The Springbank Dam obsession.

I use the term “obsession” when speaking of the proposed Springbank dam flood mitigation project because the support for this proposal by the left is borderline obsessive and is contrary to all common sense.

The Springbank dam proposal is inferior to the McLean Creek proposal by every measure yet Nenshi and the NDP are contorting themselves desperately in favor of this terrible plan.

I am listing the problems below and will finish with why I think the left has such obsessive support for this plan.

Protection:

While the Springbank dam project may mitigate flooding in Calgary, it completely neglects Bragg Creek, Redwood Meadows and the Tsuu T’ina reserve. All of those communities were devastated in the 2013 floods as homes and businesses were utterly destroyed.

The McLean Creek flood mitigation route would protect both Calgary and all of these homes. Why would we neglect these vulnerable communities like this in favor of Springbank?

Environmental footprint:

The McLean Creek option takes up a much smaller space than the proposed Springbank dam project.

When it comes to measuring land disrupted, the comparison between the two proposals is stark.

Disruption of people and infrastructure:

The Mclean Creek option is on public land with no residences. The Springbank dam option is all on private land. This is a key distinction in understanding the left-wing’s fervent, ideologial pursuit of the Sprinbank dam.

The Springbank dam would destroy Kamp Kiwanis which hosts 11,000 underprivileged children per year on their site. A camp that has existed for over 60 years.

The Springbank dam would impact eight major natural gas pipelines. These pipelines will have to be re-routed at a huge cost to taxpayers along with the new environmental impacts as new routes are cut.

The Springbank dam would impact 22 residences some of which are historical ranches that have operated for well over a century.

Naheed Neshi in being one of the obsessive supporters tried to spread bullshit in claiming that no homes were in the Springbank dam area. He was called on his BS quickly.

Nenshi doesn’t like facts getting in the way of His ideology.

Cost to taxpayers:

The Springbank dam project was initially projected to cost $200 million dollars. The government has just released a report where the projected cost has now exploded to $432 million dollars. The McLean creek option remains $26 million cheaper than the Springbank dam.

When we consider how fiscally inept the Notley government is, we can be confident that the Springbank dam costs will continue to skyrocket. The lawsuits from private landowners alone will cost a fortune.

By all measures, the Springbank dam option is inferior to the McLean Creek option.

Area MLA Cam Westhead with the NDP will be of no help for his constituents. As a resident of Bragg Creek, Westhead knew that campaigning in support of the Springbank dam would be political suicide. Westhead campaigned in opposition to the Springbank dam and quickly flip-flopped as soon as he got his precious seat in the legislature.

What’s a little bullshit if it gets you a seat eh Cam?

I wonder if Westhead can even show his face in places such as the Powderhorn Saloon (devastated in the floods) in his home town these days. I don’t suspect that Bragg Creek residents are thrilled that he threw their community under the bus.

I contend that the whole matter comes down to ideology. Dedicated leftists such as Nenshi and the NDP traditionally despise private property rights. They are gleeful at the prospect of setting a precedent through the expropriation (government theft) of thousands of acres of private property.

Icing on the cake for these ideologues is that many of these landowners are somewhat wealthy. How dare they prosper in Alberta on land that has been in their families for generations!!

I went for a drive through the area and did a short video rant on it last night.

Landowners oppose the Springbank dam. First Nations oppose the Springbank dam. Bragg Creek opposes the Springbank dam.

All that opposition means nothing when it gives the left a chance to poke a finger in the eye of the productive however.

Let’s hope things haven’t become irreversible by the time we finally kick the Notley Regime to the electoral curb.

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Video tour of Calgary’s public art projects.

I have to admit, my expectations were pretty low when I went out with Jane the other day to have a look at the $500,000 Bowfort Towers art display along Highway 1 on the West side of Calgary. I tried to keep something of an open mind but found myself utterly underwhelmed. This was simply a waste of $500,000 that was spent on a foreign artist.

This got me to wondering just how many arts projects at massive costs we do indeed have out there. Most Calgarians don’t have the time to go tour all these fine works as they are busy working in order to pay their ever increasing city tax bills in a recession.

The City of Calgary website lists and gives some good detail on public art projects. I picked a nice loop that I could drive and tour a handful of these pieces of work.

I took video so I could share with taxpayers in detail just where their hard earned dollars are going. My narration could be better, but I think I tend to get the point across.

The sites I visited were essentially random and based on what made for a good circuit of travel.

First I went to Ralph Klein park on the East side of the city. The park is quite nice with some natural wetlands and paths to enjoy. There was what looked to be a very nice interpretive center. I imagine students and such come down to learn about wetlands and water treatment. The other thing that was striking was the totally empty parking lot. Jane and I were literally the only people in the entire park aside from a few City of Calgary vehicles though it looked like the lot could fit at least a hundred vehicles.

Despite it being a beautiful evening not a single Calgarian was out enjoying the art piece.

Now on to this fine piece of work, the one is called the “Hawk Hill Calgary Sentinels”. In the tradition of Calgary art projects, it was designed by an artist from New York. Much like the Bowfort Towers, it consisted of a few pieces of rusted metal along with a couple hills of dirt. Another thing the Sentinels shared with the Bowfort Towers abomination was a lack of direct access.

For whatever reason, the city has fenced off all access to the Sentinels. We could see that paths had been initially built so that visitors could go up to the “art”. Now those paths and the hill was overgrown with weeds and park benches were bleaching in the sun. What could be seen of the art project had to be done at a distance of about 100 meters.

Another departure from the Bowfort Towers was the price. The Sentinels clock in at a healthy $1.57 million. 

How the hell does it cost so much to erect a couple of rusty pieces of metal and push up some dirt???

I will let the video do the rest of the talking on this one.

Next I took a short drive to see a modest piece entitled “One Puck Hollow”.

Nestled deep in the Foothills industrial park, this art piece was accompanied with an empty parking lot just like the last one.

As with the last couple art pieces, this complex design was created by an artist from New York.

The price tag on this work was relatively low at $150,000.

