danielle Smith; Bruce McAllister; Blake Pedersen
Cc: Dave Yager;
Subject: A recent letter encouraging crossing, & my reply

Good morning, y’all:

I hope you had a good evening of R,R&R – release, relief & relaxation – last night. It’s been a challenging two month and we’ve come through a lot together. With emphasis on “together.”

I know we’ll have an interesting discussion in caucus as we prepare for a well earned and much deserved break.

I hope you’ll take the time to read this letter (email) I received from a personal friend and fan, giving me advice he thinks I need to consider – and my reply.

During our break we need to be thinking about how we’ll prepare for the next general election. Drew, Steve & I have been discussing this and have some ideas we think can play a significant role in helping assure the desired outcome.

It’s going to take a strategic, integrated plan.

We’ll mention it briefly today in Caucus and then want to hold a full day session in Calgary on Feb 5th.

Regards,

Gary

The entire letter Gary received and his lengthy response can be downloaded from the link below.

Gary Bikman’s Letter December 11

As we all know, less than a week after penning this letter Gary Bikman joined Danielle Smith and seven other MLAs in what is now becoming Alberta’s most infamous act of political betrayal in history in crossing the floor.

Bikman has listed his excuses on his facebook page here on December 17th.

I want to clip out some quotes to highlight Bikman’s profound hypocrisy below.

Bikman Dec 11: “One party rule breeds waste, bureaucratic lard, and deeply entrenched sense of entitlement; herd mentality well, lemming-like whipped votes, where MLAs can only speak up in caucus about their constituents issues and then, in some cases they’re told by the premier or whip, and I quote, “Sit down & shut up now, (name withheld) – we’ve heard from the bible belt, now let’s do what’s best for Calgary & Edmonton.”

It appears that within a few days Bikman decided to become a lemming.

Bikman Dec 17: “But Jim Prentice has changed that. He is the right leader in the right place for the right time and I am going to spend the remainder of my career in politics (however short or long that is) to help him implement the very principles and ideas I feel Alberta so desperately needs.”

Yes, apparently Prentice changed all that in a mere six day

Bikman Dec 11 on why he must not cross: Free votes in the Legislature; the right of recall; a return to regional heath boards, with real power to save.  When abolished and merged into the central organization, Chinook Health Region was the most cost effective deliverer of health care and had the best measurable outcomes.”

None of those things were promised in the merger aside from lip service to free votes on matters of conscience which has to be seen to be believed.

Bikman Dec 11: As good as Prentice is, it’s time for that kind of fiscal accountability in Alberta and it won’t be possible to fully achieve with the system of bureaucratic bulk, deep sense of entitlement and the same team that endorsed Ed & then Alison as they misstepped us through 17 billion dollars of sustainability – rainy day – funds.

I hope I can count on your support to help a new broom get elected to sweep clean.”

I don’t recall that team that Bikman so despised having disappeared over the last week.

I think I have quoted enough. The letter is here for download if one has the stomach to read the rest of the gut wrenching hypocrisy coming from Gary Bikman mere days before he chose to abandon his constituents.

The only difference between Bikman and the other floor crossers is the lack of any recent letters laying out their hypocrisy so recently.

The bottom line as this letter clearly demonstrates is that the current lame justifications coming from the opportunistic MLAs who crossed the floor to try and save their seats are little more than hypocritical bullshit.

I look forward to seeing the “Wildrose Nine” joining the unemployment line as they go down in history as little more than hypocritical opportunists who got outplayed by an unprincipled Premier.

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Staff laid off and hit hard by Danielle Smith’s opportunism

layoff

Anybody who has spent much time around any legislative body has seen them. People, usually young, scurrying around in ill-fitting suits with lopsided ID badges who are often quite overworked and underpaid. This is the staffer-class in politics. These people are often recent poli-sci graduates or folks who got hired by the party in reward for years of hard work and volunteering. The jobs really don’t pay very well and are notoriously unstable due to political conditions.

Most staffers understand that they are always just one election away from potential unemployment. Staffers can at least prepare to a degree and take their unemployment in stride after an election.

This week’s events were unlike an election. Danielle Smith and 8 other opportunists abandoned their constituents and party members when they negotiated a secret deal and joined the party across the floor. What has been forgotten is that bevy of young staff members who were caught flat footed and now face unemployment at Christmas time.

Last night a female staffer was escorted from the offices while others had to pack her things. More of this will clearly be coming and many who haven’t been fired yet sit in frightened limbo.

