Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Nation, we woke up this morning to hear that, for the second time in a week, a resident of Calgary was shot and killed by police.

We don't know what happened in this case. It's being investigated, as are all police-involved shootings, by the provincial ASIRT (Alberta Serious Incident Response Team). They will ultimately report on their findings, including whether or not the use of force was justified in this incident. It would be inappropriate for any of us to speculate further until that work is complete.

However, the fact remains that this is the second police-involved shooting death in a week in our city. The 10th police-involved shooting in 2016. The fifth one resulting in death. I think we're perfectly justified in wondering "what the hell is HAPPENING out there?"

Being a police officer is a brutally tough job. Mental health and relationships suffer terribly. We pay cops a comfortable, but by no means means lavish, salary to go out there and see the kind of stuff on a regular basis that would positively RUIN any of us emotionally, if we saw it once. They walk around being targeted for violence and abuse just by virtue of the uniform they wear. And make no mistake: they know what they're getting into. Nobody ever graduated onto a big city police force thinking their day-to-day was going to be just like Mahoney in Police Academy or Drebin in Police Squad.

But the fact that they're making an informed choice to go out there and be exposed to this doesn't make them automatically at fault any time something goes wrong. Nor does it make them universally laudable as heroic. Some law enforcement people do it because it's a paycheque, and in their estimation it beats stocking shelves at Home Depot. Some do it because they like the power that comes from the badge and the uniform. The screening that applicants go through weeds out most of the people who just get off on telling people what to do and carrying a sidearm, but a few squeak through. Their fellow cops know who they are. At the end of the day, though, we can't assign derision or heroism to the entire force - just like any large group, there are good ones, and bad ones.

But with the relationship between police and citizens so publicly strained in the United States these days, it's natural that Canadians would start to wonder about their own local police forces. A recent survey found that Calgarians were far from universally loving their police service, with 39% indicating approval. This is in stark contrast to the Police Commission's own survey, which found 95% approval just a month later. Clearly, someone's asking the wrong questions.

Add to this recent revelations about bullying and harassment within the Calgary Police Service, and the ensuing public pissing match between members of the Police Commission, and it's no wonder that Calgarians are confused about what's going on and who's in charge.

There are clearly problems here that need resolving.

So who is responsible?

The Chief of CPS? The Police Commission? City Council? The Mayor? Alberta's Solicitor General?

Society is looking askance at police - perhaps more than it has in centuries. Whether it be local police departments or the RCMP, people have started to assume the worst of cops rather than the best. I don't know if it's popular media, both news and entertainment, that's putting ideas into people's heads. I don't know if it's the colour of the police cars, or the uniforms, or the militarization of the police. Maybe it's all of those things.

What I know, is that people are today seemingly far more likely to take a swing at a cop, or threaten a cop, or yell insults at a cop, than I remember even back in the late 90's. I recall watching 4 cops arrest someone who was acting belligerently at a transit station back then, and the prevailing opinion on the platform seemed to be that the guy got what was coming to him, and that the force being used was appropriate. "You swing at a cop, you're going to get your ass whipped" was one comment I still remember hearing from a guy standing next to me. Hell, the Chris Rock Show, which ran in the late 90's, even put together a handy video entitled "How To Not Get Your Ass Kicked By The Police". And it was funny. We all laughed.

But today?

Today, people stand around watching police detaining someone, whip out their phones and yell "pathetic" at the cops. They post those videos to the internet with names like "PROOF OF POLICE BRUTALITY", encouraging all their online contacts to think of cops as nothing but goons, unworthy of respect in all cases. Today, they call them names and criticize them for not taking on a suspect "one on one" - as though there's any universe where a cop, with a belt full of weapons INCLUDING a gun, would be making the best possible decision for public safety by fighting someone one-on-one (you really want that cop getting his ass knocked out, and a violent person to be able to use all that gear on anyone they want?).

IS it brutality? Sometimes, yes.

IS it pathetic? Sometimes, yes.

ARE there bad cops? Absolutely. Yes, there are.

And there are also GOOD cops. Doing their best to keep us safe, so we can go on the internet and bitch about the way they do their jobs. And all they want to do is make it home safe at the end of the day so they can kiss their kids goodnight.

In almost every instance, whenever there's a public incident or complaint, the Chief comes out and defends his officers. Maybe we want him to be more neutral. Or maybe that's what he's supposed to do. Maybe his role is as an advocate for the officers and the organization, and we need someone like the Chair of the Police Commission, or an actual hired Police Commissioner, to hold the Chief and his officers to account on behalf of the civilian public, so we can hear both sides, and so we can feel like complaints are being taken seriously. Maybe there are better ways to govern the police. Maybe police human resources issues, like suspensions and firings for cause, need to be public rather than "in camera", in the interests of building public trust. Or maybe that's the worst idea ever. Maybe there are better ways for them to work with the community, and make us all feel like they're on our side, instead of 48% of Calgarians feeling like they're Bullies in Black, or Photo Radar Operators who don't care about actual crime.

