Friday, July 28, 2006

Back again

I know you are probably getting pretty tired of my apologies for lack of posting frequency on this blog. Still, it won't stop me from apologizing yet again.

The big move to BC is a little more than 3 weeks away now, so there's a lot of stuff that i'm starting to wind down and pack up here in Alberta.

That said, there are a number of things that are worth commenting on. Here they are in no particular order:

  • Many congratulations to my friend Kevin Geddert who, as we speak, is enjoying a wonderful honeymoon in Austria with his lovely bride Deirdre. I had the honour of being in the wedding party and serving as the emcee at their wedding last weekend in Banff. It was a great event all-around and I was glad I could be a part of it. Pictures, once downloaded, will be forthcoming.

  • The EUB hearings into Suncor's Voyageur project have now concluded. I have to say that if I were Suncor, I would be more than a little irked at having the hearings for my expansion project into the #1 venue for bitching and complaining about the things that are going on in the oilsands. From what I can gather, the politicians who made interventions brought little or nothing substantial to the table. It may have been lost on some that we elect people to fix problems, not complain about them. Its time for the 3 levels of government in this region to stop pointing fingers at others (or each other) and start dealing with the problems. In particular respect to the provincial government, I will again echo the comments of the provincial Liberal leader that it is not industry's job to build roads. It is industry's job to create employment and the opportunity for public revenue through taxation and royalties... IT IS GOVERNMENT'S JOB TO BUILD INFRASTRUCTURE.

  • I have been asked where I stand on the whole situation in the middle east. It is, of course, a complex and complicated affair which cannot be explained briefly. I have been trying to put my thoughts down in as diplomatic a manner as possible. That's an ongoing work, so I will summarize my basic stance: The root of this problem lies with Hezbollah. Until they are eliminated as a political and military force, a long-term solution cannot be reached. I applaud those who are taking a stand against these terrorists, and pray for innocent lives to be spared.

  • With that in mind, I am also EXCEPTIONALLY proud of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. It has been many a year since this country has had a Leader who will take a stand on issues of international importance, rather than ignoring them and thus lowering Canada's level of influence around the globe. I also thank each and every one of our men and women in uniform who are defending and protecting Canadian interests around the world.

That's about it for now. I'm around for a week or so before the next trip, and I may even try to blog from Vegas next weekend. Until then, shalom.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

PNWER and the EUB hearings

Well the PNWER summit is over for another year and I must say that this one was a real treat to participate in. There are so many people and organizations who made it a priviledge to be a part of this year's gathering. In no particular order, thank you to:

  • The PNWER staff and their team of interns who did an absolutely outstanding job of making sure that PNWER's largest conference was a resounding success. Hats off to Matt Morrison, Judy Skarsten, Brandon Hardenbrook, Ian Burkheimer, Neil Parekh, Amy Wheeless, Jamie Robertson, Kristen Meyers, Bethany Van Etten, Alex Bond, Rachel Park, and Josh Morrison... you were all a treat to work with and people I am now happy to call friends.
  • The staff of Alberta International and Intergovernmental Relations for their outstanding support of the conference.
  • The City of Edmonton for putting on a world-class welcome for PNWER's 570 delegates.
  • The many, many officials who I had the pleasure of conversing with over the course of 4 days, particularily: Representative George Eskridge, Representative Alan Olson, MLA Mel Knight, Hon. John Van Dongen, David Curtis, Jeff Morris, James Rajotte, and Jean-Yves Laforest.

I also enjoyed the presentations on various topics relating to Energy and Workforce Development. As a bit of a policy wonk I always enjoy getting new information as it relates to issues like these.

I hope everyone from the summit had a safe journey home, and I look forward to seeing you all in Anchorage in 2007!


I also wanted to post THIS.

I have some definite thoughts, but i'm not going to expand much on them except to say that on this point...

“The job of business in this case is to develop a resource to create employment, to create opportunity and to pay royalties and taxes,” Taft said, adding it’s the government’s job to provide infrastructure.

... I am in agreement with Kevin Taft.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Trade, the Economy, and a whole buncha policy

From now until Wednesday I have the pleasure of being a part of the team that puts together the PNWER (Pacific North West Economic Region) Annual Summit.

This year marks the 16th Annual Summit for PNWER, and my 3rd as an volunteer/attendee.

I have been very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful organization and work with the people who bring it all together.

A great article on PNWER was in the most recent edition of Edmontonians Magazine. I include THIS LINK to the article for your information.

