Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Strange Times in Alberta...

Nation, I had the strangest experience this morning, and I feel compelled to share it with you all.

I woke up, rolling over and hitting my “snooze” button for the third time, when I saw a strange emanation coming from the window to E.S.’s super-secret lair. Upon walking to the window, I pulled back the shade to see a large ball, made up mostly of hydrogen (or so I’m guessing) and hovering just above the horizon.

Shocked as I was by this sight, I ran to the front door and grabbed the newspaper. There it was, large as life: “Wednesday, October 31, 2007. Calgary, Alberta, Canada.”

Nation... the sun rose this morning. In Alberta. Just as it has every day for the past week, and possibly further back even than that.

I know... I was shocked, too.

After hearing from the “Chicken Little” naysayers from the oilpatch, we can all be forgiven for thinking that the world might in fact be ending. After all, they told us that everything short of a plague of locusts might be coming to this province if the Premier dared to follow the recommendations of the “Our Fair Share” report. It would be a catastrophe – a cataclysm of epic proportions. Overnight, roads would crumble, basic social infrastructure would begin to break down, dogs and cats living together... basically, all the worst parts of the Bible.

And even after all of these warnings – warnings which, of course, were issued purely out of these companies’ concern for the people of Alberta – Ed went ahead and followed SOME of the recommendations.

Remembering the films from my youth, I ducked and covered under the nearest desk.


Still waiting...

What’s that?

Oh. I see.

Nation, Ed has gone on the record pleading for this not to be called a “compromise”. Sorry as I am to have to disobey my fearless leader, that’s just what this is... it’s a compromise.

It’s a compromise, because he *could* have taken his pound of flesh, and then some. He could have, but he didn’t. It would have helped his popularity, but it would have hurt his province, and he knew that - he put the province first, and rightly so. It is, after all, his JOB. The Premier didn’t compromise with Big Oil, he compromised between the 2 extremes of “doing nothing” (a somewhat popular tactic on this file in the past), and “crushing Big Oil under the boots of the people’s revolution” (which will have to wait until I, the Enlightened Savage, become Premier in about 16 years). Both of those extremes would have hurt our province, so he chose neither, though one was easy, and the other would have made him very popular, for the next few years at least.

So, what about the deal itself? How’s it going over?

Well, with the people who find, extract, and develop the resources, it’s going over like a fart in church: It’s not the most popular thing they’ve ever seen, but they can deal with it as long as they keep their focus toward the front of the room and on the prophets (profits?).

With the people who OWN the resources, the move has proven quite popular. It is funny watching Big Media try to spin their survey results to suggest that people are up in arms about this announcement. One survey asked if the Premier “got it right”. The results read:

  • 46% - “He got it right”.
  • 33% - “He should have taken more” and “he took too much” (2 extremes that boil down to “he didn’t get it right”, but for very different reasons)
  • 20% - Refused to respond/No answer

So, of course, the papers report “53% of Albertans don’t think the Premier got it right!”. Let’s ignore the complete and utter buffoonery that was involved in forming the “response options” for the poll, and crunch the numbers.

20% of those polled didn’t express an opinion. Therefore, of those polled who DID express an opinion, 58% said “he got it right”.

Fudging numbers? Maybe. After all, a much wiser man than myself once stated famously “there are three types of lies: Lies; DAMNED lies; and statistics.” But consider this: If 53% of Albertans, according to this poll, don’t think that Premier Stelmach “got it right”, then those same papers should report that “Dave Bronconnier was rejected by 80% of eligible voters in October’s municipal election”.

After all, the mayoral election broke down like this:

  • 20% - Dave Bronconnier
  • 13% - someone else
  • 67% - Refused to vote

I don’t want to quibble over polling numbers here, Nation. I think that Ed’s options were laid out beautifully by my friend Ken Chapman on his blog, and Ed seems to have chosen option “3” on Ken’s list. He’s not crushing Big Oil, but he’s making sure we get our fair share. Of COURSE Big Oil isn’t happy about it – had he raised our take by a penny, they’d be upset. The past 30 years have conditioned them to believe that money is OWED to them: They’re entitled to it, because they do the work to get the bloody stuff out of the ground.

But believing that you’re entitled to something because you haven’t been credibly challenged for a while is a dangerous philosophical place in which to be, whether you’re in business or in politics. Ed knows it. Hopefully, the rest of the Alberta PC’s got the message.

So what did our namby-pamby, dithering, sissy, not-a-leader, wimp, "compromising” Premier do shortly after telling Big Oil that the free ride was over, and we wanted our fair share? He went to the Tony Blair luncheon, less than 24 hours later, and gave “greetings from the province” in a room full of angry Big Oil execs who likely wanted to meet him by the bike racks during recess. Given the way that some of the media try to portray the man, you’d think he would have been hiding in the Stelmach family bunker somewhere near Andrew.

Agree with the decision, like 58% of poll respondants do. Disagree with the decision. But don’t tell me the man can’t make decisions, or take the heat of being in the big chair. Because even when Big Oil took out full-page ads, and billboards, and blanketed the media with veiled threats and predictions of doom and gloom, even when they trotted out their bought-and-paid-for economists who predicted economic collapse, even when they printed signs of protest for distribution at the VERY impromptu demonstrations by rig workers (wearing spotless and colour-coordinated hardhats, no less) – he stood firm, and made the decision based not on who could donate the most to his party, but on who owned the resources. He made the decision as the steward of Martha and Henry’s resources and tax dollars, and he’s vowed to stick to it.

Alberta teachers, take note... and adjust your CBA negotiating strategy accordingly. Threatening a province-wide work stoppage and waiting for “Cool Hand Ed” to blink just became a very bad option.

Just ask Big Oil.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Results Are In... Sorta

Having a HELL of a time getting reliable feed from the government's webcast of the royalty regime announcement... missed the first 10 minutes trying to connect. Watching the press question period as I type this...

  • Changes will take effect January 1st, 2009.
  • Ed seems to be doing PRETTY well, but he's going to the stock answers when asked uncomfortable questions... "How can the companies trust us now?" Answer: "We're doing this for the good of all Albertans." Huh? Trying to build a sense of trust with the public by being seen to be dodging questions is a tough row to hoe.
  • He's really hammering home the "predictability" and "certainty" themes.

It's rather difficult to hear the questions being asked of the Premier. The quality of the sound is quite poor.

This seems like a "glass half full, glass half empty" issue... media have asked Ed about why he's "accepting about 75% of the Our Fair Share Report" and yet other media are asking about "rejecting or modifying half of the recommendations". Guess it depends on the editorial bias of their paper or station. Ed takes umbrage with the description of the announcement as a "compromise", pointing out that Royalties will go to 20% on January 1st, 2009.

IF all things remain equal (they never do), the government estimates an extra $1.4 Billion in provincial coffers annually with the announced changes.

Full text of the government's response to the recommendations of the "Our Fair Share" report are located here.

Details of the new Royalty Regime are located here.

Let the scare campaigns kick into high gear - after all, it's Halloween season!

Full analysis coming later tonight or tomorrow.

- E.S.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Premier Ed Stelmach Addresses the Province

(video available at the government's website, here)

Good evening.

I want to speak with you tonight about the future of our province.

The stake we all share in that future.

And how we can define the future together — as Albertans.

This is a unique moment in Alberta’s history.

At the beginning of our second century, our province enjoys unprecedented opportunities.

There’s global demand for our resources, and we’re recognized as a safe and stable supplier of energy.

We’ve become Canada’s engine of economic growth — the only debt-free jurisdiction in North America, with no sales tax and low personal taxes.

There’s no doubt our province is doing very well.

The prosperity and quality of life we enjoy today is thanks in large part to the innovation, determination, and hard work of the people of this great province.

Because of you, Alberta’s future is bright.

Most importantly — we have the ability to build a future where prosperity goes hand in hand with opportunity, a world-class quality of life, and a deep respect for the environment we’ve inherited.

The critical issues facing Alberta today are clear.

Can we address the growth pressures we face, secure a lasting prosperity — and get ahead of the curve?

Can we balance unprecedented growth and rapid urbanization with protection of the environment?

And can we preserve the quality of life and traditional Alberta values we all cherish?

I believe the answer to each of those questions is an emphatic yes.

Together we can build the Alberta we want — a province we’ll be proud to leave to our children.

And I want you to know your government has a solid plan to make this happen.

A plan that builds our communities, protects the environment, and creates the next wave of opportunities for our children and grandchildren.

A plan that transforms the opportunities of today into a secure tomorrow.

We’ve already made a good start — and I want to take a moment to update you on the actions your government has taken to meet the many immediate challenges we face.

Let me be frank.

When my government was sworn in ten months ago, Alberta was not keeping up with the province’s growth.

Demands on the public services we all rely on — from our roads and highways to our hospitals, schools and universities — were outpacing our ability to deliver.

We recognized these challenges, and we acted.

We launched the most aggressive investment in public infrastructure in Alberta’s history — 18 billion dollars over three years — to provide the roads, schools, and hospitals Albertans need.

Alberta’s municipalities are on the front lines of growth, and I promised help.

As a result, we’ve committed 11 billion dollars in new funding over the next decade to help municipalities tackle their infrastructure priorities and build stronger communities.

