The Progressive Conservative establishment selected their candidate

janse

Now that the remnants of the Progressive Conservative Party old guard have finished trying to rig their leadership race rules as tightly as possible in favor of the party status-quo (which is moribund and indebted), they have now settled on their preferred candidate.
For those who want to turn the clock back and return to the Progressive Conservative Party that held no solid principles and governed simply based on the rationale of retaining power, Sandra Jansen is the clear candidate of choice.
Through her own actions over the years, Sandra has exemplified the shallow, self-serving, opportunism that the Progressive Conservative Party had come to represent after holding power for over four decades in Alberta.
Jansen never held or shared any conservative principles with the party of her choice. Jansen is and was a Liberal through and through as she demonstrated many times over the years. Sandra was canny enough to realize that if she aspired to rise above an opposition seat in Alberta and gain a cabinet position or even the Premiership, she would have to pretend to be a conservative and gain her seat through the party that appeared to her as being an unbeatable juggernaut (at that time).

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Jansen happily jumped on board with Alison Redford as Redford sold her party’s political soul to unions in order to win the party leadership (Redford later betrayed those union supporters too of course). As a loyal Redford supporter, Jansen was rewarded with a minor associate minister’s portfolio.


Even in an obscure ministerial role, Jansen could not help but let her Liberal elitism leak out as she embarrassed herself by berating electricians as being too low of form of trade to maintain political roles.
Jansen quickly scurried into hiding and let the party take care of damage control due to Sandra’s rather embittered outlook on tradespeople was exposed.

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As Redford fell into disgrace, Jansen wisely kept a low profile and waited to see who the next leader to latch on to would be. That person of course was Jim Prentice. In hopes of climbing the cabinet ladder, Sandra Jansen happily sponsored what would turn out to be a disaster in the first incarnation of Bill 10.
Despite claiming to be a champion for LGTBQ kids, Sandra Jansen sponsored a bill that would force those kids to appear before a judge in court in order to form support clubs in schools if the school or board refused them. As the backlash over Sandra Jansen’s bill grew, things got more absurd as the PCs of the time said that LGTBQ kids no longer would have to appear before a judge in order to form clubs, they would simply have to get an order from the Education Minister. It was also implied that these kids could simply form clubs down the street and away from school property if need be. Gee how progressive Sandra. Would they get off property washrooms and fountains too if there were more concerns?

Sandra Jansen’s version of Bill 10 was a complete catastrophe that offended most of the province. Prentice was forced to intervene and pull the bill off the table in order to try and rework it into something palatable in the spring.
Below we can see Jansen meekly standing aside as Prentice takes over and works to clean up her mess.

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Jansen has since claimed that her sponsorship of the bill was a terrible mistake. Hindsight helps that way. In reality, we all know that if the bill had passed in the legislature in it’s first incarnation and had Prentice not disastrously lost the general election that Sandra Jansen would happily be sitting in a cabinet seat in the Prentice government today doing what she is told and aspiring to his role in government.
A strongly principled person would never have sponsored legislation that goes against their personal principles. A person who puts ambition above principle however will do so without hesitation as we saw Jansen do.

If Sandra Jansen had what it takes to be a leader, she would have passed on sponsoring that bill or even spoke against it. Some in the PC caucus of the time did so. What other principles will Sandra Jansen set aside if she feels they will hinder her personal political path? Only time will tell.
The Progressive Conservative Party took what should have been a terribly humbling loss in the last general election. Their complacence and arrogant practices led to Alberta accidentally electing an NDP government. Despite this, the remaining old guard within the party feel that the best course of action is to bring in another leader that is weak in principles and carries the baggage of the last two leaders who left in disgrace.
The PC party has an opportunity to look ahead and re-brand with a new approach or they can elect a retread of Alison Redford who is a little less bright.

redbean

We will find out in the next few months.

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Is there anything Albertan that Alison Redford actually likes?

I think that most can agree that one of the main causes of Alison Redford’s downfall was that she didn’t endear herself to pretty much anybody. It is hard to imagine a person in public service getting into such a high position while being so abrasive to all but Redford managed to pull it off. What Redford proved though was that while a miserable person can manage to get to a high position in public office they simply don’t have a hope in hell of maintaining it in the long run. Due to countless incidents and clashes with staffers, press, opposition members and even her caucus members, when tough times came for Redford she found herself with utterly no allies. The race to throw Redford under the bus by her own compatriots was unprecedented. Nary a voice has been heard to try to make even a weak defense for Redford and this is not for lack of defenses (politicians can always come up with some excuse). The reason nobody is coming to Redford’s defense is simply that nobody likes her.

