But what of the fringe?

On Tuesday Alberta formally turned into a two party state, at least as far as elected seats go. There were 13 parties in the election and all but the NDP and UCP were decimated by the voters.

I have been involved in alternative parties for well over 20 years from when I joined the Alberta Party in the mid 90s, to forming and leading the Alberta Independence Party in 2000, to the Alberta Alliance, to Wildrose and finally ending in the UCP where for the first time in decades I find myself supporting the party in power. The seeds of the Alberta Alliance party did eventually grow into being a large part of today’s UCP but it took over a decade with many ups and downs. Alternative parties can be important and can eventually get into power but it is a tough road.

There are many reasons why people choose to join alternative parties. For some it is single issue matters as with the Marijuana Party or Green Party. For some it is formed around an individual leader. For some it is a preference of being a big fish in a small pond when it comes to management and leadership. For others it simply is a disenchantment with all of the major parties and seeking to build an entirely new alternative.

Alternative parties are important. They propose ideas and concepts that mainstream parties may not have the courage to approach. They can pressure mainstream parties by threatening to split votes in key constituencies thus will impact the actions of mainstream parties at times. Alternative parties can act as a pressure relief valve for mainstream parties as activists who insist on pushing to the extremes can be invited to leave and join a fringe party that better suits their goals. Finally, alternative parties can potentially eventually go on to form effective opposition parties or governments.

The electoral doldrums are now approaching for alternative parties. There is no time worse to try to grow your membership and raise funds than right after an election. People are tired of politics and are ready to sit back and watch the new government in action for better or for worse. With a federal election looming, it will be even that much tougher for alternative parties to manage to stay relevant.

I am going to break down all of the alternative parties with my thoughts on where they may go starting from largest to smallest.

There is no doubt that the Alberta Party is the biggest loser coming out of this election. Not only did they lose every one of the seats that they had gained from floor crossings, they lost the one and only elected seat that they had. Greg Clark had far and away been the most popular asset for the party and he was solidly turfed from his Calgary Elbow seat which he had worked so had to win and had done a very good job of representing. Their leader Stephen Mandel didn’t even come close in Edmonton McClung and the rest of their candidates landed in the low single digit levels of support. This was nothing less than a catastrophe for the party.

Since being taken over by disenchanted Green Party folks nearly 10 years ago, the Alberta Party has become the sad sack of the Alberta electoral scene with a large social media presence and a microscopic electoral one. They have spent nearly a decade pursuing a mythical middle. They felt that if they shouted “centrist” loudly enough that they would pull people from both the left and the right and win elections. So far all they have done is alienate folks from both sides and the polls show it. Like it or not, people tend to land on one side of the spectrum or another to a degree and they have little use for the mushy middle.

The Alberta Party has been plagued by bizarre strategic moves as well. In constantly refusing to run in by-elections they missed chances to build their electoral base and train themselves in campaigning. Worst of all, they let embittered refugees from the defunct Progressive Conservative Party take them over. That new element insanely pushed Greg Clark out of the leadership. This led to months of a leadership race where nobody wanted the job. Stephen Mandel was finally pulled in an placed as the new leader.

Under Mandel’s leadership the party lurched from one mess to another. The worst was when Mandel among others nearly found themselves banned from running in the election due to his not having found time to file a nomination expense report. A task that takes about 20 minutes. This hardly instilled confidence in people that the Alberta Party was ready to govern the province.

They tweeted and shouted from the sidelines and they ran many candidates. Despite this, the Alberta Party simply could not break that elusive double digit barrier and finished at 9% support.

All that said, over 150,000 Albertans voted for the Alberta Party and this can’t be dismissed. There definitely is a degree of demand for what they are proposing out there but they need to get their shit together if they are to have a hope in properly capturing it.

The Alberta Party is going to need to do some deep introspection. They will need a new leader and they need to turf the pack of Redford era weasels that they inherited from the Progressive Conservative Party. They need to quit putting out the fluffy feelgood policy statements that try to appeal to everybody. This party needs to find its ideological niche and to own it. Create a solid base and then draw people to it. More “big listens” or limp “party for everyone” statements will keep them languishing on the fringes.

The Alberta Party is the best placed party to turn itself into a contender in the next general election. Their choices in the next two years will determine if this is to happen.

It took over a century but the Liberal Party of Alberta finally went from being the first governing party in Alberta to a loss of every seat with a dismal 1% support level throughout the province.

Aside from a short resurgence in the 1990s under Lawrence Decore, the Liberal brand in Alberta has struggled since the government of Pierre Trudeau. The National Energy Program of the 1980s essentially turned the Liberal name toxic in Alberta and Trudeau’s witless son Justin is certainly not doing them any favors. Lackluster leadership and a general lack of electoral support has led to a constant decline for the party within Alberta.

