Compounding the issue through lies.

In a small way, there is a similarity between Premier Redford’s situation and that of Rob Ford who was so recently judicially tossed out as Mayor of Toronto. Ford’s issue was rather small (though wrong) in using city letterhead to raise $3000 for a cause of his choice. Where Ford really went wrong was when he refused to recuse himself on a council vote on that very matter. Through his own stubborn, foolish pride Ford compounded the matter which eventually led to his ousting.

Alison Redford’s government has been awash in corruption and questionable practices essentially since the day Redford took power. Redford even had her sister essentially laundering tax money to the Progressive Conservative Party through her expenses in a government position.Other scandals kept popping up indicating everything from doctor intimidation to other illegal donations. Despite this though, Redford has always managed to walk that thin line in that while her government is clearly grossly un-ethical, it manages to always stay just within the bounds of legality (due to her own shoddy laws).

With Alberta’s terribly lax laws in regards to ethics, whistle-blowing etc, I am pretty sure that Alison Redford’s personal selection of her ex-husband’s (current friend, heavy party donor and head of her transition team into office) law firm to run a multi-billion dollar action for the government while odious would still have not been found as a  conflict of interest.Everything changed when Redford blatantly lied to the legislature!

This lie by Redford is so blatant and bald faced as to be staggering. Despite CBC finding a very solid paper trail proving without doubt that Redford personally made the decision, Redford continues to lie in the legislature and out of it about this whole affair. Redford has turned this from what has become a run of the mill corruption thing with her government and turned it into a full blown contempt of parliament case which is potentially terribly serious.

The graphic below simplifies the whole case. This is not a case of interpretation. Redford is simply lying. The image from facebook is less long winded than I am prone to being but makes the point clearly.

Alison Redford’s lying has put many people into tough positions now. Our current Justice Minister has been bouncing around like a Mexican jumping bean seeking to run as he said “on the same song sheet” as he tries to keep up with the Premier’s stories. The past Justice Minister now is trying to slide more deeply under the bus and the Speaker of the Legislature himself is now in a very awkward position.

The impartiality of Speaker Gene Zwozdesky has been somewhat questionable in what has been an exceedingly raucous session of the legislature. With a clear cut case of the Premier misleading the legislature like this before him, Zwozdesky is truly now put to the test. How the speaker rules on this on coming days will truly indicate whether we still have something of a functional and balanced legislature or not.

Having taken a moderately bad ethics accusation and turned it into a full blown contempt of Parliament issue through bald-faced lying, Redford has proven herself dishonest at the least. Redford has not exactly proven herself all that bright in all of this either. I want neither of the aforementioned shortcomings in my Premier.

 

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It’s getting hard to stay loyal to the Harper Conservatives

A little over a month ago I went to Ottawa to attend and participate in the second annual Aboriginal Entrepreneurs Conference and Trade Show. From a business and conference viewpoint the trip went excellently. From the perspective of a political wonk on a first pilgrimage to Canada’s capital, the trip was very disappointing.

I have been fortunate enough to have travelled all over this great world. Despite my political involvement over the years though, I had simply never had the opportunity or reason to go to Ottawa. I was quite excited to see in person what I had only been able to see on television and in print as Parliament was indeed in session and there were breaks for me throughout the conference where I could go and observe proceedings in person.

The first large irritation that the Conservatives tossed at me was at the conference itself. Minister of Aboriginal Affairs John Duncan gave a speech to open the conference which is wholly appropriate in his role. What was completely inappropriate was Duncan going off in a tirade about how a carbon tax from the NDP would harm Canada’s economy. Duncan then mumbled off on an uninspired, canned speech about the importance of native business ventures in Canada, made a closing comment and left the conference. I had to fight to keep myself from jeering and booing with such a partisan and unrelated tangent being injected into what is otherwise a productive event.

During a conference break a day or two later, I popped by Parliament to take in a session of question period. Now I am not so naive as to have thought that it would be much different than what I have seen many times in person in the Alberta legislature or on TV federally. I know that no matter which party is in power that question period rarely has many answers. I do enjoy good verbal sparring with some political points being made though and understand that this can get rowdy. To my disappointment there were no clever exchanges at all. The Harper government used member’s statements to go on about an NDP carbon tax and then answered pretty much every question by railing about a pending NDP carbon tax no matter what the question was.

Harper’s government that day in question period almost managed to make Alison Redford’s PCs look open and transparent!

Few things can annoy a dedicated idealist like me more than government arrogance and a full focus only on retaining power as opposed to addressing important issues. I am not sure what crappy focus group determined that obsessive focus on an apparent carbon tax conspiracy by the NDP would be a good strategy for the government but it is past time to cut it out.

Jamming omnibus bills through Parliament is another sign of a lazy and arrogant government. Those assholes are paid and expected to spend time deliberating and debating legislation in parliament. It is nothing less than a dereliction of duty to take the omnibus route rather than let legislation stand independently on it’s own merit for the deliberation of the house. Harper is supposed to be better than this. We worked hard to put him there to be better than this and it is getting disappointing.

Last night Joan Crockatt narrowly won what should have been a cakewalk of a by-election in Calgary. Droves of Conservative voters stayed home and many others actually went Green as they wanted to make a safe statement and were still way too Albertan to vote for the anti-Alberta Liberals. The question now is; did Stephen Harper get the message?

I am happy that Crockatt won. Despite the vitriolic attempts by other candidates and their supporters to demonize Crockatt (even our grossly overrated mayor jumped on the dogpile), I know that Crockatt is bright, principled and will serve Calgary Centre well. I am even happier that the win was a narrow, nailbiting one. I hope Joan takes the message to the Conservative Party that support for the party is waning fast and they had better wake up!