From water plants to street repair to affordable housing and recreational facilities — all Albertans will benefit from this investment.

With these new dollars, Alberta provides the most support for municipal government in all of Canada.

And all municipalities have been treated fairly and equally under this new 10-year plan.

As important as it is to invest in infrastructure, our plan is about more than bricks and mortar.

It’s about people.

For example, our world-class health facilities are attracting some of the finest physicians and medical specialists from around the globe — providing Albertans with access to outstanding care.

We’re focusing on improving the public healthcare system — because that’s clearly what Albertans want and expect.

We’re taking action to add doctors and nurses to the system to reduce wait times.

A rapidly-expanding health care system needs staff, and we recently announced details of a 30-million-dollar plan to increase the number of health care workers.

We’re also helping those in need — for example by increasing support for Albertans with disabilities.

The future of our province is indeed bright.

Economic growth is set to continue, and more people will be drawn to Alberta to fulfill their dreams and be part of our great adventure.

Best estimates suggest that within 20 years Alberta’s population will be approaching five million — that’s potentially one-and-a-half million new Albertans!

That’s a positive and exciting trend — and one that we will be prepared for.

Our plan for this exciting future is straightforward and practical — rooted in our deeply cherished values, and guided by a vision of greater opportunities and a better quality of life for all Albertans.

Building communities

As our population grows and becomes more diverse, supporting strong communities is key to ensuring that our high quality of life is sustained and enhanced.

We will implement a 20-year capital plan that responds to immediate pressures, and ensures that longer term needs are anticipated and addressed, with a clear commitment to keep pace with a changing Alberta.

The current backlog didn’t happen overnight — and we won’t be able to fix it overnight.

But we will get it done!

We’ll build the transportation systems, health and seniors facilities, schools and universities, affordable housing, and recreation and cultural opportunities that a growing province needs.

Strong communities are much more than roads and buildings.

They’re built with strong families.

That’s an Alberta tradition — and we have the opportunity to ensure that our province remains the best place to live, work, and raise a family.

Albertans deserve to feel safe in their communities.

And in the days ahead we will be announcing a significant new strategy to reduce crime and bolster law enforcement.

We must take criminals off our streets — and keep them off!

Equally important — we must address the factors that give rise to crime, such as drug and alcohol abuse.

As our province grows — we will not sacrifice the values Alberta is built on.

We’ll enhance and better co-ordinate the wide range of services already available to support the well-being of our children, seniors, and those most in need.

High quality childcare, world-class education opportunities, long-term care for the elderly — these are the true measures of a compassionate society.

In the Alberta we’re building, those needs will be met — because all Albertans must share in the benefits of prosperity.

I recognize that governments alone cannot create the communities we want.

The dedicated work of community groups and volunteer organizations contributes greatly to our health and social services — to our quality of life.

Albertans have always seen the potential within our province and its people, and we’re willing to roll up our sleeves to help make it even better.

Those traditional values deserve support.

As a government we have already announced a 50 per cent tax credit for every dollar donated over 200 dollars — the highest in Canada.

But I believe there is much more we can do to support Albertans helping Albertans.

I’m committed to expanding cultural, historic and outdoor opportunities for all Albertans —young and old — to experience and share their pride in Alberta.

Greening our growth

As Canada’s most dynamic province, we must take a bold leadership role on important issues, and nothing’s more important than protecting the land we’ve inherited.

As Albertans, we live in one of the most spectacular and beautiful places on earth.

We’re blessed with abundant natural resources that are the basis of our current and future prosperity.

Albertans rightly expect their government to strike a sustainable balance between development and conservation.

I’m determined that other countries will recognize Alberta as a global leader in responsible resource development.

We can’t wait for the perfect international agreement — so while others talk Alberta acts.

As a result — we’re forging a sound and practical environmental vision.

We’re working with industry to find creative, innovative solutions that we can implement today to preserve our environmental heritage.

Finding the balance between development and conservation is the great challenge of our time, and that balance starts with a practical plan that encourages innovation and sets realistic goals for industry.

Creating opportunity

Albertans can proudly say that we are the first jurisdiction in North America to place real and measurable limits on large industrial plants that produce about 70 per cent of Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s a good beginning — but we need to do more.

Because in Alberta today we’re experiencing industrial development on a scale never before seen in our province.

We need to raise the bar in managing the impact of this development.

And we have, with a bold new strategy that looks at the overall impact of growth on our air, water and land.

Instead of looking at developments project by project, for the first time we’ll assess the overall environmental impact, and set limits for various regions of Alberta.

We have a comprehensive strategy for protecting our water, and we will soon be introducing a framework to better manage the competing demands on Alberta’s landscape.

Alberta must capitalize on new opportunities if we are to continue growing our economy, building strong communities, and securing long term prosperity — for all Albertans.

Central to our future prosperity is a commitment to add value to our traditional strengths in energy, agriculture, forestry, tourism, and health sciences.

We must build on those strengths, and develop new areas of promise.

This will involve making choices — and even taking some risks.

But being timid and doing nothing is a far greater threat to our future.

The diversification of our economy will be driven by the creativity and innovation of Albertans.

And we’ll support them by encouraging investment and research that transforms new technologies such as life sciences, material engineering, and nanotechnology into commercial successes…

Not in the U.S., Asia or Europe — but here, in Alberta!

Resource royalty framework

We all know that much of our resource wealth is non-renewable.

Once used — it’s gone forever.

So to build a stable and prosperous future, we must ensure we get the best economic return on the development of our resources.

Alberta’s current oil and gas royalty regime has attracted billions of dollars in investment.

It has created one of the most successful economies on earth.

But from time to time all policies need to be reviewed and updated.

I heard that message loud and clear from Albertans as I sought the leadership of our province last fall.

And when I took office I ordered an independent review of our royalty system.

As I’m sure you know, the review panel delivered their recommendations a few weeks ago. I made their report public as soon as we received it — so that it could receive the widest possible public debate.

And that’s certainly happened.

We’ve taken the time to give this important issue the serious thought Albertans would expect from their government.

And we’ve taken the time to get it right.

Now we’re ready to take decisive action.

Tomorrow we’ll be releasing details of a new royalty framework. One that delivers the fair share Albertans rightly expect from the development of their resources.

I promised you a royalty system that works for Albertans — who own the resources — and also for the companies who invest billions of dollars in our economy.

And that’s what we’re doing.

The new framework will enable Alberta to plan for a secure future.

It will provide the stability and predictability business needs, and time to adjust to the changes.

And it will address my goal of adding value to our exports and expanding our economy by upgrading our resources right here — in Alberta.

Our energy industry is undergoing historic changes.

The oil and gas deposits that have underwritten our prosperity in the past are gradually depleting.

We’re seeing the development of new and innovative techniques to get the most from these traditional sources of energy…

And we’ll continue to encourage those developments.

But in the coming decades our jobs and prosperity will increasingly depend on the development of new sources of energy such as the oil sands and coal-bed methane.

This royalty regime recognizes these changes — the need to create new industries, new jobs, and build for the future.

Decades from now, when our conventional energy resources are gone, our children must be left with an economic foundation for their prosperity.

We will secure Alberta’s future.

Governing with integrity

My grandparents came to Canada in 1898 — when Alberta was still a district of the Northwest Territories.

Like so many immigrants to this country — then and now — they came to Canada in search of hope, opportunity, and an open society.

And they found it.

I thought about that a lot when I became Premier, so last December I wanted my swearing in ceremony to be in public — in full view of Albertans, on the steps of the Legislature rather than in some private room.

Governments earn the trust of the people by being open and accountable.

Governing is a privilege not a right, and that privilege has to be continually earned.

I believe that, with all my heart — and I wanted to signal a fresh start — a new approach.

And I’m happy to say we’ve done that.

Information that was previously hard to get — flight logs, ministers’ expenses — is now routinely posted on the web for everyone to see.

If you want to lobby government, you will have to register — so Albertans will know who’s seeking to influence their elected representatives.

And for the first time in Alberta we’ve instituted all-party committees to give the opposition a chance to contribute in a positive way.

We need new ideas — new attitudes — to secure Alberta’s future.

I’ve described to you tonight a new plan for a new time, and a new Alberta.

An Alberta built on solid values, but ready for the challenges of the future.

That’s my promise as your Premier.

To create an Alberta that reflects our provincial motto — strong and free.

A place where you can reach for your dreams.

A province where government gets out of your way — and where you can keep the fruits of your hard work.

I’m excited to be leading this great province at such an incredible time in its history.

Because where Alberta is 30 years from now depends on the direction we establish today.

That’s a unique opportunity — and a profound responsibility.

But I know we’re up to the task.

Like you, I’m a proud Albertan, and I know that working together, we can build a province that’s a beacon of hope and prosperity…

Not just within Canada, but for the entire world.

The plan I’ve outlined tonight honours our past, addresses the challenges of the present, and builds a bridge to future prosperity.

By working together, I know we can achieve those goals.

I invite you to join me in making that future a reality.

Thank you for listening to me tonight.

And God bless Alberta.