David Khan is bright and personable enough, but he wasn’t capable of breathing life into the dying party in the last election. Calgary Mountainview was the last Liberal bastion in Alberta and Khan finished a distant fourth place with 5.6% support.

Hell, even I managed to pull 6.5% when I ran in Mountainview in 2008 and I was working in the Arctic for all but three days of the campaign.

I think we have finally seen the end of the Liberal Party within Alberta. Only the most masochistic of delusional optimists will be ready to take on this clunker and try to turn it viable again.

The demise of the Alberta Liberals will aid the Alberta Party though as they try to create a left of center alternative that Albertans can get behind. The anchor of the pernicious Liberal name will not hamper their efforts.

Coming in next with 0.7% support is the latest incarnation of the Alberta Independence Party.

The party under previously unknown David Bjorkman managed to become registered by running candidates in over 50% of the constituencies in Alberta. While that path to registration has existed for some time, this is the first time that a party has actually taken it successfully in order to become registered. I tried that method in 2001 and failed.

It says a great deal about the motivation behind the folks that they could pull this off. It is no small task to find 63 people willing and able to get run for the party along with paying the deposits to run and getting the requisite signatures. There is some strong organizational power lurking within that organization.

The candidate diversity was striking as well with a large contingent of aboriginal candidates and the only transgendered candidate to run in this election.

That being said, the party didn’t really set the world on fire with their results. Most of their candidates didn’t break 1% support and I think their best showing was just shy of 2%.

In leading a secessionist party into an election before I learned one simple fact that still stands today. While people will talk big about secession and will respond to polls favorably for secession, when push comes to shove at the ballot box Albertans do not want to take that leap. This is not to say that it will never happen but at this time it is clear that we are nowhere close to having a large segment of the population ready to call it quits on confederation.

I think the Alberta Independence Party is here to stay. If they put the same energy and organizational talent into the next couple years that they did in the months leading up to this election, I expect that they will start pulling some better numbers in some choice constituencies. They won’t be in contention for winning the province but they could very well play a spoiler in some seats.

If Justin Trudeau gets re-elected we can expect to see growth in the AIP as well. As we saw in the 1980s a secessionist can even win a seat in a by-election if the anger is strong enough. The anger cools quickly however.

I expect that Kenney will take a stronger stance in steps towards independence if we get such an adversarial relationship with Ottawa in the future which will defuse the efforts of the AIP.

Another hindrance for a secessionist party is that they are bound to be single issue no matter how hard they may work to develop policy. People want to vote for a government rather than an issue. Secession belongs in the land of advocacy and referendums rather than parties. The AIP can and likely will fill that advocacy role now that they are registered and can raise funds.

Next we have Derek Fildebrandt’s Freedom Conservative Party at 0.5%,

I say “Derek Fildebrandt’s” party because in reality the party simply was all about him.

I like Derek. He is bright, ambitious and has a talent for bringing issues to the forefront. That made it all the more disappointing when he managed to crater his political career with so many errors of his own making.

The Alberta First Party was languishing as an unknown registered entity with a soft-separatist stance. Getting a sitting MLA if even for a short time was a coup for the small organization and it is easy to manage something of that size. This was a big fish in a small pond scenario.

Despite Fildebrandt’s initial claims that they would not run candidates in constituencies where there was a risk of vote splitting in favor of the NDP, FCP candidates began springing up in some very vulnerable constituencies. This cut deeply into the credibility of this nascent party and took away one of the major defenses for having another right of center party in the electoral list.

It became clear that the party was dominated by members who found themselves disenchanted with the UCP for any number of reasons. While spite can certainly motivate some folks, it doesn’t draw electoral support.

The strongest showing the FCP got was 7.7% in Chestemere Strathmore where Derek was handily beaten by Leela Aheer.

I just don’t see this party going anywhere aside from being a rump on the right wing sidelines. If the UCP drifts too far left as the PCs had 10 years ago, the FCP may be revived by a personable leader and pressure the UCP from the right as the Wildrose Party had. For now I expect they will flounder.

As for Derek, I really hope he finds his path. Perhaps with a few years of time out from electoral politics he can come back with some credibility. He certainly has the potential and he is young enough.

Next is the Green Party of Alberta. To put it simply, they are left leaning and single issue despite their constant claims to be centrist and deeper.

They will always be on the scene and will always pull a small number of votes from their core supporters. If they have any impact at all, it will be to be a spoiler in some constituencies by pulling votes from the NDP.

They finished with 0.4% which is about as good as they can expect in Alberta.

