Saturday, March 28, 2009

Live(ish) Blogging the Calgary West AGM

Nation, I'm not at the Calgary West AGM today myself, however I DO have sources on the inside, who will be feeding me information as today's events go down.

As of 1:00 pm, there are about 60 people milling about outside the hall - spirits are reportedly high.

UPDATED 1:18 pm

Both "candidates" (MP Rob Anders and Donna Kennedy-Glans) are at the hall. Kennedy-Glans approached the MP and offered him a handshake - he blew her off and refused to shake. Classy.

UPDATED 1:54 pm

Estimates suggest that the Calgary West PC AGM may, in fact, be a "standing room only" affair. A lot of people have turned out, which is either very good for the incumbent and his board, or very, very bad.

UPDATED 1:59 pm

Conservative (as oppsed to "closeted Liberal") estimates put the turn-out at 500 to 600 people. For an AGM and Board election.

The proceedings are about to get underway.

UPDATED 2:40 pm

Nominations came and went, the voting has finished, and the counting has commenced. Obviously, both sides want to be VERY sure that the ballots are counted carefully, and a result is expected by 5 or 6 o'clock.

UPDATED 3:23 pm

Reportedly, the meeting and the voting went very smoothly. No one with a valid membership was turned away, and everyone had the chance to vote for their choices for the Board of Directors. So, no shenanigans. With the media in attendance, the heat was on the EDA to get this one right.

UPDATED 4:11 pm

Just got off the phone with a source, who indicated that the voting and nominations were run in an extremely professional manner. Nominations were taken from those within the hall, as well as those who couldn't fit and had to stand outside. Supporters of both "sides" proved to be very civil (even if the MP couldn't bring himself to be), which bodes well for the party in Calgary West after all is said and done. Scrutineers have been brought in from other Tory EDA's to count the ballots and certify the results. When I know, you'll know.

UPDATED 7:02 pm

The Donna Kennedy-Glans-backed slate of candidates has been elected as the Board of Directors for the Calgary West EDA of the Conservative Party of Canada.
More as it develops.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It's never too early...

So, I'm doing my usual Wednesday-morning Blog reading, and I come across something interesting on Both Barrels (not that that's unusual - Mark's always a great read): A story about the worst-kept secret in federal politics, the schism within the Conservative Party of Canada.

It's no secret that the merger of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and the Canadian Alliance left a bad taste in a lot of mouths, from both camps: A lot of rock-ribbed CA/Reform members had a hard time swallowing the fact that they were getting into bed with the party of Mulroney, which their entire party had come into existence to try and fight. Likewise, a lot of PC party members had more than a few qualms about becoming the centre-right flank of a party made up overwhelmingly of the old Reform Party apparatus, associating it with a regional rump protest movement, at best. There were differences in technical details of how the party should be run, how a leader should be selected, how the party constitution should be written, and (perhaps the most heated arguments) what the party's policies should be.

There has been a wrestling match going on for the heart and soul of the Conservative Party of Canada since the day it was founded. And the only thing that pushed the issue to the side was the fact that the stars aligned, Justice Gomery wrote his report, and the Tories found themselves in government - in a precarious minority situation, which called for closed-ranks party unity to be the order of the day.

That was 3 years ago.

Since that first minority government win for the Tories, they've had another kick at the cat - and ALMOST made it across the "majority government" threshold, but not quite.

We're almost certainly headed for an election within the next year - and the general consensus seems to be that the Tories will not be able to win a majority government - if, in fact, they can win at all.

A third minority win - or a defeat - would almost certainly lead to Stephen Harper deciding to step aside as leader of the Conservative Party. And at that point, leaderless and possibly out of government, the schism that's been kept mostly quiet for the past 3 years will very publicly fracture wide open, for all the world to see.