I'll try and keep you posted on some of the people I meet and information I hear, but the conference is pretty busy so I can't make any promises.

Friday, July 14, 2006

And now, the Prime Minister...

One of the nice things about signing up to Prime Minister Harper's email list is that you get to read the text of major speeches he delivers across the country and around the world.

Here, then, is an excerpt from his speech to the Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce delivered today in London:

One of the primary targets for British investors has been our booming energy sector.They have recognized Canada’s emergence as a global energy powerhouse – the emerging “energy superpower” our government intends to build.

It’s no exaggeration.

We are currently the fifth largest energy producer in the world.

We rank 3rd and 7th in global gas and oil production respectively.

We generate more hydro-electric power than any other country on earth.

And we are the world’s largest supplier of uranium.But that’s just the beginning.

Our government is making new investments in renewable energy sources such as biofuels.And an ocean of oil-soaked sand lies under the muskeg of northern Alberta – my home province.

The oil sands are the second largest oil deposit in the world, bigger than Iraq, Iran or Russia; exceeded only by Saudi Arabia.

Digging the bitumen out of the ground, squeezing out the oil and converting it in into synthetic crude is a monumental challenge.

It requires vast amounts of capital, Brobdingnagian technology, and an army of skilled workers.

In short, it is an enterprise of epic proportions, akin to the building of the pyramids or China’s Great Wall. Only bigger.

By 2015, Canadian oil production is forecast to reach almost 4 million barrels a day.

Two thirds of it will come from the oil sands.

Even now, Canada is the only non-Opec country with growing oil deliverability.And let’s be clear. We are a stable, reliable producer in a volatile, unpredictable world.

We believe in the free exchange of energy products based on competitive market principles, not self-serving monopolistic political strategies.

That’s why policymakers in Washington – not to mention investors in Houston and New York – now talk about Canada and continental energy security in the same breath.

That’s why Canada surpassed the Saudis four years ago as the largest supplier of petroleum products to the United States.

And that’s why industry analysts are recommending Canada as “possessing the most attractive combination of circumstances for energy investment of any place in the world.”

British companies are already significant players in the Canadian energy sector.

BP has been there for 50 years. It’s already one of our leading producers of natural gas and it has a major stake in Canada’s next huge gas development – The Mackenzie River Delta in the Northwest Territories.

BG Group has also accumulated a large exploration stake in the Mackenzie River Valley.

There are trillions of cubic feet of gas in the region, and we are hopeful that the huge pipeline needed to deliver it to southern markets will finally go ahead.

British firms invested nearly three billion pounds (over $6 billion) in our energy and metals sectors last year.

And I think we’ll see even more British investment as word of Canada’s stature as the West’s most important energy storehouse gets out.

Of course, the energy sector is not the only source of British investment.

There are already about 650 UK-based companies and subsidiaries operating in Canada. You employ more than 70,000 people in 20 different industries.

British exports to Canada was close to five billion pounds ($10 billion) last year.

And even if you’re not doing business in Canada, chances are you’re vacationing there.

We welcomed over nearly a million visitors from the U.K. last year.

And we look forward to seeing you all at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia.

Canada is not as big a player in Britain as we’d like to be, but we’re getting there.

I’m glad to see many of you sporting Blackberrys.

They’re made in Canada, you know.

The Ontario manufacturer, Research in Motion, recently got security approvals from Whitehall and has started selling its marvellous devices to several ministries.

Chances are the video card in your computer monitor was made by ATI Technologies of Toronto.

One of our home-grown heroes is Quebec-based Bombardier, the aircraft and rail car manufacturer.

Believe it or not, Bombardier is the largest full-time employer in Northern Ireland.

All this means we’re not just hewers of wood and drawers of water anymore.

Although we’re still pretty good at those things too.The great granite plate known as the Canadian Shield is a vast storehouse of precious metals.

We have long been a major producer of nickel, gold, copper, potash, coal and cement.

But it may be news to you that Canada is now the world’s third largest producer of diamonds.

A decade ago Canadian diamonds were only a gleam in a prospector’s eye.

Today there are three producing mines and two more in development.

And the Royal Bank predicts diamonds will bring over 30 billion pounds (almost $70 billion) to the Canadian economy over the next 25 years.

The Shield also yields a third of the world’s uranium supply.

There aren’t many hotter commodities – so to speak – in the resources market these days.

The price is higher than it’s been in three decades.

Around the world, nearly 200 new reactors are proposed, planned or under construction.