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Some folks have tried to point out that Ralph Klein routinely abused the provincial aircraft as if this somehow justifies Redford’s abuse of them. It is a sad justification of the abuse and really only proves that Progressive Conservative entitlement has been alive and well in government for a long time. It does bring an interesting question though, how did Klein get away with such abuses with only minor critique when similar actions outright destroyed Alison Redford? The simple answer is that people liked Ralph Klein.

When Klein got himself into trouble (and he often did), he had a masterful knack of extricating himself with an apology and a promise not to do whatever he had done again. That tended to close the matter and we moved on to other things. The reason Klein could do so is that his caucus and a great many of the Alberta public genuinely and simply liked Ralph Klein a great deal. Ralph had allies when the crap hit the fan. Redford had positioned herself to be all alone and it cost her everything.

Politics is a popularity contest no matter how some may wish it wasn’t so. Policy is important but the person presenting that policy is even more important.

So why did people like Ralph Klein so much when Alison Redford earned herself almost universal provincial scorn? The bottom line is that it was clear and evident at all times that Ralph Klein loved Alberta and loved Albertans. It is much harder to dislike somebody when they clearly like you and it is much easier to forgive their errors when they do. Ralph was one of us for better or for worse.

Alison Redford never really appeared to like Albertans. She seemed to suffer the necessity of us at best. Redford never seemed to leave her UN roots behind and felt that her world was to be an elite one of diplomatic functions where Albertans were there to serve her rather than the other way around. This was evident in Redford’s constant incredibly expensive world travel and her efforts to make sure she never had to travel with the unwashed. Redford spoke repeatedly on how she wanted to change Alberta’s culture. I don’t recall Albertans as a whole really asking Redford to change their culture. The only cultural change that Redford brought about was a short term aristocracy with her at the top which thankfully is over with.

The reason I am off on this tirade is a small thing I noticed in the latest FOIP release of information from the Redford Regime. This was from the communications of Redford’s personal travel scout for her globe trotting missions. I feel that trade missions are important but they do have to focus on promoting Alberta and Albertan products as opposed to preening in the diplomatic world of luxury that Redford did.

While on her $450,000 trip to India (the government site still bullshits and claims it cost $131,000), Redford’s very expensive personal travel scout reported: “Getting some intel on India gifting. I think ammonite will work here. I know it may not be premier’s favourite but gemstones are very popular.” This is actually some valuable information from this travel scout. Gifting is an important part of these sorts of missions. It is a sign of respect and it is an opportunity to promote items unique to your nation. This has been done since the days of medieval ambassadors.

It can be seen that the scout made a point to ensure that the translator doesn’t talk to Redford at any time. That gets back to that issue of why nobody really could find themselves liking her.

What is odd here though is that it is clear that Alison Redford does not like Alberta Ammonite (ammolite). Jewellery preference is a very subjective thing but that applies to what one wears personally. When it comes to gifts like this though, one has to look at what you are representing and promoting. Alberta ammonite gems are a growing industry with First Nations involvement. These gems are the rarest organic gemstone on earth as they are only found in Alberta. What could be better to promote on such a mission particularly when gemstones are very popular in the place you are visiting?

Well despite this sage advice, Redford chose to give watercolor paintings of grain elevators to the dignitaries. Art is nice to promote too but I wouldn’t be surprised if the paintings were done by a relative of Redford’s. Why deviate from the advice of the well paid scout? Honestly, why does Redford dislike this stone? Either way, Redford let her personal dislike of ammonite lead to losing an opportunity to promote this Albertan product while on her mission. Why was she supposedly there again?

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I have to give full disclosure here, my family is involved in the Alberta ammonite/ammolite business. We in partnership with members of the Blood Reserve have been mining and retailing in a manufacturing/retail outlet in Canmore. This is of course what made my ears perk up as soon as I saw the gem mentioned. It has taken decades for Alberta ammonite gems to get recognition worldwide but it has been steadily gaining popularity. Government has never really done the industry any favors unfortunately.

I will take advantage of this issue to segue into giving some background on this great stone though as it is better known internationally than it is right here in Alberta (and of course I will plug the family business).

ammonite

Ammonite is a fossilized nautilus from the cretaceous period around 70 or 80 million years ago. While ammonite fossils are found throughout the world, it is only in small portions of Alberta where the fossils demonstrate the brilliant colors as can be seen in the picture above. The best fields of these gems are on the Blood Reserve in the Saint Mary’s river area. When the gem is harvested from these fossils, it is then called “ammolite” which is why we see both terms used at times. The gem makes stones and pieces such as these below.

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Tours and sales of course are available at the Ammonite Factory in Canmore. It makes for a great day trip and you can’t beat the mining/cutting direct prices provided.

Ahh, there are few things more satisfying than giving a well founded critique of Alison Redford while making a self-serving plug for the family business. 😉

In summary, Redford’s abrasive personality and apparent dislike of most things Albertan led to her downfall and people should pop by the ammonite factory for a good deal on a unique gem.