Were it not for the ongoing anti-Alberta gaffes by the Liberal Party and the very negative Green campaign putting Calgary voters off, I think we would have seen a Liberal MP in Calgary. Conservatives are not supposed to win in Calgary based on being the least of the evils!

We have a few more years until the next federal election. I really hope that I do not need to seek a new option to support. I know there are some great MPs in the Conservative Party and I think my own MP Michelle Rempel is awesome with some tremendous potential in the future. No matter how strong my local MP is though, I will not be able to find it in myself to support her in the next election if her party continues on this path of introversion and arrogance.

I am sure hoping to see things change and soon. It takes a lot to knock me off a party of choice but lately the Harper Conservatives are working hard to do it.

Ask Kim Campbell what happens when Albertans feel taken for granted by a Conservative government.

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Wildrose Party 2012 Annual General Meeting Summary

To begin with I have to say that the 2012 Wildrose Party AGM in Edmonton this year was nothing less than a smashing success. Those familiar with myself and or my blog know that I will not hesitate to be critical of my party when I feel they have strayed from a good course. I am happy to give a fully positive review of things today.

Turnout

To be frank I had been concerned about how turnout may be for this event. There were a few factors that I felt could have negatively impacted turnout this year; roads were a little wet and icy at times though not as bad as they could be at this time of year, Edmonton is not traditionally our most supportive part of Alberta (though that is changing), it is the Grey Cup weekend and Calgary is in the final game and the AGM had initially sort of been slapped together in a rush almost grudgingly as documented here.

Despite all of the above challenges, I am thrilled to report that nearly 700 members attended this year’s event. I found the Mayfield Inn quite full of folks for the informal social and hospitality suites on the Friday evening. On Saturday morning hundreds were already seated at breakfast and the room simply kept filling and filling through the course of the day as people arrived from all over the province. By the end of the day seats were at a premium as the very large room literally got to a  standing room only state.

There were a few reasons for this great turnout. To begin with, there is simply a great attitude of enthusiasm and optimism among the party membership. While some felt disappointment in our not forming government in last spring’s election, it was still a tremendous success as the Wildrose Party went from four seats in the legislature to what has turned out to be an incredibly effective 17 member opposition. With the talent being demonstrated by our caucus and with the clear lack of direction of the Redford government, members can indeed sense that we are on the way to forming Alberta’s next government. With that feeling of confidence in the future members can sense the importance of our party events opportunities to build and prepare for the future.

As opposed to the 2011 AGM, positions for the provincial executive were very well contested this year (candidates and outcomes can be found here). Having such hotly contested positions by so many people ensured that many teams were on the ground encouraging members to attend the AGM and vote. Being able to participate in something so important as executive elections engages members and adds a great element of satisfaction for members as they know and can feel how important their participation is in guiding the direction of the party. Flaccid lists of acclamations with endorsements from a party committee in 2011 did not add that element in that years underwhelming and poorly promoted elections.

The pricing for attendance at this year’s AGM made a great difference as well. For a two day event, an early-bird rate of $100 which capped out at a top cost of $150 was a great deal. At the 2011 AGM the rate to attend was $250 (there was a modest early-bird rate but it eludes me). We have many very dedicated members and had around 700 people attending in 2011 despite that high cost. Many members did stay home in 2011 though and word is that the party posted close to $100k in losses from that event as it had been hoped that well over 1000 people would be attend and space and supplies had been prepared for as much. Many members have bluntly expressed that the high cost of attendance is what kept them from coming out and that they did not feel such a high price to attend reflected grassroots well.

The venue this year was not as fancy as the Telus Convention Center had been last year. No giant audio/visual lightshow was prepared and presented and there were no long (clearly expensive to produce) video introductions. There was a giant Alberta flag as a backdrop along with screens on either side of the stage providing a magnification of the people speaking for those sitting near the back. The only complaint I could have is that we needed speakers near the back as it was hard to hear on occasion for people like myself who are somewhat hearing impaired. The food and refreshments were modest but adequate and were provided efficiently. I truly heard not a single soul bemoaning the lack of excess or luxury this year as there had been in the 2011 AGM. I hope that all of this has been noted by the powers that be this year (I will be sure to remind them of course).

The massive division, leadership questions and internal turmoil!

I think one ironic factor leading to such a good turnout this year was a mixture of curiosity/concern by some members over apparent division and a plot to overthrow the party leader. In a tiny way, I feel that my wife and I bear a little responsibility for this as we had both exposed some operational and attitude problems within the party in something of a public way. I think those planted the seeds for the more nefarious to take elements of what we had pointed out and craft it into a rather shabby conspiracy theory of a possible internal takeover by some members of the caucus. A video was displayed on the site of a rather non-credible blogger in Edmonton that tried to show a chain of events and personal links leading to a conspiracy. The video was quickly discredited and it being promoted by a person who has an obsessive opposition to the Wildrose in hopes of desperately gaining personal attention really didn’t add to it’s credibility.

An email from a fake caucus members account then went out to some members and began to be forwarded around that was implying essentially the same conspiracy theory as the one on the short lived aforementioned video. The email was no more credible than the video but it did bring some life to the conspiracy in a media that was hoping to find something more interesting to report on than a simple annual general meeting of a party.

Back to that irony, I think that many fence-sitters made up their minds to attend the AGM in hearing about the video and email. Some members were concerned that this smoke may have indicated a possible fire and decided to come and see for themselves.

With so many members coming, looking for possible division and finding none what happened is that we found ourselves more unified than ever before. The conspiracy led to many good jokes both from people speaking to people on the floor. I almost hope that such petty efforts continue.

