Nobody moves, nobody gets hurt.

On January 31 of next year, Alberta businesses will no longer be required to have an occupational health and safety (OHS) committee at every worksite. This is fantastic news for all businesses as the requirement for these committees implemented by the NDP was onerous, expensive and didn’t really do a damn thing to increase safety at Alberta worksites. Given enough time, these committees could have cost untold millions or even billions as they create increasingly ridiculous and inefficient workplace regulations. Anybody who has worked in the oilfield in the last few decades knows just how absurd the red tape has become and all under the guise of safety.

State regulation of work sites has made North America one of the safest places on earth in which to work. Long gone are the days when people are commonly forced into working in unsafe conditions and the obligation for employees to speak up on safety issues is now applauded rather than shunned. There is always room to improve safety but the formation of thousands of pointless committees is not the way to do it.

The main problem with safety committees is that they begin their mandate as a solution looking for a problem. In any reasonable workplace, all major hazards for workers have been identified and addressed either through elimination or mitigation of risk through training and changes of workplace practices. When you form a committee to seek and address hazards in this kind of environment, they feel obligated to find something even if no realistic hazard exists. That’s when we see bizarre regulations coming about.

In the oilfield there has been an almost cult-like pursuit of safety within the industry. The justification has always been that we must regulate the hell out of ourselves or the state will shut us down. There is a fear bordering on hysteria on the part of management within energy companies about safety based liability. This has led to the creation of a monster that is never satisfied and creates endless efficiency killing rules and procedures while not really addressing real safety issues.

I am going to list a few examples from my own work experience over the years to demonstrate just how ridiculous and costly things have become. Talk to any person who has spent time in the oilfield or on large scale construction projects and I can assure you that they will all have many similar stories.

I spent over 20 years working as a surveyor on geophysical projects. We worked with explosives and we cut large trees at times which created hazards. We often worked in isolated areas where emergency services were not readily available. This required strong and comprehensive safety policies and practices of course. Over the years though, the safety department moved well past common sense and well into the ridiculous as they ran out of things to address.

I spent four winters working in the Arctic. We had an annual contract which would do seismic over the Mackenzie Delta region and right onto the frozen Beaufort Sea. It would require about 80 workers for about five months per year. In my first year up there, the initial project orientation for a worker starting up would take about 4 hours. They covered Arctic basics in dealing with issues such as extreme cold, thin ice, polar bears, etc. Common sense things. By my final season in the Arctic the orientation had become a two day affair. That works out to 160 person-days plus accommodations in Inuvik (very expensive rooms) for every project up there. All the real safety issues could be covered within a few hours so then workers were drilled on things as ridiculous as eating balanced diets, wiping front to back and holding role-playing sessions on possible safety scenarios. Utter waste of time.

While in camp in the Arctic we held a safety meeting every morning before heading to the field. These meetings bloated to an average of 40 minutes per day and they were so boring that most attendees would be lucky to retain even a minute of valuable information from the meeting. This was due to an utterly stupid hazard identification system. You see, every worker was tasked to write and turn in a hazard identification card every day no matter what. Each and every one of those cards was then read at the meeting. With 80 cards to read, half of the room was asleep by the tenth report of ice being slippery on the frozen ocean. Meanwhile, a real hazard or two gets lost in the mix of all that paperwork BS. I don’t need to hear 20 times per day that the dark creates a winter driving hazard in the Arctic but I really did want to hear about the polar bear activity spotted in my work area. Alas, I had nodded off before the committee head got to that card.

There were few things more dangerous in the Arctic than safety personnel with little to do. One luminary went out in the night and checked tire pressures on all the trucks. When you open a valve stem at -45 thermometer temperature, there is a high chance that the valve will get stuck open. What we then had was a morning with 20 trucks with flat tires. We then had to take off and bring those tires into the camp before filling them as they were frozen hard as rocks. The idiot’s justification? Safety of course.

The safety committee kept demanding larger and larger fire extinguishers in the camp. Then a committee member realized that our female workers couldn’t life these giant extinguishers which were every 20 feet in the camp. They then brought in dozens of smaller ones but found that we didn’t have enough mounts for these ones. They were placed on the floor. This camp was a multi-level affair built onto a barge and frozen into the ocean. One of the extinguishers was knocked over and rolled down a stairwell almost injuring a person coming up the stairs. Safety indeed.