The split will be mainly along Social Policy lines, as the "2 solitudes" within the Tories are pretty similar in thier fiscal ideas (or similar enough to not fight about them) and the next party to win an election based on promises of electoral reform will be the first (sorry, Manning-ites - I'm with you, but that dog won't hunt out East, where they've got all the ballots and are disinclined to give up that power). The social moderates, who are former PC's, former far-left fringe CA members or are young enough centrists to never have been either but can't stomach the Liberals, will rally behind their choice for leader. The hard-liners, social conservatives, will look at this as a chance to "take the party back" now that they don't feel they have to pander to Eastern moderates to hold onto power, and will try to consolidate their core power base behind a like-minded leader in the Reagan Republican, social-conservative tradition.

The article Mark pointed to from the Hill Times mentions a few possible names from each side, as well as an intriguing possibility, which they mentioned right at the end.

My question to YOU, both in the poll to your right and in the comments section for this post, is this: Which of the listed possible leadership contenders do you think would have the best chance at leading the Conservative Party of Canada, however it is remade into their own image as Leader, to a majority government?

Plenty to consider, here... someone who would appeal to old PC's and soft Liberals would have a good chance at winning a General Election - but too MUCH appeal to the centrists could spell trouble if the right-wing of the CPC splits off or stays home in protest of what they perceive as "Liberal Lite" policies. Likewise, a unifying force that can keep both sides of the party together but has little charisma, or too much political baggage, will likely never win a majority government. And then, of course, there's the fact that the eventual leader is probably going to have to be able to out-debate a Harvard scholar on live television.

That said, here are your candidates, as suggested in the Hill Times piece:

  • Jim Prentice (Alberta)
  • Peter McKay (Nova Scotia)
  • Stockwell Day (British Columbia)
  • Jason Kenney (Alberta)
  • Jean Charest (Quebec)

So, Nation? Let's hear it - not who you'd PREFER, but who on the list above you think, as astute political observers, would have the best chance of holding the Tories together and winning over the rest of the country.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Calgary West Conservatives Have a Chance to be Heard!

Nation, I often get up on this cyber soap-box to speak to the millions and millions of members of E.S. Nation all at once.

Today, however, I have a much narrower focus - with apologies to the rest of you.

Today, I'm going to talk only to the 487,031 of you who visit this site from locations in the Federal Electoral District of Calgary West (the numbers might be a little off - SiteMeter's been giving me problems).

More specifically, I want to have a word with those of you who LIVE in Calgary West, and are (or were, as of December 2008) members of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Not that this is a very well-kept secret, but you've all got a meeting to attend next Saturday, March the 28th.

"E.S.," you say, "I can't in good conscience lay down ten hard-earned dollars to support the CPC in my riding... look who my CANDIDATE is!".

And to you, I say... that is precisely WHY you have to go to this meeting.

The reality of Calgary West is that it will vote for the Conservative Party candidate, and handily elect them, whenever the opportunity presents itself. There is incredible support in the riding for the party. No matter WHOM is running under the party banner, or whom is running AGAINST them, the Conservative Party candidate will carry the day. Calgary West is, at its core, a small-c conservative and big-c Conservative riding. They're not interested in supporting Liberals, New Democrats, or any of their proxies. With this in mind, then, it's clear that the most important decision-making body in Calgary West is the Conservative Party of Canada Calgary West Electoral District Association.

They're the most important, because they set the rules governing the local CPC nomination race. The winner of that race becomes the Conservative flag-bearer in Calgary West - and, as result, the Member of Parliament. The 30-or-so members of the Calgary West EDA essentially get to set the rules that determine who the M.P. will be.

And on Saturday, March the 28th at 2 pm, the assembled members of the Conservative Party of Canada who reside in Calgary West will elect that board. The board that will go on to set nomination rules that will determine the Conservative Party candidate for the election that most agree will be less than a year from now.

The nomination itself is very much in flux at this point in time. Depending on who you ask, there may not even BE a race, as the Conservative Party seems fixated on protecting incumbent M.P.'s, including the one in Calgary West, from having to fight nomination battles. The reason we're given, which seems valid enough, is that in the minority parliament, M.P.'s need to be in Ottawa casting votes to keep the government in office, rather than in their ridings fighting nomination battles. A lot of the old Reform party members, the true believers in grassroots, bottom-up democracy, have a bit of a hard time swallowing this reasoning, though. And they're not the only ones.