This does drive home though another element of the importance of general and well attended meetings of the membership of the Wildrose Party (or any party for that matter). When meetings get too far apart as they had this time, complacency on the board can and did happen and small issues indeed began to fester into larger ones. Better communications can ease this problem and good meetings such as last weekend obliterate the problem. It must be borne in mind for the future that the “A” in AGM stands for Annual!

Policy and direction

Due to constitutional constraints and some disorganization on the part of the past Executive Committee, we could not do any formal changes to our party policy at this year’s AGM. Getting back into the realm of irony, this lack of formal policy work led to planning for a great deal of informal policy discussion which gave us much more clarity in our party stances and allowed our representatives to get much more direct member feedback on direction.

It has to be remembered, that the two issues that are most constantly attributed to the sudden drop in polls in the last election actually had utterly no basis in official party policy. The “lake of fire” garbage was based on the mental meanderings of a lone candidate on his personal blog. The weird caucasian blatherings by Leech were just the poorly phrased statements of one person. There is nothing referencing gay people or minorities in any of our policies so it must remembered that policy reforms alone will not do anything to counter these sorts of issues.

We do have some policy that is redundant, vague and out of date. We do need as a party to go through our policy set at our next gathering and fix this up.

What my poor photography demonstrates above is what our time was filled with due to the lack of formal policy work.

We had three sections of policy represented by groups of caucus and then two different breakout periods where people could have direct exchanges with MLAs on policy concerns. The discussion was incredibly frank and open and dialog went in both directions from members to caucus. This provided more clarity to policy direction than any policy book revisions ever could have. Caucus members got to hear directly from members and this will help them form their stances in the legislature. We can never have a policy for every issue so the best way that caucus members can represent party members is to engage them directly like this. One small but important critique here though, Joe Anglin needs the hook when speaking at such things as his long-windedness precluded many other questions. We do have many other caucus members and other questions Joe.

The other picture shows the open Q&A where Danielle Smith and Kerry Towle took completely open and unfiltered questions from members on the floor. Nothing was sugarcoated and while there were some softballs, the tough questions were asked too. Danielle was asked directly about the Hunsperger/Leech things and answered at length. Danielle Smith’s respect for free speech was evident but it was clear that she recognized the importance of taking care of these issues through better and more vigorous candidate selection processes and policy clarity. Both free speech and integrity of candidates can be maintained.

Some have already yelped that Danielle Smith did not condemn Hunsperger enough. Seriously folks, had Hunsperger been brought to the AGM, hung up, flogged by the entire membership and then personally fed his own recently severed testicles by Danielle Smith, there would still be some people saying she did not go far enough. It was one person, it did not and does not reflect the whole party, it is past and get over it already. Those who will never get over it are those who would never vote for a responsible option like the Wildrose Party in a million years anyway so it is past time to simply ignore them and move on.

True and real transparency

Some media and members alike expressed something akin to shock at how open everything was. Birds really should fall from the sky or something when Premier Redford dares to utter the word transparency considering how hard her government works to hide their actions from citizens and in light of the recent Progressive Conservative Party AGM where media was outright banned from the majority of activities, the open nature Wildrose Party AGM was indeed shocking in it’s contrast.

Even noted dipper Lou Arab took some time to pop in and put our open meeting to the test. He was only moderately abused 😉 .

Danielle Smith and the entire caucus was available throughout the entire two days. Even during the inebriated later hours of the hospitality suites Danielle could be found in the hallways being cornered with question after question directly from members. It must have been exhausting but it is incredibly appreciated and sends an incredible message.

Had a person wanted to speak one on one with every member of the entire caucus and provincial executive during the AGM it was easily possible with some effort over those two days. I expect it will be tougher in 2016 but only because there will be well over 65 caucus members as opposed to any lack of transparency.

While so many pay lip service to the whole concept of transparency, the Wildrose Party clearly practices it. It is through these practices and through member vigilance that we will maintain these high principles and that the Wildrose Party will usher in a whole new style of responsible government soon.

Hindsight and self-evaluation

Members and media alike were surprised by Tom Flanagan’s (party campaign co-chair) very frank and open summary of the past election. This sort of candid discussion of strategy and and personal humbling is never demonstrated by other parties. Flanagan spoke to our naivety in some elements of the campaign and he spoke to how some issues caught us off guard. Charts demonstrated how some of our policy initiatives during the campaign gained support while others (such as the energy rebates) actually cost us a fair degree of support. Flanagan spoke on how some of our policies are simply out of date and others just won’t sell.

It is through this unvarnished discussion that we ensure growth and evolution as a party. In being open, we must learn from our errors and successes. Contrasting these things openly before the entire membership brings us all into this learning and helps foster a sense of pragmatism and understanding of how we will have to always keep electability in mind when crafting our plans and policies.

Summary

The 2012 AGM was a great success and the Wildrose Party is much stronger today than it was just a week ago.

A new and invigorated Executive Committee was elected in a well contested race. In having to fight for their spots, these members will not be as inclined to fall into the complacency that crept into the last EC. I expect they will do a great job in guiding and managing the communications and operations of the party.

A deeper sense of enthusiasm and unity was gained by all in attendance and the importance of these gatherings was demonstrated (even to those who seem to try and avoid these things).

Danielle Smith’s keynote speech was excellent. I left it alone as myriad media and bloggers have covered it and it was live streamed.

We still have a mountain of work to do on our way to forming government in 2016. Major progress was made in creating that path to government this weekend. We need to keep this attitude and maintain momentum.

::update::

Just wanted to add that the staff and volunteers did a great job. Things went smoothly from registration to scheduling.It all was very well organized. Couldn’t happen without them.

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Recount!

Back in early October I headed out one morning to see for myself just how many cyclists are using some of the main bike-lanes in our city. Despite bike enthusiasts constantly tossing out numbers claiming as many as over 10,000 people use bicycles to commute in and out of downtown Calgary daily, it simply did not seem like I was seeing the number of bike riders on the street to justify these rather grand claims. On parking myself on a few main bike commuter routes and doing a formal count during rush hour my suspicions were confirmed.