(end transcript)

All in all, a pretty good "State of the Province" address... "Here's where we are, here's what we've done, here's what we want to do". Short on details, but that's what budgets are for. He stated several times that more details on certain items (Law & Order agenda, Land Use Framework, Royalty Review) would be forthcoming soon. If he unveiled them one per week for the next month, he'd be in a great spot to call an election (PLEASE Ed, for the love of god, don't do it! I'm already falling behind at work!) Stay tuned tomorrow at 3:00 for the webcast of the Premier's announcement of the new Royalty Regime, and shortly thereafter for my response thereto.

- E.S., getting ready for a big day analysing Ed's Waterloo or his Trafalgar

Can Captain Kirk Save Calgary-West?

Nation, I had the distinct pleasure of being in attendance at Kirk Schmidt's speech, "An Independent Vision for Calgary West and Canada" on Sunday, October 21st. I've gone on and on about all the reasons that partisan, party politics are going to inevitably destroy the foundations of representative democracy, so I won't belabour the point. Suffice it to say, if you live in Calgary West, I would strongly urge you to go to Kirk's website and check him out for yourself. A legitimate alternative has been sorely lacking in Calgary West for quite some time, and now that the riding HAS one, it is your democratic duty to get yourself informed. I'll help where I can, but getting in touch with the candidate directly is your best option.

Kirk feels that an independent MP is in the best position to hold the government accountable, support them when appropriate, and oppose them when required. Among the issues Kirk feels the people of Calgary West are concerned about:

  • Income Trusts - what, exactly, made the government change its mind?
  • Debt Repayment - Throwing all of the surplus at the debt doesn't, in fact, save us much more than investing the same amount at 5% rate of return. In the meantime, Student Loans and other programs could be more fully funded. If paying down the debt as quickly as possible makes sense, then let's do it. But if we're paying it all down just to obey political dogma, that's... not so good.
  • Environment - A specific plan is important, especially to Albertans. Strong support for Project Porch Light. More funding for public transit systems in our major centres.
  • Accountability - Electoral finance reforms brought in by the Harper Tories aren't working, as evidenced by the fact that they're now in trouble for violating the rules they just brought in.

My favourite quote from the entire speech, which lasted about 20 minutes, was this gem:
Leadership isn't just about talking, it's about listening.

From many other politicians, that would seem like a meaningless platitude. Having met and spoken to the man on several occasions, I can tell you that when I hear Kirk Schmidt say those words, I get excited for the people of Calgary West, and the chance that they have for meaningful representation in Parliament.

- E.S.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Enlightened Savage Rides Again!

Nation, after a week of recuperation, I am back in the saddle and ready to ride rough-shod over the issues of the day.

Topics that will be discussed in the next day or so will include:
  • Kirk Schmidt's vision of the national scene, and how it relates to Calgary West
  • The Royalty Review (Ed's television appearance on Wednesday, and his live streaming announcement on Thursday)
  • Calgary Municipal Election post-mortem, and "Issues We Shouldn't Let Die"

Like many, perhaps even most Albertans, I am waiting eagerly to see how the Stelmach Government responds to the "Our Fair Share" report. We have heard from a lot of stake-holders... oil companies, gas companies, their workers staging surprisingly well organized and well funded "spontaneous" demonstrations... but we haven't heard a whole lot from the BIGGEST stake-holder in this drama - you. Right now, reading this. If you're in Alberta, you own the resources. What do YOU think?

Ken Chapman has been covering this issue with great insight and detail - I'd encourage you to get caught up on the issue through his blog. Ken and the good folks at Policy Channel are asking the most important question of all: What do you, the owner of these resources, feel should happen? Please take the time to fill out their short survey - after all, if you don't tell someone how you feel, how can you expect Ed to guess correctly?

Stay tuned, Nation... just as it did during the municipal election campaign, all hell is about to break loose on this page. And if my friends "in the know" are right, and we're headed for an election of a slightly higher profile than the municipal one... then my relationship is about to be sorely tested. :)

-E.S., proud to be marrying the most patient, politics-hating woman in the world.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Speech From The Throne

Running on Red Bull and non-drowsy Neocitran tonight, Nation. I wonder if I should be mixing those 2? Oh, well...

The Harper Conservative Government, knowing full well how sleep-deprived and flu-ish I am today, decided that now would be a good time to deliver the Speech from the Throne. The full text is located here.

And now, the analysis.

This particular passage in the preamble got my attention...

The results are clear: the economy is strong, the government is clean and the country is united.

Strong economy? Check. Government is clean? Well... cleaner, anyhow. The country is united? In some ways, sure... but the drastic polarization of our country along political faultlines continues unchecked. Canadians, more than ever, are likely to identify "their guy" as the greatest thing since sliced bread, while portraying "the other guy" as the Antichrist. You only have to go as far as your local paper's "comments" section to see what I mean. So, are we 10 provinces (9, if you don't count Newfoundland) and 3 territories who are, at least at present, pretty happy being Canadian? Sure we are. But would I call us "united"? Hardly. The 1 in 3 voters who 30 years ago would have said they "didn't much care for the Prime Minister, and didn't plan to vote for him" today would say something along the lines of "he's a corporate puppet who ruined my retirement with the income trust fiasco, he's a maniacal micro-managing tin pot dictator and he'd kiss G.W. Bush on the lips if he though he could get away with it".

Ah, I can smell the unity from here.

Enough preamble, on to the meat and potatoes...

In the next session, our Government will focus on five clear priorities: strengthening Canada’s sovereignty and place in the world; building a stronger federation; providing effective economic leadership; continuing to tackle crime; and improving our environment.

All right, one at a time...

Strengthening Canada’s sovereignty and place in the world

The speech suggests this will happen in several ways.
  • Asserting Arctic sovereignty
  • Modernizing the military
  • Improving support for Veterans
  • Confer honorary citizenship on Aung San Suu Kyi (guess Darth Anders will be absent from the House on that day)
  • Hold a vote on the future of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan
Now, the devil is in the details... the Tories have said that everything in the Throne Speech was going to be a vote of confidence, and the failure to pass any of the measures will trigger an election. The only one of those points that COULD prove problematic in passage would be the last one... sort of. If the Tories want to trigger an election on the House's decision to remove Canada from a combat role after 2009, then we very well may be headed to the polls.
The Bloc and NDP want no part of Afghanistan any longer. The NDP never did, and the Bloc started giving a damn once the soldiers who were dying started having their caskets shipped to Quebec addresses.

The easy way to get away from calling an election over the issue is a semantic one - "we meant it was a confidence motion that a vote be HELD, not that the government WIN it...".

Building a stronger federation

Also known as the "we give up on Williams, but maybe the other Premiers will love us" section of the speech. Highlights include:
  • Allow provinces and territories to opt out with reasonable compensation if they offer compatible programs.
  • Reintroducing important pieces of legislation from the last session, including direct consultations with voters on the selection of Senators and limitations on their tenure
  • Guarantee to people living on reserve the same protections other Canadians enjoy under the Canadian Human Rights Act
  • The Prime Minister, on behalf of our Government, will use this occasion to make a statement of apology to (Residential Schools victims).
  • (Introduce) measures to confirm the visual identification of voters.
Senate elections and term limits shouldn't be too hard to get passed in the House - it's the Senate that slowed them down last time, and likely will again. I'm not certain how Prime Minister Harper proposes to do an end-run around the Senate on this issue, but he MUST have a plan, as I can't see the Senate passing these changes of their own volition.

Also, give this to Stephen - he apologizes VERY well. I'll be interested to see if he can outdo his best apology to date, the "Chinese Head Tax" apology.

The last point COULD get hairy, but there's no reason that it needs to. The simple solution, is have a female staff member at the polling station confirm who's under the veil. Problem solved - write the damned law, instead of crying that the Supreme Court won't do it for you. At least it looks as though they intend to make it part of their legislative agenda, rather than putting it back on the list of "things to cry to the Supreme Court about". I wonder how they'll visually confirm the Amish, though (photo i.d. being a problem for them)... any Amish who are reading this, let me know what you think.

Providing effective economic leadership

This is the traditional stronghold that Conservative governments go to as a reason to keep them around. Let's see what Steve and the Crew have come up with...

  • Bring forward a long-term plan of broad-based tax relief for individuals, businesses and families
  • Cut the GST a further point, to 5%
  • Improve the governance and management of the Employment Insurance Account.
  • Announce an infrastructure program, the Building Canada Plan, to support our long-term growth.

Nothing too controversial in there... in fact, the Liberals will be committing political suicide if they bring down the Tories on any of those points. Well played. Tax cuts, a lower GST, cleaning up the EI program (long overdue), and spending more money on roads and ports (Windsor, Atlantic Canada, and BC were named specifically) should play well both in traditional Toryland and in the areas (by quite a coincidence, including Windsor, Atlantic Canada, and BC) that don't traditionally vote Blue.

Continuing to tackle crime

Another strong traditional Tory value. Over to you, Steve...

  • (Re-introduce a single onmibus bill with) measures on the age of protection, impaired driving, dangerous offenders and stricter bail and mandatory prison sentences for those who commit gun crimes.
  • Strengthen the Youth Criminal Justice Act
  • Introduce tough new laws to tackle property crime
  • Implement the National Anti-Drug Strategy
  • Recruit 2,500 more officers to police our streets

Again, the Liberals don't have a whole lot or wriggle room on these issues, and will be hard-pressed to vote against them. Starting our own "War on Drugs" opens up a can of worms, but can you IMAGINE to attack ads if Dion were to vote against it? Only problem with the 2,500 more officers is that we're still waiting for the thousands of Mounties we were promised in the last election. What happened, there? Stockwell? Any response?