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Privacy Versus Accountability

The world has changed in a way that I think few saw coming. Many people feared and foresaw a world where we all were constantly monitored by government cameras and lost all privacy. What has happened instead is that we now have a society where nearly every person is carrying a video camera at all times and it has actually led to more accountability from our authorities.

There are some privacy issues and there always will be but I think this trend of citizen empowerment through personal cameras is a good thing for us all.

In 1991 video captured the reprehensible beating of Rodney King and brought to light just how out of control police officers can become at times when they think nobody is watching. At that time, the video was an anomaly as video cameras were large, bulky and expensive. People rarely had one at the ready to shoot such a scene. People could not help but wonder how many other episodes such as the King beating had occurred when nobody could record the moment.

Videos of police abusing their authority are now becoming unfortunately more common but I suspect that as more and more police officers are finding themselves fired and criminally charged when caught assaulting citizens that many more officers are now showing restraint in knowing that their actions may be recorded.

This new accountability extends to officers and their treatment of their own dogs as the video below demonstrates.

::warning:: Lot’s of expletives.

This accountability extends to criminals too. The video below demonstrates scumbag protestors vandalizing property. These sort of video clips help undercut the claims by protesters that they are being unfairly targeted by police.

The video below demonstrated how shallow, bitter and just outright pointless the “Idle No More” protests were. Without citizen video like this, thugs like those recorded may have retained some credibility in the minds of Canadians.

Of course in the political world, we are finding politicians going down as they fail in adjusting to this new degree of public scrutiny.

Rob Ford has proven not only to have some very serious addiction issues, but has demonstrated an utter inability to learn from his past mistakes as he has been caught in a second crack video.

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In Alberta, disgraced former Premier Alison Redford demonstrated that despite losing Alberta’s top political job due to her gross sense of entitlement, she still feels entitled to taking a six-figure salary from Alberta taxpayers to live in luxury in Palm Springs while brazenly refusing to do her job. Had a citizen not taken the picture below, Redford may have been able to convince some that she was on some form of government business.

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Redford’s ongoing crime against good fashion has been recorded in Palm Springs as well.

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Civil servants are not exempt either. This picture below of 10 city of Calgary workers painting a simple green box demonstrates that there is plenty of room for increased efficiency within the City of Calgary despite Nenshi’s denials and his rather sad claim that this was a training session.

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The world is changing and for the most part it is for the better.

Rather than complain about a possible lack of privacy, people should just always act in a manner that is assuming that they are being recorded.

Accountability is never a bad thing.

 

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Choosing the next leader of Alberta’s official opposition

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This upcoming leadership race for the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta will be the third one I have observed from the perspective of a Wildrose (formerly Alberta Alliance) supporter. In the last two races it was assumed (correctly) that the P.C. Party was electing the next Premier of Alberta. This time around, it is broadly assumed that the P.C. Party will be electing a person who will be serving as a seat warmer on the provincial throne until Danielle Smith can take it in the next general election. Barring a miracle, there is little that can stop the aforementioned outcome.

The mood and comments from within the Wildrose Party are indicative of how outlooks have changed. Discontent with the Progressive Conservative party’s governance of Alberta was beginning to gain some steam in the last couple years of Ralph Klein’s time as Premier. Spending was increasing dramatically and that party seemed to be losing some of it’s vision and direction. The Alberta Alliance Party had won an upset seat in the prior election along with some strong second place finishes and it was beginning to gain strength though it was still quite small on the Alberta political landscape. The Progressive Conservative Party knives came out and Ralph Klein was given a humiliating 55% support number at the 2006 PC convention which quickly ushered him out the door as Premier.

To be frank, the leadership race devastated the fledgling Alberta Alliance Party. The bulk of our supporters were discontented small c conservatives who had left the Progressive Conservatives and they now had renewed hope for change from within their former party. Our donors dried up and the office phone stopped ringing. Most had more appetite to change the leader of the PCs than take the long road of building a whole new alternative. This problem was hugely exacerbated when our leader & sole MLA Paul Hinman suggested that Alberta Alliance members should take out PC memberships and support the election of Ted Morton as leader. Paul is a truly pragmatic man and thought this approach was what was best for Alberta. It was a terribly weak position coming from an opposition party however.

By the time Ed Stelmach was elected as leader of the PC party, the Alberta Alliance was on virtual life support. Our membership numbered in the hundreds and our bank account held a few thousand dollars at best. A small surge of members returned having given up on Ted Morton’s chances and we carried on. The hope for conservative leaning change from within the PC party was dashed.

