Saturday, February 27, 2010


Folks, I'm sitting next to celebrity blogger DJ Kelly ready to get started at Reboot Alberta.

YOU can attend, too: Just click here, and follow and contribute to the goings-on, live. Any tweets with the hashtag #rebootab will show up on the big screen in front of the room. (Of course, EVERYONE will see them, so it might be a bad forum to remind your significant other to pick up milk on the way home or profess your love for an attendee - or, maybe not., ;)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

AEBC Interim Report Released

Nation, for those of us who love political minutae and maps, this is like Christmas in February.

The Electoral Boundaries Commission has released their interim report on recommended changes to Alberta's 83 (soon to be 87) provincial constituencies.

Go check it out for yourself. I haven't had a chance to read the whole thing, but there are a LOT of changes in Calgary - both related to boundaries, and to names of constituencies.

Hockey tonight. Analysis tomorrow.

- E.S.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Another Slow News Day in Calgary...

... although, I'm happy to say that I've found a new place in town to get an absolutely fantastic straight razor shave - for those who have never had one, it's absolutely GOT to go on your Bucket List.

Well, that's all to report today. Talk to you lat -

Sorry, wait a second - text message coming in.





Wow. Didn't see that one coming.

Days into his preamble for the next "Dave versus the Province" battle - which he seemingly always WINS - David Thomas Bronconnier, 35th Mayor of the City of Calgary, has announced he will not be seeking re-election this October.

Which means we are in for an absolute GONG SHOW of speculation in the next few weeks and months as to whom, exactly, will be running for the empty chair, with the popular incumbent and his million-dollar war chest out of the way.

The first and most common question is going to be "WHY isn't Dave running again?" - to which the only answer I can provide is: Heaven only knows. As I mentioned, Dave is going into a very public shouting match with the province over broken promises, and despite the overall centre-right lean that encompasses Calgarian politics on a provincial and federal level, for some reason Calgarians have always supported our very clearly capital-L Liberal Mayor in his battles with the provincial Progressive Conservatives, even when "our guy" Ralph was running things in Edmonton. There was no reason to expect that wouldn't continue - at the end of the day, Calgarians would likely have gotten over the Calatrava Bridge debacle, the snow clearing fiasco, and the never-ending climb to the municipal mill rate, and re-elected Dave again (barring any personal scandal, which seems unlikely).

Dave's reasons are his own. However you thought or his tenure as Mayor of this Crown Jewel of the Rocky Mountains, Dave deserves our thanks and gratitude for his service to the people of this city, putting in countless hours over the past 18 years - first as an Alderman, and later as Mayor. I defy anyone to tell me that working an 80 hour/week job for 18 years while you've got a wife and 4 kids missing you at home isn't a sacrifice, REGARDLESS of the level of compensation.

Dave, we have as much in common politically as Aldermen Pincott and McIver - but thank-you for your service. Sincerely.

Talk now turns to the obvious question: Who's running? Who's not?

Here's what I know: I am NOT running for Mayor.

And... that's about it.

Suddenly, former mayoral candidates, current and former aldermen, and local personalities all find themselves fielding phone calls from unlikely sources. They're wondering if their city-wide name recognition is up to the level it would need to be. They're wondering what their "issue" would be, and if it would resonate. They're examining whether their private contacts and recent fundraisers would be enough to take a serious run.

Some of the names bandied about are hardly surprising... Alnoor Kassam is said to be considering another run, although he really missed a golden chance following the 2007 election to define himself going forward as a mayor-in-waiting, rather than as "the guy who spent a lot of money, had a shady past, and lost". Everyone has been speculating for YEARS that Ric McIver was going to be taking a run, and quietly building up a war chest FAR too large to run for his Ward 12 seat. Joe Connelly is rumoured to be considering a run, as well, but his public profile is bad enough that he's been seen wearing a name tag to local events in South Calgary, so people know who he is. A run by Diane Colley-Urquhart would be interesting, however if ANY combination of Diane, Joe and Ric decides to run for the same job, it waters down the conservative voices in council, as well as splitting the conservative vote - which, with voting numbers as ridiculously low as they are in municipal elections, is a dangerous idea.

