Time to put Canada Post and it’s union out to pasture.

cupw

Reality is quickly catching up with Canada Post as the obsolete Crown Corporation continues to bleed record losses every year. $129,000,000 went down the hole in the last quarter alone and these huge losses will only grow as electronic communications and an ever efficient private sector fills the void where conventional mail used to be.

On top of these losses that the taxpayer will surely end up paying, Canada Post is carrying a $6 billion pension deficit with no realistic means in sight to pay that out. This monster of a debt that accumulated through decades of buying labor peace through unrealistic pension promises will surely be biting us all soon. That growing black hole will only get worse as long as Canada Post is in operation.

Along with technological realities making the services of a Crown postal carrier obsolete, Canada Post has been burdened with one of the most activist and self-destructive unions in the country. CUPW used to gleefully strike just before Christmas every few years. In holding the country hostage at holiday time, huge pension obligations grew and letter carriers became grossly overcompensated for what truly is unskilled labor.

I remember well in the 90s when a tipping point was hit with the postal union. Postal workers made a great deal of noise as usual and hit the streets with the usual demands of more compensation for less work. What CUPE had not realized at that time is that the fax machine had removed business dependency on them for document delivery and things such as telephone banking were beginning to take hold. Consumers found the postal strike to be an annoyance at best as opposed to crippling as such strikes used to be. After some time picketing to an indifferent populace, the postal workers returned to work with their collective tails between their legs. Following that strike loss, Canada Post actually managed to profit for a few years as they could restructure with a cowed and humbled union. That was simply putting off the inevitable though as technology simply continued to advance and need for postal services declined.

The Canadian Union for Postal Workers should have been watching out for their workers and working with Canada Post to try and restructure the company for the future. Instead of using such foresight, the union went on extreme left wing activist crusades that were totally unrelated to their mandate of labor such as an ongoing and fervent CUPW campaign against Israel. Opportunity has passed and now the layoffs of the workers that the union was supposed to be protecting will be in the thousands (and Israel still exists).

Canada Post is rightly phasing out home delivery which will lead to the loss of 8000 jobs. That is simple reality and this can’t be fought. Letter delivery will be going up to as high as $1 as rates must be hiked dramatically in a vain hope of achieving solvency. While this increase in service charges is clearly needed, it will also speed up the process of people leaving conventional mail delivery behind.

In their usual bizarre manner, the idiotic Postal Union feels that Canada Post should expand into financial services and banking. I can think of few ways where billions more could be lost and pinned on the taxpayer. Why don’t those clowns pool their union dues and start their own damn bank and show us how it’s done then?

It is time to work on an exit strategy. There really is nothing that Canada Post provides that the private world can’t do (and usually does better).

The billions in pension debt will surely be a disaster as it is. Let’s end the growth of that debt and the ongoing burden to the taxpayer of constant Canada Post operating losses while we can. Things are not going to turn around.

The next dinosaur on the Crown Corporation list is the CBC but that is a matter for another post.

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Calgary tax dollars at work.

The other day, I ran across a picture on a Calgary discussion board that depicted the all too typical scene of a large number of city employees standing around while one or two fellows actually worked on the rather simple task at hand.

In this case the task was to paint a green square on the road on a bike track. The forum was at http://www.beyond.ca and the picture was posted by (and presumably taken by) a poster who goes by rage2.  

bike

The picture sort of says it all. We have had a Mayor and council constantly pleading poverty in Calgary while trying to justify a whopping 32% increase in property since Naheed Nenshi took the Mayor’s chair less than three years ago. Our Mayor and city council constantly pretend that it is utterly impossible for the City to streamline or even cut expenditures while scenes like that pictured above show that there is plenty of room to have the expenditure of our tax dollars done in a more effective manner. The excuses fly while countless dollars are wasted on foolish studies of whimsical plans and outright idiotic gameshow style “consultation” circuses that are ignored when the taxpayers wish something different than His Worship intended them to.

I tweeted the image and it took off as dozens of people retweeted this little piece of dark comedy.

This brought about the attention of Mayor Nenshi who to his credit is very responsive to social media. What Nenshi tweeted in justification of the depicted scene is below:

 

This whole scene was apparently a training session.

Umm….. OK… I guess I will just have to come right out and say it: HOW MUCH TRAINING DOES IT TAKE TO PAINT A GREEN DAMNED BOX ON A ROAD????

Seriously folks, we are in a city with over a million people that has thousands of civic employees and city contractors. None of them had been trained already in painting things on the road?

I wonder, is a special training course required to paint the image below:

leftturn

Does another differently trained crew need to come in and flip the stencil at other intersections or will they only need a different supervisor or two?

rightturn

Now we are going to get tricky. The painting job below requires two colors and possibly two stencils. How many workers were required? 20? 30? How many months was the training course?

handicapped

I have to admit, I could use a gig like training folks to paint boxes on roads. I had a great deal of informal training in my youth with more complicated design as pictured below:

chalk

I can provide my own training manual so that there shall be no confusion for trainees should they find themselves in a circumstance where they may need to paint something with less than 6 supervisors present.

paintbynumber

As a surveyor I am familiar with complex tools such as graph paper and measuring tape so will be able to “confirm final design” on painted boxes with possibly as few as two assistants. I have ArcGIS and could confirm such things alone from the comfort of an office in about 30 seconds but I do understand that our city has a limited amount of resources and needs to be led in baby steps here.

Is it really surprising that Calgary City council managed to blow the West LRT budget literally by 100% in light of how complex painting a simple box on a road appears to be?

In light of all this, I wonder what portion of our city budget is dedicated to road painting alone in Calgary. We have a great deal of pavement out there.

I really have not seen such a scandalous waste of tax dollars on paint since Mulroney purchased the masterpiece below for $1.8 million Canadian tax bucks.

voice

Calgary really needs to flush out City Council this fall in favor of some candidates with at least a little grounding in fiscal reality.

I am making light of this, but the issue of out of control spending by municipal governments is deadly serious. As Detroit how they are loving that great art collection these days.