One Calgary bike lane had only 2 bikes on it during an entire hour during the rush. The 10st NW bike lane as a main artery to downtown Calgary carried a grand total of 51 bike riders during the morning rush on a nice clear day.

Upon posting these findings, the rather hysteric and somewhat extreme self-styled bike crowd in Calgary were predictably apoplectic that somebody dared question and verify the veracity of their exaggerated claims of bike ridership in Calgary. Excuses were made and new numbers were cooked. Some excellent creative accounting of the rather flimsy bike rider counts out there was used but the bottom line simply can’t be escaped; only a tiny minority of Calgarians are using bike lanes to commute to work!

I felt I needed to be fair here though. Perhaps that period of October was a one-off sort of situation. Maybe there was some sort of religious observance where the bike cult all had to pay homage to the great cycle Gods that week or something. In light of that possibility, I went back out to the 10 St NW bike lane to get yet another count.

Well, on a reasonable morning for this time of year, the winds were down and the road was simply wet, on a main artery into Calgary’s downtown on a bike lane that was well established during the busiest hour of the day………….

I didn’t even need my  fancy clicker. I could have taken off my shoes and counted the grand total of 17 bikes that used the 10 St. NW bike lane during the busiest hour of the day.

10 St NW carries thousands of cars daily and is a terrible choke-point for traffic coming in and out of Calgary’s core. Despite that, 1/3 of the road was taken from vehicles and designated for bike use which as we can see today is pretty much pointless.

What pissed me off even more was that two bike riders were actually ignoring the bike lanes built for them and rode on the sidewalk instead while I was there. With the light at the time and with my parking spot, I did not catch shots of them in action though I did get pictures of their tracks.

This action of bike riders ignoring and refusing to use these very expensive bike lanes is clearly a chronic thing as a sign actually was posted (and clearly ignored) telling bike riders not to ride on the sidewalk. If we subtract those two bike riders from my count we get 15 actually using the lanes in rush hour.

Being ever generous though, I thought I should venture further in search of this elusive crowd of bike riders that is packed so tightly that we must take away automotive lanes and give them to bike riders for their commute.

I took a deep breath and ventured deeply into prime hipster habitat (Kensington) seeking this pileup of bikes. I began at the Safeway. Maybe all the bike commuters had paused to get granola and organic-bean sprouts or something.

While the Kensington Safeway provides loads of bike racks, not a single bike was to be found in them. The mystery continues. Following the scent of patchouli, I ventured deeply into this foreign district and found an actual bike shop. The outside had a grand variety of bike racks.

One would think that a bike shop within Kensington with a bike lane leading to it would be a virtual Mecca of bikes. As can be seen though, not a one was parked in the many bike racks. The grand migratory herd of Calgarian bike riders still eluded me.

I carried on with my venture to downtown Calgary. I saw the occasional bike track, but alas no riders as I crossed one of our many many many pedestrian bridges.

I found myself at Calgary’s Eau Claire Market. No bikes were found to be parked there either though but my tour of that dismal little mall ties well into all this.

Eau Claire Market was a terribly planned and incredibly expensive experiment that was created on the flawed logic of: “If you build it they will come!” Sorry kids, that only works in movies about cornfields. In real life one must identify demand before creating a supply.

Bike lanes are based on that logic too. Despite 20 years of effort, no measurable increase in the percentage of people who commute with bikes in Calgary has happened. That little bit of reality unfortunately is still not stopping idealistic city planners and delusional cycle aficionados from promoting and indeed wasting countless dollars and space on bike lanes for which there is no real demand.

Eau Claire Market was supposed to be Calgary’s great entry into a cosmopolitan and “vibrant” world of an active core. This was going to be Calgary’s Granville Island! People would come from around the world to visit Eau Claire and drink at the (very short lived) Calgary Hard Rock Cafe! Trendy development and pedestrian friendly services would naturally expand from this anchor and Paris would be envious of this profound exercise in urbanism!

Alas, reality prevailed. Currently space can hardly be given away in the Eau Claire Market. Small specialty stores with hand-drawn signs fill some spaces while others languish empty. Even the food fair has spaces that they can’t lease out (quite and accomplishment downtown) and the mall itself is cavernous and depressing.

Decades of effort and countless marketing dollars spent would not change the simple reality that Calgarians are suburban people. We don’t want to hang around downtown with it’s purposely inflated parking costs and purposely choked traffic. We have no interest in an urban mall with poor selection where we would be expected to lug our overpriced purchases onto public transit in order to bring it back to our homes. This will not change folks.

With decades of effort, the social engineering experiment of making us all ride bikes to work in a winter nation is failing too.

The 10 St bike lanes are well established. They built it but alas the bikers did not come (nor will they ever). Today was no exception. These bike lanes and this bike demand is supposed to be all year round. At -11 this morning, it was actually much warmer than many mornings will be throughout the winter. On days when it is hot people are not going to be too willing to ride home on a bike while wearing a suit either by the way.

The bike lobby is persistent and extreme though. Yes I do refer to them as the “bike cult” at times and I think it is accurate. Many (possibly most) people enjoy going out for a bike ride now and then. There is nothing wrong with that and it is these recreational users that bike fanatics use to pad their polls trying to exaggerate bike demand. There is a world of difference between a recreational user and a bike cultist though.

The bike cultists are much like vegans, you don’t have to look hard to spot them (they will self-identify if you do not open the conversation on their spandex wearing at the wedding) . These people wear their lifestyles on their sleeves and they live for their hobby. Their twitter monikers invariably will contain the word bike within them and usually include a picture of them on a bike or of a bike they wish they could own.