Other names have been bandied about, including Naheed Nenshi of the Better Calgary Campaign and a former independent candidate in the provincial constituency of Calgary-Egmont. Should both run, the collision of 2 such fundamentally opposing forces might just create a black hole that sucks all of Earth into its gaping maw - which would certainly wreck havoc with the campaign.

While there are many question marks after today's announcement, one thing is crystal clear: Things just got very, VERY interesting.

And Calgary is going to need the Best Political Team in the Blogosphere (tm) to help make sense of it all.

Savage Out.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

What Is A "Progressive"?

Webster's would define a progressive as "one who looks forward".

Being The Enlightened Savage, though, I can't in good conscience use a one line definition when a 2-page one is possible. :)

I've been thinking long and hard about this subject, as I look forward to Reboot Alberta 2.0, to be held in Kananaskis Country next week-end. I've decided that, in my efforts to define what a progressive IS, I'm going to try very hard to avoid doing 2 things:

  • Firstly, I'm going to try to avoid defining a progressive by what they AREN'T.
  • Secondly, I'm going to try to avoid comparing progressives to other groups as though they are mutually exclusive - "progressive", in political terms, is not mutually exclusive from "conservative" as we know it and as I previously defined it, for example (or, as someone who one day plans to lead a Progressive Conservative government, I certainly HOPE it's not).

So... what is a "progressive"?

To me, a progressive is someone who eschews the sacred cows of public policy discussions in order to have a full dialogue about what needs to happen to move society closer to a goal that is socially just. By this definition, Lyndon Johnson was acting as a progressive when he moved forward with the Civil Rights Act - a stance that to this day still hinders the fortunes of the Democratic Party in Dixie. Likewise, Abraham Lincoln - a Republican, let's remember - was a progressive with his championing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

To me, a progressive is someone who feels that government can and should be a force for good within a society. That those things we can't count on the market to deliver for the betterment of all, government should take up, to ensure no one gets left behind. By this measure, Mackenzie King (introducing Old Age Pensions in 1930) and Tommy Douglas, John Diefenbaker, and D.R.O.E.S. (Distant Relative Of the Enlightened Savage) Lester Pearson (the 3 mid-wives of national Medicare) were all progressives, in their own way.

To me, a progressive is someone who recognizes the value of stability, but also the potential reward to a society for embracing new ideas. That the "status quo" CAN be a good thing, but that it isn't ALWAYS a good thing. Using this barometer, Dwight D. Eisenhower (expansion of Social Security, creation of the Interstate Highway system, response to Brown v. Board of Education) and Theodore Roosevelt (Trust-busting, leadership of the "Progressive Party") were progressives.

The rotten thing about political labels, as I've said before, is that they can be applied by just about anyone, onto just about anyone else, and given whatever meaning one wishes. I can proudly call myself a progressive, thinking it means exactly what I've outlined above - and, at the same time, a political opponent can sneeringly refer to me as a "progressive, which is code for Liberal"... and, so long as we're using labels (progressive, liberal, conservative, libertarian) for convenience's sake, in the place of frank and open discussions about policy, that will always be the risk.

But, when you look at the actual party affiliations of the people I've named in my examples, you see a cross-section of MANY different political parties: a Democrat; 3 Republicans; 2 Liberals; a New Democrat; and a Progressive Conservative.

I've been tempted many times during this writing to go on the offensive, and talk about anti-progressive forces. To talk about political rhetoric that promises to return things to "the good old days" or "the way things used to be"...

But I'm a progressive.

I'm looking forward.

And the future I see for this province is as bright as a clear day in Calgary, as expansive as an Athabasca prairie, and as rich and full as an Edmonton festival.

Come along with me, won't you?

See you at Reboot 2.0.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Batten Down the Hatches...

Nation, I've got a lot I want to write about in the next while - most notably, about my recent trip to the Legislative Assembly on Budget Day, an analysis of the budget and the throne speech, and the upcoming Reboot Alberta event in Kananaskis.

