Monday, October 21, 2013

It's Up To You, Calgary... #yycvote

Nation, in about 12 hours, this day is going to get pretty dark.

A lot of good people, who poured their hearts and passions into this municipal election campaign, will see themselves looking at the wrong end of a result. These people - who I believe want very much to make Calgary a better place - are going to be crushed. Trust me: I know a little bit about it. They have my sincere sympathies, and my thanks today for having the courage to step forward in the first place.

And yet, I do not despair. Because for all the good people who will NOT see their dreams of elected office come to fruition tonight, there will be 29 who DO (in fairness, 2 have already been acclaimed in the Calgary Catholic school board race).

I'm not going to say that I'll agree with the decisions they all make. I remain singularly unimpressed with the unwillingness of the CBE's elected trustees, with the exception of a small few, to embrace the idea that greater oversight needs to be exercised to ensure students are being given every opportunity to succeed. Likewise, I find some of the social engineering brainstorms to come from City Hall to be unnecessary uses of my tax dollars.

But here's the thing: This is a democracy. I don't HAVE to like who everyone else votes for. I don't have to quietly accept what these governing bodies look like - nor do I intend to - but, I have faith in my fellow citizens to make the right choice for themselves, and for all of us... whether or not it's the choice I would have made.

MY track record of making important decisions, after all, is far from perfect. I've made some poor choices in the past. If we're being fair, I think it's safe to say we ALL have. Luckily, not all of them have ended up running the city.

So here's my plea to you: Get informed. If you haven't already done so, check out your Ward Profiles or candidate interviews on Look up your candidate information of Read the blogs. Read the papers. Read the websites. Take in that information, and don't let anyone else tell you how to vote. Don't trust any site that gives the candidates a "grade" - that's YOUR job. Go to the polls, and make your choice. That's how the system works. That's the ONLY way the system works.

It's up to you, Calgary.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tip Of The Hat, Wag Of The Finger...

Nation, I've spent a LOT of time over the past months sitting quietly, just... observing.

I have been astonished, inspired, and disgusted by some of the reactions I saw to recent events in this province and elsewhere. Let's take a walk down memory lane, shall we?


Calgary to Mother Nature: "You're Not The Boss Of Us!". Calgarians come together - friends, neighbours, and total strangers - and rebuild neighbourhoods. Take a breather and grab a few longnecks for the Stampede that no one thought could be pulled off. And then throw the rubber boots right back on and get back to work. I love this town.

Politicians (mostly) Hammer Their Swords Into Plowshares. In the aftermath of the Flood of 2013, most politicians of every stripe put their partisanship on the back burner, and come together to try and help the people whose lives were turned upside down. Those who try to score points are almost universally derided.

Drunk Driving Deaths Decrease. The province attributes the reduction to new provincial legislation. Critics suggest fuzzy math or random chance is responsible. Either way, fewer people are dying as a result of drinking & driving. And that's a GOOD thing.


If It Bleeds, It Leads. Faced with an overwhelming number of "good news stories" to cover coming out of the floods, some media outlets go out of their way to find tragic stories - or try to manufacture outrage.

Darwin's Law Cannot Be Invoked in Calgary. Left with little he's allowed to say on family-friendly airwaves to describe people trying to recreate on rivers that are clearly deathtraps, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi leaves the descriptions to our collective imagination, giving birth to the Twitter meme "Nenshi's Nouns".

The Edmonton Eskimos Football Club. Just because. Come on, fellas - get it together.

I'm going to be writing a lot more in the coming weeks and months, though things are going to take a decidedly municipal slant in the next while, with Election Day less than 3 months away. Keep an eye on this space - and on the juggernaut of the blogosphere, - for all your Calgary Municipal Election coverage. The Mainstream Media is cutting jobs, but CP has actually EXPANDED this year, with more writers than ever providing news, commentary and opinion (from EVERY angle and spot on the political spectrum!) to help you familiarize yourself with your options ahead of October 21st.

Remember: Every vote counts, and the mission at CalgaryPolitics is to make sure every vote can be an INFORMED one.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

You say "tow-MAY-tow", I say "tow-MAH-tow"...

Never a shortage of things to talk about, is there, Nation?

Just a shortage of time in which to do so.

  • Health Care has been a big topic of discussion in Alberta as of late (yes, bigger than usual), with the announcement (re-announcement? re-re-re-announcement?) of 24 locations for Family Care Clinics to be set up...  eventually. I'm sure there will be an announcement.
  • Cuts to programming for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (or "PDD", for people who prefer to frame those cuts as attacks against the people rather than programs) have drawn a lot of ire from opposition politicians looking to draw media attention during the dry summer months.
  • Fred Horne went all "Chuck Norris" on the board of Alberta Health for their refusal to follow his instructions regarding pay-out of contractual bonuses to non-union executives. Critics have decried this as political interference in the management of the system. My father would call it a study in "the Golden Rule": He who controls the gold, makes the rules. And since it's MY gold - and yours - I'm glad someone is finally showing a willingness to say "No. Health - you've had enough cookies. No more. You'll spoil your dinner."