Within a few years the self-serving Progressive Conservative knives came out for Ed Stelmach and yet again we were into a leadership race in 2011. Due to Stelmach’s attacks on the energy industry, business support was getting strongly behind the newly branded Wildrose Alliance Party. Stelmach had won a decisive majority in the 2008 election but then continually lost ground to this surging new opposition. A by-election loss in Glenmore, the election of Danielle Smith and the following floor crossings by Rob Anderson, Heather Forsyth and later Guy Boutilier sent a series of shockwaves through the PC party. A coup was coming from within caucus and Stelmach stepped aside before he could be formally thrown out.

Again we saw a degree of support leave the Wildrose Party in hopes that Ted Morton or perhaps even Mar could get the PC Party back on course. The degree of loss of support within the Wildrose in 2011 was much smaller than in the 2006 election. While hindered and distracted by the PC leadership race, the Wildrose Party still continued to work and establish a strong ground presence and developed constituencies. Growth in funds and membership only slowed for the Wildrose during this PC leadership race as opposed to totally drying up as it did in 2006.

When the Progressive Conservative Party not only resoundingly rejected Ted Morton but took a hard left turn in selecting Alison Redford as their leader, support for the Wildrose Party finally solidified. A tipping point of conservative/libertarian Albertans had been reached who had given up all hope on reforming the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. Growth within the ever evolving Wildrose Party exploded by every measure whether public opinion polling, fundraising or membership numbers. The tone changed within the party and sights were truly set on forming government.

The 2012 election proved two things resoundingly as the Redford campaign barely hung on to power. For one thing the Progressive Conservative machine was vulnerable and could indeed be replaced. The other thing learned at that time was that the Wildrose Party still needed some maturing and evolution in order to be the party to replace the PCs.

Now that the Progressive Conservative Party has tossed out Redford and are into yet another leadership race, the impact of this circumstance on the Wildrose Party couldn’t be more different than it had been in 2006 and 2011. While some folks are trying to imply that the Wildrose Party desperately hoped that Redford would remain as the Premier in order to truly sink the PC reign, that simply isn’t true.

The Wildrose Party has been growing and evolving and examining itself for years with the goal of replacing the entire government in mind, not just the leader of it. This goal has not changed a bit. As the Progressive Conservatives have ripped apart yet another of their leaders, there is no indication of any loss of Wildrose support to any budding PC leadership candidates. The removal of Redford has not led to hope that the PC party has any chance of internal changes. What the PC coup has demonstrated is that the PCs are in utter turmoil and have no clue how to save their individual, personal political fortunes. No matter who the PCs choose to lead them this time, their party is weakened fiscally, organizationally and morally. These weaknesses are now fatal for this fading party and we can feel it in the Wildrose Party.

Within days of Redford’s resignation, the Wildrose held their leader’s dinner in Calgary. 1000 people packed the house at $400 per plate and the mood was one of nothing but excitement and optimism as people knew they were watching the next elected Premier of Alberta speaking. History is being made as a 43 year old dynasty is finally coming to an end.

Politics are fickle and much can change within a couple years. As I said before though, it will take nothing less than a miracle to turn the Progressive Conservative Party around this time.

Leadership campaigns for the PC party had been traditionally funded by people wanting to curry favor with a future Premier. It will be difficult for candidates to raise the non-refundable $50,000 entry fee (such a grassroots figure), much less the hundreds of thousands required for the rest of the campaign when pretty much all political watchers know that these candidates are running to lead the opposition after the next provincial election.

Nothing can be taken for granted by the Wildrose Party of course. In seeing and feeling three of these races from within the party though, one can tell that the time for a true change of government has finally come.

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Wildrose & Progressive Conservative. What’s the difference?

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As the Wildrose Party has grown and matured as a party, our policies have evolved and moderated every year. We have learned from experience what is realistic and what is acceptable to Albertans and have adjusted our actions accordingly. As the policy set moves towards what some may view as a more mushy middle, some critics have questioned what differences remain between the Wildrose Party and the reigning Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. While the policies may appear to be getting similar (can’t really find a good copy of the PC ones), the difference between the parties is still immense.

The biggest difference between the Wildrose Party and the PCs is subtle yet profound. The difference between the parties is one of both culture and of attitudes held by both the general membership and senior party members. This huge difference was laid out and exposed excellently in a blog posting by Christina Rontynen who courageously has spoken up from within the PCs.

Christina and her husband Piotr Pilarski have both been very loyal and involved members of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta for years. Christina has now spoken up out of concern for the party that she has given so much to. In return for Christina having expressed frank concerns, she has received a letter of censure from the Party President Jim McCormick.

Letter of censure

The bottom line is that the powers that be in the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta have told a concerned member in no uncertain terms to shut the hell up. This exposes the great difference from the Wildrose  Party and sickness from within the PC Party of Alberta. Redford can’t be blamed for this attempt to gag a concerned loyal member. This missive came from the Party President who is supposed to represent the membership.

