Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Speech From The Throne - Recap and Reaction

Nation, I will be posting the full text of the Speech from the Throne here. My reactions will be in red, for the sake of contrast.

Speech from the Throne
February 4, 2008

Fourth Session of the Twenty-sixth Legislature

Delivered by His Honour Norman L. Kwong, CM, AOE
Lieutenant Governor

My Fellow Albertans, welcome to the Fourth Session of the Twenty-sixth Alberta Legislature.

Our gathering here today is part of an enduring legacy of centuries of democratic tradition. It’s so easy to take for granted the blessings of democracy that this province and this nation enjoy. But it only takes a read of the daily newspaper to be reminded that this tradition is not enjoyed everywhere around the world. We read of discontent, violence, and tyranny — and our hearts ache.

Here, however, in this magnificent chamber and in the communities outside these doors and across the province, we see the rich rewards of our democratic tradition, and our hearts soar.

Our ability — our right — to gather here today stems from a legacy of democracy which each of us must pledge to uphold and protect at all times.

Today, brave Canadian men and women in uniform are doing just that, half a world away. Indeed, many of those who have served us overseas have been fellow Albertans — our neighbours and our friends.

As we gather to celebrate our blessings today, we should acknowledge with profound gratitude the courage and sacrifice members of our armed forces are demonstrating in pursuit of the most noble of goals — the promotion of freedom and democracy.

Today, I speak as well of another legacy. Not the legacy of a particular government, or a particular Legislative Assembly, but the 100-year legacy of an entire province and its people: A legacy born from Albertans’ dreams and hopes — for their children and for their province.

Indeed, new aspirations are being conceived right now, to be fully realized in the years ahead. I speak of Alberta’s leadership role in Canada’s New West.

Albertans know their province is poised to assume that leadership mantle. The last decade in Alberta has been one of astonishing growth — population growth, economic growth, and cultural and social development.

Because of this historic record of achievement, Alberta stands poised on the threshold of a glorious future. Securing that future must be our legacy, and your government stands ready to help Albertans achieve this.

Your government has a vision for our province that is crafted from the dreams of Albertans, and shaped by their hopes; a vision in which all Albertans benefit from the province’s prosperity by proper, effective investments into services and infrastructure that improve quality of life; a vision of a province well-positioned to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population; a vision in which Alberta is master of its own future, and well-prepared to weather the global economic storms that appear on the horizon from time to time; a vision of a clean, healthy natural environment to be bequeathed to our children.

Above all, it is a vision of a province where individual Albertans are confident that the only limits to our success are the scope of our dreams and the strength of our desire; a province where families are strong, and where young people have a well-founded faith that the future holds promise for all in equal measure.

In this legislative session, and in all legislative sessions in which it has the privilege of governing, this government will lay out a clear plan for achieving this vision. This plan will support strong communities as the key to sustaining and enhancing our high quality of life. It will take bold action to combine development with a strong environmental ethic. And it will capitalize on new opportunities to grow our economy and secure long-term prosperity for all Albertans.

Your government will act on what Albertans have told it, and it will introduce legislation and initiatives that reflect the time-honoured values of Albertans and the bold spirit of Alberta’s future.

Albertans know that the success of the last decade has led to unprecedented opportunity. And they also know, as this government knows, that complex problems emerge as growth creates prosperity.

Albertans are concerned about access to health services, even as the province spends record amounts on health care. They are troubled by what seems to be increased crime and violence in their communities, even as new crime-prevention programs begin to reap dividends. They are bothered by traffic snarls on Alberta’s roads, even as the province invests heavily in new infrastructure. And they are anxious about the number of homeless Albertans, even as the province enjoys great prosperity.

In particular, they are concerned about the rising cost of housing and other expenses, even as family incomes increase. And they worry about the province’s natural environment, even as citizens and government become more environmentally wise with each passing year.

The government’s plan forcefully addresses these concerns, and commits to working in close partnership with Albertans on practical solutions — building a sound and sustainable legacy for the future.

Let us turn to that plan.

So far, so good. As preamble goes, it's very well worded, although piling on the negativity right at the end wouldn't have been my first choice...