The last Health Care-related bit I wanted to touch on today is the insane argument I'm hearing about whether certain services should be delivered by not-for-profit entities, for-profit corporations, local organizations, out-of-province outfits... you know the one I mean.

Are we seriously debating this?

The service should be provided by the organization that can provide the best service with the greatest value to taxpayers. All stop.

To borrow a phrase from the late Ralph Klein, I don't give a tinker's damn if it's the local Shriners club or a giant health care company with headquarters in Chicoutimi or Cincinnati... can they provide the service, and can they provide value for our tax dollars?

It's that simple.

The front-line staff - the people on the ground, providing service - live in Alberta. Nobody's driving from Kelowna to Calgary every morning to work as a nurse. So the argument about keeping tax dollars in Alberta is a red herring - the people getting paychecks to perform these tasks DO live here. Beyond which, it's also a complete and utter distraction from what the real issue should be: Are people getting the quality health care they need, as quickly as is feasible? I don't care if the money goes to Drayton Valley or Abu Dhabi... the health system isn't a wealth distribution mechanism. It's a system built to provide medical services to the people of Alberta. Where the money goes is so secondary a concern as to be laughable.

I understand that people are concerned about their jobs, and the jobs of their loved ones. I would be too. But as a province, we have to accept that the health care system is broken. The days of it swallowing up every job even remotely related to health provision and making it a full-time, salaried government position are long past.

Can you provide the service, and can you do so in a cost-effective way, respecting that every dollar spent is a dollar that belongs to the people of Alberta?

If your answer to both questions is "yes", I couldn't care less what area code your CEO's business card has on it.

Let's get to work.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


As news first trickled in, and then came as a torrent, about the bombings in Boston yesterday, my thoughts naturally turned to the morning of September 11th.

Not to the horror of those minutes and hours. And not to the feelings of fear or helplessness that I felt on that day as I watched my nice, safe, innocent naïveté disappear in clouds of fire, smoke and dust.

No, my thoughts yesterday turned to the people of the greater Boston area. In the aftermath of September 11th, the whole world saw the resilience of the people of New York as they dug out from the rubble and reclaimed their way of life. They heard the inspirational stories of New York's Finest, and New York's Bravest, and thousands of New Yorkers pulling together to make it through the dark days that followed the attacks.

One of the most touching things about that recovery was, to me, the way the people of Boston reached out and threw everything they had into helping their New York cousins. The rivalry between New York and Boston is legendary - but when New York most needed help, it was the people of Boston who jumped to their aid, without question or hesitation. "The Yankees still suck. What do you need?"

The men and women of Boston and of Massachusetts are the descendants of people who looked down the barrel of the greatest military power in the world and said "Bring it on, you're not holding us down." They took up arms against the imperial might of Great Britain, led a revolution, and won their freedom.

Cowards with gym bags and pressure cookers full of shrapnel can't hold down the people of Boston. The full weight of King George's army couldn't keep them down - and neither will this.

They'll stand up, and will keep fighting. Boston always does. They don't know how to quit, and they never have.

EDIT, 4 pm: The New York Yankees posted this photo of Yankee Stadium on Facebook earlier. Clearly, the people of New York remember how Boston helped them in their hour of need better than I. That's family: You don't always like each other, and you fight like hell - but you're still family.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The MacKinnon/Dial Exchange

Nation, every so often as you're surfing through the ether of social networking, you stumble across proof that it is possible to disagree about an issue without coming to blows, putting together a snotty inforgraphic or proving Godwin's Law.

This was the case for me a few weeks ago, when I saw an exchange between two University of Calgary 3rd-year Law students on Facebook regarding the Idle No More movement.

Now, I'm still working through my feelings on the movement as a whole. What's making it harder for me is the notion pushed by a small but strident segment of the activists that, as a Canadian of European descent, I am to be referred to as a "settler", and if I levy any criticism towards the movement or its leaders or tactics, I'm automatically therefore (at best) ignorant of my own racial prejudices, or (at worst) a closeted racist.

As I said, though, the morons advocating those extreme positions are but a small segment of the movement as a whole, so I'm trying not to judge their entire enterprise based on the loony-tunes opinions of a few. :)

This is the exchange between Alastair MacKinnon and Josh Dial, with notations and links to same by a fellow 3rd-year Law student. MacKinnon is, by the way, the Law School Debate Champion as of a few days ago. But I could still TOTALLY take him. ;)

MacKinnon/Dial, notations by MO, begins now.