 

My wife Jane and I have both been very vocal and outspoken when we have felt that some elements within the Wildrose Party may be trying to move things in the wrong direction. We have been critical of the Wildrose Party on a number of occasions. Jane is a former Executive Director for the Wildrose and has served in a number of executive capacities while I served multiple terms on the party executive. Both Jane and I are past candidates for the party. Serving in those sorts of roles does not mean we can no longer be openly critical of the party at times as McCormick has implied in his letter to Rontynen.

Jane and I have surely made many senior members of the Wildrose Party grind their teeth when we have gotten openly cranky with the party. I have gotten more than one grumpy phone call from higher-ups in the party asking what I am up to. One thing that has never happened though is that nobody in the Wildrose Party considered for even a second to tell Jane or I to shut up!

The culture of the Wildrose Party is still one where the concerns of the membership (and Albertans) are paramount. The party is still relatively new and embraces internal critique as part of it’s growth rather than try to stifle it. Perhaps if the Wildrose Party held power for 43 years in Alberta these values and attitudes would change but for now the party is as grassroots as it gets despite taking an increasingly pragmatic approach to it’s actions.

The culture and attitude of a party can’t be captured in a policy statement. Those things can only been viewed in actions and felt within membership. Even if the Wildrose Party and the PC Party had the exact same policy set (they certainly don’t), the difference in cultures within these two parties would still set them greatly apart.

The Progressive Conservative Party acts only for the benefit of the party itself. The Wildrose Party is still dominated by the ideal of service for the benefit of the province and acts through the guidance of the party membership. That difference is and will remain tremendous no matter who may lead the Progressive Conservative Party next.

 

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Alison Redford hits tinpot dictator status in her latest petty move.

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During a crisis elected representatives on all levels take on a new role of leadership in gathering and disseminating critical information to their constituents. A local councillor, MLA or MP is always well in touch with the area and it’s people and is a familiar face for residents to turn to in a disaster.

I think that well over 99% of people would agree that in a crisis of the magnitude facing Southern Alberta in this disaster that partisanship must be set aside so that all representatives may best serve their constituents. This means including ALL local elected officials MUST be kept fully in the informational loop as briefings are held so that communications may be sent to residents.

Leave it to Alison Redford to hit a truly pathetic new low in having Danielle Smith, the MLA for Highwood kept out from government crisis briefings while putting the long gone former Progressive Conservative MLA on the podium to speak to residents of High River.

That is right, Alison Redford would rather have a former and retired MLA speak to residents rather than the one popularly elected to represent Highwood. I could understand if Smith was from outside of the constituency and was trying to ham in on camera time. In this case, Danielle Smith resides right in the heart of the disaster. Would Redford ban Nenshi from Calgary briefings? Of course not.

Redford is actually purposely interfering with the role and job of an MLA during a literal disaster. I would expect this sort of crap in Russia or Iran where democracy is a mere façade.

I am sure Smith and many others are too polite to say it but I will come right out with it. Redford is a sour and miserable person who has trouble endearing herself to anybody at the best of times. The Premier and her sad little band of communication monkeys are hoping to capitalize politically on one of Alberta’s worst disasters of the century. While Danielle Smith is simply trying to do her job, Redford fears the optics of a hardworking and caring MLA further endearing herself to the electorate through doing her job.

This strategy will backfire Redford as you work quickly to enshrine yourself as Alberta’s most pathetic, self-serving Premier in history. 2016 cant come soon enough.

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As summer approaches, the real fun begins.

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Last week late-night sessions came to a head in the Alberta Legislature as the Redford Progressive Conservatives rushed to bring yet another catastrophic legislative session to an end. Scandal after scandal erupted which complimented a disastrous budget that put lie to nearly every promise Alison Redford made only a year ago when she lied her way to power in Alberta. While polls have certainly proven themselves to be unreliable, it is pretty much undeniable that the Redford government is in a popularity free-fall in Alberta.

Among the many scandals that have sprung from our government, the revelation that over $2 million in severance has been paid out in the Premier’s office alone is the most telling of the state of affairs in our legislature. Rumors of Redford’s outbursts and untenable attitude are being confirmed as exhausted and harried staffers are constantly shown the door having failed to do the impossible in painting Redford in a positive light.

Alison Redford like Ed Stelmach before her and like Stephane Dion won her position due to being everybody’s second choice in a divisive leadership race. Like those before her, Redford is floundering as she never really had a large base of support within her party to begin with. Redford won by playing the system and through renting the support of Alberta’s teacher’s union. Only one caucus member supported Redford’s leadership bid initially and she really hasn’t endeared herself with caucus since.

Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives are hardly known for their selfless idealism. MLAs and staffers have no intention of going down with the Redford ship and we can rest assured that the knives are already coming out.