What we got for $150k though was utter bullshit. There was mounded dirt (a favorite for New York artists apparently) ringed by metal railing with a rock in the middle. It was perhaps 20 feet across. How in the hell could this possibly cost that much to create?

We are getting screwed here folks.

Next I drove to the Calgary “Poop Palace” in Forest Lawn. Next to yet another empty parking lot and behind a chain link fence topped with barbed wire we have a sewage lift station. Along the walls there is something of a light show which really looks like any Christmas light home decoration set from Wal Mart if a person wants to spend a few bucks.

Because this was “art” however, the “Poop Palace” rings in at $236,000.

The only redemption here is that the artist is apparently Calgary based. The only one I found on my tour.

Next I drove to find the “Bow Passage Overlook”. This is accessed through the park on the East side of Inglewood. It took me quite a bit of walking to find this thing as there were no signs to direct me and there were pathways all over the place. I was somewhat out of breath as I shot the video. Guess its a sign that I need to get out hiking more.

This little pavilion/park or whatever you want to call it was actually quite nice. It is surrounded by construction right now and there were no people there but it is a very nice spot.

The question here though is the cost. This was sourced out to an American artist of course and the bill came in at $3.12 million.

We could build a mansion with better landscaping than this spot for that kind of money. While the site is nice, clearly Calgarians got ripped off again.

My fifth and final stop was on the Bow River again just West of Crowchild Trail.

In my opinion this was the most perverse and utter waste of tax dollars on what was a truly ugly display.

This piece of garbage was entitled “Outflow” and was designed by…… wait for it… an artist from New York.

I guess the tall foreheads at city hall decided that this storm water drain needed to be prettied up.

For the low price of $1.85 million they found a New York artist to rip us off and design one of the worst art projects in the entire city. The forms still show seams, the bottom of these weird creations is filthy and full of debris and it is simply ugly. Nobody was admiring these of course though it is on a busy pathway. It really made me think of the cheap decorations you see at old theme parks such as the old Flintstone Park in Kelowna back in the 80s.

It is almost criminal that nearly two million was spent on this atrocity.

There are dozens and dozens of other public art pieces around the city. These five were essentially a random sample so one can expect pretty much more of the same.

There will be no better time than now to pressure elected officials to end this public art scam upon taxpayers. An election is coming in just a few months and you will never see politicians more receptive than when their jobs are on the line. Hell, even Druh Farrell is finally calling for reform of the city arts policy.

No, I am not calling for an end to all public art. I don’t think many folks are. I am not calling for an endless string of simplistic pieces either. What we desperately need to do though is fix what is clearly a broken system for tendering, choosing sand placement of public art. Millions are being wasted on projects that nobody is enjoying and it is simply waste. If we don’t speak up, it won’t stop.

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I came! I saw! It sucked!

While outrage over one horrific public art project or another has become something of an annual tradition in Calgary, Mayor Nenshi still doggedly denies that anything is wrong with the public art policy in the city. What would all those filthy taxpayers know about art anyway? How dare they question how city hall spends their money!

Nenshi likened critics of the latest arts abomination to a “lynch mob”.

Acclaimed Blackfoot artist Adrian Stimson took issue to this but then again, what would he know about Blackfoot inspired art? Can’t he just bow down to the wisdom of the handpicked city committees who choose these fine “arts” projects? No wonder he earned Nenshi’s insults.

 

Nenshi expanded to point out how it is “dangerous” to make judgements on something that hasn’t been “seen” or experienced.

OK. I went and saw and experienced the $500,000 “Bowfort Towers” for myself this evening.

The only thing that was dangerous was getting even close to the ridiculously placed display. It is set between two busy roads where vehicles are whizzing by at upwards of 100 kph as they approach an underpass. Hardly a nice spot for a person to pause and reflect on the piece of “art” that costed as much as an average city house does.

As can be seen below, I paused and reflected on the piece.

I gazed. I contemplated. I meditated. I came to a conclusion.

This piece of very expensive “art” is a turd that can’t be polished. Its is simplistic. It is terribly placed. It is aesthetically unappealing and it is apparently rather insulting to local First Nations. This was an utter waste of half a million dollars while most Calgarians are trying to recover from a recession.

Video of my visit can be found below.

Look, most people are not opposed to all public art. We are tired of “art” that is expensive, poorly placed and to be frank, damned ugly.

We have multiple pieces of art that we paid for that we cant even access as they were built in city industrial sites. We have a blue ring that is a national embarrassment. We have a silver ball that nearly lit a person on fire. The list goes on and on and on.

The policy is broken and Nenshi and his little “arts” crowd had better come to grips with this. Taxpayers are tired of being insulted and talked down to when they question the merit of their precious dollars being spent on art where the word “shit” is a generous description.

The backlash will grow if we don’t change this ridiculous policy soon. Fear city councilors who want to dramatically cut all forms of public art? Well I assure you, you will only empower those councilors when you deny that there is a problem and continue to defend this abhorrent waste of tax dollars.

There are many models in countless cities around the world that produce far better public art than what Calgary is generating. It is time that we emulated them rather than cling to this broken model that only produces crap.

Otherwise, get used to “lynch mobs”.

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Do party policies matter? Yes and no.

We are in a pretty unusual political time in Alberta as the leadership race for the United Conservative Party leadership race develops. We have a brand new spanking entity that is well poised to form the next government of Alberta, yet they do not yet have a single official policy or principle.

A large poll has indicated the vast majority of Albertans would still choose this new party that has no leader and no policies over the Notley NDP if an election were held today. This of course has sent the NDP into abject terror and desperation as they try their hardest to attack the character of the interim leader of the party and even their nascent board of directors in trying to paint them as extreme on the most slim of evidence.

An odd outcome of having no policies has meant that the NDP has no simple target to fire at with the new party that has surpassed them in provincial popularity. The party can’t use a lack of policies to their advantage forever of course. Eventually an AGM will be held where members can choose their official policy and principle set. Until then though, it appears that Albertans are already pretty happy with where they sit politically.