 

Response-to-City-Budget

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Nenshi’s charade of consultation.

 
The Purple Peacock
 

It has been brutal watching Naheed Nenshi and his gang on Calgary’s city council circling like hyenas over the spoils of an unbudgeted $52 million tax increase that they acquired through essentially stealing a tax break given to Calgarians by the government of Alberta. As Calgarians took notice and began to show ire towards this sudden gouge upon their wallets, Nenshi and the rest of council scrambled to cobble together a supposed consultation process on what to do with this money they were absconding with. As it became evident that Calgarians were overwhelmingly choosing to demand that the ill-gained money be returned to them, Nenshi upped the ante and created a literal circus-like atmosphere and held an idiotic public game show where it was discussed how Calgary’s unbudgeted tax hike should be spent.

Despite Nenshi’s dog and pony show, it still was becoming abundantly clear that most Calgarians simply wanted their damned money back. In light of this, Nenshi turned this already foolish “consultation” process into a total joke by making it “qualitative” rather than “quantitative” in nature. What this is essentially saying is that they do not care what the majority of respondents to their little poll chose as those asking for things like a refund of stolen money clearly were giving answers of low quality. It does not matter if 90% of Calgarians wanted their money back in the city poll as those figures are apparently not important. In other words, Nenshi and his cronies can come up with whatever conclusion they like from this circus and claim that it was endorsed by over 10,000 Calgarians.

All of this is not surprising as Nenshi took part in a similar joke of a consultation with Calgarians only a few years ago. This multi-million dollar disaster was coined “ImagineCalgary” and supposedly the product was created through the input of no less than 18,000 Calgarians. Few things can better demonstrate the utter idiocy and waste with these supposedly “qualitative” consultations than the ridiculous ImagineCalgary document itself which can be found in full here.

Below are the five simple questions (familiar number) that were asked for ImagineCalgary.

 What do you value about Calgary?What is it like for you to live here?
What changes would you most like to see?
What are your hopes and dreams for the next 100 years?
How can you help make this happen?

From the above simple and fluffy questions Nenshi and others excreted the 210 page ImagineCalgary document that really is so bad that it can’t even be found in full on the ImagineCalgary website. Even those employed in promoting this mess are ashamed of the product of this exercise. Shouldn’t such brilliance be front and center on their site otherwise? Alas, it is hidden deeply in the bowels of the City of Calgary site. I provide it here too of course.

I don’t think I could possibly drop enough LSD to make sense of the mess created in ImagineCalgary. It truly is a crowning achievement in the concept of baffling with bullshit through only five simple questions. No wonder Nenshi was so eager to try and do it again to mask his sudden $52 million tax hike upon Albertans.

Below is a top 10 list of what came from apparently asking 18,000 Calgarians five simple questions. I am not sure which are worse, the ones that set targets so unrealistically high that they will never be achieved in a million years, the ones that would come with government interference so deep that Stalin would blush, or the ones that simply look like the product of a person who had just ingested a 1/2 pound of pot. I will list a few of each.

By 2016, 90 per cent of Calgarians report that they have opportunities to express their unique gifts and talents

Only three years to go here. Hope those barriers are torn down soon whatever the hell they are.

By 2036, 90 per cent of citizens agree that “Calgary is a city with soul,” which is defined as citizens having meaning and purpose in life and experiencing ongoing feelings of connectedness with some form of human, historic or natural system.

Oh good, we have a realistic timeline here. It will take at least another decade to get even 50% of Calgarians to give a shit if municipalities have souls much less wonder if their own has one.

By 2036, 100 per cent of Calgarians report that they feel respected and supported in their pursuits of meaning, purpose and connectedness, and that they extend respect and support to others who meet this need in ways different from their own.

No less than 100% here. Lofty indeed. I do hope that I can live until 2036 so that I can be the one asshole left in Calgary who did not feel supported in my pursuit of connectedness thus killing their goal. I am just nasty that way.

By 2016, 95 per cent of Calgarians report that they feel safe walking alone in their neighbourhoods and walking alone downtown after dark

This one will be tough as 50% of Calgarians will feel unsafe when approached by strangers after dark asking them if they feel safe. How else will Nenshi know if we have hit the 95% mark? This will be tougher if Pincott’s crusade against light pollution continues too.

By 2036, 95 per cent of children aged two to five years exhibit high levels of emotional well-being and age-appropriate levels of attention span and impulse control, as measured by the Ages and Stages Questionnaire.

I was thrilled when my two year old kids made a poopy all by themselves in a toilet. Can’t imagine 95% of them taking part in detailed questionnaires but who knows. I bet their answers will make more sense than most of those in this loony ImagineCalgary document.

By 2016, by the age of six years, 95 per cent of Calgary children exhibit school readiness, as reflected by physical well-being and appropriate motor development; emotional health and a positive approach to new experiences; age-appropriate social knowledge and competence; age-appropriate language skills; and age-appropriate general knowledge and cognitive skills.

Come on, how many of the 18,000 put down that mouthful as a priority? One? Two?

By 2036, the consumption of urban- and regionally produced food by Calgarians increases to 30 per cent.

Here come the food tariffs. Say goodbye to those bananas.

By 2016, governance is restructured to allow governments to create or reallocate authority so that effective decisions are made at the geographical scale that matches the processes involved.

Say that ten times quickly. Now drink until it makes sense or you pass out. Whatever comes first.

By 2036, 80 per cent of non-violent criminal offences are handled in the community in which the victim lives.

I guess courthouses for prostitutes, drug dealers and car thieves will be set up in every community. Nenshi had better let the other levels of government know he is bypassing the constitution and having the civic government assume authority of criminal issues. May cause a smidgen of confusion there.

By 2036, 85 per cent of Calgarians, in all age groups, maintain excellent or very good mental health.

All those in poor mental health shall be deported in order to achieve civic goals!

Well folks, there you have it. This is what Nenshi and his compatriots can compile through a qualitative analysis of five simple questions.

Nenshi and company will simply fabricate whatever outcome they like from this latest façade of “consultation”. After creating ImagineCalgary, coming up with ways to blow a $52 million tax hike will be a breeze.