Hey, it is a free world. By all means wrap yourself around the activity of biking. FSM knows there are far worse obsessions for people to have. The problem with the bike cult though is that like vegans they generally are sanctimonious and demanding. It is not enough that they have chosen what they feel to be a higher way, they now need services to accommodate their choices and they feel that others must be converted. That is when the line from enthusiast to cultist gets crossed and ire gets raised.

Red Deer got rid of some of their idiotic bike lanes last summer. Calgary is getting rid of a purely stupid notion of a bike lane in Lakeview now and Toronto dealt with outright hysteria from their bike cult when they got rid of a completely redundant bike lane that had a bike track running parallel only one block away.

Look at the drama queens in action below as a pointless bike lane is removed in Toronto a few weeks ago. No folks, calling these people cultists is not an exaggeration.

Do we want to be a competitive destination as a city? Do we want to reduce pointless idling? Do we really want a “vibrant” core? We need traffic flow for that and bike lanes choke that.

The case is being made about how bikes take cars off roads. That is a load of horse poop. What the bike lanes have done is choke vehicular traffic however. On 10th St in Calgary 1000s of cars pass daily while the bike lane can barely draw dozens. The number of autodrivers suddenly embracing bike use will have to increase a hundredfold before the waste of dedicating a third of a lane to them can be somewhat justified.

On 11 St SE two lanes were removed to make bike lanes. A person is lucky to see even a single bike ever use those lanes but it is always easy to find traffic hopelessly snarled as it is packed into two less lanes.

The world revolves on supply and demand. Social engineers keep trying to fight that principle but they inevitably lose. The problem is that the loss comes at a great cost in the battle.

People in Calgary are increasingly moving to the suburbs and now outside of the city altogether causing tax-revenue losses while they still commute on city streets. Businesses are now moving to the suburbs and out of the city following the citizens as we become increasingly unbalanced in Calgary.

Let’s plan realistically with citizen demand in mind for a change. Plan for vehicular traffic as it simply is growing despite all city hall efforts to fight it. Quit putting in stupid bike lanes at the expense of automotive lanes. The demand is simply not there nor will it ever be.

A pushback will happen eventually. I fear for how much mess will be made of our city infrastructure before that happens though.

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Real transparency is what we need.

Buzz words come and go. I almost get nauseated when I hear the vapid overuse of the terms “vibrant” and “sustainable” these days particularly when they appear to be tossed into political speech with no context. The word transparency has been a popular word too and it has been terribly abused. Last spring while Alison Redford was claiming a balanced budget on her campaign of misinformation, she also used the word “transparency” constantly.

We know that Redford was lying about balancing the budget, and in light of Alberta’s transparency rating a couple months ago, it is clear that Redford was only paying lip service to that concept in the last provincial election too. Alberta is one of the least transparent provinces in the country.

True transparency is simple. With modern communications and databasing, there really is little excuse for exorbitant FOIP fees. It is not as if a government employee has to dig into a cavernous archive of micro-fiche any longer and provide a paper copy for an information request. Aside from some personnel employment specifics and some discussions that need to remain in-camera for competitive reasons, there really is no reason that Albertans should not be able to access damn near any government information at any time online.

We will have some election financing reforms coming in today. Hopefully some meaningful reforms come in this legislation. Our provincial government fired a Chief Electoral Officer the last time he dared to suggest changes to our electoral system so my faith in this corrupted government’s will to actually change things.

If we do see some good reforms in new legislation, it will only be because of the deep corruption that has been exposed in our current government with over 80 cases of apparent illegal contributions to the Progressive Conservatives having come to light. Transparency exposed these aspects of government corruption rather than any legislation and it took some very heavy digging by a determined CBC reporter to expose most of this. Most people simply do not have the time and resources to get all that information.

Redford showed that she is happy to gleefully spit in the face of the spirit of electoral finance legislation when her party happily pocketed what appears to have been a single cheque from Katz for $430,000 and then got to work on laundering it out to fit within the grossly loose contribution laws. This demonstrates again how legislation will have little effect on our current corrupted government.

Public exposure and shaming has far more deterrent effect on our government than any legislation will. As we have seen in the legislature yesterday and in the last election, the Redford government will lie blatantly and without hesitation in order to maintain their grip on power. With real transparency though, their lies can and will be exposed immediately.

When we see a government so deeply corrupt that the Premier’s own sister is laundering tax dollars back to the Progressive Conservative Party, I think we can say with confidence that we will not see true reform or transparency coming from this corrupted regime.

What I am saying is twofold;

Alberta needs a true and massive reform that will give real transparency of government spending and actions to the public.

Alberta will never get that transparency from a government as corrupted as our current one. We need to replace the governing party.

We don’t need legislation for immediate transparency though. We simply need open truthful dialog from our leaders. Below though, is the video of Alison Redford hiding from our provincial legislature and hiding from the press as the corruption involving her sister was exposed:

 

What a cowardly Premier we are saddled with. The biggest scandal of the year is surfacing and she hasn’t even the glimmer of courage or leadership to at least speak to this mess of her creating.

Transparency is to corrupted people such as the Redford Sisters as sunlight is to vampires.

Let’s keep working to dislodge the Progressive Conservative Party from the reigns of power in Alberta. We also must ensure that the incoming government has ironclad policies that will force real transparency upon the government and that putting those policies in place is a prime priority. Only then will we be able to keep corruption effectively out of our provincial administration.

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Stranger than fiction.

The latest breaking story of corruption by our Progressive Conservative government really is such a gross example of corruption on so many levels that it reads like a novel of a fictional government in some sort of third-world dictatorship.

Premier Alison Redford’s sister who was appointed to a plum executive position with the Calgary Health Region had been illegally laundering tax dollars back to the party that her sister leads!