Next at 0.3% is the Alberta Advantage Party under Marilyn Burns.

Burns suffers from a chronic oppositional disorder and simply likes leaving parties in order to attack them. Burns started with the Alberta Alliance, stomped away to the Wildrose group, stomped off to the wilderness and then formed her own little party.

Spite doesn’t sell and while the party remains as a registered entity, it won’t go anywhere as it stands now. Like the FCP it may morph into a viable right of center opposition party but it will need some major changes before that happens. Until then they are a non-factor being led by somebody incapable of working with others.

Communism is a vile ideology responsible for hundreds of millions of deaths around the world.

Despite that, we still have a small group of extremists openly supporting communism and they have been led by Naomi Rankin in Alberta for some years.

The communists have a registered party and managed to pull 277 votes from either ignorant extremist assholes or folks who accidentally put an X in the wrong box.

They will always be around and they will thankfully go nowhere.

Perhaps now that Anne McGrath is unemployed she will go back to her overt communist roots and take the leadership of the party. In that case these scumbags may find 400 votes throughout the province.

The Reform Party of Alberta is registered and hanging in the wings.

This rump was built by Randy Thorsteinson. Randy is like Marilyn Burns only he has the fiscal means and organizational skills to keep going. Randy went from Social Credit to Alberta Alliance to forming this party. His pattern is consistent. If he can’t lead the parade, he will stomp away and form his own. This party isn’t going anywhere.

The Pro-life Alberta Political association is what the remnants of the Social Credit Party turned itself into.

Not much needs to be said about these guys. As can be seen, they are single issue and going nowhere though they will act as a partisan filter in drawing the hysteric pro-lifers to them and getting them out of serious parties.

The Wildrose and PC parties are still registered but are essentially dead in the water.

A lot can happen in four years. Some of these parties may blossom and some may die. New parties may appear on the scene.

While they hang in the fringes, these parties play a role and can’t be fully dismissed. It is too bad that they didn’t at least get a few seats to add some diversity of voices in the legislature. Time will tell if this two party system will last or not.

Look for the union label.

Vivian Krause has brilliantly laid out how Rachel Notley is beholden to anti-Alberta energy groups in this article. It is a must read. The piece really lays out why despite Notley’s claims of being pro-pipeline, that nothing actually gets done.

Notley and the NDP do not have the interests of Albertans in mind as they govern. The NDP are dominated by extreme anti-energy ideologues and they exist to serve the needs of organized labour.

The depth of big union dominance within the NDP really needs to be laid out and understood by voters as it is sometimes forgotten. How on earth can we expect the NDP to negotiate union contracts in good faith on behalf of Albertans?

We can’t.

Let’s just begin with looking at the number of NDP candidates and MLAs who are in leading roles within unions.

Aside from leadership roles within unions, many other candidates are union members and mostly within the public sector. .

There is of course utterly nothing wrong with belonging to a union. Union leaders and members have every right to run for public office. The problem is in having a governing party that is dominated and overwhelmed with union influence.

There is no way that Notley’s NDP government will be able to bring spending under control when they are so beholden to public sector unions. They will cave to every union demand when “negotiating” contracts and the expenditures will continue to grow. The conflict of interest is just too much.

The NDP constitution forces a massive labor presence in the makeup of the provincial council. The party will always be controlled by big labor and will serve the interests of big labor above all other needs. The Alberta Federation of Labor and it’s 67 affiliates all have reserved places on the board of the NDP.

Excerpt from the Alberta NDP Constitution

Article VII – Provincial Council

7.01 The Provincial Council shall consist of:  

(a) the Provincial Executive;  

(b) two (2) members to be elected from the Party Caucus in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta;

(c) one (1) member elected by those members of the Party caucus in the House of Commons representing Alberta Electoral Districts. 

(d) three (3) members elected from each provincial Constituency Association, who shall not be a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta;

(e) one (1) member elected from each Federal Electoral District Association within the Province of Alberta.   

(f) the members of the Federal Council residing in Alberta;  

(g) five (5) members from each caucus of the Party;   

(h) two (2) members of the Alberta Federation of Labour; and  

(i) one (1) member from each of the affiliates in Alberta.

The ties to big labor and associated PACs and third party advertisers are far too pervasive for the NDP to ever govern independently of the demands from unions.

Notley’s NDP simply can’t serve the interests of Albertans while in government. Union needs and demands from foreign groups such as the Rockefeller Foundation will always guide the path of the Alberta New Democratic party.

We have a chance to turn the tide this Tuesday. Let’s hope Albertans remove the NDP from power so we may begin on the path to balancing the budget and opening Alberta for business again.