Donna Kennedy-Glans met her husband at the Progressive Conservative National Convention in 1981. You read that right, "Progressive Conservative", not "Liberal", as some have accused her of being. She's been involved in federal big-c Conservative politics since Rob Anders was about 8 years old (and, thus, one can reasonably assume that if either of the 2 could be called a "recent" convert to the Conservative cause, it would have to be young Mr. Anders, unless he held a membership while gestating).

Kennedy-Glans made headlines during the last federal election, when she revealed the contents of a discussion that she and another gentleman had had with Anders over a dinner that was won through a charity auction. Anders has declared that, as Kennedy-Glans released information that hurt HIM, she was clearly working to sabotage the entire Conservative Party, and is thus obviously a Liberal saboteur (Rob, you'll recall, uses "Liberal" the same way McCarthy used "Communist" - it's a euphemism for "someone I don't like, and you shouldn't like them either because I know what's best for you" - not that Rob has shied away from calling people "Communist", either).

Now, having had enough of the notion that her sacred democratic franchise is in the hands of Rob Anders, to do with as he pleases without the input of the constituents of Calgary West or even the formal blessings of the riding's Conservative Party members through a nomination vote, Donna Kennedy-Glans has decided she wants to stand for nomination for the Conservative Party of Canada in the riding of Calgary West.

Kennedy-Glans wants to represent Calgary West in Parliament.

As a Conservative.

Which she's been since long before Anders even started embarrassing his own country as a paid Republican hit-man in senate races.

One problem:

The current CPC Calgary West EDA Board of Directors, as elected by the party's members in the riding, is more inclined to protect Anders' incumbency and NOT HOLD a nomination race than they are to let the party membership decide on whom should be carrying their banner (and, let's be honest, getting elected in the General Election).

So... Kennedy-Glans, like hundreds of successful politicians before her (and some not-so-successful), wants to get some people elected to the EDA's Board of Directors who are friendly to her - or at least open to the idea of an open nomination process - and will present a slate of candidates for Board membership at the Annual General Meeting of the Calgary West EDA on Saturday, March 28th at 2 pm.

How can YOU affect the results?

Easy... show up, and vote for a Board of Directors that shares your views on the democratic process.

MY view? Democracy is a pain in the butt. It's inconvenient. It's inefficient to have incumbents face challenges for nominations. And it is absolutely, 100% critical that it take place anyhow. On a party level - if you can't even cast a vote to say who you'd like representing your party in your riding during the election, why on earth would you want to be a member of that party in the first place? On a larger level - why on earth would we want to be governed by a party that doesn't even value the opinions of its own members - despite the populist movement that gave birth to the party in the first place?

You have the opportunity, Calgary West CPC members, to elect an EDA Board of Directors that values your opinion, and feels it should be heeded. Don't let that opportunity slip by.

"But E.S., I don't have a party membership, can I buy one at the door
and vote?"

No, you can't. You can buy one at the door and LISTEN, or even participate in discussion, but to vote at the AGM you have to have been a member of the Conservative Party of Canada, resident in Calgary West, no later than March 8th, 2009.

"What if I had a 2008 membership, but haven't renewed?"

DO it - the CPC has a 90-day "grace" period for lapsed memberships - so if you had a party membership that lapsed on December 31st 2008, you can still vote at the AGM. Contact the Conservative Party Membership Services Department in Ottawa, at 1-866-808-8407 or via email at

Calgary West's Annual General Meeting for the purpose of electing a new board of directors, a report by the current board of directors and the presentation of financial statements will be held on:

Saturday, March 28 at 2pm at the Montgomery Community Centre, located at: 5003 16 Avenue NW.

Your membership must be in good standing, at least 21 days prior to March 28, 2009 for you to appear on the list of members eligible to vote for the new board of directors.

