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.
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.