All that said, though, I'm having a hard time focusing on politics, with the 21st Winter Olympic Games one day away.

I admit it: I'm an Olympic kool-aid drinker. I'm inspired by the Games, and by the ideals that they espouse. I know as well as anyone that the games of today are MILES removed from the games of 1988 in Calgary, rife with corporate meddling and economic opportunism.

But I just don't care.

The Vancouver Olympic Games are upon us. The youth of the world are gathering in Vancouver, Canada in the pursuit of brotherhood and athletic excellence.

There might be some political coverage on this blog over the next few weeks. But if you're looking for me to eviscerate public officials or opposition politicians during the Olympic Truce, you're going to find yourself disappointed.

The Olympics, at their best, are about doing your best, not about craven self-interest.

Politics, not so much.

But it *should* be.

And if I have anything to say about it, it WILL be.

Wait and see. ;)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Lost Danielle Smith Diary Entries...

... Nation, these found their way into my possession. I won't say how, but rest assured that after being fully vetted by the Premier's Office, and having passed my waterboarding interrogation session with flying colours, I've been allowed to post them by the PC Gestapo.

August 3, 1979

Dear Diary: Today was a GREAT day! OMG! Got to ride my new bike down the alley all the way to the end of the block - SO exciting! I LOVE my new bike!

Ice cream man came down our block today - I got a Rocket - one of those Red/White/Blue ones, on a stick? SOOOO awesome! Weird thing, tho - the kid after me in line said "I want what Danielle got, too!" - was he WATCHING me? Creep. Conclusion? Jimmy Walton down the street is SPYING on me!

February 12, 1981

Dear Diary: SNOW DAY! No school today! Awesome. I was watching tv last night, and this show "Diff'rent Strokes" came on - pretty funny, I guess. I was talking to Suzie on the phone about how some of it was pretty lame-o. But the little guy in it (I don't know his name) looked straight at me after I said that and he said "What you talkin' about, Willis?" - SCARY! I don't know why he called me Willis, but he was TOTALLY listening to my conversation! Conclusion? The little guy from Diff'rent Strokes is SPYING on me!

May 20, 1989

Dear Diary: Graduation Day! FINALLY! Glad to be done with all this stuff - finals coming up, a little stressful, but what-evs. Going out with the girls tomorrow - should be F-U-N! Went out with the gang tonight, still in our robes just for a laff - whatever, I earned it. Some guy came up to us and asked if we were celebrating our graduation - how did HE know? Stalker was probably watching us all day, broke into my car to see my diploma or whatever - how ELSE could he know? Jerk. We left to go home right after. Saw a truck parked in the lot outside the restaurant with "County of Lamont" on the door - never heard of it. Messed up. Conclusion? Some weird guy - probably works for this "County of Lamont" - is SPYING on me!

December 21, 2006

Dear Diary: Winter Solstice tonight - shortest day of the year, so the days are only getting longer. Lots of weirdo tree-huggers out tonight - hope I never end up mixed up with really religious people, goes against my libertarian principles. Went to see "Dreamgirls" at the theatre with David - GREAT movie. It's only been out for 6 days, but getting Oscar buzz already. Strange moment, though - when I gave the theatre guy my ticket, he said "Dreamgirls is in theatre 3, enjoy your movie" - how the HELL did he know what I was going to see?!? Probably was watching me buy my ticket 10 minutes before. Creep. I should get David to go back there and kick his minimum-wage butt. Conclusion? Movie theatre guy is SPYING on me!

January 11, 2010

Dear Diary: I *love* being leader of the Wildrose Alliance - it's totally fabulous. Hopefully nobody catches on to the fact that, as a PC myself, I've been supporting that party for years, and every problem that's more than 2 years old I'm partially to blame for. Oh, well - new party, new name, blank slate, right? Went on my "date" with Rick Mercer the other day - funny guy. He wouldn't be allowed to get married in Alberta under a WAP gov't, but I think he knows that. Had a great time at West
Edmonton Mall - bowling, roller-coaster, witty repartee... I noticed, though, that there were people walking behind us and in front of us with video cameras with the "CBC" logo on them - WTF? Are you KIDDING me? Who the heck ARE these people? Conclusion: The CBC is SPYING on me!