If Notley’s NDP gets another four years in power, our great grandchildren will be paying the debt accumulated due to the oilfield shutdown and money being funneled into big labor.

Complaint to Alberta Election Commissioner.

The advertising during this election campaign has been overwhelming. TV, Radio, social media, billboards, newspapers… It doesn’t matter where we look we see political advertising. While this is hardly shocking during an election, it is surprising seeing the volume of advertising when it is considered that all of the parties are bound by a maximum of $2 million in expenditures during this election. While that sounds like a lot at a glance, it really doesn’t go far when a party is reaching out to an entire province. There are countless other non advertising expenses There are only two parties that have that kind of funding as well.

So where are all these ads coming from?

Third party advertisers. When you put a cap on the spending bottle, people simply find other ways to spend. Again this is not surprising. These advertisers are listed here.

Third parties should indeed have the right to promote their interests during elections. Due to the cap on party spending however, some heavy regulation is required. Are these third parties actual interest groups or are they simply acting as direct arms of parties in order to bypass the spending maximums? It is pretty difficult to distinguish, particularly with the NDP and their intertwined relationship with organized labor.

I was shocked to find that the Alberta New Democratic Party actually is bound within their own constitution to have two members of the Alberta Federation of Labor on their provincial board along with one of each of the Alberta affiliates (there are 67 affiliates). That leaves the NDP provincial board utterly dominated by labor affiliates many of whom are registered as third party advertisers. The Treasurer of the NDP serves in senior positions within several registered third party advertisers. How on earth are these acting as separate entities within this election without collusion?

Other relationships are evident as well. Unfortunately the Alberta NDP is very secretive and they hide who is actually serving on their provincial board. In light of all this intertwining with third party advertisers however, one can see why they are keeping the list to themselves.

This has led me to feel that we need the Electoral Commissioner to look into this. They have the means and authority to take a closer look at just who is controlling the party and what their relationships with third party advertisers are. Collusion to bypass spending limits could be a very serious offense.

The complaint I sent is below. I do hope they find time to investigate soon.

I will be posting more on the relationships of the Alberta NDP with outside parties in the next couple days.

Continue reading

A vote for Rachel Notley is a vote for Jagmeet Singh

The New Democratic Party is not like any other party in Canada and that is worth noting when people are considering a vote in a provincial election. While many federal and provincial parties share a name and general principles, those parties are completely separate entities in reality. This is a critical distinction when it comes to provincial/federal negotiations on issues. The federal Liberal Party of Canada is not formally associated with the Liberal Party of Alberta for example. Provincial NDP parties however are all simply branches of the central federal party.

While the NDP constitution refers to provincial wings as being autonomous parties, this is simply not true when it is considered that membership in the federal party is mandatory if one wants to be a member in a provincial party.

If a person likes the policies, leadership and platform of their provincial Liberal party but does not want to support the federal party they simply can choose not to buy a membership in the federal party. That applies with every party in Canada aside from the NDP. Centralized leadership is a tenet of socialism and they will never truly support any forms of regional autonomy.

This does help to explain a lot of Rachel Notley’s rather lackluster support for Alberta’s energy sector. Oh sure, Notley has talked a fantastic game but when push comes to shove she has accomplished utterly nothing in the protection of Alberta’s key industry aside from increasing direct government involvement in the production of energy products and the financing of these ventures. Increased government control of the energy sector is important as it would help facilitate the shutdown of the industry as per NDP goals outlined in the LEAP Manifesto.

The LEAP Manifesto is an extreme socialist document that essentially calls for the shutdown of Alberta’s energy industries within the next decade. The manifesto was created by key NDP players in Canada and has been embraced by the federal NDP at a general meeting. Despite the loud denials on Notley’s part, that manifesto is part of what forms the basis of her party’s goals. This is because when push comes to shove with principles and policies, the provincial wings of the federal NDP are constitutionally forced to be subservient to their federal masters.

As can be seen in the constitutional statement below, while provincial parties are called “autonomous” this is chained down by the very hard reality that they have to match the principles of their federal superiors. “Principles” is a pretty broad term. In having embraced the LEAP Manifesto though, the federal party has made their principle in working to shut down Alberta’s energy industry crystal clear.

The second statement makes it clear that the federal party has the authority and ability to remove party status from any of their provincial wings should they choose to. While this has yet to have happened in Canada, the constitutional clause makes it pretty clear who is the boss when it comes to provincial and federal wings of the NDP.

Notley can talk a good game when speaking of protecting Alberta’s energy sector but she can’t really act. This is why Notley drafted legislation to cut off the flow of oil to BC but never actually used it. All she can do is bluff. If Notley acted overtly against her BC comrade Horgan, the federal boss would be forced to intervene in the fight. As Horgan is the Premier acting in closest faith to the LEAP Manifesto it is pretty easy to see what side he would take in such a dispute.