MO: Alastair posted this link, which sparked his debate with Josh Dial.

JD: Virtually everything in the article regarding consultation is complete nonsense, and has no basis in law, despite what Professor McNeil thinks.

The Crown is not the legislative branch, despite what many think. The legislature has the power to make and unmake laws as it chooses. On this point, Hogg says, "there are no limits to legislative power; there is no fundamental law which cannot be altered by ordinary parliamentary action."

In [Re:Anti-Inflation Act, [1976] 2 SCR 373], Chief Justice Laskin wrote that "[t]he answer to this submission is simple, and it is an answer that has been consistently given by the Courts, namely, that the wisdom or expendiency or likely success of a particular policy expressed in legislation is not subject to judicial review. Hence, it is not for the Court to say in this case that because the means adopted to realize a desirable end, i.e., the containment and reduction of inflation in Canada, may not be effectual, those means are beyond the legislative power of Parliament."

Of course, Parliament and legislatures are constrained by a number of factors, including federalism, the constitutional amending process, the Charter, and Aboriginal rights under s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. However, the duty to consult is not a right, but a duty.

If the Bill's effects lead to situations where the Crown fails to discharge its duty to consult, then Aboriginal groups will have an action. However, Parliament owes no such duty of consultation when drafting or proposing or voting on the legislation itself, and therefore Aboriginal groups have no justified claim in that regard. Even if the Bill specifically targeted the duty of consultation, there would still be no claim on that ground--the government would instead have to justify (and fail) the legislation as per Sparrow.

Is Parliament now to consult on every bill? Clearly things like criminal and tax legislation will have specific implications for Aboriginals.

AM: It’s a little overzealous to say that there is no basis in law... unless of course you think that decisions of the [Supreme Court of Canada (SCC)] interpreting the constitution with respect to Aboriginal rights does not amount to law... then I suppose you might be correct. But so long as we are still in a common law system, I should think that the SCC pronouncements on Aboriginal rights are binding legal authority.

There needs to be a distinction drawn between the sovereign powers of parliament to pass bills and the Crown's duty to consult. In my reading of the blog post, there is no suggestion that it was beyond Parliament's power to pass Bill C-45. Indeed there can be no doubt that Bill C-45 followed the proper legislative process to become a law in this land. The argument is that, notwithstanding that proper legislative procedure was followed, the outcome may not be constitutionally valid. In this respect, it is no different than when Parliament passes a law that violates the Charter and is subsequently struck down. The fact that a bill gets three readings in both houses does not magically turn a substantively unconstitutional law in to a constitutionally valid one.

Furthermore, the fact that bill goes through the proper legislative process does not absolve the Crown of its duty to consult. Let’s pause for a moment and remember our Hofheld: we will all recall that the correlative to a Duty is… that’s correct… a Right! If the Crown has a duty to consult, it’s because Aboriginals have a right to be consulted. It cannot be ignored that Bill C-45 was moved by Ministers of the Crown. Also, legislative enactments are acts of the Crown; the preamble of every Act reads... " Her Majesty, by and with the consent of...." and of course we are all familiar with the requirement of a Bill to receive royal assent before it becomes a law. While each Member of Parliament may not be an agent of the Crown, the outcome of the legislative process is an Act of the Crown. Parliament may pass bills without affording the Crown an opportunity to consult, but it doesn't mean that the duty disappears after Parliament has acted, nor that there are no consequences on the validity of Parliaments act as a result of the failure.

So to conclude, the quarrel does not appear to me to be between Parliament and First Nations, but between the Crown and First Nations. Because the Crown chose not to consult, and because Parliament chose to pass the bill anyways, Parliament's action may be struck down as a result of the Crown's failure. This is not unjust, or undemocratic; it is a function of constitutionalism, and the requirement that when government's act they do so in compliance with their constitutional obligations.

JD: I am in complete agreement with you on your second paragraph (which is why I confined my post to consultation). I'm pretty sure I made the necessary concessions to the constraints of law-making in my post.

However, the fact that legislation is assented to by [Her Royal Highness (HRH)], contains magical words, and may be moved by Ministers (who are the Crown) does not make legislation an action contemplated by and captured by the duty to consult. Elected members of the lower house are not the Crown (I would hasten to add that HRH and "the Crown" are not always the same thing-- it's a very fine distinction, but it's there). Members of Parliament may table, vote, defeat, and pass whatever legislation they choose, without the requirement to consult Aboriginals as to the content or effects of the legislation. Parliament's Members don't have to consult anyone else when they pass legislation-- they'll live or die at the polling station later. Why should they have to specifically consult with Aboriginals?

*Implementing* legislation will most certainly attract the duty to consult. *Drafting* and *passing* legislation does not.