You will need to bring photo identification that verifies you are on the voting members list, and may be required to present further identification proving you currently reside within the electoral district boundaries of Calgary West.

If you have any questions you may contact Calgary West's Vice President of Communications at 403-608-8858.

Friday, March 20, 2009

If You Pay Peanuts...

... you get Monkeys.

Or so the old saying goes. Although, there's a flaw in the statement on its face, because who associates monkeys with peanuts? Nobody. When I saw "peanut", the first member of the animal kingdom that springs to mind is whom? That's right - the elephant.

But I digress. Which, at the START of a conversation, is pretty darned impressive.

Nation, the question of pay and benefits for our elected representatives has again reared its head, with the recent examples of Calgary City Council's decision to NOT actively participate in discussion of their own pay, and the severance packages paid out to former MLA's who retired prior to the last provincial election.

Now, there have been plenty of suggestions made about how, exactly, we should go about setting the pay of our elected officials. Whether it's a direct correlation to another position (in the case of provincial MLA salaries, they were linked to judges), or through an arcane equation that factors in inflation, quality of life measures, or economic health (or a combination thereof), there seems to be one over-riding sentiment:

We don't want politicians deciding how much they should be paid.

So, once we get past the fact that we seem to be in near universal agreement on the issue of what we DON'T want, the question becomes: What DO we want?

I've heard a lot of suggestions as late - some of them make sense to me and some of them don't, but if everyone had the same taste, you'd all be chasing the future Mrs. Savage - which, lucky for me, you're not. Some of the more notable ones include tying the salary for MLA's directly to the provincial minimum wage, and tying City council salaries to the annual budgetary property tax increases - as in, the more taxes go UP, the more Council salaries go DOWN.

I'm not thrilled with either of those plans. They're both a starting point, certainly, but the most obvious problems that apply to both proposals are twofold: Firstly, they assume that the only way to measure performance of a government is by using economic factors as a measuring stick. Secondly, they're both able to be directly affected by the politicians themselves - the provincial government can easily raise the minimum wage, to get themselves a raise as well (devastating small business-people in the process). Likewise, city council can hold the line on property taxes so as not to take a hit on their own paycheques - thus denying residents of much needed programs and services.

To my mind, there needs to be a way of measuring quality of life, and taking that into account when determining political pay.

One suggestion I read along those lines suggested letting the people of the constituency decide what their representative was worth. This would be all fine and good, except for the vast swaths of uninformed voters, who would shipped to the polls by the busload from churches and community centres by the incumbent's campaign, promising them NEW community centres and schools, etc, if they vote to give him/her a raise to a paltry $130,000/year.

Let's remember that many of these same voters consider Jarome Iginla underpaid at $7,000,000/year.

Plus, factor in that $75,000 goes a LOT further in, say, Cardston than it does in Fort Mac.

Ultimately, we're going to have to decide how it is that we determine pay variance, and how often it applies. Does the salary of a city councillor, for example, change every year? Or is it set for the 3 years of their term, and then reviewed and changed before the next election? Whatever we decide, though, we're going to have to STICK to it, and not rake our leaders over the coals when they refuse to directly intervene in the process (as Calgary's council did earlier this year). We want to set these structures up so that the politicians can't directly decide how much they should get paid - and we should remind ourselves that THAT particular blade cuts both ways - neither should they be able to decide how LITTLE they get paid.

Some public servants, after all, donate huge sums - in rare cases, the ENTIRETY of their salary - to charity.

We need to make sure, though, that we're compensating public officials fairly in comparison to the private sector. We don't want to OVER-pay, and end up with MLA's who are just in it for the money. Neither, though, do we want to UNDER-pay, and end up with underqualified people trying to run the business of government, because everyone with any expertise is making 4 times as much in the private sector.

This is far from a simple question - but it IS an important one. The entire reason I set up this blog in the first place wasn't so I could stand on my own soapbox and scream partisan slogans or spread rumours anonymously or get caught up in my own perceived importance - it's so I can help us, ALL of us, participate in an actual CONVERSATION from time to time, about issues that actually MATTER*.