Improving our environment

THIS is the issue that the Liberals want to fight an election on. They want to paint Harper as a dinosaur, and then drive him to extinction. If dinosaurs ever existed. Still reading, Stockwell?

  • Implement our national strategy to reduce Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions 60 to 70 percent by 2050
  • Investing in public transport and water treatment
  • Bolster the protection of our water and land through tougher environmental enforcement
  • Introduce measures on food and product safety

The Tories have thrown in the towel, on Canada's behalf, regarding Kyoto. They state, elsewhere in the speech, that Canada has 77 days to reduce its greenhouse emissions to agreed levels, or they'll be in breach. In essence, "we're not going to make it, let's try something else". Truth be told, this section of the speech is quite thin, and the Grits couldn't be happier about that.

The environment has become Issue Number One for a lot of Canadians, and it's now as much an issue of passion as it is of science - people aren't satisfied with graphs anymore, they want someone at the front of the room, pounding their fist on the podium, talking about how much we all love Mother Earth and want to live in peace and harmony with all her creatures, and a bunch of other empty but well-meant rhetoric. It's 2007, and the hippies have finally won. IT doesn't matter if the Tories bring in the most comprehensive, workable plan to deal with our environmental concerns - what matters if whether or not Canadians believe that Stephen Harper CARES about the environment. If they don't think he CARES, then they won't vote for him, no matter what he does.

It's the Achilles' Heel of the Tories, and they (along with everyone else) know it. What remains to be seen isn't IF the Liberals take advantage of it - it's whether they'll get a chance to bring the government down over it, or whether Harper will force their hand first. I vote for the latter. But wither way, it doesn't much matter - the ensuing election will be less about issues, and more about who "CARES" about the environment. And unless the Tories pull off an Extreme Makeover that makes Ty Pennington jealous, Steve just doesn't come across as the caring, tree-hugging type.

Duceppe and the Bloc came out weeks ago saying they wouldn't vote for this Throne Speech even if it promised every person in Quebec a Porsche. They're trying to distance themselves from Harper faster than you do when you meet you ex at the high-school reunion who's still got a thing for you - and you brought your fiancee. And the ex has gotten big. Really, REALLY big. Point being, the Bloc is voting "no", no matter what. Like you should say, at the reunion, no matter how many whisky sours I had... oops.

Jack "Working Families" Layton also came out and said he wasn't going to support this speech - before it had even been written. He's positioning the NDP as the voice of reason, in contrast to the Tories and Liberals, whom he wants to pain as "the guys who screwed this all up, and there's no difference between them". In this regard, he's doing a great job. By opposing the Throne Speech, along with the Bloc, Layton knows that either Stephane Dion is going to have to do the unthinkable and go to the polls with the Liberals in a state of internal chaos, or he's going to have to support the Tories, or abstain. Either way, Jack gets his wish, and he can blame the Liberals for keeping Harper in power. It's a win/win for Jack.

Stephane Dion, on the other hand, is screwed. He knows he can't go to the polls right now - his brand is poison in Quebec, the NDP are making gains in Ontario, the Tories are making gains in the East (not counting Newfoundland)... he wants to bring Harper down, just to shut up his own caucus, but if he does it will trigger the final 30 days of his tenure as leader. Dion needs the Tories to stay in power long enough to get his house in order, and prepare an election strategy based on the environment - and then he needs money. Lots, and lots, and lots of money. Whether he can RAISE it or not remains to be seen. But right now, for Stephane, he's taking the Kobayashi Maru test.

Bonus points to the Citizens who understood the reference.

Layton may be in a "win/win" situation, but Dion is in a "no-win" situation. If he has his caucus vote against any of the proposals in the Throne Speech that aren't environment-related, he's going to go to the Canadian people with one of the following messages:

"I'm Stephane Dion, and I don't believe that we should protect our sovereignty, OR our troops. Oh, and screw our Veterans. Vote for me."

"I'm Stephane Dion. Your Premier is a dick, you should have no say in who represents you in the Senate, and the First Nations are a bunch of crybabies. Vote for me."

"I'm Stephane Dion. You should pay higher taxes, and quit whining about traffic. Oh, and to hell with working families. Vote for me."

"I'm Stephane Dion, and I believe 30 year-old men should be able to sleep with 15 year-old girls without fear of reprisal. A few crack dealers in your neighbourhood are good for the economy, and if we hug gun offenders and tell them not to do it again, there's no reason to keep them locked up. Vote for me."

Needless to say... I don't think Stephane's going to go for any of those.

But, then again...

This concludes the analysis of the Speech from the Throne. Just 2 other things I want to mention before I go into hiding for a few days, Nation:

  • The speech contains an insinuation, but no direct mention of the previous government.
  • The words "new government" or "Canada's New Government" aren't used ONCE.

Might be time to figure out some new drinking games for those of us who listen to a lot of speeches - there go our 2 biggest excuses.

Ward 3 Recount

A re-count has been ordered in the Ward 3 Aldermanic race.

As only 33 votes separated declared winner Jim Steveson and 2nd-place finisher George Chahal, the votes will be re-counted on Wednesday morning.

As the candidates are both well connected in the provincial PC and Liberal parties, respectively, this *could* turn into a partisan nightmare. Stay tuned.

The Morning After - Municipal Election Round-Up

Nation, those of you who have participated in the youthful rite-of-passage known as the "ONS" (one night stand) are familiar with what happens the morning after... you wake up, look yourself in the mirror, and try to figure out what exactly happened the night before. Maybe you overdid it a little, or you got lost in the moment, but now that you've sobered up, you have to deal with the fall-out from the choice you made last night.

Such is the feeling that Calgarians have this morning. Let's look at the results, and talk a bit about what happened last night, and why.

First, the turn-out. Although exact numbers are still forthcoming, the number of votes cast for Mayor has gone up by 90,000 votes over 2004 - an increase of 75%. In part, this is because of the fact that there was a legitimate challenger to the incumbent. In part, it's the weather. And in part, it's the fact that people just flat-out wanted a say in what happens with their city council.

Dave Bronconnier has been re-elected by a wide margin. The total number of votes for Mayor Bronco actually went up over 2004, by close to 34,000 votes. The PROBLEM for Bronco lies in the fact that his share of the popular vote dropped by 18 percent. His victory speech last night crowed about his overwhelming mandate, and made it sound as though he was going to stick to his guns, as always, and do nothing but what he promisd in the campaign. It shouldn't be lost on Bronco, though, that 39% of those who bothered to vote yesterday cast their ballotts for someone other than him. Calgarians still believe he's the man for the job, but not in the numbers that they did 3 years ago. What has happened in this city over the past 3 years has convinced 18 out of every 100 "Bronco" voters from 2004 that somebody else deserved their vote.

Among the issues that Calgarians want Bronco and the new council to deal with (despite his brave "they want exactly what I offered them" face last night):

  • Council Transparency
  1. A formal record of all council votes
  2. Campaign finance reform
  3. Full disclosure of donors BEFORE voting day
  • Affordable Housing
  1. Expansion of capacity and units
  2. Secondary suites - NOT the $25,000 / 20 year-plan Bronco championed (universally panned as an unrealistic farce of a proposal)
  • Transportation
  1. Re-routing of the Westward LRT line
  2. South West ring-road
  3. Expansion of C-Train service and capacity
  • Public Safety
  1. Increased funding for the Calgary Police, Fire and EMS departments
  • Environment
  1. Expansion of curbside recycling to include high density housing
  2. Snow removal (a perrennial complaint)
  3. Protection of the Bow and Elbow watershed, both within and UPSTREAM of the city limits

As far as the council votes go, Calgarians sent a message last night that they expect their elected officials to deal with THEIR concerns - they want to be served. In most ridings where there was a poor incumbent and good challengers (with the exception of Ward 1), the challengers carried the day. Calgarians stood up yesterday and declared that they expect action, and answers, from the people who exercise their franchise. I hope that council gets the message.

On a related note, I really enjoyed the CBC Radio One coverage of the results last night. It could have gone another hour, as the numbers were still in a state of flux when the "blanket coverage" ended, but overall it was a very enlightening show. Kudos to Naheed Nenshi of the Better Calgary Campaign for his on-the-spot analysis. :)

Nation, you came out yesterday and made your voice heard. Now, it's your democratic obligation to make sure it remains heard for the next 3 years. Be at council meetings. If we can't get a formal record of council proceedings, show up when you can and make your OWN record - I'll post it here. Hold these people accountable - most of what you do, from the morning commute to the party across the alley that keeps you up at night, is affected by this council.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Your new City Council and School Boards

Officeholders marked with an asterisk (*) are new to this position.