A Plan for Alberta’s Health System

All those "no plan" accusations must have stung - every section of this speech is entitled "A Plan For..."

A major focus of the government’s plan for the coming year is the promotion of lifelong health. We will continue the dialogue begun at last month’s Forum on Healthy Communities to help individuals, families and communities take greater control of their health. We will work closely with community partners, First Nations and other stakeholders to address social causes of poor health, especially as they affect children and youth. And we will outline strategies to further increase access to community-based health care, and improve access to family physicians.

Your government will also take advantage of opportunities to improve the quality and safety of Alberta’s health system. From implementing provincial standards to prevent and control infection, to investing in health infrastructure — Alberta will continue building an innovative health system that is among the best in the world.

Alberta will plan and provide for its current and future health workforce needs, which is vital to improving access to services. Government will increase the number of training spaces for health care workers, continue its recruitment of internationally educated health professionals, and by working with the federal government and regulatory bodies we will make it quicker and easier for qualified professionals to join the health workforce.

These and other policy changes will be guided by a new, long-term directional plan for Alberta’s health system. The plan will create a comprehensive framework designed to support high-quality healthcare that is accessible when and where Albertans need it.

All good points... more mention of preventative steps would have been good, as well as alternative therapies. I recently began receiving cranio-sacral treatments, and my therapist is booked SOLID - recognition of the service that she (and other therapists like her) provides would go a long way towards dealing with issues before they show up at an emergency ward at 11:30 pm, with a book, a pillow, a blanket, and little hope of seeing a doctor before sun-rise.

Adding 2 more ER docs per shift, and 10 more E.R. beds per hospital, would be a hell of a good start in addressing THAT issue - if you broke your thumb and can sit, you'll be in within 60 minutes, but a back injury and you're lying on the floor for 8 hours, waiting for a bed? A recent trip to the E.R. in my family dug up an interesting tidbit - the paramedics at the E.R., waiting for a bed for their patient, had been there for 4 hours. How much would we save on money spent paying paramedics to drink coffee waiting in line at the E.R. if we paid for more beds and Docs? If they could be in and out in 20 minutes, we wouldn't need to pay so many Paramedics to be on during each shift... right?

Other aspects of the health system that Alberta can more than afford to spend on, which would pay political dividends but more importantly improve the quality of life for all Albertans: Pharmacare, full coverage of chiropractic care (if it's legitimate enough to cover PARTIALLY, isn't it legitimate enough to cover fully?), and (god forbid!) full dental coverage (a crown scheduled for later this month will cost me $1,400 out-of-pocket).

So far, I'm seeing the word "plan" a lot - this is almost certainly to contrast this government with the Klein regime, which is generally acknowledged to have been running on auto-pilot, with no real plan, for 5 or more years before Ralph left in 2006. This is a double-edged sword, though, as you don't want to be seen as the party with a pound of plans, but only an ounce of actions. Alberta's voters are a "Where's The Beef?" electorate, and want to see solid commitments to courses of action, not just plans. That's what the campaign is for.

A Plan for Education and Employment

Lifelong learning goes hand-in-hand with lifelong health as key elements of a high quality of life. International testing shows that Alberta students are already among the best in the world. This government will not let up on its efforts to further strengthen our education system.

To provide a fresh and youthful perspective on learning, the government will establish a youth advisory committee on education. This committee will explore new and innovative ways to improve the learning opportunities available to young Albertans. Your government will also co-host an education research symposium to ensure that Alberta’s learning system meets the needs of students of the 21st century. And to establish stability in Alberta’s classrooms, it will implement the historic agreement to resolve the unfunded teachers’ pension liability.

For the post-secondary education system, the government will introduce legislation to reflect how Alberta’s post-secondary institutions are operating under a new, clearly defined framework — designed to support an unprecedented era of cooperation focused on benefits for students, taxpayers and society. This new “Campus Alberta” approach will improve transferability and access for students throughout the province, and enhance the accountability of all partners to ensure accessible, affordable and quality education.