So, I put it to you, Nation: What should we be paying our political representatives? How should that pay be determined? How often should we review it? By what means?

*statement does not apply to posts related to sports or e.s.'s lordship over the alberta political blogosphere

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Okay, Nation... it's been over a year now since the most recent Provincial Election saw the "Opposition 11" sent to the Legislature to try their best to hold the government, and its 72 MLA's, to account over how this province is being run.

Many of the readers of this blog are the type who pay attention to the goings-on under the Dome in between elections and so for the next week, I'd like some analysis from YOU - as little as a vote, as much as a paragraph in the comments section - as to who the most effective Opposition member has been over the past year.

The new poll, posted to your right, casts you in the role of a PC Cabinet Minister.

"You're a Minister in the Alberta Government, and a damaging report is about to be issued about your department. Question Period starts in 2 minutes. The Opposition Member you LEAST want to see standing to ask you a question is..."

Your options, of course, are as follows:

  • Dr. David Swann
  • Laurie Blakeman
  • Harry Chase
  • Kent Hehr
  • Darshan Kang
  • Hugh MacDonald
  • Bridget Pastoor
  • Dr. Kevin Taft
  • Dave Taylor
  • Brian Mason
  • Rachel Notley

So, sound off, Nation - which of the "Opposition 11" is the most extraordinary? Which one do YOU fear, Mr. Minister?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Things that probably seemed like a better idea on paper...

Okay, Nation, this one's going to take some technical know-how...

Open your favourite media player, and post the following URL into the "play URL" field:

I'm looking for reactions - about the content, please, not the sound quality.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Imported Discussion from TPB about the Responsibilities of Elected Members

Tiny Perfect Blog raised an interesting question on her blog in light of comments by the Premier about Tories asking pointed question of other Tories in the Legislature:

"Is Stelmach suggesting that most of the time they don’t reflect the views of their constituents?"

I thought I'd take her up on her question, and there have been good anonymous comments as well. Rather than highjack someone else's blog to post my own, long diatribes, I thought I'd re-post the discussion here.

Anonymous said (@9:15 am)...
I think he might be revealing the fact that most of the questions are written by Ministers staff. Alberta should end the ridiculous charade of PC backbenchers claiming to hold the Cabinet colleagues accountable in the Assembly.
Enlightened Savage said (@10:48 am)...
Good question, TPB. Let me ask another one...

When was the last time an NDP MLA tabled a letter from a constituent applauding the PC Government for something? Or are we expected to believe that none of the thousands of PC voters in the NDP ridings has EVER written a letter to their MLA?

Blind devotion to the mighty Party Line is not the exclusive domain of the Tories.

Anonymous said (@12:36 pm)...
ES: Decent point, though that's not really the opposition's job. The government has dozens of dutiful Tory backbenchers to pat them on the back. So it is surprising when, occasionally, a Tory backbencher asks a real question (even if the Minister still knows it's coming). This practice of Tories asking "questions" of Tories really should end.

The only party that doesn't seem to have a party-line these days is the Libs. Anybody know when a real shot will be fired in the so-called "revolution"?

The 2 highlighted portions really stirred up my blogging muscles. Which led to this, below...

Enlightened Savage said (@1:21 pm, but not on TPB)...
Anon@12:36 - It's not really ANYONE'S job to represent their party - an artifical construct within the political system - or its views, policies or aspirations ahead of those of their constituents.

Every single Member is obliged to ask questions and make statements on behalf of the citizens within their constituency - the same citizens who pay them, and hire them (through election) to represent them (even the ones who voted for someone else). Opposition MLA's are supposed to offer alternative solutions and hold the government to account - but they're also supposed to represent the people in their riding ahead of their own party, and when the people of Edmonton-Riverview support a government program or initiative, I want to hear Kevin Taft SAY so. Likewise, when they're opposed to a government program in Fort Mac, I want to hear Guy Boutilier stand up and say so (fat chance, in both cases).