The lack of policies has put the leadership contenders into awkward positions as well. True grassroots conservative principles generally tend to support having member driven policy rather than a top down method where policy is imposed by the leadership. Leadership contenders have the tricky balancing act of trying to define themselves with policy while not crossing the line and stepping on member’s jurisdiction. It is members, not hysteric, indignant NDP supporters on social media who will be choosing the next leader and candidates would be well served to remember that.

Jason Kenney has taken an odd strategy in refusing to take specific policy stances and insisting that he will wait until members define those policies. Doug Schweitzer has taken some very specific economic policy stands and Brian Jean is sort of sitting between the two. Time will tell which approach may be the most successful.

Getting back to the subject at hand, just how important are member driven policies? As a person who served on the provincial executive as VP of Policy with the Wildrose Party for multiple terms I have to admit that they are not nearly as important as we like to think they are.

It is critical that members drive the policy engine in general. Members need not only to feel that their input matters in party direction, they need to see it. In having members build, debate upon and select policies the party can ensure that its actions reflect the majority of the membership.

All the above being said, the leadership of the party and the caucus are not bound by the party membership in any way nor should they be.

There is an ironic contradiction in the principle of conservative member driven policy. Grassroots style ideology always stands in strong support of free voting by MLAs in the legislature. At the same time, many feel that MLAs must act in accordance with the member driven policies. What happens if an MLAs constituents want the member to vote in the legislature in a way that contradicts the policies of the membership? The leader can’t or shouldn’t whip the member to vote one way or the other. That contradicts the principle of free votes as well.

What happens if a piece of legislation hits the floor of the legislature where there is no party policy to guide the reaction of the MLAs and leadership? What happens if issues hit the news that demand that the party take a stance but again there is no specific policy on the books to deal with it?

The party and it’s caucus can’t sit handcuffed on issues while awaiting member input on every issue. This is where leadership takes place and a stance is taken. This may happen with membership consultation, or with caucus consultation or perhaps with none if time does not present itself.

Here is something that members don’t want to hear but its true. Sometimes the membership despite their best intentions simply comes up with some really shitty policies that simply will never be broadly accepted by the electorate. This is a risk with member driven policy as people with specific agendas can at times be very well spoken and very well organized in getting a policy through. Remember, one doesn’t need to sway the entire membership in order to get a policy through. A person needs only to convince the majority of the members attending an AGM and if it is getting near coffee break time, the members will often vote to accept damn near anything in order to get a break from what can be tedious policy discussions.

So what is the point of member driven policies if the party won’t always act upon them?

Policies need to be viewed from something of a higher level. The policies and principles as a whole reflect the direction and flavor of the party and while they will never cover every possible event or instance, they will give a good indication of where the party will move on those issues when they arise. The members truly are the boss and the policy set will draw people to seek nominations who share those sorts of principles. The policy set will always be there to remind the leadership just where the members want to go even if they cant follow it to the letter.

Policy development can be a minefield. It is very unlikely that any specific policy that comes from members will win an election but it is very damned possible that a stinker of a policy could lose an election. Members have to balance ideals with realism when choosing policies and that is a difficult task for any of us.

Hopefully the maiden set of UCP policies is concise yet broad. Prescriptive little policies that try to address every issue on the planet serve little purpose and only add to policy bloat. It is usually easier to add policies than it is to get rid of them and having an encyclopedia of policies only gives opponents ammunition to shoot at you with while leaving you crippled in your potential responses.

The Wildrose Party always kept their policies front and center while it was a long running joke about whether a policy book for the Progressive Conservative Party even existed as they always kept it so well hidden. With the marriage of these two groups lets hope we find a happy medium.

Policies are important but we cant let the specifics become a hill to die on. Albertans are already ready to accept the UCP even without specific policies. We need to fill that void but to remember that broad principles will do the trick. We cant ignore policies nor can we put too much emphasis on them. We will only get one kick at the cat with our founding meeting.

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Pride has given in to extreme elements and has lost its way.

I attended my first Pride Parade back in the late 1990s. My girlfriend at the time worked with a man who was singing in a choir during the event so we went to watch him. It was a great time and a fun experience. The whole day was jovial and people from the LGBTQ community and folks not from that community alike had a great time. While I haven’t attended every year since then, I have attended many times since. Unfortunately the theme and tone of Pride events has changed so much that I can no longer bring myself to attend.

I understand that I am straight, am not a key organizer or sponsor. I know that my attending or not attending certainly will not make or break their events. I suspect though that I represent a growing group of people who have tired out with the increasing politicization of the event and this is sad.

Pride. The word in itself says and means so much. The gay community for so long had to work and fight in order to be able to live their lives openly and without shame. Acceptance of the gay community has been a slow process but it has made fantastic inroads in the last 40 years or so. In looking at some of the comments on my last blog posting, it still has a way to go.

While laws against homosexuality were rightly repealed over 40 years ago, it still took a generation for real acceptance to become common place. Gay bars still were hidden with back alley entrances. Gay bashing still happened and authorities often did not investigate or prosecute those assaults with the vigor that they merited. I grew up in a time where I could be sent to the principle’s office in school if I called another student an asshole but likely would get little more than a finger wagged at me if I called them a “fag”. That pejorative was in common use back then and I can’t pretend that I didn’t use it back then.

While I certainly was never involved in gay bashing and always felt that gay people deserved equal rights, I held some sad views in my younger years that had to be shed. I was still uncomfortable around openly gay people and tended to avoid them. I had to grow up. I had to meet and get to know people from the LGBTQ community in order to learn that they simply were people like anybody else. That happened in my early 20s and I am still growing to this day.

An element that helped me and countless other straight people who needed to learn these lessons was Pride events. What better place to simply get together, enjoy time outside and celebrate the open display of a love and acceptance of different sexual orientations in an open environment?

A community of people who were shunned for holding hands or kissing in public could at least for a day fully express and enjoy themselves without judgement from those around them. Yes, it would be (and hopefully will be) great if that judgement never existed outside of Pride events but we still have a way to go. Pride parades and celebrations do awesome work to end that stigma.

