Something is very wrong.

 Last week while at a local convenience store, I observed a young man demonstrating the telltale signs of being homeless. His hair and beard were overgrown and unkempt and his clothing was filthy. He appeared to be in his 20s and he got in line behind me. The young man was very polite at the counter as he deposited a handful of mixed change in order to purchase a cigar. What was most striking though was that when this man spoke it became quite obvious that this man was suffering from a developmental disability.

 About a month ago I had the opportunity to be taken on a tour of  The Vocational and Rehabilitation Research Institute by a friend. This is a non-profit institute that works in affiliation with the University of Calgary and has been doing so since 1969. This institute works with people with disabilities and helps them in a community support sort of role. The facility boasts a bottle depot and a contract with the Calgary Airport that employs people with disabilities. There are also some great recreational and rehabilitation facilities provided as well as their research facilities.

 I am sure that my description of the facility is doing it terrible justice so I do suggest that people click on the link to it in order to learn more about it. What I was most impressed with was that the people there are dedicated to trying to find rational and successful approaches to helping people with disabilities in our community.

 What I was not impressed with was the condition of the facility itself. While the functional areas were as well maintained as possible by staff with limited resources, entire sections were completely shut down. The building is getting old and they simply can’t afford the maintenance on sections of it. Old dorm rooms are now being used as offices and I saw three desks jammed into what obviously served as an individual dorm rooms for patients. The floors above that level were completely closed as was what used to be a cafeteria.

 Right-of-center people are often referred to as uncaring ogres and individualists to the point of not caring for anybody aside from themselves. In reality, most conservative-minded people live by the principle that we should take care of those who can’t take care of themselves as opposed to those who won’t take care of themselves.

 It should go without question that many people with mental disabilities and disorders fall into that category of not being able to take care of themselves. The degree of need varies from some limited community support to full institutional care.

 So why the hell is this realm of government programming so chronically underfunded?

 Crime and homelessness are constantly issues that people are concerned about. Unfortunately the solution always appears to be blind spending. For a person with a mental disability, affordable housing is not going to be of aid. New expensive downtown public washrooms will not help these people nor will expansion of homeless shelters. What is required are programs suited to helping these people based on the unique challenges that they face.

 Sadly, facilities such as the The Vocational and Rehabilitation Research Institute do not provide for the photo-op ribbon cutting ceremonies that new public toilets and expansions of homeless shelters provide. Such help for people is complicated and not romantic thus gets ignored by politicians.

 Decades ago a misguided initiative of deinstitutionalization took off in general public policy. It was considered inhumane that some people be kept in institutions for life and many people have been tossed in the streets due to this. Many of those people never should have been discharged and many of these people are the ones we see covered in rags under our bridges. The number of beds in mental health facilities in Canada are now a fraction of what they used to be. That statistic is not a victory, it means that thousands of people were put out on the streets that never had the life-skills required in order to make it on their own.

 I am not fond of the NDP. They are far to the other side of the ideological spectrum from myself. Credit must be given to the Alberta NDP today though for their persistence in obtaining and exposing a damning report of the Progressive Conservative’s treatment of mental health needs in Alberta.

 As is all too common with our provincial government, they have acted very strongly to suppress information that they determine to be detrimental to the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. A report entitled “Beyond Beds…to Balanced Care Mental Health” was commissioned and presented to Alberta Health and Wellness and the Alberta Mental Health Board in 2007 and was approved by the Steering Committee on Mental Health.

 The report then disappeared.

 Alberta Health and Wellness refused an access to information request by the NDP to see the report. Albertans paid for this report, why the hell can’t we see it? It took a leak (somebody, somewhere has a conscience) for the NDP to obtain the report.

 It is easy to see why the Progressive Conservatives wanted to hide that report. The report is very damning of the government and their complete inaction on mental health issues. It shows that Alberta has four times fewer mental health beds than the national average. The national average is too damn low as it is.

 Rather than act on shortcomings, our government works to hide them. The Stelmach government does not care about our most vulnerable in society, they simply want to remain in power.

 While on their decade long spending spree, the PC government has more than doubled provincial spending. While pissing away our tax-dollars to who knows where, the PC government was also starving our mental health programs to the point where Alberta is the shame of the country. How do we spend far more per-capita in Alberta than any other province yet have the least amount of mental health beds? What are the priorities of our government?

 It is past time to do more than pay lip-service to crime and homelessness in Alberta. How much improvement would we see in these areas if we invested in helping people with mental challenges instead of working to hide them? We will never know the answer to that as long as Ed Stelmach remains in power.