Let’s be clear, the Prentice government does not want these staffers. These were loyal partisans to the Wildrose and the Progressive Conservatives don’t want them suddenly accessing their party databases. These staffers will be toast and the reduced Wildrose caucus simply doesn’t have the resources to keep them.

Not everybody is as heartless and self-serving as Danielle Smith thankfully. A fund was set up last night to at least soften the blow to these victims of political treachery and as of this posting it is over $7,000 already.

People from across the political spectrum are pitching in as even former NDP Leader Brian Mason has donated $500 along with a myriad of both smaller and larger donations.

Please consider tossing a few dollars in to help the young families hurt here. We have just witnessed a case of the worst political betrayal in Alberta history. Let’s end the year with a little Christmas magic to show that not all of us are as heartless as some of our political representatives appear to be.

 

CLICK HERE TO CONTRIBUTE

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Stay out of my phone!

WarrantCANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS

8. Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.

Yesterday in a split decision the Supreme Court of Canada made a ruling that sets a terrible precedent. Police officers may now search a person’s phone with no need for a warrant. This is a gross violation of our rights to privacy and leaves all citizens potentially exposed to abuses from law enforcement officers.

Phones today are essentially personal computers that are often packed with sensitive and personal information about their owners. This ruling indicates that some of our Supreme Court justices do not understand modern phones and view them as simply communication devices for talking and texting. Giving police the authority to search our phones without a warrant is akin to letting police search through our mail and file cabinets at home based simply on any suspicion that the officer wants to cook up to justify the search.

I understand that the majority of law enforcement officers are good people who would not abuse this authority. It has to be understood though that the majority is not good enough. That is why we have charter rights and protections from unlawful search and seizure.

Just today an article was written about a violent scumbag on the Edmonton Police Service named Mike Wasylyshen who despite a criminal assault conviction and numerous other offences just got a promotion to sergeant. Wasylyshen beat a man on crutches outside of an Edmonton bar and threatened to burn the victim’s house down with family in it. Wasylyshen tasered an unconscious 16 year old boy 8 times and then beat the boy with the taser itself knocking out one of the boy’s teeth. This lowlife cop also wilfully deceived a justice of the peace to wrongfully obtain a search warrant.

Why would an officer so clearly violent and corrupt still even be a part of the service? Oh, did I mention that Mike Wasylyshen’s father used to be the Chief of the Edmonton Police Service?

Now in light of that, would you want somebody like Wasylyshen rooting through your personal information on your phone? Do you feel comfortable that the sole discretion to choose such searches lands on the shoulders of men like  Wasylyshen? I am sure he is not the only bad cop out there and the Edmonton Police Service is not the only one that protects people like him.

Of course supplicants to big government love to say “What have you got to hide?” I will say this right now, none of your G-D damned business! I shouldn’t have to explain why I don’t want somebody to arbitrarily search through my personal files, communications and pictures.

I will indulge and lay out some scenarios anyway. Do I want a cop reading my personal communications with my wife? What if it is a small town and I have communications with my mistress? Will the cop remain discreet? What if my mistress is the cop’s wife? How bad will the beating be? What if he posts the picture of me restrained while wearing lederhosen and being pummeled with handfuls of lime jello tossed by a hired gang of circus midgets wearing assorted lingerie to my facebook profile?

OK, I am making light but my point is that the number of things that a person may keep on their phone that they may want to keep private is endless. There may be sensitive business dealings or there may be things that may be considered less than moral but perfectly legal. All of these could get a person blackmailed, bankrupted or simply humiliated if in the wrong hands.

There indeed are situations where the search of a person’s phone may be required in a criminal investigation. I contend that the need is not so pressing that it has to be done on the spot based on the arbitrary choice of a police officer though. A phone can be held and the need for a search can be demonstrated to a judge as a warrant is pursued. This oversight is important!

I have seen some people saying “Well, you should password protect your phone!”. For one thing, I expect police can find and be provided means to bypass passwords. For another thing, I simply should not have to. Sure, it is wise to password protect. If I choose not to though, it does not mean I deserve to have my privacy violated. A woman shouldn’t walk in dark alleys when wearing suggestive clothing but she still does not deserve to be raped if she makes such a poor choice.

Rights get eroded most effectively in increments. This story is sliding under the radar and people need to pay attention because our rights just got eroded by a large increment here!

The only party that has spoken up on this ruling that I can find so far is the Libertarian Party of Canada. Alas, they have no MPs at this time. Contact your MP folks and demand that this erosion of our rights be corrected as soon as possible.

You may be the next person Mike Wasylyshen pulls over when he is in a bad mood.

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