In being critical of the foolish decision by Calgary Pride to demand that the Calgary Police Service not wear their uniforms in the parade, I have been criticized and essentially told to shut up as I am not part of the LGBTQ community. Indeed, I do recognize that this is their event and they have every right to run the event as they please. I still retain the right to be critical of their choices however.

While Pride events are run by and made for people in the LGBTQ community, they are critically important to people outside of that community too. As Pride keeps venturing into controversial issues outside of the core meaning of the event, people like me will stop attending and the great bonding of communities that used to happen will begin to erode. The event used to be focused on inclusiveness and now is drifting deeply into exclusivity.

All over North America Pride events are bowing to extreme movements. BLM managed to bully Toronto Pride into removing its visible police presence. Other Pride parades are battling as anti-Israel groups are demonstrating in them.

Politicians are invited but are bound by long lists of demands in order to participate. If a politician cant attend for whatever reason, they are often demonized.

Yes, the police in the past used to be one of the worst offenders with the LGBTQ community.They often overlooked gay bashing. They constantly busted gay nightclubs and bars for lewd behavior. Those days are long gone. Gay bashing is heavily prosecuted and gay clubs are simply bound by the same AGLC rules as any other bars.

I can understand an element of distrust of the police remaining among the older members of the gay community. All the same, what better way to remove that distrust than to have the police openly parading in full uniform and in support of Pride?

They hypocrisy of Pride organizers is galling. They say that they welcome the police participation as long as they don’t identify in uniform as being police officers.

This is much like employers who used to tell gay staff “I welcome gay employees but you have to keep your gayness to yourself.”

Hey, its your event people. Run it as you please. If Pride wants to keep drawing and educating the public as a whole however, they will have to get back to what the whole affair was all about. We want to support the LGBTQ community but don’t feel that we have to be drawn into a whole list of other left wing causes in doing so.

Until that happens, I no longer have time for Pride events and I suspect that a growing number of other people who don’t want to get mixed up in those things.

Pride did some great work and helped make great societal inroads. I hope that they can do so again one day.

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Its time that conservatives tackled the sexual orientation albatross.

If there has been one single issue that has managed to beat the hell out of conservatives for the last ten years it unquestionably has been that of sexual orientation (I wont list the alphabet of orientations for reasons I will explain later).

We organize, we gain steam, we gain momentum, we begin to gain public trust and then some sort of issue related to sexual orientation raises its head and conservatives manage to self-destruct.

These issues are not going away. There is a reason that the left won’t let go on these issues when dealing with conservatives. It is because IT WORKS! 

Beating conservatives over the head over and over again with the whole gay rights thing seems to be tiring and shallow but it works like a charm and we have to get out of this damned rut. The reason that smearing conservatives as being anti-gay is so effective is that the vast majority of the voting public have utterly no problem with gay people or their getting to enjoy every benefit and happiness in life. People are tired of the thankfully old fashioned intolerance that society held towards people of different sexual orientations and they will not vote for any party or movement that appears to be propagating that pathetic old intolerance. If conservatives want to win elections, they simply have to get these damned issues behind them.

What will it take though?

Those of us who have been running in conservative issues for years know that the intolerance held towards gays is held by a tiny but infuriatingly vocal minority. It seems that whenever we are doing well, some dumb asshole feels that they need to tell the world how they hate gays even if it has nothing to do with the discussion at hand.

Last weekend we saw history made as the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative Parties merged. As this great moment was progressing, a woman took her time to wait to speak at the open microphone. She managed to be the last speaker in the debate and in keeping with the usual homophobic types, just felt that she had to let the world know that she had issues with gay people despite this not being the issue at hand.

The press of course gleefully tweeted this incident to the world as can be seen below.

 

Left wing politicians took advantage of this within minutes to use the ramblings of this woman to try and smear the entire movement as being anti-gay (he did this because it works).

While this issue didn’t dominate the headlines post merger, it soiled it. A brand spanking new party has just emerged from the gates and this woman has managed to bring gay rights issues front and center before it on day one.

THIS SHIT HAS TO STOP!

To begin with, we need utter and total zero tolerance on anti-gay shit. I understand and respect free speech as much (possibly more) than the next person. People have the right to spew that intolerant crap to their little hearts desire. This does not mean that political parties are obligated to give a platform to these people for their views or keep those people within the party if they demonstrate such views. Parties are private entities and they can and should put some restrictions on membership.

If a person was at an open microphone or constantly on social media and they constantly railed about black people by calling them “niggers” or calling Asian people “chinks” and that person was found to be a member of a party, do you think folks would be upset if the person was kicked out of the party? Most people would totally understand and support a party disassociating itself with this kind of person. Well, the term “fag” and anti gay tirades are right up there with the racist crap these days and while some free speech purists may yelp about it, there simply is no room in any modern party for that shit anymore. It is unfortunate that there ever was.

There needs to be an unapologetic expunging of anti-gay people from conservative movents or they will continue to hijack the agenda whenever they can.

This isn’t as clear cut as it sounds of course (nothing ever is). Members have a right to question what their children may be taught in sex ed courses. These members may be uncomfortable with the way same sex issues are presented and in questioning these things it does not make them anti-gay (or at least certainly not to the point where they should be ejected for voicing concerns). It will take judgement and a strong disciplinary committee to address things case by case but it really wont be tough to eject the most egregious of offenders.

There are fringe right parties and movements out there for those who feel that gay rights should be fought. Those who want to go that route are more than welcome to go there. The voting public will dispose of the dozen or so candidates that they manage to field in a general election quickly enough.

Next: We need to reach out  to and bring in gay conservatives. 

Just because a person is gay, it doesn’t mean that they are socialists. There are countless gay professionals and business people who are just as tired of high taxes and bloated government. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to be strongly fiscally conservative but unable to pursue it politically because the conservative partisan vehicles retain such anti-gay attitudes among some of their membership.