 Keep these thoughts in mind every time you see some poor soul dressed in rags while pushing a shopping cart and talking to themselves.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation are “Goofballs”

 At least according to the President of Alberta’s Treasury Board; Lloyd Snelgrove.

 Today I engaged in one of my more masochistic activities and watched question period in the Alberta Legislature. I was watching in vain hope of seeing some critical discussion of the record deficit budget that Special Ed Stelmach has dumped on Albertans. Sadly I was in for the usual disappointment. All I heard was repeated yelping from both the Liberals and the NDP using the words “Americanized” and howling about the deregistration of some health services.

 None of these fools seem to realize that it is prolonged overspending that has led to seeking ways to cutting services today.

 It is frightening seeing where discussion is in the legislature today. The Liberals swung deeply into left-wing territory with their election of  David Swann as their leader and the NDP has always dwelled in the land of Marxism. Both of those parties are thrilled with the deficit and would eagerly make it larger should they ever get the opportunity.

 Unfortunately the only voices calling for fiscal restraint and responsibility in Alberta are outside of the legislature. The Wildrose Alliance Party has been making great strides and growth but it will be some time before the party has the chance to gain a seat in the legislature. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has been very effective in promoting a common sense approach to spending but our government dismisses them as goofballs.

 Snelgrove, had you listened to the calls for fiscal restraint that those “goofballs” had been making in the last decade you would not be sitting in the legislature looking like an idiot for being part of the government that took Alberta from a projected $9 billion surplus to a record deficit in less than a year.

 It is critical that we get voices in Alberta’s legislature promoting fiscal sanity. As things stand now, we have parties that stand; center-left, left and far left. With a few more years like this, we will be lucky if our great great grandchildren will be able to pay off the accumulated debt. The Wildrose Alliance Party is the only party promoting fiscal common sense and we need to get their members into the legislature ASAP. Lets hope for some by-elections at least as Ed Stelmach will not want to face the electorate any time soon.

 The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has a blog here with some great postings.

Some more on Iris Evans’ “Good news budget”.

 It has been hard on the stomach watching our irresponsible provincial government officials patting themselves on the back due to their being able to reduce their spending increase to a mere 3.7% this year. Remember, these people have not stopped increasing spending, only the rate at which they will increase it. They have done this masterful feat by running a potential $7 billion dollar deficit and raising taxes (property owners are taking it yet again). The last decade of double digit spending increases has given the government a rather heavy addiction to our money.

 Miring through the budget documents is a painful exercise and the government works as hard as possible to find out exactly what they are spending all of our money on.

 The Executive Council is one department that seems to have been spared the savages of spending restraint. The Executive Council is the premier’s office of course. Bundled in with the Executive Council is the Public Affairs department that many fondly refer to as the premier’s ministry of truth.

 Last year the Executive Council got a funding increase of 27%. In light of our tighter times, they have limited the raise in funding this year to a paltry 20%.

 You see, in the eyes of Ed Stelmach it is much more important to convince Albertans that government is doing a good job as opposed to actually doing a good job. The Ministry of Truth employs 118 full time little monkeys who are tasked with producing pretty flyers, advertisements, press releases and lacklustre blogs that blow sunshine up the collective asses of Albertans.

 It is not hard to see why the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta is always rolling in money. The party needs not spend any of their own money on advertisers. The Public Affairs department spends almost $15 million per year telling Albertans why the Progressive Conservatives are heaven sent.

 With this tax-funded propaganda machine working around the clock, we can see part of why it is difficult to dislodge a government that has been in power for almost 40 years.

 Special Ed clearly sees this importance as well. Why else would he keep pumping these massive spending increases into that department in these times of supposed government restraint?

ministry_of_truth

Let’s talk bailouts.

 

 OK, it looks like reality finally bit Special Ed Stelmach in the butt and he has realized what tax hikes and socialism do; they stunt and reduce business activity. The greedy “fair share” strategy and royalty hike that Stelmach and Knight pursued brought no increase to provincial revenues and simply managed to pluck the golden goose. On what is Stelmach’s 8th or so “tweaking”  of the royalty regime, the engines of misinformation are working overtime to demonize the oilpatch again.

 A Herald headline the other day demonstrates this rather well:

 Stelmach announces bailout for junior, mid-cap energy companies.

 Tax relief does not constitute a bailout!

 You would think that with all of the real examples of bailouts that we are seeing lately that people would understand the difference. The “stimulus packages” that Harper and Obama are flogging on the backs of our grandchildren are bailouts. The cheques being handed to the auto sectors are bailouts. The cash that the CBC is demanding would be a bailout. The money Air Canada gets every time they mismanage themselves to the brink of bankruptcy is a bailout.