In light of the above sentence it really sounds too grossly corrupt to be true. Even Fidel and Raul Castro would blush at such blatant corruption and family cronyism.

The full story is here and was broken by Charles Rusnell with the CBC. I am often quite the critic of the CBC but a huge hat tip has to be given to Rusnell’s investigative work in this last few years. This is one of many stories of Progressive Conservative corruption that he has broken in his actions as a one-man opposition party and watchdog.

Fewer issues have better illustrated the deeply ingrained culture of entitlement and corruption of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta than this latest revelation.

The utter shamelessness of this government has been striking. They are leading us back into debt, giving themselves an 8% raise, while forcing our Doctors into a contract with a 2.5% raise and in the midst of constant scandals breaking of their obscene expensing such as with Premier Redford’s gold-plated trip to the London Olympics we still see more of these scandals breaking.

The Progressive Conservative Party has been applauded for it’s ability to hit bottom with the electorate and manage to renew itself at the last minute before losing power. This happened with Getty and Stelmach. Dogged partisan supporters of the party would crow of “change from within” and optimistic Albertans unfortunately would buy it at election time. This time the thin facade of reform didn’t even last a year before all of the scandals began to surface showing that the Progressive Conservative Party is more corrupt than ever.

The culture of the Progressive Conservative Party is one of entitlement and it shows rather clearly. The movers and shakers in that party do not lose a wink of sleep as they rob taxpayers to fund their own partisan activities. They really do feel that Albertan taxpayers owe them something. Premier Redford doesn’t think twice about expensing a $24 cup of coffee nor keeping her sister in a senior government position. Redford thought nothing of lying bald-faced in claiming that she didn’t know that a single donor provided almost a third of her election budget in the last election and she thought nothing of lying to Albertans in campaigning on a balanced budget.

This is a form of group sociopathy. The people in the Redford government truly do not even realize that they are doing something wrong. They have been in power for 41 years and really feel that this entitles them to act however they please and that the laws do not apply to them.

This party atmosphere of entitlement, corruption and indifference to the needs and laws of Albertans is not the sort of thing that can be “changed from within”. The Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta needs to be removed from power within Alberta. It is unfortunate that it will still be 3 1/2 years before we get the chance to do so in an election and I fear for the amount of corruption and damage that this broken regime will cause before we can get them out.

Left right or center, it is clear that we as Albertan’s  have to get rid of the corrupt regime that we so recently elected on false promises and premises.

Redford and her cronies are embarrassing us as a province. This illness can’t be treated, it must be excised.

UPDATE

 In compounding their cowardice in the face of this reprehensible scandal, Redford hid in Ottawa and assigned her Deputy Premier to sit in for her in the legislature. The Deputy Premier shamelessly lied repeatedly and called all who dared question the illegal contributions made by the Premier’s sister “bottom feeders”.

Redford was found sprinting through an Ottawa Hotel. Rather than answer pressing questions for the Albertans who employ her, Premier Redford refused to even make eye contact with cameras as her security detail rudely shoved press aside as can be seen in the video below:

 

Redford clearly lacks even an ounce of principle or leadership. It is bad enough to embroil our province in such an embarrassing scandal, but to be too cowardly to even address it herself shows Redford is completely unfit to stand as our Premier.

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Enabled by our apathy.

Much to pretty much nobody’s surprise, the Redford government is putting Alberta back into debt and reversing all the of belt-tightening and sacrifice of Albertans from back in the 90s when we paid off our provincial debt.

During last spring’s election campaign, many in opposition questioned the viability of Redford’s promise to balance the budget in light of the massive spending promises. The bottom line is; Redford knew then that she could not balance the budget at that time and she never intended or expected to. The Redford government promised the moon to Albertans and left it for a post-election exercise to deal with the consequences.

The “Dollars & Sense” roadshow was designed to build the excuses for promises broken during the last election. Through a carefully orchestrated but poorly promoted series of meetings around the province a couple months ago, the Redford government built themselves the excuse that “Albertans want us to go into debt”.

You have to give them some credit in this political move, it gave them at least a sliver of credibility to claim we want this when they dropped the affront on Albertans last week that they would be putting our province back into debt. They can say they went out and listened and this is what they heard.

I went and attended the Calgary meeting for the “Dollar’s and Sense” thing. The first and most notable thing was that there were perhaps only 30 people in the room and at least a few of them were press and MLAs. Among those people, I didn’t see much indication of anybody who could be considered just an interested and atypical Albertan. The people there were representing particular groups and pet interests thus all spoke to and about how to get more money for their causes. Now if one was objectively listening to that small crowd and assumes that it represents Albertans, it has to be assumed that almost all Albertans want massive increases in government spending.

The graphs, numbers and exercises were all somewhat leading as well. We were asked to prioritize spending among pie-charts and speak to how we would re-arrange spending. The constant premise was that we could only shift priorities in spending while cutting spending in itself was not really an option. Are cuts really impossible? We are spending more per-capita in Alberta than any other province in Canada. Is it really impossible to cut some of that? The setup at the “Dollars and Sense” meeting sure made it appear that way.

The worst exercise of the bunch was one that asked where we should spend money should there be a hypothetical budget surplus down the road (rather moot right now). In all of the options for a surplus though, tax reduction was not even given as an option. It is debatable as to whether or not tax cuts are required in Alberta, but in their actually being debatable they should at least have been provided as an option in the exercise no?

Now to the credit of the PCs here: the exercises were good in that they helped demonstrate that it is difficult to pick and choose where funding should be added and where it is removed. Questions from the floor were tempered by that reality in that if you add to one spot, it must come from another and that is important to keep in mind. This was designed to help educate people in attendance as well as hear from them.