I was naive on these issues when I really started getting involved with provincial organizing. When my wife Jane and I got involved with the Alberta Alliance (precursor of the Wildrose Party), it had perhaps 2000 members, a few thousand dollars in the bank and a lone MLA sitting in the legislature. We did strongly feel that the PC government was drifting too far left in high spending and entitlement and wanted to work to build an alternative to the PCs. The party retained some unfortunate hold over policies such as one against gay marriage at that time. It took quite a battle on Jane’s part but in the end with a strong majority the members Jane’s motion was supported and that odious policy was stricken from the books.

Being in such a nascent movement with such potential and seeing a move away from hard line social conservatism, I had what I thought to be a revelation. I wanted us to actively court gay people in the gay community. I saw an untapped resource of members/volunteers/donors and with our party being so small, such an influx would be a great resource in our growth.

During this period, Jane and I went for supper at the home of some party organizing types. I wanted to recruit them as we worked to build this little party. Over our meal we enjoyed political discussion on how the PC spending needed to be reined in and things such as direct democracy. My naivete was more than a little shattered however when I opened the subject on how I wanted to reach out to the gay community. The room went cold and things were immediately awkward. I swear I could have blown my nose into the mashed potatoes and still would not have caused such a pall in the room. I really didn’t realize just how deeply some (otherwise rational and friendly) people held their bizarre anti-gay feelings. Needless to say, we left not long afterwards and I honestly don’t think we have crossed paths with that couple again.

Now if just talking about reaching out to gay members got that kind of reaction in a room, how the hell must it feel to be a gay individual or couple in a room with those kind of people? Yes, people like that couple are a tiny minority in the party but it only takes a few of them to make some people feel really uncomfortable. How many sidelong glances do gay people need to endure at meetings? How many conversations go silent when they join the group?

We need to change our culture in order to make people of all sexual orientations feel genuinely welcome. I think we have made massive inroads since my ill fated supper some 12 years ago but we need to work hard to ensure that these awkward moments no longer happen.

I am not talking about gathering token gay people by the way. I am talking about seeking and bringing in conservatives and utilizing them as active members. Sure my goal is self serving in the sense of the party. I see assets as donors/volunteers that we are ignoring to our own detriment.

We have gay members already and I have known a number of gay staff members in the party over the years. How much crap have they had to force themselves to overlook in order to participate though? We saw a hint of it just a little while ago when a staffer announced he was going to represent the party in a pride parade. It was only a handful of people and a few may not even have actually been party members, but there was a vulgar and visceral reaction to his announcement. Some folks were pissed about the messages sent to the fellow but felt that he never should have spoken up. How much should he endure silently? How much should other gay people put up with? Speaking up is the best way to put this issues out.

Next: actions speak louder than words.

If the left doesn’t set a trap with gay rights issues for conservatives, we seem to be determined to seek them out and step in them ourselves.

In 2013 at a Wildrose AGM a policy motion was proposed that would entrench support for the rights of LGTBQ into policy. The motion never made it past the plenary stage as members discussed and felt is was too prescriptive and pointless as we already had a policy supporting rights for “all” which was considered sufficient.

I remember it so clearly. Rob Anderson and a few folks were in the back of the room and they were totally aflutter. Apparently this motion didn’t come from the membership. This came from on high within the party. They had plans to trumpet it and celebrate it after the AGM but the members overwhelmingly shot it down (because it was misguided and to be frank, fucking stupid).

This happened rather quietly. Not many people pay attention to these kind of plenary meetings. Still, while gay rights were not really a pressing issue at this AGM, these senior thinkers within the party simply wouldn’t let it go. They rattled together a non-binding motion to the same effect and railroaded it through the convention the next day. It was rehearsed and rammed through fast. They stacked the pro microphone with a lineup while limiting debate. They sped through the motion and to be honest pissed off the gathered membership who felt pushed but went along for the ride.

This was not enough for our brilliant planners (keep in mind these are the great strategists who thought joining Prentice the next year would be a good idea). Yes, they felt emboldened after forcing through their motion so they rammed it into policy discussions again in 2014. Not a damn thing had changed and the membership had had enough. They wisely and yes yet again tossed this stupid policy into the trash.

The shit hit the fan of course. Reports were made that the Wildrose membership had rejected gay rights and the party was needlessly smeared as being anti-gay yet again.

Yes, those brilliant folks leading the party at that time decided that if the left was not going to beat us up on gay issues, we had to seek them out and create the issues.

No other major party lists every group that they respect the rights of. There is a reason for this. It is damned stupid and only sets things up for being bigoted by exclusion. I think it was LGQTQ at the time of our policy follies. Now folks need to add the number 2. Would we need to amend policy to include that number now? Would we be considered bigots until we did? What about those who now identify as “gender fluid” or “gender queer”? Why didn’t we cover them? Should we then make a policy for every race? What if we miss one? What about mixed races? What about religions? Are all of them large enough to list or will we need to parse them out?

Seriously, stick will supporting human rights for ALL and we will be just fine. No need to apologize.

Putting up fluff window dressing such as that crappy policy is akin to the racist who always has to reference a black friend. It is talk but not action and the constant contorting and pissing around with policy makes it look like we are indeed glossing over things.

Something else to remember: IT WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH!

Look, Brian Jean and Jason Kenney could spend two hours on a float in a pride parade while in full passionate coitus and the left would say that the party is full of bigots because they didn’t kiss convincingly enough.

Look at the left is attacking Interim Leader Cooper on next to no basis and is still demanding his resignation despite his having explained where he is at with things as per their demands. It doesn’t matter. They will call the party anti-gay and smear Cooper no matter what he does.

In that case, quit apologizing. Don’t walk into leftist traps and demands. We are confident that we are in a tolerant party and will be more so the longer we act like it.

A presence at pride events is a great idea as long as it is genuine. There are plenty within the party who will happily attend. It is not a cardinal sin not to attend as well. These pride events are increasingly being dominated by extreme political elements and to be honest, I think it is getting near time for public officials to begin refusing to attend until the gay community brings the events back into their original purpose (but I digress). Just don’t apologize. It implies that something was done wrong and as I said, it will never be enough.

The NDP and their supporters are trying to keep a strong appearance up but it is clear that the success of the unity movement has them terrified. The Notley Regime can’t point to their great governance and wise fiscal management in hopes of justifying their re-election. They can only point to the opposition and try to label them as intolerant in hopes of scaring the electorate away from them.