The NDP has many many flaws. One of their greatest ones is their forced adherence to central leadership while trying to operate in a country with diverse regional needs.

This should be remembered when choosing who to vote for this spring. While you may indeed trust and like Rachel Notley to lead Alberta, a vote for her will actually be a vote for Singh. Can we trust him to look out for Alberta’s interest or Notley to stand up to him when she needs to?

Progressive Conservative riding projections for 2008 election

In digging through some old emails looking for something else, I happened across a document that I had long forgotten about. I was on the board of the Wildrose Party at that time and ran for them in the 2008 election. Somebody leaked a Progressive Conservative riding projection document along with comments to us in late 2007.

There is nothing earth shattering within the documents. It really is of interest primarily to political wonks who were active at that time. It is neat looking back to see how the party in power looked at those constituencies at that time as the comments are somewhat candid though hardly scandalous.

I have no idea who the author was or who leaked it to us way back then. Since the PC Party no longer exists and not a single PC MLA within the document is still in office, I see little harm in sharing this now.

It is striking how the legislature has had an almost 100% turnover in the last 11 years.

I don’t have the time but will likely drill down later to see how accurate the predictions were. At a glance they looked to be mostly accurate though some of the ridings hadn’t even finished their nominations yet.

Happy reading.

Everybody benefits from corporate tax cuts.

I do love the above quote from Hayek and use it often. The goal of this post is not to try and reason with socialists. They are as lost cause as far as economic understanding goes. I do want to clarify just who benefits from healthy profitable corporations though as myths and misinformation on that subject are par for the course from defenders of big government. Non wonky people (the majority) don’t really put much thought into where corporate profits go and how they may benefit them. They are too busy working and paying taxes.


While we constantly hear of them and see them in the news, those corporate barons who rake in billions are actually pretty few and far between in the scheme of things.There are not many of them out there and contrary to popular belief they don’t hoard their cash and swim in money bins. They tend to re-invest their profits which of course keeps economic activity pumping.

While they may not know it or like to admit it, union members are some of the biggest beneficiaries of corporate profits

The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan has fantastic growth and is worth a staggering $189.5 billion dollars!

I say good for them.

What has made that plan value grow like that over the last 27 years though? I hate to break it to folks but the majority of growth comes from corporate investments and profits.

In other words, raising taxes on corporations will simply take a bite out of the pension plans of teachers. Yes those corporate fat cat types will pay a as well but as noted before, they are in a small minority.

Corporate profits are what makes RRSPs and mutual funds grow as well. If you have any sort of private plan, you are a corporate shareholder and those taxes will reduce your return.

You will pay taxes yet again on those funds when you convert them by the way. How many times and how much tax do you want to pay on your retirement?

But what about folks who don’t have private or union plans? What about people who are counting on the Canada Pension Plan?

Well, the CPP is of course as dependent on corporate growth as much as any plan is. To increase corporate taxes is to take a bite out of the return on investment for every person in Canada who contributes to the CPP.

Yes kids, the fund is worth $356 billion and that makes you a corporate shareholder. I guess if you never want to see the fund grow faster than inflation you could support higher corporate taxes but that really won’t make anything easier on yourself.

Not every dollar earned by a corporation goes back out to shareholders of course. Billions of dollars in corporate profit are re-invested which employs millions of people and generates billions more in taxes in the long run. Every dollar taken out of corporate profit through taxes however is another dollar that won’t contribute to economic growth.

Corporations are indeed bound by the goal of making a profit. They are impersonal and make decisions based on what will best serve the corporation. That means that the higher that a jurisdiction raises corporate taxes, the higher that chance that corporations will leave that jurisdiction in search of lower taxes. It isn’t personal, its math.

Calgary’s downtown is in a crisis with nearly 30% vacancy in downtown office buildings. If we want to bring investors and tenants back, one of the best things we can do is cut corporate taxes. We need to make ourselves more attractive to invest in and unfortunately with the triple whammy of high tax leadership from Nenshi, Notley and Trudeau, Calgary has become one of the worst places for businesses to invest in all of North America.

We can turn that empty office space into an opportunity but in order to do so we must cut taxes. Corporate taxes are among the easiest taxes to cut and we will get the most return in economic stimulus for doing so. We have to start getting rid of our high tax leadership in Alberta first of course. It is looking likely that Notley will be leaving office soon and then we can work on changing the other two levels of government.