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Want to do something for the poor? Stop voting for progressives.

To begin with on this rant, I will shed the label “progressive” for policies and refer to them for what they are on the spectrum: “left wing”. The left/right political spectrum is an accurate measure in describing general political leanings particularly with policies if not with people. Many keep wrongly trying to claim that the left/right concept on the political spectrum is out of date or inaccurate. Almost invariably those trying to hide from the left/right descriptor are people who land on the left side of things as they try to describe themselves as “progressive” (despite opposing most forms of progress). Left leaning folks in Canada are understanding that hard left-wing policy is unsalable to the electorate when presented openly thus while retaining the philosophies they try to mask the real intent politically. We see this most often in civic politics where the lack of a party structure has allowed many hard-left leaning candidates slip by the electorate when they typically would have been rejected.

 One of the biggest contradictions in the left-wing world has been their constant claims of wanting to support the poor while supporting so many policies that harm the poor further. There are two factors that strongly affect people in low income situations; the economy and the cost of living. If we really want to ease the pain for low income people, we should be ensuring that we have a strong economy so that income may be found for those who seek it and that the cost of living remains as reasonable as possible. Unfortunately, left wing initiatives only harm the economy and shoot the cost of living through the roof.

With the left gravitating so much towards civic politics, we have seen quite a trend of an almost religious-like urbanism that is zealously focused on increasing population density at all costs. In Calgary we have seen this with the importing and hiring (at huge cost) of American municipal planner Rollin Stanley who is so obsessively density focused that he is actually controversial and somewhat well known. It takes quite the extreme viewpoints for one to stand out so much in the typically dry world of urban planning but Stanley has managed to do so with his unreasonable anti-vehicle and consumer outlooks.

Through regulatory abuse and red tape, Mayor Naheed Nenshi along with left-wing allies on council such as Druh Farrell and Brian Pincott have essentially frozen suburban development. 97% of Calgary’s growth has been in the suburbs over the years and there is a good reason for that: it is affordable and people don’t want to raise their families squashed like sardines in a dense urban environment. Despite such overwhelming demand by consumers, the density obsessed are working hard to take away consumer choice through regulation. There is a great little saying about socialism: “Ideas so good that they have to be mandatory.” We can’t let those unwashed citizens choose where to spend their lives and dollars! It is upon the urban planners to force these people into what we see as “sustainable” living.

Now when one meddles with the law of supply and demand there is always a consequence. In Calgary (and many other cities) housing is being choked by ideologically extreme councils thus causing the cost of housing to go through the roof. Many of density zealots love to wistfully speak of Manhattan and San Francisco as great density models to follow. What these ideologues constantly forget to mention is that these centers are catastrophically expensive to live in with average homes costing over a million dollars in Manhattan and nearly as much in San Francisco.

Housing is one of the largest expenses in everybody’s lives. People with low incomes are harmed terribly when housing supply is choked. The poor who the left claim to care about get pushed further and further from urban centers seeking affordable housing which of course leads to even more suburban growth which is second only to the holocaust in it’s evil! To fight this trend, Nenshi has been supporting huge property tax hikes every year along with development levies in order to make suburban living as expensive as living in a downtown density paradise. The left wing density gang does realize that they can’t reduce the cost of living downtown so they hope that in raising the cost of living artificially elsewhere that they can at least equalize the poverty throughout the city.

The poor in cities are now being driven further and further out from the city centers as left-wing policies make living untenable for them. While Nenshi and his followers love to pejoratively toss out the word “sprawl” and feed a myth that the suburbs are subsidized, they are actually feeding outward growth as they raise the cost of living for our most vulnerable. While bedroom communities offer more affordable housing, they often have less employment opportunities nearby so lower income folks either have to commute great distances (environmental evil) or remain unemployed.This comes at a cost to the low-income in lost personal time and in transportation.

The cycle only gets uglier as civic governments try to battle with reality along with supply and demand. Large urban governments are constantly demanding more taxation powers along with charters that will allow them to bully neighboring smaller communities. Satellite cities have seen explosive growth as people retreat from the high costs and purposely traffic-hindered downtowns caused by density focused civic governments. Mayors like Nenshi want to use taxes as a hammer along with control of neighboring communities in order to force a halt to the consumer exodus from their cities.

As the urban poor get hammered by high housing costs caused by left-wing local governments, they get hit yet again through increases in their costs of consumer goods. Protectionism and opposition to big-box product distribution causes the costs of all goods to rise quickly. Mayor Nenshi called new big-box developments “crap” when trying to justify why city hall was using red tape (something Nenshi claimed to oppose) to hinder a viable development. Well, Nenshi not every person can afford to ride a bike to Kensington to purchase handcrafted items from local artisans. Those poor that the left claim to care about get harmed terribly when affordable consumer options are taken from them.

In the early 90s I made my living through pizza delivery. Much of my diet consisted of food from work and what other consumer goods I bought at that time were limited and dear. I remember financing the purchase of a VCR over two years. I think I paid about $500 dollars for that thing by the time I was finished paying. Through open foreign trade and big-box distribution, those types of items along with clothing and countless other things are a fraction of the cost that they were 20 years ago. Despite this, the left wing opposes free trade and large product distribution. Let the poor buy designer clothing I guess.

Ahh but electronics are wants not needs right? Well the left leaves no stone unturned and is ensuring that needs are expensive too. Despite scientific realities proving no nutritional benefits to organic produce, grossly lower crop yields with organic produces, no definable flavor difference with organic products and a massively higher cost for organic products, the left supports these products. GMOs have proven to be harmless and have greatly increased yields thus lowering the cost of food around the entire planet. Despite this, the left hysterically opposes GMOs as the real target of the left is an anti-corporate outlook rather than food safety or affordability. Meanwhile the cost of foods goes up and up.