Again I would ask: must Parliament consult with every Aboriginal band in all of Canada, when it wishes to pass an act potentially affecting them, such as an act regarding criminal law or taxation? If the effects would be large, is more than mere notice required? Is deep consultation?

What about appropriations bills? Must Parliament consult for every budget now if it affects an Aboriginal or treaty right (which they surely could)?

If a bill is scheduled for a vote, and no consultation has occurred or is likely to occur, can an Aboriginal group seek an injunction prohibiting the vote or rendering it ineffective?

See also R v Lefthand, 2007 ABCA 206 (leave to SCC denied), where the Court said, at para 38, "There can however be no duty to consult prior to the passage of legislation, even where aboriginal rights will be affected..."

Also at para 38: "[i]t would be an unwarranted interference with the proper functioning of the House of Commons and the Provincial Legislatures to require that they engage in any particular processes prior to the passage of legislation. The same is true of the passage of regulations and Orders in Council by the appropriate Executive Council. Enactments must stand or fall based on their compliance with the constitution, not based on the processes used to enact them."

AM: The problem isn't that parliament passed the bill, it’s that the Crown failed to consult when it proposed action which it knew would impact on actual and claimed aboriginal rights. I concede that Parliament is free to pass any bill, at any time, for any reason(s) it sees fit. But if the agents of the Crown (i.e. ministers) should have consulted and failed to do so, and parliament chooses to pass the legislation nonetheless, then Parliament takes the risk that their legislation will subsequently be struck down on judicial review. I take your point that there is a distinction to be made between passing legislation and implementing legislation. There cannot, I should think, be any constraint on the former, while there can undoubtedly be limits placed on the later.

While the House of Commons as an institution may not have the duty to itself undertake the consultations, such consultations may nevertheless be a constitutional pre-requisite. It’s trite to say that Parliament must comply with the constitution when passing laws; if it fails to abide by the constitution -- be it for jurisdictional reasons, non-compliance with the Charter, or passing legislation which will in consequence result in a violation of aboriginal rights protected by the constitution -- then it does so at its own peril. I think the issue that that the Idle No More movement takes with Bill C-45 is not that parliament exercised its legislative sovereignty to pass a Bill, but that failure to consult when the implementation can have foreseeable consequences on Aboriginal rights will not allow for any sort of meaningful consultation and accommodation when the changes are presented as a fait-accompli.

I was not previously aware of the Lefthand decision, but I would note that in para 37, the [Alberta Court of Appeal (ABCA)] says that the duty to consult is still "being hammered out on the anvils of justice." Admittedly, Lefthand appears to stands as an authority against the position that I would advocate and the position that the Idle No More movement would argue. But one decision from the ABCA hardly settles the matter, and all that can be inferred from the leave application being denied is that the SCC chose not to hear the appeal. It is at least arguable that the duty to consult should be extended to situations like Bill C-45, and there is sound legal authority upon which to make such arguments. Whether the arguments will prevail at the end of the day or not I do not know, and there can be valid debate about whether Idle No More ought to succeed.

JD: I think you are giving the Idle movement more credit than it is due, honestly--indeed your fait-accompli statement is probably more nuanced than the actual position

Every single release/petition/letter I've read (I think I'm up to about thirty, now) specifically mentions how the government (always says government, and not Crown) owes a duty to consult and accommodate (says accommodate, not "where necessary, accommodate") when it wrote, voted on, and passed the bill. Full stop.

In my opinion, if Aboriginal groups want to argue that by passing specific legislation, Parliament has effectively pre-empted effective consultation (or otherwise prevented it from occurring), they will have an action when there is a prima facie case of failure to discharge the duty (or when the legislation runs afoul of the Sparrow test, etc). If the legislation is indeed so bad, then it ought to be a very easy case to make!

In effect, if Parliament wants to make it even easier to be found in breach of the duty to consult, then it can do so, to its own detriment. I'm more than happy to cast my vote against an MP who insists on voting for such bills.

Lefthand is correct that the duty is still being hammered out, and to that end, the Aboriginal groups certainly have a right to test the law and make it do work for them. However, I stand by my view that as regards the consultation question, they are wrong both in law and policy (see my questions above for the policy implications).

Good debate though, sir! Always entertaining!

AM: Indeed, its always a pleasure!


So, what say you, Nation? Are you with Josh, who puts forth that the Idle No More assertion that no consultation on C-45 makes it invalid is, in fact, incorrect? Or do you agree with Alastair, that the failure to consult at the legislative stage impacts the ability of First Nations to be consulted during implementation?

Or, can we all just agree that Omnibus bills are fundamentally undemocratic, and lead inevitably to pork barrel spending and legislative takeovers by Special Interests, like we see in the legislatures of our friends to the South? ;)

Argue the Law, not the politics, s'il vous plait.