At the end of the day, we need police. We can't handle ourselves. We prove that every chance we get.

But we have to - ALL of us have to - do a better job at helping them help themselves, so they can then help us.

We're all in this together.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Matter of Principles

"Two Minute Tory".

These are the words I still hear in my nightmares, several years removed from the last time I had to arbitrate a nomination or leadership vote for the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta.

At the time, I was fielding complaints from my fellow PC's about people who had joined the party - a party they admittedly did not have any intention of further supporting or ever voting for - in order to get their candidate of choice (leadership or local nominee) elected.

While I was bound by the party constitution and the rules to be impartial, I remember how much it bothered me personally that people without any connection to the party were, collectively, having much more say than I - a loyal party member and volunteer for 20 years - was having over the future of the party that I'd still be fighting for long after they left the polling station.

It didn't feel right. It didn't seem fair. It, frankly, brought up some bad memories from my own failed nomination run. But with some time and distance under my belt, I can understand the perspective of the people who were putting down their $5 (at the time) and casting a vote: the PC's were the big dog in the yard. The successful candidate for Leader would be Alberta's next Premier. In our Westminster system, this was the closest any voter ever gets to directly choosing the person who runs the government (in fact if not in law). Likewise, the nomination meetings: Being elected the PC Nominee for the next general election didn't guarantee you the seat, but it certainly helped.

Well, if you fast forward a couple of years, things are quite different. The next Leader of the PCAA will be leading an 8-member (or fewer) Caucus which sits as the third party in the Legislative Assembly. They'll inherit a party with a central debt, one full-time employee, and a simmering civil war in its ranks about how best to move forward.

It is in this environment, with these stakes, that the current PC Leadership contest is being run.

Supporters on both sides of the "renew the PCAA/merge with the Wildrose" divide have had their noses out of joint about "Two Minute Tories" with respect to their local Delegate Selection Meetings (given the rules, it's more accurate to refer to them as "Two Week Tories"). Their argument goes, in much the same vein as the feelings I expressed above, that "people who aren't true conservatives shouldn't interfere in the process", or "people who don't support the PC party shouldn't interfere in the process". While those 2 statements appear to be more or less the same, the proponents of each argument would very much tend to disagree that they mean the same thing.

I'm a Lougheed PC. I believe strongly that a big tent PC Party helps the party and its caucus stay to the political centre, where the voters are and where Albertans wish to be governed from. With Red Tories and Blue Tories advocating the different policy ideas and priorities, a leader - no matter which side of that divide they came from themselves - would have the information they needed to make wise decisions in the best interest of all Albertans (provided that serving in the position of Leader of the PCAA actually means they'll be the Premier - which is less certain today than it was 2 years ago). I believe that a party with Ted Morton and Dave Hancock in it is stronger than a party with Morton and a different party with Hancock would be, and will govern better.

I have time for all manner of political beliefs in my sphere. I enjoy talking with my radical friends on the left, whether they be Sina, Kelly, or noted lefty Jonathan Denis. I enjoy debating policy as well with my friends on the right, including the Morgans, Derrick, and Richard. I would be happy (and in the case of some of them, actually AM happy) to have them in my Big Tent PCAA, so long as they believed in the fundamental Party Principles.

Those Principles, as approved at the recent PCAA Policy Conference and General Meeting, read as follows:


 We, the members of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta, believe in the right and autonomy of every Albertan to define and pursue their own success based on the following guiding principles, which should be taken together as a whole: 


     2.1.1 a private sector that drives economic growth and job creation;

     2.1.2 a government that creates a fair and competitive environment that provides opportunities for Albertans to succeed;

     2.1.3 responsible financial management, efficient government, low taxes and respect for taxpayers’ dollars.


      2.2.1 respecting and protecting human rights for all Albertans;

     2.2.2 social policies that support Albertans to become self-reliant and help those who need assistance to lead dignified and meaningful lives;

     2.2.3 a responsive, innovative education system to build a stronger society and economy;

     2.2.4 an accessible, high quality, and sustainable healthcare system that promotes physical and mental wellness for all Albertans;

     2.2.5 stewardship of the environment for future generations.

2.3 GOOD GOVERNANCE We believe in:

     2.3.1 respectful, responsible, and responsive governance that is accountable to our members and to all Albertans. 

As you can see, there's plenty of room for policy differences between people of good faith, working within those guiding principles.