The howls of bigotry and intolerance are losing their impact as the left tosses them at people for everything from “man spreading” to cultural appropriation through yoga. All the same, people have little use for real intolerance and if conservatives display any of it the left will pounce with all they are worth. We have to stop giving them bullets.

It will take more than parade appearances, policy tweaks and constant apologies to blunt the accusations of homophobia directed towards conservatives. It will take a cultural change within the entire movement. I think we are well on the way there but we clearly still have a way to go.

If the clarion call of “intolerance” loses its power, Notley hasn’t a hope in hell against a united conservative party.

Its up to us.

First conservative unity, next conservative policy.

This weekend, I hope and expect that the majority of conservative minded people in Alberta will find themselves united under one banner.

One thing that has fallen by the wayside in these singular times of unity battles has been any real specific policy directions. This had to happen as we really need to unite under general principles of conservatism such as small government and low taxes. If we get ourselves mired into specific policy items we could reignite internal divisions at a time when we really can’t afford to. Conservatives can unite under general principles, but we can nitpick ourselves to death over the individual policies.

Assuming that the forces of unity are successful this weekend, we will then enter a formal leadership race (it has already been clearly informally running for some time now).

There is no better time to hammer out policy specifics and commitments than during a leadership race and we dearly need to start spelling out what the plan is.

Yes, the vast majority of Albertans think that the NDP is harming our province. We do not have a specific plan laid out for how we will mitigate the damage caused by the NDP once we finally toss them to the electoral curb however.

Most candidates and supporters agree that the NDP carbon tax has to go. Notley has proven that legislative flagellation through tax hikes will never buy us that mythical “social license” required to get our products out of the province. The impact of the carbon tax on our environment is negligible at best and the impact on the economy is terrible.

In cutting taxes though, how do we balance the budget?

There is no getting around it. We need to cut spending and we need to cut it deeply. The longer the NDP is in power, the more painful the recovery will be but we simply can’t avoid it. Alberta spends $2,700 more annually per-capita than our neighbors in BC. We have plenty of room to cut.

One of the most effective ways that the left has undercut those calling for spending cuts so far has been for them simply to ask “where will you cut?”.  That is a perfectly valid question and it absolutely has to be answered.

Health care and education make up the vast majority of our spending. No matter how people feel that these areas are sacred, we simply must reduce how much we spend in those areas. We can’t afford a hospital on every street corner or a nurse’s visit to every household. While it will never feel like we spend enough in these core services, we have very real limits on what we can afford. We need to examine these areas and cut spending to a reasonable level.

Just proposing such cuts will take political courage. Following through on these cuts will take leadership and strength.

Klein was at his most popular while he cut Alberta’s spending by 20% across the board. Despite the howls of the unions and the left still harping about it today, it really wasn’t that bad when the cuts were happening. There clearly was a great deal of bloat within the civil service and we were all better for the trimming of it. “Infrastructure deficit” is a bullshit term that some use to try and knock the austerity of those times. Again it is trash and most Albertans see through it. There will never be enough schools, interchanges, fire stations etc. We can always use more. Tax dollars are finite though and we have to draw a line somewhere. Klein’s support began dropping significantly as soon as he began falling into the tired old PC pattern of spending our way out of problems. Albertans appreciate fiscal restraint when it is presented with good leadership.

Image ht to Roy Doonanco

Brian Jean has chosen to avoid taking any strong stance on cuts and is pursuing the mushy middle. This is not my idea of strong leadership but I guess it is a strategy. I can’t help but remember Jean’s abysmal debate performance where he almost mindlessly answered every question by stating that he wont raise taxes. He literally sounded like some sort of broken record. I remember all too clearly sitting in a room full of volunteers on one of the campaigns. We had put up a projector screen and bought some beer and pizza to give our volunteers a night off. We hoped that they would be invigorated in watching the debates. We found ourselves dejected. That was the night that I truly began to realize that we were not going to win that election. Notley showed energy and vision, Prentice showed classic arrogance and Jean was inanimate. We are paying so dearly for the lack of principled leadership in that debate today.

Maybe Jean will show some more strength after the unity vote is finished with. Perhaps other candidates will spur some vigor out of him. Maybe Jean’s strategy of avoiding strong stands will actually pay off and he will win the leadership. I personally don’t think so.

Assuming a successful unity vote, the leadership race will very likely be determining who our next premier will be.

It will take vision, leadership and a true plan with policy specifics in order to win that leadership.

I do look forward to seeing who emerges from the pack with the above qualities as the race unfolds. We need some real policy discussion and we need it soon.

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Its time to get this merger done.

There are a myriad of factors that contributed to Alberta’s disastrous, accidental election of the Notley NDP. In looking at the numbers, it is clear that a split vote among right of center supporters was a huge part of the cause for the NDP victory. Wildrose supporters felt that the PC party had drifted to far to the left and were displaying a sense of entitlement that they simply could no longer vote for. PC supporters saw the Wildrose Party as an upstart that could be too far to the right and were not ready to take a chance on them. The whole repugnant business of Danielle Smith’s opportunistic and treacherous mass floor crossing to Prentice revolted voters within both parties.

Now having enjoyed a couple years under the Notley Regime, most Albertans are realizing just how much the cure was worse than the disease. Business confidence in Alberta is in utter shambles while deficits are hitting record numbers which will create a debt that will take generations to pay off. There is no doubt that the only way to ensure that the NDP do not gain a second term in office in Alberta is to create a single, unified conservative option in Alberta.

There are some stalwarts within the Wildrose Party who are opposing a merger for a number of reasons. None of them are good and I will list them.

Emotional

People invest a lot of time, money and energy into parties, particularly when they are in the building stage. I was involved with the party from when it was a one seat entity with Paul Hinman sitting in a lonely corner of the legislature. I traveled the province to often sparsely attended town hall meetings to try and build constituency associations. I sat up late at night with Jane in the office space we donated as we folded flyers for weekend drops to try and build our urban membership. I sifted through literally hundreds and hundreds of policy submissions that ranged from brilliant to insane while I sat as VP of Policy for the party and took the flak that came with filtering those into a palatable package to present to the membership at AGMs.