Alberta’s higher-learning institutions will be responsive to all aspects of the skilled and knowledge-based workforce, especially in high demand areas such as health-based fields and trades training.

With education comes the desire for meaningful employment. And Albertans are finding that type of employment at record rates today. In fact, with Alberta’s strong economy and low unemployment rate, meeting workforce demands continues to be a challenge. You need not go very far in Alberta to see the signs of a hot labour market and a shortage of workers.

The government and employers are working together to address this challenge through Alberta’s 10-year labour strategy: Building and Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce. This year, sector-specific strategies will be developed to address the needs of the forestry, transportation, and non-profit and volunteer sectors — and to increase participation of Aboriginal Albertans in the workforce.

With an anticipated shortage of workers and slowing inter-provincial migration, Alberta is looking abroad to help meet future labour needs. As part of Alberta’s immigration strategy, a foreign qualification recognition plan will be implemented this year. It will put in place mechanisms to ensure that newcomers with foreign credentials and work experience are able to make the most of their skills in Alberta’s economy.

Your government will expand the Provincial Nominee Program. This program allows Alberta to better target immigration towards our specific labour needs. The number of people nominated will double to 5,000 next year.

Alberta will also continue to work with the federal government to ensure that the temporary foreign worker program meets Alberta’s needs and protects temporary foreign workers. Your government will provide support to workers through new advisory offices opened in December and through stepped-up inspection of workplaces.

The employment crunch is traced back to the 4 tonne elephant in the middle of the room: Oil & gas. Students (most of them average, but even some exceptional ones) look at their options in grade 12, and see a fork in the road: One route leads to local employment, perhaps a long apprenticeship at a trade school, bouncing from office job to office job, or taking on huge student debt to try and get through university. The other route goes North, and finds them earning more money than most first-year medical doctors, at age 18. Fort McMurray, or the Shawnessy McDonald's for $10/hour? Tough call... and the kicker is, there's nothing TO be done about it. As long as the oilpatch stays this active, we will always have a shortage of workers for all the other jobs - but kudos for trying to make it easier to import some qualified help from out-of-province (and out-of-country).

The unfunded liability issue was a big deal, and I expected them to make more hay out of the agreement than they did. No mention of Mount Royal College's efforts to reach full University status - this publicly funded college is paying literally HUNDREDS of full-time staff to make this happen. If it's not GOING to, the province should SAY so, and stop wasting the College's time - and the taxpayer's money - on the effort.

A Plan for Community Infrastructure

I now turn to other aspects of your government’s plan for Alberta’s future.

Successful communities require modern, efficient public infrastructure. Catching up, and keeping up with those needs continues to be a priority. Your government has developed a 20-year strategic capital plan for Alberta that will grow our economy, add capacity to health, education and transportation, and ensure that we do keep up with the needs of a dynamic province.

This year, your government will begin construction of 18 new schools in Edmonton and Calgary, using a new model of public-private partnerships to finance and build more quickly, and more-affordably than traditional methods. SHOULD have been followed with: "Although the need to assume the temporary debt on these projects is regrettable, it is a debt which we owe to our children, and we commit to paying our debts to them, and to our private partners, in full and as soon as possible - years ahead of schedule."

The Government of Alberta recognizes the critical importance of maintaining and upgrading existing roads and highways. Over the next three years, provincial investment in highway repaving and bridge repairs will almost double, to nearly one billion dollars.

Please... somebody, tell me there's more to this... 4 paragraphs?

A Plan to Improve Services for Albertans in Their Communities

The government knows that a strong sense of compassion and desire for fairness is as much a part of Alberta’s future legacy as is economic strength. The plan for Alberta includes meaningful measures to help citizens take their rightful places in society.

We will help low- and middle-income families with the costs of care for their school-aged children, enhance the availability of out-of-school care programs, and help ensure that children are in safe, supervised environments before and after school.

Government will work with First Nations and M├ętis Albertans to strengthen their important roles in Alberta. Effective partnerships will be created to support Aboriginal economic development and employment opportunities. And Alberta will work with other governments, friendship centres, and other Aboriginal representatives to enhance urban Aboriginal initiatives.