 Where is the cheque coming to the big bad oil companies? Where has the oil industry even asked for a bailout? There are cheques going out, have no doubt of that. The cheques however are going from energy companies to the government.

 Will every tax reduction in the future (should we see any) be defined as a bailout? When Harper reduced the GST, was he offering a bailout to the entire population of Canada? Are we all welfare bums in that sense that we have been bailed out?

 Unsteady Eddie was already realizing that his new royalty scheme was idiocy even before oil prices and the market went into the toilet last fall. Land sale revenues (another cheque from energy companies to government) had plummeted in Alberta to the point that government was not gaining anything with their new “fair share” royalty program. Stelmach had made Alberta uncompetitive and it was very apparent as exploration and development boomed in Saskatchewan and BC while Alberta saw a reduction in activity despite $140 per barrel oil prices.

 In light of the world economic situation, clearly Alberta would be seeing tough times right now whether Stelmach messed with our economy or not. The pain Alberta will feel through this recession will be far more acute due to the market mistrust that the Progressive Conservative gang led by the idiots Ed Stelmach and Mel Knight.

 We are hearing of a credit crunch. Energy exploration and development are capital intensive ventures that require long-term planning and investment. When an energy company seeks credit, like everybody else it must demonstrate assets to the financial institution that may finance development. In energy that translates to proven reserves and speculation on their value when these reserves are developed. Now imagine how hard it is to get credit when the value of your reserves and cost of development changes by the month as Stelmach keeps trying to tinker with the rules. Would you like to invest in a jurisdiction known for tearing up agreements and increasing their take after the development dollars have been invested? Rest assured investors are asking these very questions.

 Stelmach can reduce royalties to even below the levels we had prior to his initial messing around. The market mistrust in Alberta will not go away. It will take a change of government or at least a decade of some true and steady leadership before we see business confidence in Alberta again.

 Some people claim that energy companies have not done enough to win over the hearts of the public thus they lack support at times like this. Just how far are they to go exactly? Have a look around. How many billions must these companies invest in communities before some appreciation is shown? How many more hundreds of millions in charitable initiatives and sponsorships must they invest?

 I don’t think anything will help. Too many people like to simplistically imagine that all of these companies are headed by Scrooge McDuck types who are swimming in money taken from the public. People don’t look at the millions employed, the billions paid in income-taxes and billions spread from the community level to the entire nation. Many do not realize how deeply their pensions are invested in these companies or how many government services are provided thanks to revenue generated from these companies. I don’t know if perception will ever be changed.

 One area that energy companies are working on in hopes of getting a better perception is pumping money at groups who have fully dedicated themselves to demonizing the entire industry and I have to admit I am stumped with this one.

 The Pembina Institute is a leftist organization that is dedicated to misinformation and pretty much every effort possible to halt all energy development. In looking at their report, I am astounded and disgusted to see who is funding them:

There is only one donor listed over $50,000. That donor is ConocoPhilips. In the $10,000 to $20,000 category we find the Canadian Gas Association, Enmax, Nexen, The North American Oilsands Corporation, and Suncor Energy. Getting into the $1000 dollar range there is an even longer list of energy donors.

 Why are you guys paying this group to kick you in the nuts? Have these investments made the releases from the Pembina any more rational or fair? Do you really expect these people to suddenly embrace you?

 When we see anti-energy types howling that energy companies are being bailed out, I would suggest that the dollars wasted on the clowns at the Pembina would be much better spent on ads trying to inform the public on what a bailout actually is.

 Giving more cash to the Pembina is an exercise in masochism at best.

More on Stelmach’s lie about fixed election dates.

 Yes I will come right out and call Stelmach a liar now as I am seeing more detail on his prior statements regarding fixed election dates.

 The Calgary Herald has been kind enough to point out Special Ed’s flip-flop in an article today.

At last year’s Tory party convention, the premier vowed he would adopt fixed election dates if party members approved the measure in a resolution. “I’ll live by whatever the party decides,” the premier told the Herald at the time.

Conservative members voted for fixed election dates at their 2006 convention, approving a resolution from the Battle River-Wainwright constituency association. This issue came up again in the spring legislature, when Edmonton-area Tory MLA Ken Allred proposed fixed election dates in an unsuccessful private member’s bill.

Henry Czarnota, president of the Battle River-Wainwright Tory association when it proposed fixed election dates, said Wednesday it would be a “disappointment” if the Stelmach government doesn’t adopt fixed voting days.