Idiotic “100 mile diets” which ignore our local climate and consumer demand are pushed along with a raft of other loopy food policies laid out in Calgary’s food plan which was inspired by the insane ImagineCalgary plan which Nenshi participated in building. These plans go as far as trying to force food stores to carry local products and to force them to build into areas that don’t have enough consumer demand to support them (to save the world from long shopping drives). These costs are of course passed along to the consumer and yet again the poor get hit hard.

Now it is pretty clearly established that left-wing policies hurt the poor terribly when it comes to the cost of housing, eating, entertainment, travel and pretty much every other consumer good, let’s have a look at how the left harms the economy.

Lowering the cost of living helps mitigate some of the challenges of being low-income but it does not solve the problem that put the person into a low-income situation in the first place. Big intrusive government does not ease poverty. What people in low income situations need is a strong economy with growing local employment leading to a high labor demand which of course leads to full work weeks at higher pay. Left wing people really do have some sort of mental deficit that makes the concept of supply and demand incomprehensible to them unfortunately. This leads to those who claim to care for the poor constantly championing against industry which is actually the only thing that will ease the poverty.

An area where both business viability and cost of living are very strongly affected is in energy. The left always strongly latches on to environmental causes whether there is an alternative or not. The initiatives within Calgary plans such as Planit and ImagineCalgary are crazy in their limitations but emissions control is used to justify trying to force people into forms of energy generation and use that simply are not viable or affordable. High energy costs cause every product to rise in cost and are a huge factor in business viability. There are few better ways to harm an economy than raising the cost of energy. Ontario’s rush to embrace “green” generation has been a catastrophe which is costing business and consumers alike. This has very strongly hurt the poor who yet again find less employment and a higher cost of living.

 The left has become so fanatical against conventional energy generation that they now oppose all initiatives no matter what. Even the reversal of a safe and harmless pipeline is now being opposed though these extremists never present realistic alternatives to the energy that they are opposing. Until we see an invention of the flux-capacitor or some other fictional (for now) form of energy generation, fossil fuels are by far our best means of powering our society. The left’s chronic opposition to all forms of energy is costing the poor terribly.

One of the best ways to keep a strong local economy is to have a business friendly climate. A couple weeks ago Mayor Nenshi went on a tirade where he demonized local business leaders and referenced jetsetting and such in ways that would have made Marx proud. Nenshi is now fundraising and building a polarized us vs them climate in Calgary where the affluent and hardworking are demonized. Now think about it, as a business considering locating in a city like Calgary would you really want to move to a place where the Mayor is prone to decrying you as an evil rich industrialist? It is hard to measure the exact amount of damage being caused by Nenshi’s anti-industry attitude but it is very real. While Calgary’s Mayor is not attacking all business people, he has made it clear that he will not hesitate to do so when he feels irked. His tantrum with the homebuilder’s association was almost embarrassing in it’s vitriol.

How about having city hall break it’s own bylaws by allowing a radical advocacy group fundraise in city hall itself to raise money to battle against Alberta’s industries? Not exactly a pro-business welcome mat being laid out by Calgary city there.

The left does like firing out the simplistic cries of “tax the rich” or “tax the corporations”! People should have a look at where the vast majority of charitable contributions come from. When people of any income get tax hikes they re-examine their expenditures and charities often are among what gets cut from spending. Charities are often much more effective in poverty mitigation as they target their programs based on real need as opposed to government organizations that more often are based on mass employment of bureaucrats and scoring points for political optics.

The left almost always overlooks philanthropy when attacking those they have determined to be “too rich” in their envious and divisive eyes. As Naheed Nenshi continues his crusade against Cal Wenzel in Calgary, I wonder how this will affect Wenzel’s decisions on his charitable works in the city? Cal Wenzel’s donations to the arts and housing charities in Calgary are well into seven figures. Why should he continue to invest in a city like that when the Mayor works so actively to demonize him?

Naheed Nenshi is a classic example of one who campaigns from the center and governs from the left. One need not scratch Nenshi’s increasingly thin skin much to find that the color underneath is not purple, it is very red. Nenshi’s quest for larger government, higher taxes and his clear loathing of industry are showing his true nature and this bodes poorly for attracting new industry or retaining current industry in Calgary.

Yes indeed, some rich folks do jet around the world and live in big houses. Some of them drive big cars and some can be pretty darned arrogant (though Nenshi has no high horse to ride on regarding arrogance). You don’t have to like those nasty successful people but you had better recognize that we need them. The arrogant rich guy may be annoying but he also potentially employs thousands. While your altruistic Uncle Bob may be a real sweet guy, he won’t be building industry in a city. We need those large industries and the general income that comes with them.

Demonizing the affluent and taxing the crap of them only causes them to leave. Capital and people are mobile and they can and will leave. Yet again in such cases, the poor are stuck holding the bag.

Let’s imagine such a city without evil industries where those nasty, selfish business people have been driven out. Oh what sort of paradise would we have? Well, last year I worked on a contract in Stuebenville Ohio for a while and took some video while down there. Have a look at how a city looks when the rich have gone away.

Imperial Oil, CP, CN and other companies are leaving downtown Calgary. These businesses will go outward to follow the labor migration to the suburbs and to escape the demonization of their industries by local governments and the fanatics supported by them. Developments are fleeing too and we will see more giant malls such as Cross Iron Mills being built just outside of the city limits to avoid punitive local governments. Supply and demand will always win in the end but ideologues such as Nenshi can do terrible damage to the poor in trying to fight it.

The world is full of contradictions and hypocrisy. There are few areas more glaring in this than that of the left claiming to care about the poor. If you care for the state of the poor, avoid “progressives” at the polls at all costs.

 

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ImagineCalgary document dissection Pt. 4

 

Most of the ImagineCalgary document delves into areas that are completely outside of municipal jurisdiction (for now). That in itself indicative of just how much Naheed Nenshi and Brian Pincott who are among the authors of the document such plan to expand the size and reach of our city government at any cost. In this installment I will go into their plans for housing which at least is directly within the scope of a municipal government though the plans are no less extreme and unrealistic. I will get back into their plans for our children’s collective self-esteem in the document in later posts (yes they even go there).