February 4, 2010

Dear Diary: Throne Speech today. Norm's okay, I guess. Can't wait to get Chandler in as Lt. Governor - just kidding. He'd be great, but only Stephen gets to appoint Lt. Gov's. Was talking to lots of people in the foyer after the speech - this is easy. I get more attention than Eddie, and I don't even have a seat in the legislature, or a record to defend. Can I be Premier from the gallery? This "running" stuff is hard - even against Willerton and Dyrholm. Some of the people I talked to said that PC's were asking what we were talking about - BRUTAL! How did they see me talking to them? I thought the foyer was 100% private! Conclusion: The Premier's Office is SPYING on me!

February 6, 2010

Dear Diary: Tin foil hat and Get Smart "cone of silence" are ready for first stage of testing. HUGE day! Wish me luck!



(the above was presented as satire, and as such is protected by the free speech guaranteed to me by Canadian Law - any resemblance to actual events is strictly coincidental or presented in the interest of satirical expression, and should not be interpreted in any way as true or factual. Unless it is.)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Get Well Soon, Jack.

Nation, it's no secret that on most issues, Jack Layton and I have less in common than a Vulcan and a Wookie.

But this is terrible news.

You're a stubborn man, Mr. Layton, and I sincerely wish you all the best in your battle. You can beat this.

Get well soon.

To donate to Prostate Cancer Canada, please click here.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Alberta's Speech From The Throne - 2010

Text below. Response and analysis later.


Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Third Session of the Twenty-Seventh Alberta Legislature. It is my honour to deliver the Speech from the Throne, as it has been my honour to serve Albertans as Lieutenant Governor over these past five years.

I hope the House will indulge me for a moment as I reflect on what a privilege it has been for my wife, Mary, and me to see so much of our province, and meet so many of its amazing people during my time as Her Majesty’s representative in Alberta.
This job has been the highlight of a rewarding career that took many unexpected turns. No one could be as surprised as I am that my road brought me to where it did. I’m grateful for every day and every experience I’ve had as Alberta’s Lieutenant Governor.

Much has changed in our province since I was appointed to this role. The unprecedented growth we knew has given way to the deepest recession the world has seen in half a century.

Our world may have changed, but our people have not. They remain hard-working and innovative, entrepreneurial and compassionate, and most of all: confident about our province and its future.

That confidence is well-placed. Our province has substantial cash reserves and low taxes, providing a solid foundation from which we can make a strong recovery. Albertans have worked hard to earn this fiscal advantage. And the actions we take now will ensure that our province emerges from these difficult times even stronger than before.

Alberta’s Fiscal Advantage

Alberta’s resource-based economy brings with it one of the most volatile revenue streams in North America — providing surpluses in good times, but prone to sudden economic reversals.

Your government took aggressive steps to create a cushion for the inevitable downturn, improving the fiscal position of the province by almost $50 billion
while maintaining low taxes. A $23-billion debt was paid off in full, and nearly
$25 billion has been saved and invested on behalf of the people of Alberta.

Most of the money we saved went into the Sustainability Fund — $17 billion in cash reserves which could be called upon quickly if the province experienced a sudden drop in income. These dollars are now at work protecting municipalities, social programs, educational institutions and the health care system from the kind of cuts seen in other places.

The Sustainability Fund enables Alberta to keep investing in the public infrastructure we know we will need for tomorrow, at a time when we can take advantage of lower costs. We will continue to strengthen the province’s transportation, health care and education infrastructure in all regions of the province.

The government’s wise financial and capital planning is now supporting tens of thousands of jobs across the province. While other jurisdictions are cutting back and growing their infrastructure deficits, Alberta is improving its competitiveness and looking forward with confidence.