City Council

Mayor Dave Bronconnier
Ward 1 - Dale Hodges
Ward 2 - Gord Lowe
Ward 3 - Jim Stevenson *
Ward 4 - Bob Hawkesworth
Ward 5 - Ray Jones
Ward 6 - Joe Connelly *
Ward 7 - Druh Farrell
Ward 8 - John Mar *
Ward 9 - Joe Ceci
Ward 10 - Al Chabot
Ward 11 - Brian Pincott *
Ward 12 - Ric McIver
Ward 13 - Diane Colley-Urquhart
Ward 14 - Linda Fox-Mellway

Calgary Board of Education

Wards 1 & 2 - Gordon Dirks
Wards 3 & 4 - Lynn Ferguson
Wards 5 & 10 - Pamela King *
Wards 6 & 7 - George Lane
Wards 8 & 9 - Pat Cochrane
Wards 11 & 13 - Karen Kryczka *
Wards 12 & 14 - Carol Bazinet

Calgary Separate (Catholic) School Board

Wards 1 & 2 + Cochrane - Serafino Scarpino
Wards 3 & 5 + Airdrie - Linda Wellman
Wards 4 & 7 - Margaret Belcourt
Wards 6 & 8 - Lois Burke-Gaffney
Wards 9 & 10 + Chestermere - Rosemarie Goerlitz *
Wards 11 & 12 - Michael Annuik *
Wards 13 & 14 - Mary Martin *

More Early Returns

Ray Jones destroyed his opposition to keep a hold on Ward 5.

Joe Connelly has upset incumbent Craig Burrows to take Ward 6.

Druh Farrell held onto Ward 7, as expected.

With 5 polls left to report, John Mar leads Madeleine King by 160 votes in Ward 8.

Joe Ceci will retain Ward 9 over challenger Al Koenig.

Incumbent Al Chabot unsurprisingly kept Ward 10.

Brian Pincott has stepped up to capture Ward 11, which was the only ward in the city without an incumbent running.

Ric McIver put in the most dominating performance this election, capturing 90% of the vote in his Ward 12 riding.

Wards 13 and 14 were uncontested, and won by acclaimation.

Early Results

Hope everyone listened to CBC Radio for their election coverage... it was quite enlightening.

I'm back from... well, wherever the heck I've been hiding, so here we go.

Dave Bronconnier has been re-elected, but the story here is the percentage - it's hovering around 60%. This is a stark message to Dave that although he has the support of the majority, it's not without caveats. We, the people of Calgary, expect him to honour OUR priorities, not just his own.

Dale Hodges has won Ward 1. Jennifer Hodges would have made an able Alderman for the Ward, I hope she sticks with it.

Gord Lowe took advantage of the weak opposition to his candidacy, capturing Ward 2 yet again.

Helene Larocque has been unseated in Ward 3, with good reason. Jim Stevenson leads George Chahal by 250 votes, with 6 polls left to report.

Bob Hawkesworth has been re-elected handily in Ward 4.

It's Time

Nation, the time has come.

The polls opened moments ago.

I'm not going to wax philosophical about the nature of democracy. I'm not going to post pictures of dead soldiers who died so you can go vote.

I'm going to appeal to your lizard-brain... go vote, because it's in your best interest.

There is no level of government that has a more direct impact on your day-to-day life than the municipal government. Make sure you have a say in how that government is comprised.

Read up on the candidates.

Make your decision.

And then VOTE.

Not sure where to vote? Go HERE.

Reminder: Listen to CBC Radio One, 1010 AM or 99.1 FM in Calgary, starting at 8 pm for analysis and election results as they come. I will TRY to be blogging then, but you never know - I might be otherwise occupied.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Calgary Mayor

Nation, for obvious reasons this is going to be the most exhaustive coverage I do of the municipal campaign. Some candidates are going to get more attention than others, for the simple fact that some have more public information available. I will be highlighting their performance in the All-Candidate's Forum at Mount Royal College this past Tuesday (I was in the house, as were several other members of Calgary's blogging royalty, such as Calgary Grit), and covering some of their basic ideas and principles.

Each candidate was sent a survey by The Better Calgary Campaign. They surveys were very extensive, and gave each candidate the ability to expound on their vision, their opinions, and their ideas for the city. Only one candidate (Harry Heck) for mayor did not return the survey. I will post a link to their survey response in each candidate's profile.

David Bertram is a chartered accountant who helped to found the Chaparral Community Association. He has sat on several Progressive Conservative association boards. He attended Lord Beaverbrook high school here in Calgary, so that's one knock against him right there (just kidding, Lords... don't knife me!).

He pledges to deliver of the priorities of Calgarians, and claims that he will be both accountable and approachable as Mayor. He takes issue with the curbside recycling program as approved, stating that private companies could deliver the program cheaper and better than a city-managed plan.

David is in favour of expanding transit service, but reminds us that public transit isn't the be all and end all - "People need their cars".

Bertram's Campaign Themes:

  • Doing what's right for Calgary.
  • Leading by example.
  • Delivering on Calgarian's priorities.
  • Building on Calgary's spirit.
  • Maximizing the return to Calgarians for the tax dollars collected and user fees charged.


"I'm the other David in this race."

"A lot has changed in the past twenty years - how can you build a big C-Train line and NOT serve Mount Royal College?"
Bertram seemed quite comfortable in the debate at MRC, handling questions with relative ease. He even gave out his personal cell-phone number - in his opening remarks, no less.

Bertram's response to the Better Calgary Campaign survey is located here.

David Bertram's website is located here.

Dave Bronconnier has been the mayor of Calgary for the past 6 years. He previously served as the Alderman for Ward 6 for 9 years. As the incumbent, most of the slings and arrows of this campaign have been aimed directly at Dave. You don't really need me to outline those for you... if you don't like this city the way it is at present, the buck stops at Dave's desk, and you're going to vote against him. If you LIKE the way the city is today, you'll probably vote for him. He has taken flak over campaign fundraising. He has the endorsement of both of Calgary's major daily newspapers (of course - if they endorse someone else, and Bronco wins, they'll get the cold shoulder for the next 3 years - we've seen how Dave reacts to criticism). In 1997, Dave ran for the federal Liberal Party in Calgary West, and was crushed by Darth Anders.

Bronco has both a huge disadvantage and a huge advantage as the incumbent mayor. Everything that goes on in the city ultimately is his responsibility - if your community got a new skating rink last winter, Dave did that. If a new police station opened up down the street, Dave did that. Sirens keeping you up at night? Dave's fault. Stuck at that traffic light too long? Dave. Finally got the interchange near your workplace built? Dave. Property taxes too high? Dave. You get the idea...

Dave's platform IS the status quo. If he wanted something done, it's been done, or is being worked on. He doesn't propose any new ideas, or out-of-the-box solutions to problems. Some people will look at this as a reason to vote for him: He's measured in his approach. Some will look at it as a reason to vote AGAINST him: He seems to have a need to be right - once he's staked his territory, nothing will budge him. For more on this, see "Stelmach, Ed" or "Ribbons, Yellow".

Dave's Issues:
  • Transportation
  • Environment
  • Accountability
  • Safe Communities
  • Municipal Sustainability
  • Community Development

"I show leadership..."
"Legalising illegal suites doesn't increase the supply of suites..."

Dave seems to love the sound of his own voice. Either that, or he figures that since 8 people are talking about why he sucks, he should get 8 times as long as each of them to talk about why he doesn't. Either way, he seems to go on and on - it would be one thing if he were a more engaging speaker, but he's just NOT - those stats don't excite me, Dave, they put me to sleep.

Dave indicated in the forum that the city can't do anything about affordable housing without the province's say-so. This seems... odd, considering he just got into a pissing match with Ed about the province insisting that he spend provincial dollars on affordable housing projects.

Dave says that the city owns 8,000 rental units. Call 221-9100 to get put on the waiting list - it's sitting at over 2,000 names right now.

Bronco responded to criticism that city projects and initiatives seem to take forever. He stated quite clearly that although projects COULD be sped up, we need to be cautious when we're spending tax dollars. It's easy to say "it should be faster", but spending tax dollars on MAKING it faster takes them away from other areas.

Dave does NOT deal well with public criticism... a few times he shrugged it off, but for a while I thought he was going to get up and slug Alnoor. He turns red when challenged... I think I'd like to play a few hands of poker with His Worship.

Dave's response to the Better Calgary Campaign survey is located here. They have endorsed him, with reservations, for Mayor.

Dave Bronconnier's website (which is $uper-$piffy) is located here.

Elizabeth Fielding comes across as an honest and thoughtful advocate for a better and more caring civic government. Elizabeth ran provincially in 2004 for the Social Credit party in the riding of Calgary Buffalo. She got 71 votes.

Elizabeth is one of those candidates who you can tell truly means it when they say they want to SERVE as Mayor - you just get a feeling of decency from her. She wants to help fix the issues she feels the city is missing at present. Particularly, she feels the city isn't responsive enough to the needs of its citizens, and that the current planning that goes into city projects is too much band-aid, not enough cure.

Among Elizabeth's policy issues:

  • Environment
  • Seniors
  • Infrastructure
  • Taxes


"I'm here to listen to all of your concerns..."

"I need solutions from you..."

Elizabeth has a conversational tone in public - sometimes too conversational. Do you know someone who can't stop talking? Even when they know they should? Because they made their point 2 sentences before? But still, they keep on going? And lose the good will they had earned with their solid initial point? Because now they're just wasting your valuable time going on and on and on?