The depth of the density zeal is evident in the sudden firing of planner Stan Schwartzenberger in order to make room for the controversial density extremist Rollin Stanley. Schwartzenberger sued the city of Calgary asking for $640,000 and eventually settled for an undisclosed amount that doubtless is well into six figures.

Rollin Stanley has quickly gotten to work and has alienated citizens and developers alike with statements as ridiculous as comparing Calgary to Stockton California as he tries to make his case for an extreme civic density agenda. That prompted homebuilder Avi Amir to take out an article to correct Stanley’s hogwash which of course brought on the increasingly petulant wrath of Nenshi who does not care for the exposure of his hired density zealots such as Rollin Stanley.

Now, back to the crazy $3.4 million dollar Calgary city plan called ImagineCalgary:

HOUSING

Goal:
Calgarians have a choice of housing options that are affordable, accessible and eco-efficient and that support a variety of lifestyles. Housing reflects local environmental conditions and resources and is adaptable over time to reflect changes in technology, climate and demographics.

The housing section begins with the fluffy statement above. What is lost is that such a choice already exists in the free market. People can buy homes at whatever price range, accessibility and eco-efficiency that they like. Not all people are in a position to afford all choices but that is covered in later sections where ImagineCalgary feels that the city government should control income levels in Calgary.

STRATEGY 1
Support an increase in residential density, particularly in strategic locations at transit stations, in employment areas and close to goods and service providers.
Change the Municipal Development Plan policy to allow higher densities within new communities.
Communicate/increase awareness of the ecological impacts of low-density housing.
Develop housing intensification policies for strategic locations (e.g. near LRT stations and employment areas).

They get straight to the point of increasing density which is unsurprising. There is nothing wrong with straightforward goals. As the document continues though, the motive and means become more apparent and disturbing.

The MDP does not need to be changed to “allow” more density in newer communities. The battle in new developments is to try and spread homes out as it is. “Sprawling” developments are labelled as “crap” by Mayor Nenshi as he defends the essential abuse of the regulatory system in order to hinder developments that don’t fall within his density vision. The city does not want to “allow” more density, they want to force it. That is a huge distinction.

Part of the plan is in “increasing awareness” of the apparent ecological merits of Manhattan style density. That means spending our tax dollars to “educate” and shame our suburban butts for daring to live in homes with yards.

STRATEGY 2 Increase the mix of uses within communities.
Encourage livable streetscapes that are active throughout the day.
Educate consumers to increase awareness of different housing types and mix.
Develop of standards for complete communities.
Promote existing mixed-use developments in Calgary.
Develop mandatory design guidelines.
Revise City policies that restrict opportunities for the development of mixed uses.

None of the above is all that unreasonable. They are coming out and using the word “mandatory” at least rather than talking around it using the word “encourage” as they usually do. They feel that they must “educate” us unwashed folks further though which is condescending and irritating.

Planning communities and having city enforced standards is a reasonable thing. It is a matter of the degree of course and the use of guidelines to throttle “crap” as Nenshi likes to do that is a problem.

STRATEGY 3 Support the development of underdeveloped land for population-intensive activities and uses.
Support changes to the tax system to encourage the development of vacant lands within established areas.
Provide mortgages, guarantees and revolving loans for brownfield sites that meet restoration criteria.
Support the remediation and redevelopment of brownfield sites for appropriate development.
Encourage the redevelopment of greyfield sites (old malls and commercial sites that are no longer economically viable).
Support the intensification of existing communities, particularly in strategic locations like those near transit stations.

Whoa whoa whoa folks! I have to quote this again below as this is the sort of thing that leads to disasters and government bankruptcies.

Provide mortgages, guarantees and revolving loans for brownfield sites that meet restoration criteria.

That’s right, the ImagineCalgary folks actually want the City of Calgary government to provide loans and mortgages as well as guarantee other high risk loans. The loans in question would of course have to be high risk or they would not need a guarantee in the first place.

It is not enough to choke and regulate developments that do not fit within their density visions. The visionaries behind this document understand that it is economically unviable to invest in their ideal communities thus they must provide taxpayer financing to build these developments.

One needs only to look at the outright fiscal disaster South of our border to see what happens when government gets into the mortgage business. Lending institutions have come up with their lending standards for damn good reason. If people don’t qualify for a loan with established lending institutions, then they simply should not be loaned money.

We are not paying our tax dollars so that the City of Calgary can lend them to high risk borrowers!

What is this supporting changes in the tax system about? One can only imagine that it would be selective tinkering with rates so that preferred development gets breaks while we tax the piss out of those evil folks in the suburbs. The city is prepared to fight consumer choice and supply and demand with every tool at their disposal.

“Encourage” and “support” are terms for some very heavy market meddling with a very high risk of loss of tax dollars invested according to ImagineCalgary.

STRATEGY 4 Promote innovative housing forms that are able to adapt to a variety of housing needs.
Support backyard infill housing (e.g. granny suites).
Encourage co-housing or other forms that provide innovative living arrangements.
Encourage flex-housing to enable the spaces within residential units to be converted over time to meet changing household needs.
Support streamlining processes for housing developments that are innovative and support more sustainable lifestyles.
Develop a provincial strategy to address the shortfall of affordable and accessible housing for people with disabilities.

Now with this statement we have to wonder to what extent “promote” goes to. More education for us? More loans and subsidies?

Infill housing can be a good thing but the degree has to be watched. Parking and general neighborhood densities are real issues despite the utopian bicycle and pedestrian’s paradise envisioned by these planners. Those who purchase a home with a yard in an area with other single occupancy dwellings do so for a reason. It is not reasonable that they suddenly have a neighbor who tosses in an infill and basement suite and suddenly has groups of revolving renters coming and going.

This apparent supporting of streamlining of processes that are “innovative” and fit within what they define as “sustainable lifestyles” is an admission that the city wants to purposely abuse the regulatory regime to model things to fit within their idealism. Either streamline all regulations or none. The selective route is just a disingenuous means to choke supply and demand.