Alberta Capital Bonds will be introduced later this month, available only in Alberta and only to Albertans. Albertans are proud of our province, and want to invest in its future. Backed by our province’s Triple A credit rating, the bonds will be one of the safest investments possible in today’s economic climate, and offer Albertans a way to invest directly in our province.

Proceeds raised through this sale of bonds will go toward building accommodations for Alberta seniors, including continuing care and supportive living facilities.
Alberta’s fiscal strength has allowed the government to keep taxes low and maintain support for health and education. As we work to be back in the black in three years, Albertans will continue to enjoy the highest incomes, the lowest taxes and the most advanced public infrastructure in Canada.

The Sustainability Fund is a great backstop in difficult times, just as this government planned, but we can’t rely on it alone to carry us through. Government must live within its means. We must and will carefully manage spending, with a focus on key priorities such as health, education and supports for vulnerable Albertans.
With a shared effort over the next two years, this year’s budget will bridge the recession and position Alberta to take full advantage of the recovery.

Improving Health Care

Alberta ranks near the top in Canada on health spending per capita. Yet the results are not what Albertans expect. Your government believes Albertans deserve better results for their health care dollars.

The Minister’s Advisory Committee on Health has recently proposed improvements to the publicly funded health system to make it more patient-focused.

Your government will act on these recommendations, including creating a new Alberta Health Act this fall, and setting principles for the development of legislation, policy and program delivery changes across the system. This work will be guided by Albertans themselves, who will be engaged in the evolution of the health system from its first steps.

Part of this evolution will be predictable funding. Budget 2010 will provide stable, five-year funding to Alberta Health Services. This will give our health care partners the security of knowing that growing cost pressures will be addressed.
At the same time, we will share the challenge of focusing ever more vigorously on better performance in key areas such as wait times and access, so Albertans will proudly be able to say that their health care system is the best in the country.

The health system must be accountable to Albertans. Your government will go beyond statistical measures of the health system’s performance and seek input from Albertans themselves on whether the system is performing to their expectations. We will report back to Albertans on action taken and progress made.

Building Safe, Caring Communities

Albertans believe that safe, strong and caring communities are important to our quality of life. Government actions will continue to support these values.

The Alberta Gang Reduction Strategy will provide a comprehensive, long-term approach to suppress gang crime in Alberta. Civil forfeiture legislation is already in place, and witness protection legislation will be tabled this session. We will bolster the front lines of Alberta police forces with 100 new officers — the fulfillment of a three-year, 300-officer commitment.

Government’s goal of creating 14,000 new child care spaces will be met and surpassed this year, allowing us to focus on maintaining existing spaces and supporting the creation of new spaces in the areas of most need.

Your government will continue working with its partners to deliver on the pledge to develop 11,000 affordable housing units by 2012, and on the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness.

Social programs for Albertans will become better integrated and more focused on the people they were created to serve. These improvements will make it easier for Albertans in need to access information and assistance, as well as transition between programs as they move from childhood to adulthood to their senior years.

This government is concerned that only one-third of Albertans belong to workplace pension plans. We will continue to push the national agenda for reforms that help people plan for a financially sound retirement.

A pan-Canadian solution is preferable, but if an agreement cannot be reached, we are prepared to join with British Columbia and Saskatchewan to develop options for a regional plan to improve retirement income prospects for future retirees.

Increasingly Competitive in a Global Economy

The global economy is undergoing profound changes, with significant impacts on the lives of Albertans. Our people are naturally entrepreneurial, and government has supported their drive to succeed with training, information, services and counselling, but we can do better.

Albertans know that a good education is an essential foundation to prepare for the future, and that our thinking in this area must constantly evolve. In the coming months, we will launch a new vision for education, making the improvements needed to ensure that learning in Alberta is flexible and ready to meet the needs of the next generation.

Your government will strengthen the province’s research and innovation system under the “Alberta Innovates” umbrella. The new system will be more responsive to the needs of researchers and entrepreneurs, and help Alberta maintain a leadership role in the global economy. Our great Alberta spirit of competition will do the rest.
Our province must be a magnet for the talented individuals and businesses its economy needs. Your government will ensure that the workforce has the right skills to keep Alberta strong.