Your government recognizes the aspirations and special needs of Albertans with disabilities. Benefits under the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped program will be increased, and additional employment supports will be provided to those AISH clients who want to work. Take THAT, Ralph!

Further investments will help contracted agencies attract and retain qualified workers to support adults with developmental disabilities, as well as children and families.

A demographic planning commission will be appointed to study the needs of an aging population. Its findings will help government develop an aging population policy framework to help decision-makers prepare for meeting the needs of future seniors. Meeting the needs of future seniors is great, and important. I'M a future senior. But there are 362,000 voters over age 65 in this province, and many of them don't, to coin a phrase, give a tinker's damn what wonderful plan we have in 5 years, after the committees all meet. They want to know what you're going to do for THEM - and you've got 27 days left to convince them.

Your government will continue to take aggressive action on affordable housing and homelessness. It will work to fulfill its pledge to create more than 11,000 new affordable housing units over five years, and it will partner with municipalities to increase the supply of available rental accommodation, particularly for students and seniors.

It will take steps to end homelessness in Alberta within 10 years with the creation of the Alberta Secretariat for Action on Homelessness. The secretariat will work closely with municipalities throughout the province to co-ordinate and support regional strategies, using the best practices of programs that have worked.

Cultural vitality is also important to Albertans. In 2008, the government will implement its bold, new policy — The Spirit of Alberta — to guide decisions on the support and development of Alberta’s culture. Collaboration between government and the private and not-for-profit sectors will be vital to ensure that the province has a vibrant arts sector in the future, and is recognized nationally and internationally as innovative and competitive.

These are very good commitments... there's again a lot of mentioning of plans, or of bold new strategies... I'm wondering if these plans and strategies are available for Henry and Martha to read, ahead of polling day? Normally they might ask their MLA, but wouldn't you know it - for some reason, their offices are closed right now...

A Plan to Reduce Crime and Violence

Your government understands that people must feel safe in their homes and their communities. That’s why Alberta will allocate significant new funding to implement an aggressive strategy to reduce crime and make all our communities safer.

Alberta will be getting tougher with law-breakers, especially chronic offenders — the small percentage of criminals who commit most of the crimes — and working harder to prevent some of the root causes of crime by increasing access to mental health services and treatment for drug addictions. Take THAT, Brian Mason! About time, and likely to be very effective.

Your government will provide funding to add more front-line police officers to target serious crimes involving violence and drugs — crimes that erode our sense of safety. It will launch a new investigative unit to target organized criminal activities in our communities such as drug dens, gang and prostitution houses. This unit will support safe communities by shutting down these properties that are breeding grounds for crime and disturbances that can devastate neighbourhoods.

Preventing criminals from re-offending is a critical factor in crime reduction. Alberta will put more probation officers in communities to enhance offender supervision and provide increased support and direction to offenders who want to break the revolving door cycle of crime and become contributing members of society. New funding will be allocated to appoint more judges and hire more crown prosecutors and support staff. This will help speed up the justice system, and get law-breakers off the streets and behind bars faster.

Your government will also develop a strategy to foster sensible alcohol use and reduce alcohol-related harm. It will also increase the number of inspectors to ensure that the rules regarding the sale and consumption of alcohol in licensed establishments are respected.

All very good, and likely to play well to the "law and order" voters. Notable by its absence is any mention of the plan championed by some in government to make all peace officers in the province "Alberta Sheriff's", including Fish & Wildlife Officers, Forestry Officers, and Parks Conservation Officers. Since that plan also includes replacing the RCMP in doing rural community policing, likely it's been put on the back-burner, while they train the neccessary numbers to do the job.

A Plan for the Environment

This is one of my pet interests... pleaseohpleaseohplease be good...

It’s no secret that Albertans have a special relationship with the land. Our province is big, beautiful and bountiful, and we are grateful for the opportunities it gives us. We place a high value on clean air, clean water and pristine open spaces.

With growth comes unprecedented pressure on Alberta’s landscape, and this must be effectively managed. There are competing demands from forestry, mining, oil and gas, recreation, housing and infrastructure — often on the same parcels of land. This leads to conflict between users and has the potential to degrade the land, air and water. So where is our promised "Integrated Land and Water Use Framework"? Minister Morton?