What exactly is a “sustainable lifestyle” anyway and who the hell are these guys to tell us what that is? The City of Calgary endorsed ImagineCalgary plan actually takes it upon itself to manage our choice in lifestyles. Again, the term social engineering is not at all an exaggeration here.

This calls for “developing a provincial strategy” as well. These people don’t even consider for a second that this is a civic document. What other municipalities do is none of your damn business. Rest assured the pap within ImagineCalgary is intrusive enough without trying to expand to controlling other cities.

STRATEGY 5 Review the rules for housing construction and community development to determine how they may be unnecessarily limiting innovative housing options.
Develop flexible rules within the Land Use Bylaw (create opportunities for mixed use, building setbacks, etc.).
Explore options to streamline the permitting process to encourage desired housing forms and make them more financially feasible.
Review the Alberta Building Code to identify how it may be limiting innovative housing options.
Research the appropriateness of alternative policy mechanisms, such as objective-based policy versus prescriptive-based policy.
Research options for alternative housing forms, such as legalized basement suites.
Research options to improve the Ward system of political representation.

Develop “flexible” rules? Either we have solid rules or we don’t. Selective application of rules means no rules at all but it sure does empower City Hall to pick and choose who they will or won’t enforce laws upon. Again, in knowing that consumer choice does not allow for their goals in city modelling the planners here want to take a disingenuous, backdoor route to their objectives.

Streamlining permitting to encourage desired housing forms? How about streamlining it all? Yet again these people want to abuse regulatory systems in order to force development into ways that would not normally happen. Maybe these developments are not “financially feasible” for a reason. Financial feasibility has never been a real priority for the kind of folks who built ImagineCalgary though, remember Druh Farrell’s name is attached to it.

The looking into options to improve the Ward system of representation is a neat one. What is at issue for the drafters of ImagineCalgary here is that due to the rep-by-pop nature of the Ward system, our city gets properly represented by the majority of the population which predominantly resides in the suburbs. Suburbanites are tiring of the demonization coming from city hall and they will clearly wake up electorally as the kind of goals such as the ones in ImagineCalgary are pursued. To get around this pesky democracy things, the ImagineCalgary bunch want to change the whole system of local representation. Why else would they mention revising the Ward system under the heading of housing? There is already an entire section on governance in ImagineCalgary that I will eviscerate later.


TARGET By 2036, all new and retrofitted residential buildings are built to be within five per cent of the highest energy-efficient design available out of all economically competitive products, as measured on a life cycle basis.

Want to see a great way to drive cost of living right through the roof? The above statement is the way to do it. Don’t believe that “economically competitive” statement for a second, they have ignored that principle in the entire plan. Why would they care what is economically competitive now?

STRATEGY 1 Develop education and awareness programs that identify the benefits of eco-efficient design.
Identify the ecological impacts of different forms of commercial development.
Provide benchmarking to indicate how eco-efficient non-residential buildings are and where we rank against other cities of similar size and characteristics.
Develop a system to rate commercial types according to eco-efficiency standards.
Develop a single comprehensive labelling system for “green” buildings, products and technologies.

Most of the above is not all unreasonable. It really all depends on how extreme the standards get set at.

The labelling system sounds like a disaster though and working towards potential shaming of businesses that fall outside of what the city considers as “green”. Really not their turf.

STRATEGY 2 Streamline the development approval process for buildings that demonstrate eco-efficient standards.

How about just setting standards and following up on them? Why the constant call to use the approval and permitting process as a hammer?

STRATEGY 3 Develop incentives for adopting eco-efficient standards in buildings and site design.
Consider subsidies for eco-efficient buildings and site design.
Provide financing incentives for buildings that are more energy efficient.
Support local groups and businesses that offer green building products and technologies through information and awareness packages.

Ahh we knew they couldn’t last too long before wanting to jump right into direct subsidies for businesses that they determine to be green.

We can’t let these people begin picking and choosing businesses to give our tax dollars to. Corporate welfare is bad enough on the federal and provincial levels. We do not need the city to piss our money down this road.

There are few realms that invite corruption better than giving government power to directly subsidize businesses. If these efficiencies are so good, rest assured businesses will be pursuing them even without having our tax dollars lavished upon them.

Wonder why our city is so deeply in debt while our road infrastructure languishes? This is a good indicator. The city feels it is mandated to spend however and wherever they please.

TARGET By 2036, all commercial buildings are accessible to people with disabilities.

A good enough goal. It depends on how much it would cost with some existing buildings though. A degree of grandfathering has to be allowed here.

TARGET By 2036, all Calgarians have the option of spending less than 30 per cent of their gross family incomes on housing.

Now this is quite the target. An irony (or idiocy) of this kind of goal being in ImagineCalgary is that high density cities all have huge housing costs. Have a look at housing costs in Manhattan or San Francisco to see what happens when you build a density paradise. It is through the expansion of a city as a whole that housing costs are kept under control. This is totally lost on ImagineCalgary though.

STRATEGY 1 Encourage innovative practices or standards that reduce the costs of new housing.
Explore modified parking standards to reduce housing costs, especially where housing is close to transit, pathways or employment.
Research if quotas could be applied to affordable housing.
Ensure a certain percentage of rental units are for low-income households.
Investigate options for setting land aside for affordable housing.
Research options for providing more affordable housing, such as legalized basement suites.
Establish policy and land use districts to support single-room occupancy units.
Support programs that help integrate affordable housing into the community at large.
Support an increase in funding for programs that meet the complex needs of those who are at risk of becoming homeless.
Support the construction trades to ensure we have enough labour to fulfill the demands for housing construction.
Develop information and awareness on choosing the housing trades as a career.
Support streamlining processes for housing developments that are innovative and provide affordable housing.
Encourage mixed-income neighborhoods. Explore options for alternative financing to integrate affordable housing within all communities

OK where to begin. Many of these things are already happening. The only thing debatable is the degree. Do we really need to force the construction of a single-room occupancy building in an outlying suburb for example?

They do save the best at the bottom of their lists of strategies of course. Is it the city’s role to direct career choices of people? They appear to think so. Better to keep cost of living low and attract the tradespeople who will continue to be drawn to Calgary. These folks can’t let market determine such things though of course.