I found the attitudes of the presenters to be genuine and patient with the myriad of inquiries that came from that small but vocal crowd. The cookies were excellent too.

Doug Horner and Kyle Fawcett both came to me to ask what I thought of things while I was there. Whether they put much stock into my views or not, I was given a genuine one on one opportunity to share them with them. This is where I am getting to how we failed as politically active Albertans to take advantage of an opportunity to effect budgetary decisions.

In how many large jurisdictions do we get the chance to speak one on one with one of the top cabinet ministers? Keeping that in mind, it is terrible that only about 30 or so people in a city of over a million could take time to pop out on a Thursday night to take part in this.

I understand the cynicism as well as anybody in these forums. I do feel that the outcomes were essentially predetermined and that these meetings were simply held to give the premise of listening. In our refusing to participate though, we have given some higher ground to those who planned these things.

First, MLAs and cabinet ministers are indeed simply people. They can and will be influenced by the views and opinions of people in settings such as this even if that was not their intent. Many people in government do live in bubbles and rarely see the unvarnished opinions of the electorate between elections. Rational and well placed inquiries could have had at least a bit of effect on the planning of these officials.

Second and more important, had we as Albertans attended these meetings, presented our views and then indeed had them ignored we would be in much better standing when we question the government’s claims to have a mandate to mire us into debt. How can we question what they feel they learned from the forums when we wouldn’t even go to them?

We claim to want transparency, communication and accountability yet we can’t trouble ourselves to take part in functions that provide us at least a small amount of all of those things.

Being responsible and active Albertans means being active between elections too. It can mean giving up on a favorite TV episode to go to a townhall meeting at times and it can mean filling out those questionnaires that we periodically get.

When we let the government have a pass on these kinds of things, we give them the means to claim “Albertans want this” and we have little means to counter them on it.

I don’t believe that Albertans want to go back into debt and I do think that this will be the prime factor that gets the Redford government dethroned in the next election. We don’t need to make it any easier for them to hide from accountability.

Our apathy is the Redford government’s best friend.

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Just call it what it is; a tax hike!

So there I lay ignominiously on the doctor’s table. My legs were splayed and  I was shaved in a spot I never anticipated ever having a razor near. The doctor noted that I was rather tense and uncomfortable from the nature and feeling of the steps of the procedure that had already been performed. In an effort to comfort me he said: “OK, you are going to feel a little pressure.”.

“A little pressure” I thought. “That can’t be so bad.”. I busied myself in the intense study of the ceiling tiles as the doctor took out a new instrument of torture, inserted it into my new incision, hooked onto part of my reproductive circuitry and proceeded to draw out what felt to be my very soul from a small cut in my scrotum!!!

That was “a little pressure”???? I never want to find out what he means when he says something will be painful.

Now that day I learned two lessons. One was never to get a vasectomy at a walk-in clinic (little risk of that now). The other lesson was that no matter how one tries to sugarcoat or understate something uncomfortable, it does not change the reality.

Politicians love trying to change terms in hopes of selling things to the electorate that they don’t actually want. The overpriced “Peace Bridge” is a wonderful example. As the public ire grew over the expenditure of scarce infrastructure dollars on a grossly overpriced bridge that we didn’t need, city council scrambled for a way to brand this grotesque waste of tax dollars. They decided to name the bridge after something that nobody could oppose: “Peace”. The new name did not change the reality in the end however.

The most gross and disingenuous example of this is the promotion of what tax-increase proponents are calling a “penny tax”. Mayor Nenshi and other tax-and-spend types in Calgary City Hall have been outright salivating at the prospect of gaining a pile of new taxation powers through a new municipal charter. Despite provincial officials telling him “no” in no uncertain terms, Mayor Nenshi continues to chirp and try to sell the benefits of his being able to tax us in new ways so he can fund more vanity projects and bike lanes.

Let’s call the “penny tax” what it is: A 20% INCREASE IN THE GST!

Sounds a little different in that light doesn’t it? Instead of thinking in terms of pennies, think of it this way, do you want to spend hundreds more per year on your total expenditures in an increased consumption tax?

The tax-and-spend gang does not want to stop simply by raising your GST by the way, that is just the tax that they are cloaking in terms such as “penny tax. Below are a few other ways Nenshi and company are hoping to tax us all more in a municipal charter.

Tourism levies:. Tax increase leading to decreased tourism

Green fees on fuel: Tax increase leading to increase in fuel costs for all and all products that need transport.

Increased motor vehicle registration fees: Tax increase on drivers.

Nenshi does have a keen nose for the political winds. The city is proposing a nearly 6% property tax hike this year and eventually Calgarian homeowners will hit their tipping point with constant tax increases that go well beyond the rate of inflation. Spending control is not a consideration for Calgary’s City Hall under Nenshi so in order to cloak their mass spending they want to spread the mass tax increases through a myriad of means where they can mask the name and nature of the tax increase.

Being forced to raise money through property taxes forces municipalities to be much more up-front in their taxation of citizens. Lets keep it that way. If Nenshi is convinced that we need a mass increase in spending and that Calgarians want it, then he should raise property taxes by 15% and run on that. It is much more honest than trying to hide the gouge in some BS “penny tax”.

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Let’s put the last paragraph first.

I can’t count the number of times that people upon hearing some of the real facts from the energy industry say: “Well, why doesn’t the energy industry communicate all that good stuff to people better.”.

Shy of hiring people to scream facts on city streetcorners, I am not sure what the hell else industry can do. The vast majority of the energy industry works within and often surpasses environmental regulations of all levels of government. Sites are reclaimed and bonds are posted for new sites and facilities reclamation down the road. Proactive studies and techniques are constantly being used to further mitigate environmental impact and with great success. These things are advertised, local hearings are held everywhere, press releases are issued and people are invited to visit energy sites and facilities to see things for themselves. Despite all that, it seems like the energy industry is screaming into the wind.