All of those events and efforts developed a sense of attachment or even a sense of ownership (wrongly) to the party. Wrong or not, these feelings are real and can lead to a bias against any form of significant change.

We need to set that attachment aside and look at the bigger picture. A party is nothing more than a construct, an entity. If the name changes and the layout changes it is not the end, it is an evolution. The experiences and memories remain and there will be a new entity to continue to work within which can be just as satisfying as the prior one was.

Nostalgia simply isn’t a good enough reason to hold off on this essential merger

SOCIAL

A large but often unseen benefit of political involvement is the social aspect. As we endure partisan challenges together whether through small functions or general elections, we develop friendships and relationships with each other. The part I looked forward to at AGMs was not so much the drudgery of policy development and campaign seminars as it was in getting to meet up with fellow members in a social environment. The hospitality suites are notorious but always fun.

Let’s face it, when the parties merge some people won’t migrate to the new entity and the connections will be lost. That is unfortunate but again, is not enough of a reason to oppose a merger.

Many of our current friends will join and become involved in the new party. Lets look at things with optimism. There will be a whole new pool of people to meet and honestly, they aren’t all that bad at all. In attending the PC leadership convention, I quite enjoyed myself despite hardly knowing a fraction of the number of people that I would at a Wildrose event. We really aren’t all that far apart.

THE PCs ARE STILL TOO CORRUPT/LEFT WING/ENTITLED etc.

There was a reason that the Wildrose developed and became as strong as it did. The PC party under Stelmach was bumbling and high spending. Under Redford the party was entitled and borderline corrupted. Under Prentice the arrogance was tough to bear. Throughout all of that the party was peppered with opportunistic liberals who never would be elected if they ran under the party banner where they belonged.

We worked hard to build an alternative to that Progressive Conservative mess. Why the hell should we fold back into that mire of political ugliness?

Well, to be blunt the best thing that could have happened to the PC party was the electoral devastation that they earned in 2015 (though at a terribly high price). The party had been in power for an obscene and politically unhealthy number of years. They desperately needed a humbling and a flushing and they got it.

The opportunists were the first to drop off. Sandra Jansen fled to a government seat as soon as she could. She would have joined the Social Credit Party if they had won. Others such as Hancock and Lukaszuk are fading into the background as they no longer have seats.

The liberal elements of the party from the executive are now fleeing to the Alberta Party in hopes of keeping influence while still dodging the liberal name that describes them.

The principled and conservative elements of the PC party still remain. The party always had many good people involved in it and now with the flushing of the bad elements, the party looks better than ever.

For those who think things will go too far left, may I suggest joining Randy Thorsteinson’s Reform Party. There you can unabashedly oppose things such as gay marriage and abortion while languishing in the 2% support numbers.

I know those issues are important to some people but they are electoral death and it is utterly pointless to pursue them in any party that realistically aspires to forming government.

BEING A BIG FISH IN A SMALL POND

Some folks actually prefer the party being small. They like being able to be elected into positions such as constituency president without having to deal with much if any competition for the role. They like small meetings where they can dominate and take the agenda where they like. If a merger happens, a new influx of people will be involved and some folks wont retain those constituency roles that they feel entitled too.

This is small thinking but it is all too common. Again, both parties will be better off if those people fall by the wayside. They hold up real growth and hinder the involvement of new and younger supporters.

We have to look beyond our own little bubbles and either get on board or get the hell out of the way.

GATE KEEPING FOR NOMINATIONS

Some people with both parties have put in a long time and a lot of effort to build a framework to ensure that they win the nomination in the constituency. This often is tied into that small fish in a big pond bunch as well.

I know it must feel frustrating to have put in that time and work only to find out that your aspiration for a nomination may be overwhelmed by an influx of new, ambitious folks after a party merger.

Well, suck it up. It is critical that nomination processes remain competitive. While not a guarantee, it does help ensure that the better campaigner wins the spot to represent the party in the general election. I had my ass handed to me in a nomination race a few years back. It sucked and I was bummed but the better campaigner won. If I couldn’t beat my competitor in a small local nomination race, how could I claim to be a better option to take on experienced campaigners in a general election?

One doesn’t need to give up electoral aspirations if the parties merge. It just means you may have to work a little harder. To oppose the merger in hopes of securing a personal nomination is simply small and selfish thinking.

We need to get a single entity going. We can then move on to a leadership and then develop some solid policies. No entity will be perfect and one will die of old age waiting for one to come along. The best way to maintain the integrity of a new merged party is to stay involved. Get on the executive. Take part in policy development. Get on a leadership team.

There simply are no solid reasons to oppose this merger.

To take the chance of having two conservative parties going into the election is simply not worth it. Get out and vote on the 22nd and be sure to vote for unity.

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Where has the time gone?

Can you believe that it has been over three years already?

Why, it feels like only yesterday that Naheed Nenshi had an epic social media temper tantrum when he found out that the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation had done a FOIP request to see if the Mayor had dumped his legal bills on the taxpayers.

You could almost hear Nenshi’s fingers indignantly hammering his keyboard in rage as he expressed his ire over having been questioned on this issue.

The twitter thread stems from this tweet back in June of 2014

 

Roger Kingkade did a fantastic dramatic reading of the exchange here.

Yes indeed. Three years already. That means that it has been nearly four years since Nenshi defamed Cal Wenzel on a radio show. That defamation led to Nenshi’s grovelling apology and a legal bill that was nearly $300,000.

That legal bill was dumped on Calgarian taxpayers and Nenshi still has not paid it back.

Yes, despite Nenshi’s petulant outbursts it appears that Canada’s most highly paid mayor (depending in the year) still dumped the fruit of his act of defamation upon innocent taxpayers.

Nenshi is claiming that the bill will be paid soon. Nenshi of course claimed so stridently that the bill would never been dumped on us so he holds little credibility in this regard. It now becomes a thing of, “I will believe it when I see it.”