Fielding suffered from this verbal diarrhea during the forum at MRC. As an occasional sufferer myself, I can understand her frustration - she wanted to get her message out. But she could have scored a lot more points with the audience had she made her points a little clearer and a LOT faster.

Among the ideas she floated at the forum were the implementation of a housing registry, so that rather than sifting through classified ads, there would be a central registry of suites and rooms for rent that those seeking housing could go to - not a bad idea, it certainly made house-hunting easier for me in post-secondary school. Her other good suggestion was to institute several major hubs for transit, so that direct-line buses could pick students up and get them to their institutions faster. A good theory, but how practical is it? I don't know... since you'd need buses at each hub going to MRC, U of C, Bow Valley College, deVry, etc... seems like a lot of duplication. But at least it's a suggestion other than "build a train station EVERYWHERE that people want to go!".

Elizabeth's response to the Better Calgary Campaign survey is located here.

Elizabeth Fielding's campaign website is here.

Allan Foster doesn't trust Dave Bronconnier. In fact, there's a lot about the current civic leadership that he doesn't trust. He thinks that a lot of people share this mistrust, and so the best thing to do is to vote them out - and him in. This will be his third attempt to win the mayor's chair.

Al Foster's major policy points are:

  • Crime
  • Affordable Housing
  • Over-taxation
  • Council Transparency


"Secondary suites turn neighbourhoods into slums."

"If you take care of the big problems, the little problems will take care of themselves."

Al may be a good guy, when he's not in a public setting. He may be happy. He may be genuinely pleasant. But on the mic, in front of a crowd, he gets a glare going on. It could be that he was uncomfortable sitting next to Bronco, whom he has basically accused of being at best incompetent, and at worst a thief and criminal - but when given a chance to play to a room of potential Foster voters, Al turned them on him faster than a Michael Richards routine at the Apollo. He attacked the entire idea of secondary suites, basically saying that people who live in them are the underbelly of society (to a room full of students). And then (to a room full of students, remember) he went on, during the transit debate, to basically tell the students to "stop whining", and that a lot more people took public transit who WEREN'T students, so why should Mount Royal get its own C-Train stop?

Points for saying what you really mean, Al... but whether it's true or not, it's not going to play very well at the ballot box.

Al's response to the Better Calgary survey is located here.

Al Foster's website is located here.

Harry Heck wants to be your next mayor. In fact, he's either a deceptively sarcastic prankster with questionable comic judgement, or he really believes he's going to win this race. Harry proudly says he's going to make only one promise in this entire campaign: If elected, he will end homelessness in the City of Calgary in 90 days. If he CAN follow through on that promise, and not bankrupt the city, he might go down in history.

You get the impression that Harry might be more comfortable preaching at a revival meeting... he's an intense speaker. The problem is, he can't change his mind, and won't change the subject. As I recall, that's the definition of a "fanatic".

Harry's big issues for Calgary include:
  • Solve Homelessness
  • Manage Growth
  • Renewable Energy
  • Drug-related crime


"If I'm going to stand for mayor, I'm going to stand when I speak to all of you..."

"This isn't a club, this is about people's lives."

Harry went after Mayor Bronco, HARD. He went after him over campaign finances. He went after him, time and time again, over his "arrogant attitude". I get the impression that Harry doesn't much care for His Worship. THEN, Harry went overboard. For some reason, after getting the "10 second knock" from the moderator, Harry started talking to Nathan Hornburg's family. I don't know if he was going to bring up yellow ribbons, or what he was going to say that was in any way relevant to the proceedings at hand... but it left a VERY bitter taste in my mouth that someone would go there for political gains. Poor judgement.

Harry admitted to not returning the Better Calgary survey at the forum, and promised to send it to them ASAP. It appears to have never arrived.

Harry Heck's website, which is hard as, well, "heck" to navigate, is located here.

Sandy Jenkins is widely considered to be the Ed Stelmach of this race... not many people list him as their first choice, but he's the only thing Bronco and Alnoor voters can agree on: Their second choice. Likewise, voters who can't stand either of the front-runners are apparently quite drawn to Jenkins.

Sandy is straight-forward and seems sincere, and he's spent much of the campaign talking about his policies, rather than focusing on the shortcomings of his opponents and the incumbent. His policies are good, and thorough - he identifies problems, and then outlines how he intends to fix them. In reading his policies, though, one has to wonder exactly where he expects to find the money to do all that he plans - there is, after all, only one taxpayer.

Among Sandy's campaign focuses:
  • Build downtown subway line
  • Guaranteed tax rates after owning same home for 25 years
  • Re-route plans for West C-Train line to include Mount Royal College
  • Campaign finance reform


"If they can't get their message out for $300,000, do you really want to give them your tax dollars to play with?"

"We're the laughing-stock of Canada - 20 years behind. The last major city to ban smoking. We still call our councillors 'Aldermen'. Curbside recycling, in place for years in most of Canada's other cities, is still 2 years away in Calgary..."

Sandy didn't seem entirely comfortable on-stage... he opened with a variation on Martin Luther King's "I have a dream..." speech, and spent the entire time staring down at his pages. He delivered the speech just fine, but rule number one of running for office is 'look me in the eye'. He improved later on, once he got off the scripted notes. He believes that the wait for a cab in Calgary is ridiculous, and compared current campaign finance rules to Texas Hold'Em (interesting game, I should take it up someday). He played to the crowd he knew he'd be facing, with a lot of opinions and ideas that would be an easy sell to students - so he's definitely got some political instincts.

Sandy's response to the Better Calgary survey is located here.

Sandy Jenkins' website is located here.

Alnoor Kassam is the polarizing figure in this race. You likely either think he's a godsend, or a complete scheister. Alnoor has spent nearly a million dollars to try and win the mayor's chair - of his OWN MONEY. Well, his and his renters, at any rate. He has had a few private donors, which we'll get to in a bit. There are allegations of crimes committed in Alnoor's native Kenya, which he has been cleared of in a Canadian immigration tribunal. There are allegations that he hiked rent to ridiculous levels in some of his rental units - which he does not deny, but adds that he also forgave 3 months rent, and helped those renters find other accommodation. Cynics ask, rightly, if he would have been nearly so accommodating were he not considering a mayoral run. The truth is, I don't know.

Alnoor decided before this race even began how he was going to run it. He could run purely on his platform, which is the most well-rounded in this campaign (he couldn't have known that at the time, obviously). Or he could go right after B ronco, with a full-court press. He chose the latter route. To the undercurrent of Calgarians who are dissatisfied with their morning commute, or with the recent spike in crime, this has played well. To others, who just want to hear what Alnoor plans for the city, it has been a source of irritation that he can't seem to make a point without mentioning the incumbent. It's drawing comparisons to the Federal Tories being unable to issue a press release that doesn't contain a listing of Paul Martin's failings as a leader, a statesman, or a lover.

It should also be noted that Alnoor has issued what he calls his "Contract with Calgarians". It's not a light read (24 pages), but everyone SHOULD give it a look before they go to vote. It's not just a good policy platform, it is SMART politics. To quote directly from Kassam's website:

"Alnoor Kassam is a businessman, not a politician. Politicians lie and break their promises. They’re very good at it. Alnoor has signed his name to the key planks of his platform, since Calgarians deserve more. They deserve reassurances that what is promised to them will actually happen."

For better or worse, Alnoor truly believes he can win this race. That either means a) he has seen polling numbers that I haven't, b) he's a raving lunatic, or c) he believes in the power of positive thinking. He has already appointed his Chief of Staff, to help him run City Hall. I don't know if enough people are angry enough at the city's problems to come out and vote for Alnoor - the reality is, most Calgarians views a lot of these problems as the price we pay for being a "big city". We have a million people. We're in an economic boom. Traffic, lack of parking spaces, lack of affordable housing, an increase in crime - these are seen as the price of admission for a seat at the "Big Cities" table. And Alnoor makes good points and suggestions as to how we can deal with them - I just don't know if Calgarians are ready to embrace those ideas when time in the city, to be honest, aren't all that bad.

Alnoor's biggest issues include:
  • Taxes
  • Affordable Housing
  • Crime
  • Traffic
  • Accountability


"Over the past 6 years, we've gotten roads, roads, and more roads... what do we have to show for it? Traffic, traffic, and more traffic..."
"I have fled corruption. If I even get a sniff of it, I run the other way."

Alnoor didn't let up on Bronco, not for a second. In the minutes before the event began, as the candidates were sitting on-stage, nobody was talking to Alnoor. He is now fully immersed in this, and he's going to come out of this race as the Mayor, or as a total pariah. He attacked Bronco on roads. He attacked him on taxes. He attacked him on a "culture of confrontation" with unions and other levels of government. He wants an accountability by-law, including an ethics commissioner and an auditor general (long overdue). He says a world class city needs a world class transit system. He pledged to bring in campaign finance reform within 60 days of being elected. One policy he brought up which may cause problems is the idea that, to combat urban sprawl, Calgary needs to "grow up, not grow out". The problem with this is simply that Calgarians come here for the mountains. If you build apartment and condo towers allt he way down 14th Street West, you are going to have 75% of the city very angry that their west-facing windows, which they paid a premium on the house for, now have the same view as their cousin in Saskatoon. "Look, honey - apartment buildings. How romantic."