As Alberta’s profile increases in the global economy, our trading partners will expect greater contact and the ability to travel directly to Alberta. We will continue to work with the federal government to expand direct air access between Alberta and its key markets — this is what business, trade and tourism need to be competitive.

Much of Alberta’s economic growth will occur in the North, and we will invest in new transportation infrastructure to support this growth.

We are working toward a Western Economic Partnership with British Columbia and Saskatchewan to create Canada’s largest boundary-free trade and investment market. The three provinces will also work together on a joint trade mission to China and Japan to market western Canada to the growing Asian market.

Government regulation must accomplish our collective goals, while at the same time promoting business entrepreneurship, individual liberty, and creativity. Your government will aggressively pursue improvements to ensure we have effective regulations that are both clear and practical.

For example, with respect to conventional oil and gas development, government’s approach will put more focus on assuring compliance with environmental outcomes, rather than creating hurdles at the approval stage for companies accessing the land.
We will complete the review of the First Nations Consultation Policy and Guidelines on Land Management and Resource Development this year, which will give us another tool to improve competitiveness.

Alberta’s agriculture and agri-food industries are key and sustainable economic drivers of our province. We are a responsible producer of safe, high-quality food products that are in demand all over the world. But we need to break into new markets and beat the competition from other countries that export agricultural products, including the United States and Australia.

To this end, we will continue efforts to increase our competitive edge, foster value-added opportunities and increase access to important international markets.
Alberta is now a major global energy player with enormous untapped potential. This sector is vitally important to all Alberta communities, with 50 percent of our province’s gross domestic product tied to energy in some way.

Energy development is a partnership between Albertans, who own the resources, and industry, which develops them on Albertans’ behalf. It’s a partnership that has yielded tremendous benefits in economic activity that touches every corner of our province.

The best days in Alberta’s energy story are yet to come. Your government is committed to ensuring that this industry remains vibrant, and continues to attract investment and create new technologies. We have the resources the world needs, including renewable forms of energy, and the know-how to develop them responsibly.
The review of Alberta’s competitiveness will point the way and ensure that Alberta is an attractive place to do business. Your government will partner with industry to design the right model to encourage the investment in technology Albertans are known for.

All of these initiatives are part of the government’s plan to enhance competitiveness. As we lead the way out of the recession, we know there will be tough competition for investment and jobs. Those economies that offer speed, controlled costs, superior innovation and extraordinary talent will flourish.

We must succeed in maintaining and growing our markets, and attracting and developing people and innovation. This is the route to the strong communities, healthy environment, quality of life and prosperity we want to pass on to future generations.

Bill One of this legislative session, the Alberta Competitiveness Act, will signal our government’s resolve to make Alberta the most competitive jurisdiction in North America. To do this, we must minimize the cost of doing business here, including the cost of regulation, while at the same time providing the world-class services that are the hallmark of competitive jurisdictions.

Alberta’s next generation economy will see emphasis on attracting new industries in new sectors, serving the world’s expanding need for safe food and sustainably produced minerals, forest products and energy.

We will continue to work on a world-class, integrated petrochemical hub, drawing on the raw materials from the oil sands and adding value before they reach our markets, not afterward. The bitumen royalty-in-kind policy will accelerate this effort to promote new upgrading opportunities in Alberta.

A Clean Energy Future

Albertans value our province’s environment. To protect our eastern slopes and boreal forest, we will continue to fight the mountain pine beetle.

Alberta’s oil sands are the focus of a great deal of world attention. Your government recognizes that customers of our energy are looking for a better understanding of our environmental values and improvements in our environmental management.

This is what Albertans want too. We take great pride in our environment. And we are committed to ensuring that the right policies are in place to address the challenges of being a global energy provider.

Alberta’s energy industry has met and exceeded every challenge to limit the impact of oil sands extraction and return the land to a natural state. Our history of technological breakthroughs and engineering excellence will go even further in the future toward shrinking our environmental footprint.