Assuming that Jason Kenney becomes Alberta’s next Premier and that he keeps his promise of corporate tax cuts, don’t fall for the simplistic and inflammatory lines about the money lining the pockets of millionaires. Those tax cuts will help the line of each and every person in Alberta including you. Those cuts will help keep you employed today and keep you comfortable in retirement in the future. Celebrate them.

Trudeau’s government is crushing Canadian media credibility.

Conventional media around the world is having a tough time adapting to the information age. Newspapers are restructuring, merging or simply closing their doors as digital news makes the initial medium obsolete. Ad space on a news website sells for a fraction of what print ads used to. Television news is having a terrible time in drawing viewers as they are forced to compete with hundreds of channels including on-demand packages such as Netflix. Radio stations are losing listeners to satellite radio and podcasts. It is simply damn tough for media to make a buck in that environment.

One niche that conventional media continues to hold is that of traditional reporting. Bias should be set aside for reporting and most publications and reporters do so. Blogs and YouTube videos are no substitute for reporters on the ground or trained correspondents around the world. My blog for example is highly biased and selective in what it will report upon. It is no substitute for proper media and I don’t claim it is. Few blogs are though people are increasingly and unfortunately using them as news sources.

The cry of “fake news” is constantly trotted out from people on all sides and all levels of the political spectrum. There truly is fake news out there and it is getting more and more difficult to sift through it for the truth. Cynicism is growing among the populace and people are losing trust in media from all sources. Ironically that tends to drive people even further to “alternative” sources of information which exasperates the situation even more.

Reporters are expensive and as media revenues continue to plummet we see more contraction of media outlets as they try to say solvent. In news reporting, accuracy and a lack of bias are critical if this niche is to be held. Media sources need to be trusted if they are to survive. The actions of the Trudeau government have been destroying that trust.

Now in establishing that there is a problem facing media today, we needed only wait for government to intervene and make the problem worse. Trudeau of course did exactly that.

Perhaps it was well meaning but it is impossible to tell. In dangling $600 million in tax subsidies for media outlets last fall, the Trudeau created more distrust in the Canadian media than dozens of shitty editorials ever could. Whether it is the case or not and whether it is fair or not, it now looks like Trudeau outright bought the favor of Canadian media.

The statement below makes it even more galling to folks:

To determine eligibility for the credit, the government plans to create an independent panel drawn from the “news and journalism community,” which will also “define and promote core journalism standards (and) define professional journalism.”

An “independent panel” eh? This handpicked panel shall define journalistic standards no less. In other words, the government will pick and choose who they deem worthy for this subsidy. How many media outlets will or have danced like trained monkeys in order to get this subsidy which is being dangled in front of them? We may never know but it casts doubt upon the credibility of every media outlet that may qualify.

Defenders of this subsidy scheme could try to dismiss opposition to it as being paranoid or too cynical. Well, in light of last week’s revelations from the Jody Wilson-Raybould it is clear that concerns about government control of media are very justified.

There were so many bombshells dropped in JWR’s testimony that it is hard to keep track. One striking statement however was on how Trudeau’s Chief of Staff made assurances that they could get favorable media when they need it.

Here is the exact quote:
“Katie Telford thinks it gives us cover in the business community and the legal community, and that it would allow the prime minister to say we are doing something. She was like “if Jody is nervous, we would of course line up all kinds of people to write op-eds saying that what she is doing is proper.””

“All kinds of people”? Which people? Which publications? Which channels?

This is not minor people. I and I am sure many others now look at every article out there wondering whether or not it was created by one of those “all sorts of people”. I am sure that the vast majority of articles and op-eds out there weren’t directed by the Prime Minister’s office but how the hell am I to know which are which?

Shortly after Trudeau fired Jody Wilson-Raybould in January, the Toronto Star leaped into Liberal spin mode in trying to justify the move.

That was a rather well timed hit piece on Jody Wilson-Raybould and it came out well before the scandal broke. It certainly makes one wonder how fast those “all sorts of people” were rounded up to start trying to spin on what has turned into the biggest Canadian scandal of a generation.

One almost feels embarrassed for Heather Mallick with the Toronto Star as she clearly participates in journalistic prostitution of the highest order. Mallick has churned out piece after piece trying to tell Canadians that there is actually no scandal to be seen. It is almost nauseating to read the tripe she has written in hopes of distracting Canadians from this massive scandal while currying favor from Justin Trudeau.

Mallick’s lame efforts remind me of good old Baghdad Bob who tried to assure Iraq that all was well while the rockets were literally landing behind him.

Rather unconvincing to say the least.

Time will tell whether Mallick will get that Senate seat that she so clearly covets. Perhaps she is even aspiring to the Governor General’s throne.