Where the fun starts as a political watcher is in observing the leadership race that is not a leadership race. Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel has announced that he will not be running for re-election this fall and his coyness about his potential entrance into provincial politics is quite transparent. Watch as Mandel suddenly begins appearing at events outside of Edmonton and begins speaking to issues of provincial jurisdiction. Rest assured, Mandel will be lining up potential supporters within the Progressive Conservative party itself which will trip more alarm bells within caucus.

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Aspirants such as Doug Horner and Thomas Lukaszuk will be furious as they see a Mayor building a leadership foundation while they are still bound as cabinet members. The unofficial leadership campaigns among the PC caucus will be well underway by mid-summer as we will see MLAs and cabinet members surfacing in the most unexpected of parades and barbeques as they try to broaden their provincial exposure and support. An increasingly desperate and furious Alison Redford will be watching and it will be quite entertaining watching her trying to plug the holes in the dam before the leadership campaign flood bursts it.lukashorn

Policy and legislative action are important and interesting to watch. Internal party intrigue is even more fascinating though and the summer of 2013 will be loaded with it. Be sure to read between the lines with every action you see from PC MLAs and Alison Redford. A 40 year dynasty is crumbling and more than a handful of it’s members feel they could be the party’s savior if they could only get their hands on the reins.

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We can’t all be astronauts.

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Yesterday I listened to a radio retrospective from 1969 where excited children were interviewed just after the moon landing.

 

One of the children was asked, “Do you want to go into space one day?”

 

The child responded, “Oh yes.”

 

The interviewer asked, “Do you think you will?”

 

The child responded, “No”.

 

When asked why not the child said. “Because I am a girl.”

 

In such a short piece it was laid out so clearly how our primitive societal outlook held back the hopes, dreams and aspirations of so many children based on things such as gender, race or even family status. This was not all that long ago at all but thankfully in the developed world we have grown beyond those attitudes incredibly in just one generation. There are still archaic attitudes held by some and still unfair limitations being presented to some but we are working towards ending those.

 

As with so many things though, we have reached a target and then continued pushing right past it to the point where we have created a whole new problem. We no longer have a generation that feels that they can’t do certain things simply because of race or gender but we have created a generation that is marked by a very deep sense of entitlement.

 

We have told our young people over and over that they have the right to become whatever they want to be. The reality is that what we are creating is the equal opportunity to pursue certain careers but we can’t guarantee that the pursuit will be fruitful. Let’s face it, if every young person could become whatever they dreamed to be, we would be a world full of singers, firefighters, movie stars and of course astronauts. In the real world the openings for those roles are rather limited.

 

In Quebec we have seen riotous protests for over a year as thousands of students with a profound sense of entitlement protested an incredibly modest increase in the cost of their already hugely subsidized tuition. During the whole “occupy” thing the year before we saw young people feeling entitled to illegally squat wherever they please to demonstrate a sense of general discontent that they could not get everything they want from society. As that generation hits the working world the cold wash of reality is going to be terribly hard on them.

 

In the real world we don’t all get a ribbon for participation. We never should be trying to crush or limit the aspirations of young people. We do need to add a dose of reality though.

 

In the world of the arts we see this sense of entitlement at it’s height. Embittered interpretive dance graduates and people with doctorates in advanced finger painting are tiring of serving coffee and are demanding that the public fund them so they may work in the field of their choice even if there is no demand for it. Arts lobbies are having some degree of success as politicians fear being swarmed by unemployed mimes at election time so tax dollars keep getting tossed into the arts pit for more substandard productions. In Alberta SOFA has been yelping to a fever pitch acting as if art will outright vanish from the world entirely if we do not tax the productive further to pay for it. That of course is simply untrue. Heavily subsidized arts do lead to crappy quality arts though as I laid out in this posting.

 

Though I am sure there are people who could be more diplomatic than I about it but it has to be said to some. Not every person is actually any good in their field of choice. Somehow the interpretive dance major has to be coaxed into another trade and the finger painter informed that his work is shitty and will never sell. If these delusions are not punctured at some point, the dancer will often find herself swinging around a pole with money in a g-string while drama majors find themselves in grimy West Coast studios in a branch of the film industry that they never really dreamed of entering. Which reality dose is more painful? The first one or the second?

 

Our collective sense of entitlement has led to mass overspending provincially. Redford now is ineptly cutting from post-secondary education which has led Mount Royal University to cut some of their arts and journalism programs. Hey, we can’t have it all and if we are going to cut that is simply where it needs to be done. This does not mean that there is no arts education or journalism available, it is just that the opportunities are re-modelling a bit to reflect a realistic demand.

 

What am I to say to a person with a degree in philosophy aside from: “No thank you, I don’t need fries with that.”? How many openings for careers in women’s studies do we really ever think there will be? We have to get realistic with what we are teaching and those taking the courses need to be realistically informed about the chance of their being employed in the field of their choosing.