Around the world, the drive toward cleaner energy is a fact of our times, and a welcome one. The Alberta government and Alberta business leaders have chosen to lead by example in developing the cleaner fuels and clean energy know-how our customers are seeking.

As a result of the international agreement in Copenhagen, we will work with the federal government to reach a thoughtful, continental approach to controlling greenhouse gas emissions — one that spurs Alberta-based investment in new technologies and the next generation economy.

While we must develop new opportunities to participate in markets like China and India, our economy will be seriously harmed if access to the US energy market is impaired. Alberta fought hard for free trade, which has proven a boon for our people. We cannot lose those hard-fought advantages, and must secure access to the emerging clean energy market south of the border.

To be competitive in the new global marketplace, we must take a hard look at our own backyard. Albertans value a clean and sustainable environment, but that is not always the perception beyond our borders.

Your government will continue to promote Alberta and the amazing technological advances our industries have made in environmental management, such as their work on carbon capture and storage.

And we will act to improve environmental performance in the oil sands. We will continue to invest in research and technology solutions to the significant environmental challenges posed by oil sands development, including the eventual elimination of tailings ponds.

Energy conservation and renewable sources of energy will become popular economic choices for consumers in the 21st century. Our province has what it takes to succeed in this economic environment — the freedom to create and the spirit to achieve.

These qualities were illustrated recently when 110 Albertans participated in the Solar Decathlon, an international competition hosted by the US Department of Energy, in which 20 selected teams of university and college students from around the globe competed to design, build and operate the most attractive, practical and energy efficient solar-powered home.

Team Alberta’s home reflected not only the natural landscape of our province, but also our values — innovation, excellence in education and the willingness to meet the energy challenges our world faces head-on. Team Alberta placed sixth against the best in the world, an outstanding achievement for its first time in this competition.

Alberta’s Place in Canada

Albertans have always been committed Canadians. Our province’s economic success has provided benefits across the country, and our economic renewal will be an essential part of the nation’s economic recovery.

Albertans are proud contributors to the well-being of our country, and we have a right to be treated fairly under universal federal programs like health care or unemployment insurance. If a person is sick or out of work, the challenge to that family is no less difficult in Alberta than in any other province.

Whenever Alberta receives less than other provinces for basic transfers, your government will work with the federal government to provide options to address that fiscal imbalance and close the gap. Equality is a matter of principle, and basic fairness — the very hallmark of our nation.

A strong economic recovery requires an Alberta that is constantly striving to be better, stronger and smarter.

We will use expert advice from the Premier’s Council on Economic Strategy to set a path to a secure and prosperous future for Albertans.

We will proudly share Alberta’s story at the Olympics, and elsewhere on the global stage to make the world more aware of our unique talents, products and capabilities.

We will be a leader in clean energy production.

We will help the forestry and agricultural sectors adapt to new market realities and seize new opportunities.

We will continue to build world-class universities of the 21st century.

We will foster a competitive and innovative economy.

And we will build public services and transportation systems that unite our communities in commerce and culture.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, and may God bless you all.

God bless Alberta. God bless Canada. God save the Queen.

Words That Have More Syllables Than Their Definition: "Libertarianism"


We've heard that word a lot lately. It's become en vogue in Albertan political circles to describe yourself as a Libertarian - especially since the political "it person" of the moment - Danielle Smith - calls herself one. Even people who AREN'T Libertarians call themselves by the label... it just sounds a lot sexier than "conservative".

But before we start trying to determine who is, and who ISN'T, a Libertarian - because of course, in Albertan political discourse, the most important thing is which broad, loosely-defined label you rally to - we need to define what, exactly a Libertarian IS.

The Libertarian social credo can be summed up thusly: "Live and Let Live".

In a nutshell, Libertarians are of the general belief that the more involved a government is in the day-to-day lives of the people, the worse off the people are. They don't necessarily believe that ALL government is bad - but they think that the government shouldn't be able to tell you what to think, how to act, or what to believe.

And I agree with them.