Alberta must ensure that the land — your land — is managed responsibly for future generations. The old, ad hoc approach is no longer appropriate. An innovative new approach to land-use planning and assessing the cumulative effects of development is designed to safeguard our environmental heritage in a time of phenomenal growth.

In particular, the Government of Alberta will continue to strengthen environmental protection for the oil sands region — the site of several approved and proposed major developments.

In partnership with the energy sector and other Albertans, government will develop a strategy for responsible energy development and use in Alberta. The strategy will encourage innovative energy development, focusing on renewable and alternative energy, and reducing energy consumption through efficiency and conservation.

Alberta will continue to strive to be an international leader on climate change issues. The government will implement a practical and achievable climate change plan to ensure that the environment is protected and that Alberta remains a secure and sustainable supplier of energy.

Your government will also begin work with industry to put in place the infrastructure needed to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions from large industrial facilities. This is a move that will see truly significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in our province, and will ensure that Alberta’s energy is clean energy.

Alberta will also continue to be a leader in water management. Water for Life, the most comprehensive strategy of its kind in North America, has guided water management policies in this province since 2003. However, population growth and the effects of climate change are putting new pressures on water supply and aquatic ecosystems.

The government is responding to those pressures. It will increase funding to improve knowledge of surface and groundwater resources, and increase the capacity to monitor water resources. The upcoming year will see a renewed focus on watershed planning, and water quality conservation.

There is no question that Albertans want to do their part to protect the environment — while others talk, Albertans lead. The next decade requires immediate and meaningful action to protect the environment. This government, working with Albertans, will meet that challenge with practical policies designed to reach achievable goals.

The PC's take a beating when promising "immediate... action", yet releasing plans like the recent one that will reduce net GHG emissions within 20 years.

One sensible action that would also reap rewards at the polling booth was notably absent from this section of the speech - the expansion of Alberta's Provincial Parks system.

Campgrounds that had been pristine and well-run, featuring free firewood and interpretive programs at the spotless aphitheatre for the kids, are now a thing of the past. Most of the campgrounds are privately run, just one notch higher than "condemned" as laid out in their private contracts. Firewood costs $4 to $8 per bag, and firepits are being ripped out of the most popular day-use spots for "forest fire concerns", while it's perfectly legal to hike into the forest for 2 kilometres, pick up deadfall (for free!), and start a fire in the middle of the forest.

Take back the campgrounds - put back the firepits - and make some new parks. There are huge swaths of land near Calgary that are currently used for forestry, including parts of Kananaskis Country. Making some of those into full Provincial Parks would be monetarily cheap, and symbolically significant. Encouraging the use of our parks and protected areas saves millions in health care dollars, and improves our quality of life - which makes us much more likely to vote for the government in office, by the way. Heck, shore up your right flank by naming one of the new parks "Preston Manning Provincial Park", while you're at it. But, save for a few ticked off campground operators and sawmills operators, there's no good reason not to put the shine back on our Parks system.

A Plan for the Cornerstones of Alberta’s Economy

Even as Alberta’s economy diversifies, Albertans rely on the economic cornerstones of energy, agriculture, tourism and forestry for much of the province’s employment and economic stability.

A strong, thriving energy sector will continue to be a foundation of Alberta’s economy.

This year, government will make the necessary legislative and process changes to implement the new royalty framework, which comes into effect on January 1, 2009. This will fulfill your government’s commitment to ensure that Albertans receive a fair return for the development of the natural resources they own.

At the same time, the new framework recognizes the importance of Alberta’s hydrocarbon industry, both to the present and the future of our province. It will maintain Alberta’s position as an internationally competitive location for new investment and sustained development that will continue to provide thousands of jobs for Albertans and keep the economy strong. Alberta's hydocarbon industry is important to the future only in that, if royalties are properly invested today, it will help to fund it. As I've said before, hydrocarbons will full the same niche as 8-track tapes by the time I have grandchildren. "Oil? We used to use it for everything... now you can't GIVE it away." Diversify or die, Alberta.