PC MLA's have to ask questions of cabinet ministers in QP because the citizens of the constituency want and deserve answers, on the record, about their concerns (as opposed to "puffball questions", which are unfortunately present in EVERY parliament from the government back-benches). Our system doesn't recognize "this member is affiliated with the same party as the government, and therefore should already have the answer" - that's why the Speaker identifies members by constituency, rather than by name or party. When, for example, Dave Rodney asks a question, it is (in theory) the people of Calgary-Lougheed that want an answer, hence the Speaker's recognition of "The Honourable Member from Calgary-Lougheed".
Of course, the drawback to this is that the people of, for example, Calgary West seem NEVER to have a question of their provincial government - or at least, I can't find one in Hansard. Because ministers typically don't ask questions of other ministers - even if the people in their riding are clamouring for answers.

The fact that virtually all parliaments abuse this function to toss out "puffball questions" for ministers to promote various programs during time that should be spent earnestly asking - and thoroughly answering - important questions of the day is unfortunate - but is a sad reality of the hyper-partisan party system under which our political apparatus operates - it's ALWAYS time to get ready for the next election. :(

I've got no compunctions about highjacking MY blog for this discussion (I've already cleared it with myself, and myself is fine with it), so... discuss. :)

Crime Bill Death-Match: Bill 50 vs. Bill 201

Long time no see, Nation.

Before I get right into it, I wanted to touch very quickly on a couple of items that have crossed my desk in the past week-to-ten-days since we talked last.

Firstly, yes, I am aware that the much-lamented AlbertaTory dusted off his keyboard to make one last, gasping attempt at blogging before taking down his blog for good. I've been working on how to properly run a 3-4 Defence and balancing my approach to the running game as related to the passing game, so I didn't have a chance to read it - although, I understand there were veiled references to me in the piece. Can anyone "enlighten" me? We wish AlbertaTory all the best in his future endeavours - and we're in the market for a Defensive Co-ordinator. He knows how to get in touch...

Secondly, I was pleased and honoured to be able to take part in a great piece written by Trevor Scott Howell for FFWD Magazine this week, entitled "The Rise of Political Blogs". It was particularly humbling to be interviewed for the same piece that featured members of Alberta's blogging glitterati, including daveberta, the gang at AGRDT, and my Blog-father, Ken Chapman. Mr. Howell did a wonderful job taking my mental meanderings and forming them into something coherent - and he also blogs himself, so be sure to add him to your regular reads.

As a TOTAL aside - I'm hating the fact that most of the "heavy hitters" among Alberta's blogging community are in the Capital region. Come on, Calgary - where are your political opinions? As it stands right now, I *think* that Calgary could possibly field a BOWLING TEAM of bloggers (myself, djkelly, Kirk Schmidt and Shane from CalgaryRants). Do we need to lure CalgaryGrit back home?

NOW then, on to the Main Event of the Evening...

Regular readers of Capital Notebook, or people who, like myself, are cool enough that they read the Hansard for fun, will no doubt already be very aware of the civilized (mostly) steel cage match that has been developing since the Legislature came back into session between up-and-coming Liberal MLA and Twitterer (Tweeter?) Kent Hehr (Calgary-Buffalo) and Justice Minister Allison Redford (Calgary-Elbow). The ridings, for those of you wondering, are separated only by the lonely riding of Calgary-Currie, which (if things get any more heated between the 2) may be re-named "Calgary-Demilitarized Zone" in the redistribution. In all honesty, though, the exchanges have been for the most part respectful, and I was extremely pleased to see Hehr include in some of his questions to Redford the statement that he, in fact, applauds the government's support of Bill 50.

Much attention as late has been focused on the government's already-passed Bill 50 (Victims Restitution and Compensation Payment Amendment Act) and its implementation and effect on criminal activity, in contrast to Hehr's own Private Member's Bill 201, Traffic Safety (Vehicles with Unlawfully Possessed Firearms) Amendment Act.