It is going to be tough but now is the time for media members with integrity to step up and help assure the Canadian public that they are not simply a tool that has been purchased by the Canadian public. Most media members are truly independent but now it will be incumbent upon them to convince us that this is the case. It’s not fair but that is how things stand today.

Media credibility was in tough shape months ago. Trudeau’s recent actions have unfortunately left it in tatters. Let’s hope that they can recover because an independent media is critical to a free society.

Get government out of party business.

In a rather stunning development, Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel has found himself ineligible to run for his own party on the eve of a general election call due to his filing of his nomination expense forms too late.

This is nothing less than a disaster for the nascent Alberta Party which had been dearly hoping to pull themselves from single digit support into being a viable alternative in the general election. Mandel is trying to appeal the Elections Alberta sanction, but time is short and it appears that he broke the rules. Even if Elections Alberta lets him off the hook, the embarrassment to his party won’t be going away. How on earth can they convince voters that they will govern the province well when their own leader can’t file his expense forms on time?

Let’s be clear, I am no fan of the Alberta Party. They are a group of liberals wearing a thin coat of blue paint peppered with a number of disenchanted red Tories left over from the defunct Progressive Conservative Party. They talk a big game on social media but fail dismally when faced with actual elections. Former Leader Greg Clark won Calgary Elbow but he won that constituency on his own merit rather than the party’s. As a reward, he compatriots within the party kicked him to the curb in order to bring in Stephen Mandel as a new leader. Hardly looking like a wise trade today.

I also understand just how easy it is to fill out a zero expense form for Elections Alberta after running in a nomination race. I did that very thing last fall and it took me about twenty minutes.

What I question is the need for parties to answer to Elections Alberta at all when it comes to nomination races. Political parties are private entities. They have their own constitutions, they have their own memberships. Nobody is forced to join or support political parties. Nomination and leadership races are entirely within the domain of these entities and they should be able to run them however they damn well please.

Rachel Notley has grossly abused the Alberta electoral process since becoming our accidental Premier almost four years ago. The Alberta Elections act has been amended at least 4 times since she took power and it has become a quagmire of over reaching rules and controls. Even Elections Alberta themselves have difficulty in giving clear answers to questions on how spending and campaigning work when we have this bizarre “election period” leading to a formal campaign at some unknown time while essentially banning campaigning before this nebulous “period” comes into play. All parties have spent countless hours scratching their heads in trying to figure out how to promote their brand while remaining legally within the ever changing constraints of the Elections act.

One of the traps that the NDP planted into nomination legislation was in having all people register publicly with Elections Alberta if they are even considering running for a nomination. The intent was to embarrass parties as undesirable candidates appear on a list associated with the party while the party had utterly no mechanism to keep that from happening.

This strategy backfired when I registered as a candidate for the NDP for Banff Kananaskis.

After I released a few embarrassing campaign planks in my run as an NDP candidate, parties suddenly became able to put an annotation in the listing to label a candidate as having been rejected by the party. Rest assured though, had I not done that the NDP would have happily been using the nomination listings as a hammer to beat the UCP up with as every crackpot who takes the time to fill out a simple form suddenly becomes listed as a nomination candidate.

While other parties wrestle with this legislative mess, Rachel Notley and gang happily have been in full campaign mode for months as they advertise and make spending announcements while being immune from the act as they are claiming to be acting on government business. It helps that the NDP rarely actually holds democratically challenged nominations.

Now Albertans are stuck in this election campaign that isn’t an election campaign. Vitriol is rising as parties and voters become frustrated in this electoral purgatory. Electoral discontent and apathy is surely growing as this hyper-partisan environment dominates the news and a date for an actual election still hasn’t actually been set.

Gross fundraising and spending constraints added to the Elections Act have only served to spawn numerous PACs which are even less transparent than the parties were. Lets face it, if people want to promote a party they will find a way no matter how hard the government tries to prevent it. Now the poor souls at Election Alberta are scrambling to try to track the actions of a bunch of “independent” groups on top of all the party tracking they are tasked with. It is an utter mess.

We need government to get the hell out of party business and elections.

To begin with, we need truly set election dates. None of this “election period” bullshit which gives the Premier months to play coy and mess with the election call for the benefit of their own party. We need an election date set and I mean the actual day of the vote. Nothing less.

I understand that with our constitution that any law for a fixed election date can be repealed by a majority government. We saw Prentice do that very thing. How well did that work out for his government though? A fixed date would put some pretty heavy pressure on the government to abide by it and if they decided to break it they had better damn well have a good reason or the electorate will be certain to apply punishment at the polls.

Nominations and leadership races should be completely left out of electoral legislation. It is up to parties to set their own rules. If the public doesn’t like how they do it, they simply don’t have to support those parties.