And, as you know, Britain is one of the countries considering expansion of its nuclear generating capacity.

We’ll hope you’ll remember that Canada is not just a source of uranium.

We also manufacture state-of-the-art Candu reactor technology, and we’re world leaders in the safe management of fuel waste.

Which is one more reason to think of Canada as an energy superpower - and a strong candidate for British investment.

I know Britain’s trade orientation has successfully focussed on the European Union in recent years. But the success of British enterprise, for centuries, has been its ability to spot opportunities and nimbly move to exploit them.

That is something else we learned from you.

So you’ll forgive me if I remind you of it now,because the world is beating a path to our door.

And we want Britain to be as much a part of our future as she has been of our past.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

They may be Liberals, but...

... THIS is damn funny (you may have to scroll down a bit once you get there).

Hat tip to the Calgary Grit for posting this and allowing so many of us to have yet another laughing fit that simply can't be explained to non-political co-workers.

And, of course, kudos to the Frog Lady for creating it in the first place!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Back to politics...

There has been a lot of media lately (most of it Liberal-generated) about accusations of a cheque-swapping scheme for delegate fees at the 2005 Conservative Party of Canada Convention in Montreal.

This story in the Hill Times pretty well sums it up.

What the story doesn't sum up, though, is that the accusations are ridiculous.

First off, I attended this convention as a delegate from the riding of Fort McMurray-Athabasca. During the discussions of our riding association leading up to the convention, at no time was a cheque-swapping scheme discussed or even offered. Rather, our association voted to pay for the costs of our delegates to travel to Montreal. No cheque-swapping. Period.

What this amounts to is a Liberal Party that is still pretty sore over the idea that we are going to limit individual contributions to a political party to $1000 a year.

For our party (and likely the NDP, BQ, and Greens as well), this is perfectly manageable because we rely mainly on a great number of smaller donations.

The Liberals, on the other hand, do not have this same appeal to the average Canadian with an average income... thus they rely on a smaller number of donations from wealthier individuals who can afford to give more (and, in Joe Volpe's case, their children).

The Liberals are under a false impression that this limit will put them in trouble because they are charging $995 for delegates to attend their convention this winter. They are under the impression that delegate fees in their entirety constitute a donation, and thus will leave only a $5 gap for anyone attending convention.

As has been labouriously explained by CPC folks, their interpretation is incorrect.

Unfortunately, a Liberal-friendly Elections Canada is helping this matter drag itself out.

I look forward to this situation finally being resolved, and for the financing of political parties to be brought more in line with the average Canadian (much to the chagrin of the Liberals).

I then look forward to the "retirement" of Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Canada's Chief Electoral Officer.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Day 9: Calgary to Fort McMurray

Today's trip is one of the longer stretches, so I DID REMEMBER to take a picture of the odometer just after I left the hotel this morning.

Onto the Deerfoot and Highway 2 northbound... a drive I have probably done 100 times or more in every conceivable kind of season/weather/time of day/etc.

Nothing really worthy of a picture between Calgary and Edmonton, but I did think I should get a shot of one of the refineries in Fort Saskatchewan. The row of plants like these is where we send all that black gold from McMurray. Amongst other things, these nice people make it into the gas that is probably in your car right now.

Well alright, I lied... there was some photo worthy stuff between Calgary and Edmonton, but I didn't take a picture of one until I was past Fort Saskatchewan. Canola fields like these are all over the province and make for a very nice colourscape (if you like yellow, anyway).

Downtown Grassland, Alberta. This is about 250km from Fort McMurray and is THE place to stop if you're driving to the oilsands. Your best bet is Wally's Grill... good food, clean washrooms.

Apparently there are more than a few people who miss this turn and end up in Lac La Biche. I, on the otherhand, could probably make it blindfolded.

Once you get past Wandering River (200km from McMurray), any semblance of agriculture ends and the drive pretty much looks like this from here on in.

In the vicinity of Mariana Lakes (100km from McMurray). This was the site of a pretty nasty forest fire about 10 years ago. The fire blocked the highway for a few days, making the Fort McMurray accessible only by air.

Thanks! The trip was fun, but its nice to be back for a while (well, a week anyway)!

Downtown Fort McMurray, Alberta.

My hometown :)

The odometer reading upon the triumphant return to my driveway. That puts today's journey at 755 kilometers.

Remember, the reading when I left last Saturday was 10081km. So that means...