With thanks to Kyle Olsen, Alnoor's campaign contributors are located in the "comments" section of this post.

Alnoor's response to the Better Calgary survey is located here.

Alnoor Kassam's website is located here.

Jonathan (J.J.) Sunstrum has some good ideas. The problem is, he can't decide whether he wants to be Mayor of Calgary, or Michael Moore. Your credibility as a contender for the Mayor's job goes DOWN when you chase the incumbent around with a camcorder, it doesn't go UP. That said, Sunstrum's use of a blog and YouTube to get out his message are a harbinger of things to come, so he deserves credit for making use of the new technologies that give you the best "bang for your buck". That kind of ingenuity and forward-thinking approach is sometimes sorely lacking on a city council that has members dating back to when Commodore 64 was "the next big thing".

J.J.'s main policy points include:

  • Snow Removal (FINALLY someone brought it up!)
  • Arts
  • City Finances
  • Crime
  • Downtown Services


"I look at this as a 28-day job interview."

"Every member of city council should park their SUV's and ride transit for 3 months a year."

Sunstrum looks uncomfortable on-stage. In the minutes before the event actually started, he spent the time talking with one of his hangers-on rather than with the other candidates. He feels that the city should be open to great ideas from other jurisdictions, and that someone needs to restore some openness and accountability on council.

Sunstrum's response to the Better Calgary survey is located here.

J.J. Sunstrum's website is here.
(note: Sunstrum's campaign for "A Better Calgary" is not, in any way, related to The Better Calgary Campaign. The similarities are purely coincidental.)

Jeremy Zhao will not be our next mayor. He has known that from the second he picked up nomination papers. All the same, he has gone to the trouble of running - and in the middle of university mid-terms, no less. He deserves nothing but respect, on that point alone.

More shocking, though, is the fact that some of the campaign's best ideas weren't coming from the heavy-hitters, they were coming from the 19 year-old university student! Most of these ideas aren't NEW, and they will likely resurface again in the future, but it is rare to hear them coming from a mayoral candidate, and for putting these suggestions on the radar of the average Calgarian, Jeremy again deserves our thanks. His use of Facebook, blogs, podcasts and other internet-centred media should be required reading for future political candidates. He has created a LOT of buzz, with a combination of media-saavy, knowledge of the issues and all-around political instincts. If the unthinkable happens, and Jeremy somehow wins this race, it will be a credit to him and his campaign team - they have done a brilliant job garnering a LOT more attention than anyone else in this race who spent less than a million dollars.

The only - and I mean THE ONLY - plank in Jeremy's platform I have an issue with is his plan to combat voter apathy by changing the nomination rules: No deposit, and 5 signatures. Don't get me wrong - it would work. We would have DOZENS of candidates for every position. Therein lies the problem: If people can't find good information when there are only a few candidates, where are they going to find good information on dozens of them? People will be elected with less than 25% of the popular vote, because it's been split so many ways. And how on EARTH are we supposed to have a mayoral forum with 60 or 70 candidates? We had one with only 9 candidates, and it still almost got away from us, time-wise. "Have 6 or 7 forums". Fair ball. But everyone wants to be in the forum with the incumbent, because that's the one voters will actually attend. It's a logistical nightmare - good in theory, just impossible in practice.

Among Jeremy's issues:
  • Affordable housing
  • Taxation
  • Environment
  • Transit
  • Homelessness
  • Infrastructure Maintenance
  • Voter Apathy


"I want to be a voice for ALL Calgarians..."
"Building C-Train lines and recreation centres doesn't help the thousands of Calgarians with no place to live."

Jeremy seemed quite at ease. This could be because he's just a naturally cool cat. It could be because the mostly college-aged audience was VERY pro-Zhao. Or, it could be because he had no idea he was supposed to be terrified. Either way, he came across very well. Shocking as it might sound, he came across at time as the most moderate person on stage - the voice of reason. The person on stage who seemed least married to dogma, and most in possession of common sense, was the 19 year-old. He played to the college crowd VERY well, especially when discussing the ridiculous notion that he, as a U of C student, had a train station on his doorstep and paid about half of what MRC students have to for a transit pass, with no station even in the planning stages. I was secretly hoping he'd stand up and rip up his U-Pass, but to no avail. :) Jeremy even came to Alnoor's defence, insisting that people need to look at the policies of a candidate rather than digging up muck from his or her past. Naive? A little. But the world is always changed the most, for better or worse, by idealists. And if on "Planet Zhao" the candidate is judged by his policies, and not by rumours of past misdeeds, you might someday see 'Alderman Enlightened Savage' in the mix. :)

Jeremy's responses to the Better Calgary survey (which impressed the hell out of them!) are here.

Jeremy Zhao's website is here.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Voter's Toolkit

With thanks from the CBC website...

When can I vote?

Election Day: Oct. 15

Polls will be open on Monday, Oct. 15, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Who is eligible to vote?

  • are at least 18 years old;
  • are resident of the City of Calgary for Mayor and Alderman, and resident of the Calgary Board of Education for Public School Trustee or the Calgary Roman Catholic Separate School District No. 1 for Separate School Trustee; and
  • have resided in ALBERTA for six consecutive months immediately proceeding Election Day.

What forms of ID are accepted for voter identification?

Electors must both produce one of the required identifications and sign the statement to receive their ballot and cast their vote.

  • Canadian Driver's or Operator's Licence
  • Canadian Passport
  • Canadian Military Identification
  • Birth Certificate
  • Baptismal Certificate
  • Alberta Personal Health Card
  • Alberta Identification Card
  • Certificate of Canadian Citizenship
  • Veteran Affairs Canada
  • Old Age Security (OAS) Card
  • Firearms Licence Possession - Acquisition
  • Firearms - Possession Only Licence

Where can I cast my ballot?

You can search by address on the City of Calgary website to find out.

Who's running in the Election?

Check out The Enlightened Savage to find out. (Okay, that part wasn't on the CBC website - but it should have been!)

Where To Get Your Election Results

Normally, I'd say "come to the Enlightened Savage - I'll be posting them all night, in real-time...". Still, TRY to come here. Make me your first choice. (I may be otherwise occupied, though.)

If you (or I) can't be here, though, I'd suggest listening to the coverage on CBC Radio One (1010 AM, 99.1 FM) beginning at 8:00 pm on Monday night.

They haven't endosed any particular candidate, so the coverage is likely to be less biased than some OTHER Calgary radio stations (which shall remain nameless). Also, I have it on good authority they're going to have a dynamite in-studio panel. Check it out!

Calgary Alderman - Ward 14

Linda Fox-Mellway has been acclaimed in this ward. Her website is located here.

Calgary Alderman - Ward 13

Diane Colley-Urquhart has been re-elected to this seat by acclaimation. Good thing, or she'd need a new web domain. Her website is here.

Calgary Alderman - Ward 12

Nick Halfyard is a political science and history student at the University of Athabasca. To quote his website: "My greatest aspiration is to earn my way to the top of the political ladder and make a difference in this world."

Nick's policy focuses include:
  • Mismanagement and waste on city council
  • Fewer taxes
  • Crime and policing
  • Elimination of the "ambulance fee"
  • Recycling
  • C-train service

In keeping with his fiscal conservative ideals, Nick's free website is located here.

Ric McIver has drawn the ire of some in the ward for being perceived as looking towards to mayor's job in a few years. His critics say that Ric spends too much time thinking about the city as a whole, when there are issues in Ward 12 that need to be looked after. E.S. says "suck it up, princess!". McIver, no matter what his future plans, has served his ward AND his city well since 2001. Which isn't to say Ric shouldn't be challenged... democracy demands that he SHOULD be. He also high-jacked the headlines for several weeks on his personal crusade to have city vehicles display "yellow ribbon" decals, as a sign of our city's support for the Canadian Armed Forces.

Among the issues the McIver campaign identifies:
  • Taxpayer protection
  • Arenas and Recreational facilities
  • Smart Growth
  • LRT Expansion
  • Infrastructure maintenance
  • Affordable Housing

Ric's website - which is a nightmare to navigate and look at, by the way, Ric - is located here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Calgary Alderman - Ward 11

Ward 11 is the only ward in the city where there is no incumbent alderman seeking re-election. As such, it poses one of the most intriguing races, as no one has the "incumbent's advantage".

Dave Matthews, as we all know, is a world-famous rock singer. Why he'd want to be a City of Calgary alderman is anyone's guess... what's that? Say again? Oh... how embarassing. Let's try this again...

Dave Matthews is a retiree who thinks that one of the biggest issues facing Calgary is urban sprawl. He wants to increase residential density in existing developments.

Dave's other issues include:
  • Rezoning
  • Transportation
  • Taxation

The Matthews campaign has no website, but you can write Dave at

James M. (Jim) Murray is a lawyer and resident of ward 11. He lists recreational facilities and park space, and protection of the Glenmore Reservoir as priorities of his. He has chaired several committees for the city.

Murray's other priorities include:
  • Transportation
  • Residential Density
  • Legacies for the Future
  • Homelessness
  • A long-term roadmap for the city's future

You can read more about Murray's campaign on his website, here.