Next we get into “alternative financing”. This goes back to that call to have the City of Calgary provide mortgages and loan guarantees. Do you want the city to take your tax dollars to give to an unviable low income complex (future slum) to be developed next to the dream home you worked your ass off to buy? That I exactly what ImagineCalgary wants to do.

STRATEGY 2 Support the concept of a living wage for all Calgarians.
Identify a living wage standard for Calgary.
Develop awareness programs for employers on the benefits of paying employees a living wage.
Develop training programs that enable people to earn enough to afford housing and to sustain this affordability over time.

Now they are dipping deeply into the well of insanity again. The ImagineCalgary planners want to tell employers what they have to pay their staff.

“Living wage” could be anything these zealots determine. It need not be based in reality and it sure as hell won’t reflect market demand. Policies such as this would bring down the cost of living as businesses flock from the city to avoid these policies though. Doubtless we could look forward to more “incentives” for businesses that adhere to this living wage policy.

Training programs? It looks like our city will be opening trade schools and other sorts of post-secondary institutions too. Just how big do our civic officials think they can make city hall?

If we want affordable housing the answer is simple; open up the thousands of square miles of undeveloped land surrounding our city for development. The virtual suburban development freeze that we have right now is pushing real-estate prices through the roof.

STRATEGY 3 Support public/private partnerships to develop integrated affordable housing.
Encourage government to act as a land banker to absorb the risks of providing affordable housing in new communities.
Support streamlining processes for housing developments that are innovative and provide affordable housing.
Encourage mixed-income neighbourhoods

Ahh great. Our City Hall not only wants to become a banker that provides mortgages, it wants to become a “land banker”. Why simply risk tax dollars in cash when we can put whole tracts of city owned land at risk as well? Quebec has cracked down on their civic corruption lately. I bet their municipal gangsters would love to get a piece of these city business and land partnerships.

It is frightening how many ways these people can imagine to take our money and redistribute it based on their idealism.

By 2036, the Calgary market can meet the housing needs of those below the Low-income Cut-off (LICO).

Again a nice but frightening goal. We are talking about a massive civic welfare state here and nothing less. This simply is not a municipal government’s role.

STRATEGY 1 Fully integrate non-market housing into communities throughout the city, with a mix of rental, owned and mixed-income tenures.

Want an ever growing pile of government owned housing tenements opening up in your neighborhood? That is exactly what this is calling for. The theory is that if government owns enough of the housing that they can control the overall costs of housing for all. The cost to fund this will be through ever increasing taxation upon the productive of course which will drive more of them into low income situations creating need for more low income housing meaning more tradespeople will need to be trained in City owned trade schools…….. Big government just keeps getting bigger.

I was fortunate enough to have been able to tour Moscow in the 80s. I assure you that large cities full of socialized housing are not terribly pleasant.

STRATEGY 2 Increase the stock of affordable housing along the continuum: from emergency shelters, to transitional housing, to non-market rental units, to formal and informal rental units, to affordable owned homes.
Support the development of hostels and single-room occupancy dwellings like boarding houses, special care facilities and lodging houses.
Support the development of emergency and transitional housing to accommodate specific subgroups within the homeless population, including youth under the age of 18, families, women with or without children who are fleeing violence, people leaving addictions treatment and people with mental health issues or cognitive or physical disabilities.

Some of this is OK but how much? How many hostels are we obligated to provide for travelling hipsters with Liberal Arts degrees for example?

STRATEGY 3 Research and develop new ways of providing non-market housing.
Develop new ways of providing non-market housing in Calgary by having The City’s Affordable Housing Implementation Team work with the Community Action Committee addressing homelessness, the Community Land Trust and other partners in public, private and community sectors.

The repetitiveness of the goal of increasing state-owned housing is rather telling. ImagineCalgary see’s no other recourse for housing issues without massive state participation. This strategy has failed everywhere else but hey, lets let Calgarian taxpayers try just one more time.

STRATEGY 4 Identify specific buildings and parcels of land that can be set aside for the development of non-market housing.
Provide the option of subsidizing people, and not projects, to expand the supply of affordable housing.

Oh look, another strategy to pursue more state owned housing tenements. How creative of them.

STRATEGY 5 Bring together developers and non-profit organizations and guide them in seeking federal and provincial funding for the development and operation of affordable housing.

Well this is something interesting at least. They want to bring others with them when they go begging for more money from other levels of government. Nenshi may have a hard time getting those homebuilders to come with him if he keeps banning them from his committees when he has his periodic tantrums though.

STRATeGY 6 Support appropriate relaxations to regulations on a site-specific basis for development that meets the needs of low-income households.

Oh good, let the standards down on the low income developments. Hell, get rid of the smoke detector requirements and allow smoking within them. That should reduce our low income population right quickly.

We either need regulations for all developments or none.

STRATeGY 7 Support initiatives to eliminate homelessness.
Mobilize community partners and other orders of government to develop a comprehensive 10-year plan to eradicate homelessness that would lead to a shift from our current temporary/ transitional shelter approach to one that uses prevention combined with rapid re-housing and supportive housing practices.
Focus short-term efforts on families with children that are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, as well as on children and youth at risk of becoming homeless later in life due to childhood housing instability.
Support a Mayor’s task force to reach out to vulnerable group at risk of becoming homeless.
Continue to introduce and support social programs that help the homeless become self-reliant.
Enhance programs and supports that help unemployed and low-income people achieve economic self-sufficiency.
Use a collaborative and shared investment approach with not-for-profit, industry and government sectors.
Provide adequate training or education and services for life skills development, job preparation and job placement to the homeless population and those at risk of becoming homeless.
Support various employment supports, including transportation subsidies, child care and eligibility for health benefits.
Support early childhood development that assists parents in providing children with healthy environments for full development.

Most of the above is standard fluff in speaking to homelessness. When they say “eliminate” though, reality is already lost. Homelessness can be mitigated and reduced but it will never be eliminated. If we don’t plan for realistic outcomes we will never see the ones we want. Many of the initiatives listed above are already in existence. The term “enhance” is used to mask a call for increased spending though.