Now below I will go into some of the horsecrap that the energy industry has to deal with in trying to protect it’s reputation.

In today’s Edmonton Journal there was a story with the headline:

Oilsands research confirmed: Snow contaminated near operations, says federal report.

Oh dear! Whatever shall we do? The article then goes on to point out:

“analyzed winter snow and found that contamination levels were “highest near oilsands development compared to further away,”

Wow! They discovered that there is more oilsands stuff in the snow near the oilsands than there is farther away from the oilsands. Sorry but that is a little less than profound kids.

Yes though, contaminant buildup was found in the snow near oilsands facilities. When phrased right, that can sound rather scary. But wait, lets look at the last paragraph of the article:

“The Environment Canada document also said that substances found in the study were typical of development of all kinds and can even be found in the snow in cities with no heavy industry, but they were continuing their work.”

To put this in other words, nothing unusual or dangerous has been found in the study of the snow in the area. It has the same stuff in it as anybody’s own back yard.

The article also included a picture of a fish with a tumour that was caught downstream of the oilsands as can be seen below.

Yes, that is indeed one ugly tumour. Bear in mind that fish can and do develop tumours without exposure to oilsands as well.

Lets see what the article had to say about the water and fish:

“researchers had tested the toxicity of the Athabasca River water in the spring of 2010 with negative results, and also that no link was established between levels of contaminants found and any effect on fish.”

So in other words, the picture of the fish has utterly no bearing on the article at all aside from trying to make what is essentially an article highlighting a study that found no outstanding environmental devastation around the oilsands.

The article also tries to imply that some sort of gag order has been released on the study. All I see really is indications of efforts to get a controlled message of the study outcomes. That is not unusual. Press plans are common and it is best to have a consistent message. No conspiracy here.

I understand that it is tough to write articles that interest people. It would be more principled to bury a boring report on an environmental study than to mess with one like this to imply that there is an environmental catastrophe happening in Alberta’s oilsands when there simply is not one.

It is just getting tiresome trying to keep up facts to counter the endless and poorly sourced bullshit being spread about Alberta’s energy industry. I do wish some elements of our media would step up a little better on this.

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Abuse of electoral laws doesn’t bother you? How about tax evasion?

Understandably most people don’t really pay close attention to or study provincial electoral laws. They are dry and the way our Redford government has repeatedly stretched and abused them, surely many are wondering if we have electoral financing laws at all.

Personally, I would not be wholely against the lifting of all limits, ending the grossly generous tax-credit system for political contributions and simply focussing on ensuring full transparency of all fundraising. In the meantime however, we do have some laws regarding electoral financing and they should be abided by and equally applied to all parties. If the Redford government has not outright taken part in breaking our electoral financing laws, they certainly have been complicit in a gross and massive abuse of the spirit of the laws.

There was a similar situation a few years ago when the Wildrose Party was in it’s incarnation as the Alberta Alliance (yes they are technically the same party)., The Thorsteinson family had made unusually large contributions which rang the alarm bells of Elections Alberta. An investigation ensued which even involved the RCMP appearing in the party office demanding documents. Is the RCMP demanding documents from Katz, his family and the long list of associates that apparently all donated to the Redford government? With heavy pressure from opposition parties, Elections Alberta has almost grudgingly launched an investigation into the Katz scandal. Nothing less than such a police search of the PC offices would ensure equal application of the laws in this case.

If indeed it is true that one cheque for $430,000 was presented to the Progressive Conservative Party by Katz (the Globe has not been sued yet so I suspect that is true), then it will have to be proven that all of the people listed had shared access to accounts in such a way that they could all have come from one source such as this apparent cheque. That is the sort of thing that covers a married couple for example should they both donate through one cheque.

My wife Jane has done some incredible work in digging out who was supposedly at the source of all those donations and has documented it here.

Now is it really within the realm of credibility that all of those people had a shared account? Do you really believe that coincidentally so many tight associates and family members of Katz suddenly decided to donate the maximum legal amount individually to the Progressive Conservatives? Do you really believe Redford when she says she didn’t know anything about over 25% of her campaign funding from a single source? It would take a great deal of substance abuse to believe any of that.

There are couple of big “Ifs” in there though. If there was indeed over a dozen cheques writted from all of these individuals and it can be proven that it was their own money and not laundered by Katz through them then there is no problem. If there was a giant chain of joint accounts that led to the one account that wrote a single cheque for $430,000 (if it was indeed one cheque), then there is not a problem. Seems pretty unlikely though.

Now if this was indeed all from Katz and he gets away with it, we may as well dump our electoral financing laws altogether. Think of it this way, lets say I won the lottery and decided that I wanted to donate a million dollars to the Wildrose Party. All I would have to do is go to my local bar and shout out “Who wants a free guaranteed $1000 tax credit for their return this year?”. I could then just gather names and addresses from people and donate on their behalf. If I say only donated $5,000 per person using one million dollars, I could get 200 people tax credits equalling $200,000 taken from provincial tax revenue fraudulently. Possibly even more if I drop the donation to $2,500 each.

While PC apologists keep trying to dismiss this issue, the gravity of it simply can’t be understated. Leaving aside the clear appearance of influence peddling to a man who has a great deal to gain or lose through government actions, we have what could be a case of mass tax fraud.

The speaker of the legislature keeps trying to halt discussion of this as it being a partisan issue. Well Mr. Speaker, may opposition members speak about potential tax evasion? How many more excuses can the Speaker generate to quell debate on this issue?

This investigation is too important to get swept under the rug. We have to keep the noise up to keep this from going away before all of the facts are exposed.

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