Over the coming year, the energy regulatory system will be enhanced. Albertans can have confidence in this system. The new regulatory bodies that have been established will bring renewed focus to ensuring that Albertans affected by energy development are engaged and respected as part of the decision-making process. Is this putting lipstick on the pig? Or a 180 in progress?

Another economic cornerstone — agriculture — is as much a cultural foundation of Alberta as it is an economic one. Agriculture in Alberta has a long, rich and proud history. It is a sector upon which many of the great traditions of Alberta have been built.

Make no mistake: this government stands firm in its commitment to Alberta’s agriculture and food producers, and in its resolve to help them thrive in the face of global challenges. Our farmers and ranchers have successfully weathered some tough times in recent years, and emerged as hardy and resilient as the land on which they toil. The BSE crisis has receded, for now at least, and grain and oilseed prices are strong. But this sector faces new challenges with the increasing input costs and a high Canadian dollar.

Alberta will continue to work with agricultural producers to create long-term and industry-wide sustainability. Your government understands that industry is in the best position to develop its own vision and strategic initiatives, and will work directly with individual agriculture industries on a new competitiveness initiative. It will bring forward recommendations that will help transform the sector and promote long-term sustainability.

At the same time, Alberta will work to increase market access for all its agricultural products, both at home and abroad. On the world stage, this government will continue to advocate for an agreement in World Trade Organization negotiations to reduce harmful foreign subsidies, and increase access to key export markets. Within Canada, this government will continue to support the federal government in its plan for grain marketing reforms, including marketing choice for wheat and barley.

All points that will get the farmers to vote for Ed - like they weren't going to before. :)

Like agriculture, forestry is facing challenges. Through the Forest Industry Sustainability Committee, industry and government will explore opportunities to improve industry’s competitive position in world markets.

Alberta is also firmly committed to protecting the health of its forests. The government will remain vigilant in the battle against the mountain pine beetle. The focus in 2008-2009 will be protecting the watersheds of the foothills and preventing the front-line of the infestation from moving into the boreal forest.

I know a little about MPB - by NO means am I an expert. But the long and short of it is, we CAN'T beat the beetle. It's here, it's still coming, and we're screwed. Our pine forests WILL be decimated by this thing - it's doing exactly what it's supposed to, exactly what nature intended, and only our own ignorance has led to the current problem.

Had we let the forests burn when struck by lightning over the past hundred years, instead of putting out the fires to save property, then many parts of the forest would be too young today, having been regenerated by their fires, and the MPB would fly right on by, continuing a cycle that has run for HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS, IF NOT MILLIONS OF YEARS. The government needs to aggressively support efforts to plant a variety of trees, as many as the land can sustain. When the pines are gone - and they will be gone - something else is going to need to be there, to protect the watershed. Telling forestry to cut a 50 kilometre swath running north to south along our border with BC will make them a lot of money short term, but won't help against Pine Beetle a damned bit. Unless the sun goes out, and they (and we) freeze to death, we need another plan.

A Plan for Managing Public Dollars Wisely; A Plan for Health Care Premiums

It’s clear that the plan outlined here today relies heavily — and wisely — on the people of Alberta in order for success to be achieved. But there is one part of the plan that relies directly on government. That area is the wise, prudent management of public dollars.

Today, as North America’s only debt-free jurisdiction (not counting P3's), Alberta has a unique opportunity to secure long-term prosperity for its citizens — and your government pledges to make the very best of that opportunity.

It will introduce a new savings strategy with a revitalized Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund, and a renewed commitment to save for the future. It will continue to give Albertans the opportunity to keep as much of their own hard-earned income as possible.

Fundamental to this philosophy is the principle that all Albertans must benefit from the opportunities that Alberta creates, and enjoy, as much as possible, the fruits of their labour. To support that principle, the government will maintain Alberta’s competitive tax advantage.

In 2008, your government will go even further to achieve this principle. This year, it will introduce legislation to phase out Alberta Health Care insurance premiums for all Albertans.