 

I do not owe anybody a living in their field of choice.

 

The dreams do not need to be squashed but they do need to be tempered with reality. A person can paint part time while working on a different career. A person can still attend weekend casting calls while working as an engineer. Hey, if you get your break that’s wonderful but if perchance you don’t make the cut your bills will still be paid and I won’t have to listen to the enraged howls of entitlement from you.

 

It needs to be taught that a person is not a failure if they end up in a career that was not their first choice in life. Nothing makes a job more of a drudgery than thinking that you were supposed to be elsewhere. As I type, I am in Oklahoma supervising the survey of an oil exploration program. I deal with countless nightmares at times from drug addled staff, to gross hotel conditions to picking ticks from myself nightly after having walked through the bush for a day. Rest assured I did not daydream of doing this as a child. Despite this not being my first career choice, I am comfortable with it and accept that it is what I do. Why depress myself or demand that others facilitate a change for me? If it was all that bad, I could seek something else. I have learned to enjoy the travel and the outdoor aspects.

 

As deficit budgets continue on all levels of government while we pursue the same crash the Europe is enjoying, we see a looming reality check where spending will inevitably have to be cut. When we re-balance our education system we must work to ensure that we model public-funded education based on our national needs rather than entitled wants. If we keep taking the path of least resistance we will have a mountain of unemployed arts grads while we madly draw even more immigrants to fill the labor voids created by our tilted system.

 

You never see a plumber working as a barista. Let’s work to find that balance with our youth between encouragement and reality.

 

We need not destroy dreams, but we have to let youth know that they don’t always (in fact rarely) come true.

 

 

 

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The power of social media.

While I am prone to using thousands of words in a posting to get an idea out there, Amanda Achtman managed to cut the Redford Progressive Conservatives right to the core with a catchy and funny parody video that is less than two minutes long.

In light of Redford’s plummeting support and incredible budget deficit despite such a strong local economy, many many people are wondering just what happened to the party that they used to support.

People are abandoning the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta in droves as they simply really don’t know what the party even stands for anymore. Amanda drove that home excellently in her little video and it is going viral. It is an awesome example of a small grassroots effort making a strong impression on thousands. Proper use of social media can be very politically powerful.

Improper use of social media can be politically devastating. The Redford government see’s their lack of popular presence in the social media world (due to a lack of real grassroots support) so they have hired a cadre of leftover comms staffers from other provinces in a desperate hope of swinging online views. As with most of Redford’s efforts this has been a failure and the flood of tweets and such from her paid gang is really not taken terribly seriously by most.

Never ones to let a small irritation remain small, the Progressive Conservative twitter bunch thought that the best course of action would be to collectively report Amanda Achtman’s twitter account for spamming. This in effect leads to an account being temporarily suspended while they confirm that Amanda indeed was not spamming (and she wasn’t).

The foolish effort above of course then turned Achtman into an online grassroots martyr leading to radio and television coverage of the video. At times I swear the Redford gang will cross a street just to purposely step into a pile of dog crap.

Below is a link to Amanda Achtman on the Source with Ezra Levant discussing the issue.

http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/video/featured/prime-time/867432237001/some-party-that-i-used-to-know/2297143795001

Good work Amanda. I hope we see more efforts such as your video from both you and others. It helps broaden political discourse for us all and as has been seen, it helps expose where the real extremists are.

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Alberta tragedy; Redford’s Michener Centre closure.

If I am to be measured on the political scale, I land pretty strongly on the libertarian side of things. I want to see a minimal amount of government in our lives along with a maximum amount of personal freedoms. People often confuse this sort of outlook with anarchism though which would mean having a truly survival of the fittest sort of world with no boundaries or general social obligations. Anarchism is not reasonable in a modern world.

The scope of ethical obligations that we have as human beings to take care of our neighbors is large and usually very debatable. In the minds of all but the most extreme, we as a society have an obligation to take care of those who CAN’T take care of themselves. The problem that we always have is in defining who actually can’t take care of themselves as opposed to those who won’t take care of themselves.

There is very little to debate in the above regard when it comes to the status of the remaining 125 or so residents of the Michener Centre in Red Deer. These Albertans are afflicted with serious developmental disabilities and they will always be in need of the kind of specialized care that they are getting in the Michener Centre. Despite what appears to pretty much anybody as as self-evident need in societal care that had been provided by the facility, the Redford government has unexpectedly decided to close Michener Centre and displace every one of it’s residents.

In a zeal and rush to close the facility, the government has issued some pretty weak statements essentially trying to paint Michener Centre as being some nasty sort of institution where residents are languishing in misery while separated from society. The sterilizations that ended over 40 years ago are mentioned and it is implied that the place is right from a scene in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. It is blathered over and over again that residents will simply be placed in the “community” though it is not really specified just what that will mean.