There are people who hold party memberships at the moment, however, who are not interested in, for example, "responsible financial management, efficient government, low taxes and respect for taxpayers' dollars". Or who don't care a whit for "stewardship of the environment for future generations". I think these people, not believing in the principles that were rewritten after exhaustive consultation across the province with our membership and having been passed by the members at a General Meeting, might be trying to fit into a tent that, while large, doesn't quite have room for them. There are other tents that might be more to their liking.

One last point, that has become more and more clear to me over the past few months, between the U.S. election and the PC Leadership race:

My life has all sorts of room for political disagreement. I actually enjoy debating policy with people on both sides of the spectrum and at all points in between. I'm not going to stop being your friend because we disagree on public priorities.

I have room for lefties.

I have room for conservatives.

What I DON'T have room for is assholes, on either side. People who go out of their way to treat other people like shit, attack them personally, degrade them and their contributions, and then pat themselves on the back for being so damned awesome.

My party has its share. Some just joined. Some have been members for years. Some of them were central figures in the campaigns that eventually saw the PCAA lose the consent of Albertans to form government. And they apparently think that the way to get those voters back is to act like even BIGGER assholes than before. One way or another, come March 19, 2017, I'm not going to share my tent with them anymore.

Just as a matter of principle.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Ten Years

Nation, when I first put virtual pen to paper 10 years ago today, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

My utter lack of recognition about the level of commitment this blog would require of me was fairly evident by the end of the first paragraph, when I mentioned I'd be writing for "days, weeks and months to come".

So here I am, 3653 days later... 521 weeks later... 120 months later... still plugging away.

There have been some major changes in my life during that time. My politics haven't changed very much, I don't think - but the parties themselves certainly have. As they should.

In the 10 years since this blog started (the first several years of which I worked hard to maintain my anonymity), I've parlayed it into appearances on radio and television and in print. My writing here has helped get me onto the PC Party Board where I served for 4 years. It helped me almost win a nomination for provincial office. I've been invited to cover AGMs and Leadership Forums for multiple parties. I've been asked to moderate election forums, debates and town halls. I've been asked to help prep and run candidates at both the municipal and provincial levels. I have set up other blogs, with other bloggers, and we have won awards from our peers.

All of this, because of this little blog. A blog I started because I didn't think the media was doing its job, and they were ignoring candidates for the PC Leadership who could potentially win and become Premier, in their haste to paint the race as a 2-horse sprint between Jim Dinning and Ted Morton.

I don't write here as much any more, because my attention gets pulled in many more directions than it did at the time. With the rise of Facebook as a social media monolith, and the advent of Twitter as a forum for political views and breaking news being aired in virtually real-time, the "long form discussion" that I favour here has become something that people have less time for, and less inclination to read to the end. "TL;DR" is a thing, and I can't help but feel partly responsible. So I've modified my writing and my delivery methods for most things and kept them off the blog, rather than watering it down with a tonne of 100-word posts. I always felt like those wouldn't meet your expectations, and I never wanted to disappoint you.

I want to make it perfectly clear: I'm nobody special. Absolutely anyone reading this can do EXACTLY what I've done with this blog over the past 10 years. I'm not smarter than you, I'm not more gifted than you, and I'm not deserving of any extraordinary reputation. I'm just a guy who wanted his city, province, and country to be better governed, saw a way he could contribute to the discussion, and went ahead and tried. Whether I've been in the slightest bit successful in my "mission to civilize" when looking at the current debate is very much an open question. But I DID try. And I continue to try.

I've had many mentors, made many friends, and seen many fellow bloggers start or end their on-line careers over the decade I've been doing this. In particular, I want to recognize Duncan Wojtaszek and Ken Chapman for their early support and encouragement, Blake Robert and Dave Cournoyer for playing along with my ridiculous little good-natured "feuds" that I stirred up from time to time, and Kirk Schmidt, who went from blogger to candidate for MP to one of my closest friends. I owe a big debt of gratitude as well to the actual, honest-to-goodness media - particularly Jason Markusoff, David Gray and Jen Gerson - for their acceptance of me as someone who was worth talking to or who was invited to events as "media". I felt like a child among grown-ups each and every time, but my lack of training never stopped them from treating me with respect even when they had little actual reason to do so. Bloggers from the other side of the aisle also made me feel welcome, whether they be Derrick and Jane from the Wildrose Party, Vince and Dan from the Liberal side of things, or David and his left-wing loons over on the NDP side of things. You all made me want to get better at this. And you all helped me realize that "opponent" and "enemy" aren't the same thing.

Lastly, to you Nation: Thank-you for your patronage over the past 10 years. I will continue to write about subjects I don't think are getting enough attention, or which I think are too important to be discussed on Facebook walls or in 140 character nibbles. I will try to give you information you're not finding in the mainstream narrative - just as I did on the first day this blog came to be.

Politics has been kind to bloggers lately. There's no shortage of things to write about in this city, province, country or continent.

Here's to the next 10!

- Enlightened Savage