On a program in the mountains North of Waterton National park, we had to use helicopters to access our work areas. This left an excess of safety people as they didn’t want to actually walk in the woods so they would roam the staging area. Some luminary on a safety committee had determined that short sleeve shirts were a hazard and we are all forced to wear long sleeves in the heat (which we all removed as soon as the helicopters dropped us off). A helicopter engineer was lounging in the staging area on a lawn chair. There was little for him to do once the crews were all out. Most of his work came in the early evening when he did maintenance on the helicopters. Well, the safety officers noted he was wearing a short-sleeved shirt and swarmed him. He then folded his lawn chair, got in his truck, gave the safety gang the finger and went home. Having no heli-engineer was a safety hazard. We then had to fly 25 crews back in from the mountains six hours early at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars. Feel safer yet?

This problem isn’t just a Canadian thing. While in Texas I did a lot of shopping. Somebody on a safety committee determined that our plastic fuel cans presented a static spark hazard. It took forever to find old fashioned metal ones for my crews. A new safety guy arrived and determined that the metal cans presented a leaking hazard and demanded I replace them with plastic ones. It took all my restraint to keep from pouring the gasoline down his unctuous throat.

Workplace safety is terribly important. Prior generations suffered under some unimaginable conditions as they tried to scrape out a living with little to no regulations for their well being. We never want to go back to those days but we have to get to a point where we can say: “I think things are safe enough.” When we keep forming committees tasked with finding problems that don’t exist, we only create red tape and ironically often make things even more unsafe.

Nobody has been made less safe with the removal of the NDP requirement for thousands of safety committees around the province. What we have seen is a great step among what I hope are many in making Alberta a good place to do business in again.

It’s time to tear down & repair the mess that the NDP made of Alberta’s Elections Act.

Rumor has it that the Kenney government intends to change the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act next year. During Rachel Notley’s tenure as Premier the act was quietly amended no less than four times. The NDP always knew that their odds of re-election in Alberta were slim at best. In messing with the Elections Act they hoped to set some traps and create conditions which would hinder the chances of competing parties. What was created was an unholy regulatory mess and it needs to be undone.

It is unfortunate that Jason Kenney and the UCP took such a ham handed approach with Bill 22. The rush to ram that bill through the legislature has ensured that Albertan’s will look at any reform proposed by the Kenney government with a jaundiced eye. With a number of United Conservative Party activists having been investigated and fined in the last year, any changes made to the Elections Act by the government will look self-serving. Nevertheless, the act needs reform.

In imposing stringent spending caps on parties, the NDP government caused political action committees (PACs) to spring up like daisies on the electoral landscape. People are going to promote their causes one way or another and if the party route is closed they will create a new one. The NDP used labor unions to get their election messaging out while remaining within their party spending limits.

Third-party advertising regulations have led to a myriad of court challenges which will take time, cost money and likely be rescinded due to court rulings.They are a clear violation of free speech and expression.

The most clever and disruptive trap that the Notley government planted into the Elections act was in having Elections Alberta take over the regulation and management of internal party business. Political parties are private entities and the management of their nomination and leadership races was traditionally self-governed.

In keeping with socialist principles, the New Democratic Party of Alberta is managed with a top-down centralized model. The NDP rarely actually holds democratic nomination races.The leader chooses and appoints most of their candidates while the central party takes care of most of the funds rather than constituency associations. In placing onerous regulations upon constituency associations the NDP wreaked havoc among the ground organization of other parties while feeling nearly no impact themselves.

Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel was found to be ineligible to run in the general election. Despite Mandel’s being acclaimed as a candidate for the party, he failed to file a zero-expenditure report for the nomination race which was never held. Mandel got a last-minute reprieve and was allowed to run in the election. It demonstrates just how insidious the NDP regulations are when a party leader is almost blocked from running in an election due to a pointless reporting requirement.

The trap set by the NDP in having Elections Alberta govern and regulate leadership races worked in spades. The UCP is still dealing with the fallout due to a number of party activists along with one leadership candidate running afoul of the rules.

The NDP set a trap in the constituency nomination process by requiring all nomination hopefuls register with Elections Alberta. Those aspirants were then listed on the Elections Alberta website as nomination candidates for parties. There was no way for parties to approve or vet these candidates in any way. Inevitably some radical candidates registered to contest UCP nominations. The NDP then pounced and tried to paint the UCP party based on the registered individuals and few in the public had any idea that the party had no control over this.