Last week I attended a meeting held by “Friends of Michener Centre” in Calgary. This group was formed by concerned family members who have loved-ones living at the facility. It was both informative and heartbreaking to hear from those who have had to deal the most directly in caring for people with serious developmental disabilities. The challenges faced by and the strength demonstrated by the families of Michener Centre residents came through clearly in that couple hours. It is sad that not a single one of Redford’s MLAs could come to that meeting as they would have been able to get a better image of what damage is being wrought by their thoughtless decision to close Michener Centre.

One theme that was constant as people shared their stories is how each Michener Centre resident’s needs and circumstances were quite unique and how critical consistency of care is for each of them. One lady spoke of how her brother been bumped from group home to group home until after putting a chair through a window he was finally admitted into Michener Centre for the last 17 years of his life. While in Michener Centre this man got to settle in and a caring staff learned to deal with his unique and special needs. The stability he needed only came upon getting into a facility such as Michener Centre.

The gentleman hosting the meeting told an interesting story of his brother who had been a Michener Centre resident. His brother had been admitted to hospital with a respiratory infection and while in there staff was mystified with why he would not open his mouth to eat. This was during the H1N1 outbreak so staff were outfitted with full infection control outfits. While those outfits could discomfort pretty much anybody if unfamiliar with them, they were outright terrifying to the poor fellow with a serious developmental disability. Of course he would not let these alien people feed him. The staff were not in the wrong of course, they simply did not understand that unique circumstances of the gentleman they had in their care. The story again drives home why consistency and specialized facilities and staff are so essential for people with serious PDDs.

After the meeting, I decided to look further into things. I tracked down and spoke with a couple people who had each worked at and around Michener Center for over 30 years each. The stories were not of a place with terrible institutional abuses and misery. The picture painted is one of a facility that was a community in itself that went to great pains to create the best conditions possible for their clients. One of the best was in hearing how one of the clients was of Asian decent so staff sought out Asian themed decorations for his room (and they sought to decorate to please all of their residents of course). This reminds one that Michener Centre is not an acute care facility, it is a home to the residents and should remain so. On the sadder side, I was told of funerals for some residents that passed away which were only attended by staff as these people had no remaining family outside of the facility. Think of what moving these people will do to them.

Having a centralized facility such as Michener Centre allows for more specialized services to be maintained and developed as well. Having doctors and pharmacists on site allows for much better diagnosis, prescribing and monitoring of medications as many clients needed medications. Dental and other care is provided on site as well in ways that never could be done for persons with serious developmental disabilities in a smaller group-home setting. I was told that people from outside group homes are brought to Michener Centre for their dental care as most dentists will not treat them or don’t have the skills required to do so. Where will they go now?

As was driven home at the meeting, Michener Centre is a community and a family. Driving the residents out of there is a needless and possibly catastrophic disruption to these people. It has been said that many of the residents will be sent to seniors care facilities. Really? Are seniors centers really able to care for these people with such special needs? Do they have the space or the resources? What will this do to seniors already residing in those facilities? This just sounds utterly senseless.

In driving around the Michener Centre grounds last weekend, it could be seen that some facilities are getting a bit dated (though hardly dysfunctional). The campus is very large though and if anything we should be investing to expand and improve the facilities for people with PDDs rather than driving them out and scattering them.

Michener Centre is on 300 acres of pretty prime land in Red Deer. While nothing has been confirmed, there are many rumors about plans for that land once it is vacated. Sadly in that context, one can see the underlying motivation in the Redford government’s zeal to displace these most vulnerable of Alberta’s citizens. If the efforts to save the Michener Centre fail, we must watch very carefully to see just what Redford (along with friends and family) does with the land. Why else would her government rip into this facility having so recently promised never to do so (though broken promises from Redford are hardly few or unexpected).

The closure of Michener Centre is not a done deal yet. If enough people stand up and demonstrate a backlash, I do think Redford will back down on this closure. Redford never apologizes or admits wrong, but she will quietly kill initiatives that prove to harm her political well-being and that is all that matters. Alison Redford will be lucky to survive the wrath of her own party at this fall’s leadership review. She is very sensitive to public pressure right now so let’s exert it.

There is a facebook page for Friends of Michener Centre here. Give the page a like and look around for more information on upcoming actions and events.

Call or write your MLA to express how this closure is a mistake. It may not feel like it but they really do notice when public ire is rising on something. That will only happen if we speak up of course. Be sure to encourage others to speak up on this as well.

Finally, one can attend a rally on April 10, in support of Michener Centre. This is being organized by the AUPE with details in the picture below. When you see me promoting something being organized by a union, you know something serious is happening.

michener

Let’s let Redford know that she is really crossing the line on this one.

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