I guess this could be part of why Nenshi got caught up in a scandalous $5,000 per plate pay to play fundraiser just weeks ago.

As a small business owner, I sure could use an interest free loan for a few hundred thousand to make some capital improvements. Alas, these sorts of benefits only apply to Mayors I guess.

As it has been years now, we should be reminded that it is an election year. In a few short months, Calgary voters can choose to elect a mayor who is less inclined to dump his legal fees upon them.

I sure hope that the voters lose their apathy and do so.

While the last 4 years went by quickly, a further 4 years of Nenshi would be agonizing.

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The sad history of liberals in Alberta.

It is hardly a secret that Alberta is not a liberal friendly province. Alberta has been and remains a frontier for the ambitious and independent.  Agriculture drew courageous settlers in the late 1800s. Oil drew more in the early 1900s and high tech energy related jobs still draw people from all over the world today.

To relocate into a new environment and take a gamble on a new life takes courage. To endure and remain until you have established yourself takes dedication. In other words, since the beginning of confederation Alberta has drawn strong, independent minded people who don’t want or need big government to get in their way. To put it another way, Alberta has never really been a strong draw for liberals.

This can be seen quite clearly as the Liberal Party has languished for over a century in Alberta as a party yet cant form government.

In 1905 Alberta joined confederation and Liberal Alexander Rutherford was appointed as our first premier. Rutherford called an election later that year and established himself an elected mandate. Not too difficult to do when no opposition party system had been created or established yet. It took 12 years before Albertans organized and tossed the Liberal Party of Alberta to the electoral roadside for what has now been a century.

Had there not been a Liberal government in Ottawa in 1905, I suspect that we never would have seen a Liberal party in power in Alberta.

While the Liberals have run in 25 general elections since 1917, they have never come close to winning power in Alberta. Laurence Decore came somewhat close in 1993 by running on a platform more conservative than the Progressive Conservatives. The populist wave led by Ralph Klein beat back that effort and today despite burning through half a dozen new leaders the Liberals are as deep in the electoral toilet as ever in Alberta.

What is a dedicated liberal sort of person to do in such a situation?

Any realistic liberal (there are a few out there) knows that they will never form government under the Liberal Party banner so they need to seek other alternatives.

A liberal can doggedly keep trying under the party banner as they pursue another century in opposition.

A liberal can simply give up and go federal.

A liberal can go municipal where party allegiance isn’t always evident. That way they can campaign conservative and then govern as a liberal upon election while depending on electoral apathy in order to maintain their job.

A liberal can sneak into a conservative party and hope to turn it liberal.

To be fair though, Sanda Jansen is more of a simple opportunist than a liberal. Jansen would have been begging to join the Wildrose Party had they won the general election. Jansen only cares about residing in a government seat. The party means nothing to her.

The strategy of infiltrating and controlling the Progressive Conservative Party was a successful one for a time. From the later years of Klein’s leadership to the party’s electoral catastrophe in 2015 it was evident that the party was leaning far more to the “progressive” side and drifting away from the conservative side as liberal style entitlement scandals erupted and deficit budgets became common again.

The liberal transformation of the PCs led to the development of the Wildrose Party as an increasing number of conservatives gave up on the PC party.

Unfortunately, due to the now legendary act of treachery led by Danielle Smith and Jim Prentice, the electorate became so horrified and disgusted by both parties that they accidentally elected the Notley NDP.

Now, while the NDP “cure” is turning out to be worse than the disease, we are at least seeing some good long term outcomes here.

The liberals within the Progressive Conservative Party were by nature opportunists. Many of them jumped ship shortly after the party lost power. They had no interest in serving as an opposition party. Other liberals hung on in hopes of turning the shell of the party into a re-branded Liberal Party. Those hopes were dashed as Jason Kenney engaged conservative grassroots voters and swept into the leadership last spring.

The upside I am looking at is that the liberal element has been very effectively flushed from the PC party making the ability of creating a unified conservative party viable.

Now where do all these homeless liberals go?

Fear not. They have taken a page from the 1937 Liberal playbook when they tried to come into power under the Independent Citizen’s Association. You see, Liberals realized that they couldn’t win under their party banner so they tried to hide under a banner that stood for nothing. They banked on the electorate being so tired of openly partisan politics that they would latch on to a party that claimed to shun partisanship through being a coalition of independents thus non-partisan than ever. This coalition failed dismally and the first stealth Liberal attempt ended after the 1940 election when the coalition fell apart. If a party wont openly stand for something, they simply cant concentrate support.

Undaunted however, disaffected Liberals are confident that they can pull this off through the Alberta Party.

The Alberta Party has been around in a few incarnations since the 1980s.  In 2010 a group of liberals took over the small party and in hopes of creating the stealth liberal party they desired. Ever avoiding a solid policy stance on anything, the Alberta Party held a painfully long process that hey coined “the big listen”. The logic was that if they claimed to be always listening to Albertans that they would somehow gain broad support. In maintaining this party that wasn’t a party approach, the Alberta Party took the province by storm in the 2012 general election with a solid 1.33% of the vote.

Undaunted, they carried on. They replaced the term listen with “center”. They follow a simplistic belief that the majority of people are in this mushy world of being in the center and that they surly will engage this giant yet sleeping majority and get a firm center (liberal) government in Alberta. Fiercely battling in the 2015 general election the Alberta Party garnered a staggering 2.28% of the vote. Apparently the center was sleeping that day.

Interestingly though, some experienced liberal operatives will be moving into the Alberta Party this time now that they have lost their Progressive Conservative home. A few champagne socialists will likely pony up some contributions to the next campaign as well.

Will the rallying cry of “centrists!” lead to the first Liberal government in Alberta in over 100 years? I sincerely doubt it.

All the same, it is nothing if not interesting to see a tenacious group of people working generation after generation to sell a product that simply does not appeal to the majority and through so many ways.

We are in quite a period of political flux in Alberta right now to say the least. It will be interesting to see where all the chips land in the next couple years and where liberals will go after the Alberta Party loses another general election through running on nothing.

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