Aside from a degree of disclosure requirements and perhaps a very high upper limit, parties should not have their fundraising ability restricted as well. As long as we know who donated and how much, we need little else. It would be true transparency.

Party politics do indeed run on money but money is hardly a guarantee of electoral success. Notley and Nenshi both won elections while spending far less than their competitors. We don’t need to try to strangle party fundraising or spending. Let voters be the judge.

It is rare that an incumbent party has the will to change laws in favor of other parties. The window will be short but I think it is important that we all pressure the next government of Alberta to reform the Elections Act yet again. This time though, we need to look at how we can strip it to its bare minimum. Let grassroots democracy take care of the rest.

It’s now or never for Canada’s energy industry.

This is it. The very last active major energy project in Canada is the Coastal GasLink pipeline in BC which if ever completed, will transport natural gas to Kitimat where it can be converted to Liquified Natural Gas and exported overseas.

Every other major energy project in Canada the last few years has either been shut down by government whether through unreasonable legislation as with Energy East, or through activist judges who move the regulatory goalposts as with the Trans Mountain expansion or with an outright ideological based shutdown direct from government as we saw with Northern Gateway.

Coastal GasLink is the last one standing. TransCanada did every requisite study. They did every requisite consultation. They cut every requisite deal with impacted communities. They applied for and received every one of the seemingly endless permits to operate.

Coastal GasLink played by all of the ever changing, convoluted rules and roadblocks that Canada put before it yet it still is finding itself stalled by protesters and pending court challenges.

Yes, after months of delays and countless thousands spent in the courts an injunction to clear a handful of protesters who had set up a fake “healing lodge” and illegal blockade on a bridge out of the way so that crews could do preliminary work in order to build the pipeline.

After way too many generous warnings, 14 idiots were arrested and removed from the site by the RCMP and the bridge was opened.

Protests from the extreme were held across Canada in support of the handful of pipeline protesters. Hundreds of thousands have been raised to fight this legal project and Canadian musicians and celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon in trying to shut down this legal project.

Within weeks, work was shut down as extremists placed trap lines in the work zone and put workers and “trappers” at risk. The placement was purposeful of course. With literally hundreds of thousands of acres wide open for trapping, the protesters just happened to choose the small work zone for the pipeline. While the traps have been cleared and work is resuming, I have not heard of any charges against these illegal trappers yet.

More protests are coming and more court challenges are pending.

The bottom line is that if we can’t get this pipeline built we will never get a single new large energy project done in Canada again.

This isn’t even an oil line. No evil bitumen or “tar” sands products. No risk to whales. No chance of an oily leak into a water body. We fart the same product that the pipeline will carry and like our personal flatus, any accidental release of natural gas from the line will simply dissipate.

As far as energy projects go, this is low hanging fruit.

There will always be protesters. There will always be fake chiefs among them such as the travelling loon “Chief Grizzly Mama”. Nothing we do will stop these extremists from opposing developments. There is no negotiating that can be done with these people. There is no reasoning that can be had with them. They are crazy and if we want to get something done these people will have to be arrested and charged.

It remains to be seen if government has the will to follow through and facilitate the construction of this pipeline. It took months and many court injunctions before a small collection of drug addled bums could be removed from “Camp Cloud” in Burnaby and it was clear that the authorities would rather have left the protesters where they were if they could have gotten away with it.

It is little wonder that extreme protesters feel emboldened when we see so many displays of cowardice from government in the face of law breaking. Even when those nutcases from Greenpeace put dozens of first responders in danger by forcing them to do a rescue and arrest operation at high heights, not one of those criminals got so much as a ticket. Aside from the risk they put the police and others into, how many thousands of tax and private dollars were wasted as these idiots hung from a bridge? If we fail to come to a complete halt at a stop sign on a deserted rural road the RCMP will not hesitate to hand us a heavy ticket yet we can’t find it in ourselves to charge Greenpeace extremists.

This simple pipeline is the litmus test. Shutting down the protesters and getting the Coastal GasLink will be a veritable cakewalk when compared to what will have to be done to ensure that the twinning of the TransMountain line is completed.

I have little faith that Trudeau has the will to get any of these projects done. The international investment community clearly feels the same as incoming dollars to Canada plummet. Who in their right mind would invest here when the most basic of legal projects can’t get done?

Watch the construction of the Coastal GasLink project carefully. Even if it does get done, things don’t look promising for TransMountain. If Coastal GasLink doesn’t get done, we can confidently say that nothing will. The construction season is passing. We will know in the next few months if Canada is open for business or not. I am afraid that I am not terribly optimistic.