The similarity between the words "liberal" and "libertarian" are not accidental - they come from the same root word, "liber" - Latin for "free". The inadequacies of the old-world left-right axis to categorize political thought, then, is made all too evident by the task of trying to find somewhere for "libertarian" to fit on that spectrum... Liberals, we're taught, favour more government interference in the economy, but more tolerant and inclusive social policies. Since we rarely hear the term "fiscal libertarian", we'll focus on the 2nd half of the definition. So, if you're to the left of centre, you favour more tolerant and inclusive social policy. If you're on the right, socially, you tend to favour more government control in those areas - strict laws, prohibitions, harsher punishments for lawbreakers, government instituting legislation on moral grounds.

So where do you put a Libertarian, who wants government to set a few laws to keep people from hurting each other, and then butt out of their lives completely?

You'd be inclined, one would think, to assume that a Libertarian sounds a lot more likely to be parked on the left... "government doesn't get to tell me what to think, and they can take their stupid morality laws and shove them!". Libertarians themselves, though, tend to ardently insist that they are on the RIGHT side of the spectrum, in that they favour personal freedoms over the surrendering of those freedoms to the state.



So, here's the thing: Our political "it person" of the moment, Danielle Smith, is a smart woman. She knows everything you've just read, and she identifies as a Libertarian. And yet, much like her ideological cousins in the U.S., she's in a political party that seems poised to embrace the religious right - a group that, while completely entitled to its own views, professes a social conservative viewpoint that seems INCONGRUENT WITH LIBERTARIAN VIEWS.

In short - Danielle says she believes in "live and let live", but she's in a party whose grassroots membership may very well trend towards "do as we say".

Danielle has said, many times, that she doesn't determine policy for the Wildrose Alliance - the party membership does.

It's a stance I've gone on the record as agreeing with.

The problem IS, though, that when you delegate the entire policy-making process to the membership of your party, they could come back with just about ANYTHING - and, as leader, you've got to sell it to the voters.

I've asked before how founding members of the WAP might feel knowing that the their leader and 2 of their sitting MLA's, as well as many of the people who have joined their party in the past few months, are expatriate PC's. In effect, that the anti-Stelmach PC's were taking over their party. Talk today that the WAP has also approached other, sitting PC MLA's about running for them in the future will only add fuel to that fire - and the end of the day, what will this party look like if not Tory-redux?

I've got a more salient question to my current topic, though: How will Danielle Smith, Libertarian, be able to stand in front of the people of Alberta and, with a straight face, talk about her party's social policies when they are fundamentally opposed to her own beliefs? If the social conservative element takes over the policy-making process in the WAP, will Danielle be able to in good conscience support policies that make abortion an option only available to the wealthy? To legislate that marriage can be only between a man and woman? These sorts of social conservative policies are
anathema to the very nature of the Libertarian world-view.

We've heard time and again that the Wildrose Alliance doesn't take a position on divisive social issues - despite the fact that some of those same "divisive social issues" are in fact federally-guaranteed rights, and therefore no more a "divisive social issue" than the right for women to vote. In the short-term, until the party membership has had a chance to debate those issues, that's all fine and good. But once they DO get together and come out with a policy platform, is the policy platform they come back with going to look ANYTHING like what a Libertarian could support?

And if not, and Danielle supports it anyhow... and runs on that platform, under the promise of making it law should she win power... what does that tell us about her, and her self-described Libertarian views?

Danielle, do the right thing... this party elected you their Leader, not their Follower-in-Chief. Announce that if you get even a whiff of regressive, SoCon ideology in the party's policy platform, you'll step aside rather than betray your beliefs - the beliefs you've spent the last year telling everyone who would listen that you had.

Use the bully pulpit to shape this party into a government-in-waiting that won't send Libertarians running for the hills.

Gut check time, Ms. Smith.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Note To Paul Hinman

Dear Paul:

You think YOU'RE frustrated at the state of democracy?

Talk to the people in Airdrie and Fish Creek who thought they voted for a PC MLA.

That is all.

- E.S.