“We feel that it’s in the best interests of democracy if people know when there is going to be a date,” Czarnota said, “and, therefore, we don’t have any gamesmanship.” 

 

The rest of the article is here.

 Ummmm, hey Ed, is not a party resolution supporting fixed election dates sort of an indication that the party supports fixed election dates?

 Some PC tactics have not changed since Klein. Klein used to always speak in support of bringing in a law for citizen initiated referendums in Alberta. Then the PCs would present a private members bill for such a law, find what they feel is an error in the bill, and vote down their own bill. That was done multiple times with direct democracy bills and it looks like they will do the same with fixed election dates.

 To begin with, if Stelmach had any interest in real debate on this issue, it would be a government bill not a private members bill.

 In reading the Hansard, I have seen that all of the opposition members and some government members were very supportive of the bill for fixed election dates when it was introduced.

http://isys.assembly.ab.ca:8080/isysquery/irl2658/4/doc

 The attitude of the members certainly changed by second reading. It looks like somebody laid down the law and told the PC members to get this bill out of there. Suddenly the PC members were all rising and speaking against fixed election dates. Most of the members fell back on the old canard of saying such a move would Americanize our system.

 After attacking the bill, a hoist amendment was proposed and accepted by the house. A hoist amendment is a parliamentary trick where the government can reject a bill without appearing to actually vote it down. The bill then gets deferred to the next session for second reading if indeed it is ever seen again. It is a cowardly abuse of legislative power and the PCs used it and supported it in lock-step (including the member who put the bill on the floor in the first place).

The final votes and debate are in the hansard here.

 As I said before and as I will say again, one of the leading causes of the growing cynical apathy in the electorate is the chronic lying on the part of elected officials. How long will people continue to participate in the process when they are continually told one thing and seeing another?

 Ed Stelmach clearly does not even respect the wishes of his own party, much less the wishes of the electorate.

 While I don’t see such dishonesty inspiring more people to vote, I do hope it does inspire more of those who do vote to reject these liars in future elections. The only cure for lying politicians is to have them take it on the nose in elections. Unfortunately Albertans (and Canadians for that matter) have proven to be willing to re-elect liars. I still hold out hope that this trend can be changed.

Ready for more bills?

 As consumers enjoy record high gasoline prices (and the taxes attached at the pump), governments are scrambling to find other ways to increase our general cost of living.

 In the mad scramble to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (that stuff we exhale), North America and Europe have jumped on the scheme of subsidizing and encouraging the production of ethanol. Never mind that a world food crisis has been exacerbated by this process as fields that used to grow food are now seeded for ethanol production. Never mind that ethanol is a net loser in actual energy output once the energy inputs are taken into account. Never mind that when burned ethanol releases carbon dioxide when it is burned just as fossil fuels do. The policies feel good and help to shut up the eco-crowd thus we pursue them.

 Tax increases and oppressive environmental legislations are making conventional oil and gas production more expensive than ever. Many of these added burdens usually are justified by pointing out that the world needs to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Still to this day, there has not been any actual proof that carbon dioxide emissions are indeed causing climate change or that our reduction of them would have any impact at all on the climate. Why let facts get in the way of good global hysteria though? Al Gore makes a movie laden with untruths and exagerations that a court actually exposed and laid out.    Instead of public shunning, Gore got a Nobel peace prize to bring up up to par with fellow winner Yassir Arafat.

 So, we have made it increasingly expensive to drive. We are causing food prices to shoot up. Where to next?

 Well in Alberta we have decided to go after coal. Alberta has 70% of Canada’s coal reserves and much of it is the cleanest type of coal to be found. Much of Alberta’s electricity is coal generated and we have enough here to keep generating through coal for generations.

 Rather than make use of this resource we have decided to make it more expensive as well. While I am hardly a bleeding heart, I do feel for people on fixed incomes such as seniors who somehow have to cope with this spiraling cost of living that comes with feel-good environmental idiocy. If we follow through with Ed Stelmach’s plans, we can look forward to the cost of electrical generation in Alberta to jump by 50%. Rest assured that jump in cost will go directly to the bills of consumers.

 Windmills kill birds, dams kill fish, oil and gas eat the ozone, coal is dirty and nuclear is simply evil. There is no acceptable means of large-scale energy generation in the world of environmentalism. The modern world is not going away. We depend on energy and a large part of our daily expenses are directly tied to the cost of energy.

 How much longer can we afford to keep shooting ourselves in the feet?