The Liberal argument goes something like "Bill 50 is good, but it's not enough. Bill 201 fills in some of the loopholes".

The Tory argument goes a little something like "Bill 201 actually makes enforcing Bill 50 more difficult, and targets the wrong people".

Now, I'll let you read the bills for yourselves (Bill 50) (Bill 201) and come to your own conclusions, however I DO see the validity of both sides of the argument.

The Tories have argued against Bill 201 on the grounds that, for example, I might have my vehicle confiscated if my passenger is found to posses an unlicensed firearm. I just want to go on the record saying that if I suspect that the person riding "shotgun" in my car might actually HAVE a shotgun with him, I'm probably going to ask a few questions. Such as, "are you legally allowed to carry that weapon?". Or, "Have you recently robbed a liquor store with that gun?". Or, "Do you have any warrants I should know about?". I'm just saying.

So, of course, I'm going to argue to the judge, as a law-abiding citizen, that if my passenger turns out to have been carrying a concealed weapon that I didn't know about, well Your Honour, I DIDN'T KNOW HE HAD A GUN. And I'll be telling the truth. The problem being, of course, that every 2-bit thug who appears on the docket that day, charged under Bill 201, will make the EXACT SAME ARGUMENT. And it's very difficult to prove in a court of law what you did or didn't know, or have reason to suspect, or asked your passenger. Which now becomes a serious flaw in the legislation, since I wrongly lose my car (and gain a criminal record) for not being a better judge of character, while the gangbangers rightly lose their car for, well, being gangbangers.

The Liberals have a problem with Bill 50 in that it allows the government to seize the "proceeds of crime" (cars, guns, homes, boats, cash, and lots of other things that I don't have) and sell them to pay restitution to the victims of violent crime in Alberta. Which in and of itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, the Grits concede. The problem that they have with the legislation is that it allows the seizure and sale of those proceeds BEFORE a conviction. Which begs the very relevant question: If my home is seized and sold under this legislation, and I am then found to be NOT GUILTY of the offence for which I was charged... how do I get my already-sold home back?

NOT going to happen, goes the response from the Justice Minister. The orders for seizure and sale have to come from a judge, which means the judge issuing the order would have to be satisfied not just that the offences are prosecutable and that a conviction is POSSIBLE, but that a conviction is ASSURED. The Liberals, depending on which one you ask, feel that either the government shouldn't be able to even SEIZE the items until a conviction occurs (which on a smaller scale is a ridiculous argument - the cops can't seize the drugs and paraphernalia they find on your person until you're convicted of posessing them?), or that they should be able to deny the accused access to their property until the prosecution for the offences runs its course (because, as we all know, a gangster who finds a notice posted on the front door to his gangster buddy's $4 Million home and a padlock on the front door will obviously obey the sign - being such a fan of the law - and go crash on his cousin's couch while the case takes 16 months to work its way through the courts).

Nation, neither one of these pieces of legislation is perfect - and there's a good reason for that. Because they CAN'T be. Legislation is imperfect by its very nature - written by imperfect beings, enforced and interpreted by imperfect beings. 2 well-educated, temperate judges can read the exact same piece of legislation and come to 2 completely and utterly different interpretations of what the law means and how it should be enforced - if at all.

That said, though, I applaud BOTH Minister Redford and the Honourable Mr. Hehr for their efforts to help curtail the crime that has more and more often found the front page of our local newspapers. Anything we can do to keep the bad guys away from the rest of us - and make them believe that crime does NOT, in fact, pay - is a good thing. Provided that in so doing, we don't also place an undue burden on the GOOD guys.

Ankle bracelets on dangerous offenders? Good.

Mandatory, trackable ID bracelets on ALL of us, for our own protection? NOT so good.

There IS a line between protecting us from the enemies of our civilized society and surrendering too much of our civil liberties to the state in the name of "the common public good".

Ask anyone whose families came here from Eastern Europe in the early-to-mid 20th century.