The NDP nomination trap lost its impact when I registered as a nomination contestant. I filled out the form and voilà, I was officially listed by Elections Alberta as an NDP nomination candidate.

I ran my campaign with vigor. I released a series of campaign memes based on NDP principles and began to attract support and attention.

Suddenly and unsurprisingly parties had the means to have nomination candidates marked on the Elections Alberta website as having been declined by the party. The NDP could no longer condemn the UCP based on their aspiring nominees unless they wanted to admit that Cory Morgan was actually representative of them.

My action wasn’t simply to disarm the NDP nomination trap. I also wanted to demonstrate the absurdity of having the government involved with internal party matters at all.

As a private entity, a party should be able to hold their nominations and leadership races however they please. I couldn’t care less if a party chose their candidates through a rock paper scissors match or with a massively regulated race. It is my choice as an individual as to whether or not a party is worth supporting or an internal race is worth voting in. Parties will create regulations to suit their needs and the electorate at large will make the final judgment on election day.

Elections need to be simplified. Parties have 28 days to get their messages out and I would rather the messaging was focused on actual policy rather than jousting over who may or may not have run afoul of party regulations that never should have existed in the first place. I want to hear from parties rather than a horde of PACs as well. There is enough information to digest as it is.

I can understand the reasons to distrust the UCP as they legislate on electoral reform. Repairing the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act may indeed be in the interest of the UCP. Repairing that act will also be in the interest of us all. The NDP made a mess of it and it needs to be fixed.

Ground-level democracy is too important to get the government involved in the regulation of it at the party level.

She wuz askin fer it. Gil McGowan on union violence against women

Last weekend a few hundred union activists decided to spend their Saturday afternoon protesting outside of the hotel where the United Conservative Party was holding their annual general meeting. Despite years of recession, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees has been demanding a 7.9 percent wage increase for their members. As it became clear that there is no way that the UCP government was going to indulge such a ridiculous demand, union activists felt that public protests and tantrums may help them get their way.

As is typical with union protests, they descended into violence and intimidation.

The thug pictured below chased and punched journalist Sheila Gunn Reid in the back as she tried to cover the protest. He felt that violence was a way to shut down press that may hold a contrary editorial slant to his own. Again, this is typical of union tactics.

While the picture and associated video showing the thug assaulting Reid is quite clear and has been widely distributed, the assailant still has not been identified.

Again as is typical of union activists, they close ranks and protect their thugs when they cross the line. It beggars belief that nobody has recognized the loser in the picture above.

Gil McGowan is the head of the Alberta Federation of Labor. Gil is known as being on the more extreme side of union activism and has never been one of the sharpest knives in the organized labor drawer. McGowan is in something of a leadership role with public service unions though and his response to Saturday’s violence was beyond the pale even for him.

Gil McGowan blamed the victim as can be seen in the tweet he released below.

When you insert the word “but” after supposedly condemning violence it means you are working to justify the violence. When you call a punch to the back of a woman trying to flee the situation a “push”, you are trying to understate violence.

Read the words that Gil McGowan wrote in a backwoods Southern drawl to yourself and think about it: “But we all know that’s exactly what the Rebel “reporter” was there for.”

Translation: She was asking for it.

Gil McGowan sounded just like repugnant men who try to justify rape.

“She shouldn’t have worn a dress so short. She shouldn’t have gone to that bar. We all know exactly what she was there for.”

By Gil’s abhorrent logic, if you are a journalist that he doesn’t like and you try to cover a union protest, you will be essentially asking to be assaulted. I mean, we all know what these reporters are there for right?

There is no justifying violence against women and there is no justification for trying to suppress the press through violence and intimidation. Gil McGowan is sure trying his hardest to do so however.

We are in for some tumultuous times as the UCP makes budget cuts as they were elected to do while organized labor tries to prevent our government from doing what we gave them a mandate for.

There will be more protests and if labor “leaders” such as Gil McGowan keep trying to justify violence we can rest assured that we will see more violence.

The cuts are coming whether civil service sector activists like it or not. If they want to keep even a glimmer of public sympathy to their cause, their leadership needs to unequivocally condemn the violence carried out against a female reporter last Saturday and condemn McGowan’s attempt to justify it. Unfortunately I don’t think we will see that happen. Thuggery is entrenched within organized labor and I just can’t see them giving up that undemocratic tool.

The only bright side of all this is that it will make the pending spending cuts much easier for the public to support. In that sense, keep up the good work Gil.