As usual, ImagineCalgary goes way beyond civic mandate though in calling for child care and health benefits. Early childhood programs are not a municipal role either so lets just get off it.

Well, that is the ImagineCalgary housing dreams in nutshell along with interpretation and in only 4000 words. Writing on their self-esteem goals in a future installment will be a cakewalk after having written this one. 😉

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Health care “premiums” are a tax. Say it like it is.

To say that the Redford government is up the fiscal creek is an incredible understatement. The Redford led Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta won the 2012 election on a platform of false revenue projections and completely unsustainable spending promises that can only be called outright lies. Fiscal reality has come home to roost and Alberta is now facing a catastrophically large budgetary deficit.

Like rats from a sinking ship, Alison Redford’s communications staff are bailing out as they know that participating in the festival of lies demanded to try and polish Redford’s turd of a budget will only destroy any future hopes of work within the field of communications. The lack of communications strength was quite clear and visible in Alison Redford’s bizarre address to Albertans where she spit out blame and excuses for the disaster of her own making while really saying nothing else of merit. Even the Alison Redford’s twitter account appears to have been assigned to somebody with the communications skills of a six year old as petulant tweets attacking radio hosts are sent out.

Now that is has been pretty clearly established that Redford has reduced her communications staff to one of the most expensive yet simplistic groups in the nation, we can speculate on where they plan to go to try and dig their administration out of this embarrassing hole.

Redford has now claimed that she will not raise taxes despite the gargantuan deficit that she created. This leaves her in something of a quandary. A simplistic way to get around this of course is to label a tax something else. That is exactly what happens when we hear speech on health care “premiums” and predictably we are hearing rumblings that the health care tax may be reinstated.

The general health care tax that was mislabelled as a “premium” was one of Alberta’s most regressive and inefficient taxes ever. While the tax provided little burden to high income earners, it was quite onerous for people and families on fixed incomes. The health care tax was very difficult to administer and a very large portion of the generated revenue was lost through collections and administration.

The funds from the health care tax were never kept in a separate dedicated fund for health expenditures. The health care tax was indiscriminate of the payer’s own health or lifestyle. Healthy people and sick people paid the same “premium” and all revenues went into general revenues. That is why no matter how some try to say it, the health care tax is a tax and not a “premium” by any measure. Redford’s communication army should try something new through telling the truth for a change. Admit a tax increase for crying out loud. It’s not as if Albertans have not already concluded that Redford is full of bullshit. We won’t be fooled now.

Some claim that a health care tax helps teach Albertans the true cost of health care. Unless the health care tax is at least a few thousand dollars a year, that simply is not true. A few years ago, I encountered a somewhat informed lefty who was convinced that the monthly “premium” that he paid for health care accounted for his entire costs in health care.  The monthly payment actually added to confusion about the real cost of care in our socialised monopolistic health care system.

Perhaps bringing in a health care tax is a good idea or perhaps it is not. Let’s not cloak this in bullshit though and call it what it is; a tax increase and another broken Redford promise if it comes about.

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Government debt is nothing like a personal mortgage!

As the inept and increasingly corrupt Redford government marches Alberta back into debt, apologists are trying to say that government debt it a good thing and is like a mortgage. That statement is utter hogwash and it is tiring.

To begin with a mortgage is taken out by individuals (or families), to purchase what will likely be an appreciating asset. Equity (most likely) will build in the purchase that can be used to borrow against in the future in possible hard times or the home may simply be sold outright later. Barring either of the above, the home and it’s value will eventually be handed down to heirs.

Government capital projects while providing value are not typically transferable and only lead to future maintenance costs as opposed to appreciating in future value. Can we use a hospital as collateral in a future loan? Can we sell an overpass if we need extra cash? Increasing long-term value makes incurring debt for a home purchase a good idea. That growing value simply does not exist in government capital projects.

A mortgage is usually a once in a lifetime debt. People may move from home to home while building equity and transferring the mortgage but a person will generally only have one mortgage at any one time and the goal will be to pay it off. When government begins borrowing in good times as Redford plans to do now, it is akin to taking out a new mortgage every year. No appreciating asset is being purchased and debt simply keeps growing and growing. There is no equity offsetting the loan.

While a personal mortgage will eventually end, capital expenditures never will. There will always be more roads needed and hospitals demanded. Will future generations not need such expenditures too? They will have to pay for that infrastructure while paying debt off along with interest. Is this principled or fair?

We hear the dwindling Progressive Conservative supporters trying to paint things as if it is some sort of zero-sum game with idiotic questions such as: “Don’t you want schools, hospitals and roads?”. Of course we do and we will still have all of those damned things without borrowing to get them.

People keep speaking of an infrastructure deficit. By who’s measure is there a deficit? Is there ever enough hospitals? Will roads ever be wide enough? Will kids have enough schools close to home? Will there be enough libraries? The demand for spending is truly infinite. The capacity to spend is finite though and we have to draw a line somewhere.

If we need to borrow while the government is receiving record revenues as it is now, it is clear that there is no way that this administration will stop borrowing down the road no matter what energy prices do. We will borrow and borrow and borrow until an inevitable fiscal collapse that our children and grandchildren will have to endure.

All around the developed world we are seeing governments collapsing under their own debt. Most of Europe is in fiscal shambles and the USA is soon to either hit the wall or have some terribly heavy austerity measures come into place as their government debt overwhelms them. Why on earth do we want to continue to keep digging ourselves into that unsustainable hole when such clear examples of the futility of that path are in front of us?

We are lucky in Alberta to have the means for some of the best infrastructure and development in the entire world. For us to threaten this with such a gross addiction to spending and lazy government is almost obscene.

The excuses and rationalizations will be coming hard and heavy as the 2013 budget looms and Redford presents Albertans with a massive budgetary deficit. To be sure, the mortgage comparison with government borrowing is simply bunk. Be sure to remind Redford’s small social media army of that as they ramp up their unprincipled rhetoric in the next few months.

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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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