Brian Pincott is a former NDP candidate federally. As mentioned previously in this blog, Calgarians love their municipal politicians when they're unelectable on another level - and if anything is unelectable in Calgary, it's an NDP candidate. Pincott has been extremely active on municipal issues in the past few years, being a leading voice for curbside recycling and also participating in the imagineCalgary project.

Pincott's issues include:
  • Transportation
  • Environment
  • Affordable Housing
  • Smart Growth
  • Livable Neighbourhoods

Brian's website, which includes a list of all of his donors and a VERY detailed "Issues" section is located here.

Jim Rockwell is the owner of Rocky's Burgers (if you haven't tried one, you owe it to yourself), and is making his first foray into politics. Rockwell practices what he preaches, listing his donors on his website, linked below.

Jim's issues for the ward include:
  • Transportation
  • Social Infrastructure
  • Development & land use
  • Crime & safety
  • Environment

Rockwell's on-line home is here.

Evonne Whelan is a former president of the Mount Royal Community Association. She has a very detailed platform on-line, and raises several good issues and solutions.

Among Evonne's focuses:
  • Taxation
  • Crime & Safety
  • Transportation & Roads

Check out Whelan's site for yourself, here.

Calgary Alderman - Ward 10

My apologies for the tardiness, Nation - real life beckoned.

Andre Chabot is the incumbent for this ward, elected in 2005 to replace disgraced alderman Margot Aftergood. He has not been afraid to stand up for issues he believes strongly in, even if they aren't the easiest rows to hoe politically. He has been focusing on affordable housing as late. While many candidates have city-wide platforms, Andre has a platform aimed specifically at the residents and problems in his ward.

Chabot's priorities include:
  • Crime prevention
  • Increased recreational opportunities (rec. centres and arenas)
  • Resurfacing of Memorial Drive

For more on the Chabot campaign, visit his website here.

Nargis Dossa is a social worker, who worries that the bitter aftertaste of the "Ward 10 Scandal" may keep voters from bothering to come out on the 15th. Her primary focus is on social issues, as you might expect from a social worker.

Among Nargis' focuses:
  • Poverty
  • Negative image
  • Homelessness

Nargis' website reads like a resume - useful, but not covering her ideas, just her qualifications. It is located here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Mayoral Forum

There will be an all-candidate's forum for the 9 candidates running for Mayor of Calgary, this evening at Mount Royal College.

It will take place at the Leacock Theatre, from 4:30 to 6:30. The Enlightened Savage will be in the hizz-ouse.

Monday, October 8, 2007

What Do These Schmucks Do? - Mayoral Edition

Back to the Queen's Printer, as (once again), nobody at the City of Calgary is inclined to tell us what the Mayor's job is...

General duties of chief elected official

(1) A chief elected official, in addition to performing the duties of a councillor, must
(a) preside when in attendance at a council meeting unless a bylaw provides that another councillor or other person is to preside, and
(b) perform any other duty imposed on a chief elected official by this or any other enactment or bylaw.
(2) The chief elected official is a member of all council committees and all bodies to which council has the right to appoint members under this Act, unless the council provides otherwise.
(3) Despite subsection (2), the chief elected official may be a member of a board, commission, subdivision authority or development authority established under Part 17 only if the chief elected official is appointed in the chief elected official’s personal name.

(Municipal Government Act, Part Five, Division Three)

So, essentially... the mayor is an "Alderman-at-large" required to swing the gavel at meetings.

Again, as with Aldermen, the Mayor can do much more if he (or she) wants to get re-elected. Ralph Klein, when he was Mayor of Calgary, focused on the task of communicating with the people that the council served. Bronco seems to view the mayor's role as more of a leader, helping to set the priorities of council as he believes the people of Calgary wish them to be. Each mayor, and each candidate for mayor, would bring their own interpretation of what the role actually entails.

As long as they've got good gavel technique, none of them is wrong... but some are more right, in the eyes of the voters, than others. Therein lies the difference between "Mayor Such-and-such" and "defeated mayoral candidate Such-and-such".

What Do These Schmucks Do? - Alderman Edition

The City of Calgary, whether by design or by unbelievable oversight, has NO information available on-line as to what, exactly, an Alderman's job really IS.

Therefore, I have little recourse but to consult the Book of Armaments - er, I mean, the Queen's Printer, and take the words right from the legislative horse's mouth:

General duties of councillors

Councillors have the following duties:
(a) to consider the welfare and interests of the municipality as a whole and to bring to council’s attention anything that would promote the welfare or interests of the municipality;
(b) to participate generally in developing and evaluating the policies and programs of the municipality;
(c) to participate in council meetings and council committee meetings and meetings of other bodies to which they are appointed by the council;
(d) to obtain information about the operation or administration of the municipality from the chief administrative officer or a person designated by the chief administrative officer;
(e) to keep in confidence matters discussed in private at a council or council committee meeting until discussed at a meeting held in public;
(f) to perform any other duty or function imposed on councillors by this or any other enactment or by the council.

(Municipal Government Act, Part Five, Division Three)

Vague? Sure... but that's legislation for you. To avoid having 480 different Acts, they write as vague an Act as possible, so everyone will fit into it.

For their part, the City of Calgary's Bylaw department doesn't list any Bylaws that would amend or add to the responsibilities, as allowed for in section (f).

Near as I can tell, then, the job of an Alderman with the City of Calgary is to a) show up at meetings, and b) don't spill the beans on top-secret projects. At least, legislatively, that's the job. In reality, there are many other things that can win you the support of your constituents for years to come. Acting swiftly and decisively to get their concerns heard and dealt with at City Hall would be a good start.

Of note, is the fact that several candidates for Alderman in this election state on their websites that they intend to "run the ward" in a certain way. In fairness, they MAY mean "run the ward office", and they simply mis-spoke. It should be clearly noted, though, that we are not electing 14 little Mayors to run small segments of the city - an Alderman's job is to represent the people of their ward, not to govern them as a personal fiefdom. The collective will of Council, all 15 members, governs the City of Calgary. Your Alderman "runs" your ward as much as your MLA or MP runs your riding - which is to say, not at all.

THEY make decisions, as part of a larger body, on YOUR behalf. Without you, they have no franchise to exercise. Remember (because some of them will forget from time to time, and will need reminding) that THEY work for YOU. And, if your Alderman HAS forgotten for whom they work in the past 3 years - show up on October 15th and remind them who call the shots.

What Do These Schmucks Do? - School Board Trustee Edition

With thanks to the Albeta School Boards Association, below is an overview of exactly what a "school board trustee" DOES - handy information, when deciding whom you should elect to the job.

All voters are asked at the polling station for which board they wish to elect a trustee - public or catholic. Make sure to get this question right - your taxes go to whichever board you choose, so make sure you have a say in who gets to spend them!

(ASBA text begins now)

What do school trustees do?

Alberta school boards help shape the future of local communities by governing the education of young people. The provincial government, through the minister of learning grants school boards the independent authority to make decisions regarding the direction and quality of local public education. Accountability to the public is entrenched through the election of local school board trustees every three years. The school board election is October 15, 2007.

School board responsibilities

It’s up to school boards to ensure all children in the community receive a quality education. Specific school board responsibilities include:
  • Communicating, informing and involving parents, staff, and the community-at-large in school board decisions and activities.
  • Adopting an annual budget that achieves jurisdiction priorities.
  • Setting goals and priorities for the jurisdiction that achieve provincial education standards, meet the needs of students and reflect the community’s wishes.
  • Making and enforcing policies that set out standards and expectations regarding the actions of administration, teachers, and students.
  • Lobbying the municipal and provincial governments on education issues of importance to the jurisdiction.
  • Adjudicating policy or decision appeals.
  • Hiring and evaluating the superintendent.
The role of the trustees

A key responsibility for trustees is to stay in touch with community stakeholders so that they understand, and reflect in their decision-making, what all citizens value and want from their local public schools. It’s important to note that trustees do not represent any one school, neighbourhood or community. Rather, they make decisions based on the needs of the entire jurisdiction. As elected officials, trustees have these roles:

Communicators: Trustees ensure the community has a say in what children learn by communicating effectively with stakeholders and ensuring their concerns and wishes are heard.

Planners: Trustees develop plans to deal with student needs and to actively participate in the economic and social strength of local communities.

Policy makers: Trustees create policies to guide administration and staff. They also evaluate the impact of these policies and make adjustments where necessary.

Advocates: Trustees address and seek resolution of public education issues of importance to students, parents, and the community at large.

Educators: Trustees play a key role in developing tomorrow’s citizens because they have the ability to make independent decisions that impact the direction and quality of public education.

Adjudicators: Trustees hear and make judgements concerning local education decisions, procedures or policies that individuals, groups or the public feel are unfair or improper.

Lobbyists: Trustees communicate with the municipal and provincial levels of government to ensure those who influence funding and other resources hear the voice of the local community.

Legislators: Trustees can make decisions that have the status and impact of law -- for example, decisions governing and enforcing the conduct of students and staff.

Politicians: Trustees are elected every three years to govern the local public education system on behalf of the community. The democratic process ensures the public remains part of public education.