Friday, April 27, 2007

On Budgets, Blogs in Politics, the Environment Plan, and Stellar Cartography

Nation, there will be a shop offering ES Nation merchandise soon. Testify as to the glory of citizenship in the Nation!

On to business...

I will be attending the PC Alberta AGM in Edmonton next week-end. Reports will be coming fast and furious, so stay tuned. Can't believe I'm paying $250 to go and work. The Hors D'oevres had better be good.

Of note is the unfortunate fact that the PC Association of Alberta has not yet fully embraced the realities of citizen journalism, and blogging. Although it's certainly a daunting task to determine to whom "Blog Press" credentials should be issued, the reality is that more and more people from ages 15 to 35 are getting their information, and forming their subsequent opinions, from Blogs rather than from traditional media sources. Not helping matters is that with the amalgamation of media outlets into a few select hands, and the subsequent editorial slants that become less and less surreptitious (see Fox News, as an example), the public at large is looking for a source of information without such an obvious bias. "Official" Party blogs are similarly unreliable, for those seeking honest and up-front analysis and coverage, as opposed to simply reading re-worded press releases. Bloggers offer this option, and it is my sincere hope that by the NEXT AGM, the party has this figured out.
The first party to truly capture the imagination of the internet is going to see a boon in votes, especially from the younger demographics.

Well, the provincial budget has come and gone, with specific spending announcements being rolled out in the past few days, and probably in the weeks to come (yes Nation, the department that employs yours truly did just fine, thank-you). The Stelmach Government's first budget isn't going to get them elected to 80 seats next year, but it DOES answer some concerns about how engaged the government really was with the current situation. Nobody got EVERYTHING they asked for, and the cities are predictably upset because they didn't get every cent they say they needed. But when voters see number signs with a B in front of them, they don't immediately jump to the conclusion that cities are getting the short end of the stick.

The announcement of all-party committees, independent of the budget, is a good step towards democratic reform here in the one-party state that is Alberta. Fixed election dates are the next logical step, and will go a long way towards showing Albertans that the Stelmach Government not only talks the talk of accountability and transparency, but walks the walk as well. PROACTIVE governance is going to help this party recapture the hearts and imaginations of a new generation of voters... many of the voters in 2007 neither know nor care about what Peter Lougheed did as Premier, they don't remember Alberta ever being governed by someone other than the PC's, and they aren't inclined to vote a certain way just because their parents did. Proactive work on the Health portfolio, lowering income taxes, dealing with infrastructure, and the elimination of health premiums are all things that can and should be looked at in the next year, to show voters that the Stelmach government is conservative in more than just name, but also rooted in common sense and reality.

Schools, hospitals and roads need building; that takes money. Taxes need to be lowered, and premiums eliminated; THOSE cost money. But promoting healthy living, and offering tax breaks for the same while increasing sin taxes SAVES the government money in the long term. An integrated and sensible land and water use strategy shows Albertans there are things more important to Ed than the bottom line. To show the voters that they can see more than 4 years into the future will go a long way towards proving to people that the Stelmach government is more interested in good governance than in short-term political gains. And THAT will translate in SPADES at the ballot box with a jaded electorate sick of partisan bickering and idealogical dogma masquerading as policy.

Lastly, the Federal Tories released their environmental plans. Predictably, and like clockwork, the critics hit every podium in sight to protest against how "hopelessly inadequate" the plan is. "It's not going to get us anywhere NEAR Kyoto", cry the critics. "I'm ashamed to be a Canadian", cry others. "It's a shell game, they're hiding behind emission credit schemes" cry others. WHOAH. Time out. Emission Credit Schemes? Correct me if I'm wrong (it happened once, back in the 90's), but aren't emission credits PART of Kyoto? So, Harper is the devil for not adopting Kyoto lock, stock and barrel, but if he adopts PART of it, he's STILL the devil?

Come on, environmental lobby. Let's be straight here: This plan is better than the one the government of Canada had last week. It's better than the one the government of Canada had last year. 5 years ago. 10 years ago. It's the best plan we've ever had.

Is it perfect? No. Is there room for improvement? Of course. But it is the BEST plan we've ever had - so for the Liberals to declare it a travesty and a sham is laughable, since it's better than anything THEY brought in. The bottom line is, if the Liberals had taken appropriate action on the environment portfolio when they had over a decade of majority governments, and could do whatever they wanted, then this plan wouldn't NEED to be introduced, and Kyoto's targets COULD be reached. Stephane Dion criticizing Harper for this plan is like Emperor Nero complaining about the City of Rome's Fire Department.

The targets are reachable. The economic impact will be noticeable, but manageable. It is, for the time being, the best we can do without killing ourselves economically. But to hear the environmental lobby talk, you get the impression of the monks who are so against taking life that they won't swat flies, step on a sidewalk, or take antibiotics for fear of damaging something living. It's a worthwhile and noble goal, but hardly practical to legislate 30 million people's actions to such a degree... If these environmentalists want to criticize someone, they should criticize the environment minister of the last majority federal government - after all, Global Warming was a concern back then, too. Why didn't HE bring in legislation to deal with emissions, and put Canada closer to meeting Kyoto targets? It's all fine and good to say "we value those targets, and we'll meet them". But that's ALL he did. Why didn't he do more to actually CURTAIL those emissions?

... Well, Mr. Dion?

Because where I'm sitting, this is a much better plan than any plan YOU ever introduced as Minister of the Environment. And you didn't need approval from anyone but your own caucus to ram a plan through Parliament. So, what's your excuse?

- ES


Anonymous said...

Welcome back, EnSavage. Glad to hear you will be attending the AGM. I will as well. Be interesting to see if we meet, as we are both effectively "anonymous".

Random thought here: Really, the argument against fossil fuels is a bit of a misnomer. It would appear to me to be an argument against "conspicuous combustion" - burning practically anything, after all, releases CO2.

So, cigarette smoking would be included. Think of all the cigs that are smoked every day. But what would really put a smile on my face would be the sudden revelation that smoking marijuana is "against the environment". The Birkenstock-wearing oak-tree worshippers in BC would be in quite a conundrum. Doesn't MaryJane account for a significant part of the "grey economy" in B.C.?

But more seriously, I think any emission reduction scheme has to be incremental. No matter who tries to spin it, there will be costs. And costs eventually flow down to the consumer. When people are already complaining about paying a buck-a-litre for gasoline, just wait. It will be a necessary, but manageable wake-up call.

Enlightened Savage said...

Funny thing is, since I won't be wearing an "ES" nametag, and yours won't read "Anonymous", we'll probably talk for 10 minutes and never realize. :)

Anonymous said...

ES - Challenge accepted ;-)