This legislation will lay out a plan for the elimination of premiums within four years. This will be achieved in a measured and fiscally responsible manner.

If you announce another $5 Billion surplus before my health care premium has been eliminated - there's going to be some 'splainin' to do...

Premiums have served their purpose in Alberta over the years. But in today’s Alberta, the time is right for Albertans to reap additional direct rewards of their ingenuity and their hard work. The elimination of premiums is a reward whose time has come.

Damn straight, and I can't find a single Albertan who disagrees. So you've cut THAT leg of the Liberal platform right out from underneath them. Good policy, and good politics, in the same move. The "four years" is pushing it, though. Maybe "2 years" would be an easier sell.

Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen, these are the highlights of your government’s plan for the coming year, and its vision for the future.

Besides these highlights, your government will move in many different areas over the next year to ensure that barriers to success are removed for all Albertans, and that the day-to-day work of government is conducted effectively and honourably.

What I personally wouldn't give for an official policy on "acceptable behaviour in the Legislative Chambers"... I'm almost embarassed to watch Question Period, thinking some day I'm going to be yelling at my kids to stop doing what their political leaders, grown adults, do every day, on my dime.

Today’s Alberta requires new ideas and new energy. The plan I have outlined is a bold response to the challenges brought about by growth. It is a clear set of answers to the issues Albertans want to see addressed. It is a roadmap to economic security and improved quality of life. It reverberates with the values and aspirations of Albertans from all walks of life.

It is a plan for the millions of Albertans who demonstrate their pride, energy and dignity every day across the width and breadth of our great province; a plan to enable young families to achieve their dreams; a plan for seniors who have dedicated lifetimes to Alberta; and a plan to build the prosperous and dynamic future all Albertans desire.

Together, we will build our legacy over the next decade and beyond. And we will continue to respect the values that this province has come to stand for over the last 103 years — values that excite the heart and spirit of each one of us who are lucky enough to be able to say: “Alberta is my home.”

God bless Alberta. God bless Canada. God save the Queen. Take THAT, atheists and monarchy abolitionists!

End of Speech... E.S. is now Back in Black.

Nation, as Speeches from the Throne go, this one is very good. By their nature, these speeches are supposed to be big on stated intention, and small on details - that's what budgets are for.

In the next 27 days, Team Stelmach is going to have to start providing details. "A Plan to Make a Plan" is what the detractors are saying about this speech, and in the absence of specific policy and platform announcements, it will be taken as the Tory platform in full.

There is much to like in this speech - many things that will improve the quality of life for a great many Albertans. Criticisms that I have strewn through the speech are offered as points of weakness that should be addressed to fully flesh out the programs and policies of the Tories ahead of polling day.

With respect to Ed, this election isn't just about "who we trust" - it's also about what you say you're going to do. The Liberals have committed to wholescale change, because they say the Tories have been so obviously screwed up for so long - still wondering what Taft thinks that makes US, the people who keep electing such "obvious screw-ups" time-and-again - and they have provided some detailed plans (although a detailed analysis of the COST would be nice, too). As the party with access to ALL of the numbers, I'd expect no less a detailed plan, and cost break-down, from the PC's.

All told, I like this speech more than the Alternative delivered by Kevin Taft last week. As the basis of an election platform there are deficiencies, though - and they need to be addresssed before you ask people to vote for you based on its contents. Also notable, is the fact that Taft's speech was delivered by the man himself - the Throne Speech was delivered by Norm Kwong, who is non-attackable for his delivery, or his partisanship - neither is an issue. After all, we didn't elect Norm to be a great speaker.

What's that?

Oh... never mind.

Progressive Conservatives, if you want our trust, and our consent to be governed - you have to earn both. This speech makes a great skeleton - now, show me some detailed plans. Give me some specific, measurable commitments. ANYTHING so that, in 4 years, *I* can look at your record and decide whether or not you kept your promises, rather than waiting for the predictable-as-sunrise "Promises Kept" press release on the eve of the next election.

Which should, by the way, be formally scheduled and announced as such at a press conference on March 4th, 2008. Add that to the platform... that suggestion is on the house. ;)

- E.S.

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