Total Distance Travelled: 4803 kilometers
Total Trip Duration: 8 days, 11 hours, 3 minutes.
Number of Ferry Trips: 3
Number of Border Crossings: 4
Nights in Hotels: 4
Nights with Family/Friends: 3
Nights in my new Apartment: 1
Number of songs sung along to on the radio: Too many to count.

Finally, THANK YOU for coming along! As i've said, I am amazed at how many people have followed this blog. I think i'll make a point of photo blogging my vacations and other stuff like that in future.

We now return you to your irregularily scheduled political commentary!

Day 8: Claresholm to Calgary

Today's trip was by far the shortest distance-wise at around 120km, but Calgary was a very busy stop for yours truly.

The view of one of the greatest cities in the world from Memorial Drive. Every time I visit, I remember just what a great place Calgary is.

When one is in Calgary during Stampede, and one is hungry... one finds the most happenin pancake breakfast in town. This morning, the obvious venue is the Jim Prentice Stampede Breakfast!

Before the breakfast ended, a reader by the name of Les Stelmach came over to say hello. Not only was it very humbling to have people who read the blog come up off the street to chat, but it was particularily nice to talk to Les. As you may have guessed, Les is the son of PC Leadership Candidate Ed Stelmach. I have a lot of respect for Ed, Marie, and their entire family. They are truly decent and outgoing people. After spending 10 minutes chatting with Les, it is clear that he has inherited his father's approachability and positive attitude. Thank for reading, and for stopping to say hi!

With the host, the Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and MP for Calgary Centre-North. A great guy who has his act together, and will (I think) prove to be Canada's greatest Indian Affairs minister.

I spent the rest of the day driving around and meeting up with various friends in Calgary.

While on the Deerfoot, I spotted this loaded down Mazda with New Brunswick plates... obviously headed west to catch a piece of the Albertan Dream. This is a fairly common sight in Alberta these days.

Aside from this roadtrip and the move to BC, one of the highlights of my summer will be in 2 weeks when my good friend Kevin (in this photo) marries the charming girl to his left. They're both truly wonderful people and I can't wait to see them wed. I've known Kevin for 10 years now... I look forward to knowing Kev and Dee for many, many more.

I didn't bother with an odometer reading for this leg given that it was so short... chalk it up as roughly 150km driven today.

Saturday, July 8, 2006

Day 7: Spokane to Claresholm

Before setting off from Spokane, I made a point of stopping in to visit some friends/customers at RAHCO International, whom we had the pleasure of working with on a major project last year. I got to see RAHCO's plant first hand... on the outside, it looks like a WW2-era magnesium plant (which is what it was)... inside, they manufacture some of the best mining and industrial equipment on the market.

Out of Washington and into the Idaho panhandle. This was my first time in the state... seems like a nice place.

At 6500 residents, Sandpoint, Idaho was the largest town between Spokane and Cranbrook, BC.

My fourth and final border crossing of this trip... heading back into BC at Kingsgate. Understandably, the nice customs officer here was just a little perplexed at my routing this week.

Cranbrook, BC... a very nice little town/city in the heart of the Kootenays. It was also the first time I stopped at a Tim Horton's on this trip. The Horton's stop is significant, because I had vowed to a couple of people at work that I would investigate their goofball claim that ordering a "Regular Coffee" will get you a coffee with 1 cream and 1 sugar. I thought this was some crazy Ontario notion, and set out to prove them wrong. Well...

Its not the Rogers Pass, sure... but its still a tunnel through the mountain.

The obligatory photo of Fernie, BC. Its obligatory because I know Nicole is reading this.

Leaving BC and back in the homeland, Wild Rose Country.

The site of the Frank Slide in the Crowsnest Pass. All of the towns in the Pass are incredibly scenic and very historic, but none has a greater impact than viewing the Frank Slide. The site remains largely untouched from when part of the mountain collapsed onto the mining town of Frank.

There are hundreds of these windmills dotting the landscape across southwestern Alberta. Some consider them an eyesore, but I quite like them. I also think they're an efficient and responsible way to generate power. They're obviously effective, because Calgary's C-Train system runs entirely on power from these windmills.

The final swing to the north of the trip. From here on, the needle will be pointing up.

Heading north under a big, beautiful, blue Alberta sky.

True, Tom. Soooooo true.

Arrival into Claresholm, Alberta... roughly 120km south of Calgary.

Based on this and the odometer reading upon arrival in Spokane last night, I covered 604km today.

All of that driving is tough work. Time for a beer at Dusty's Roadhouse, proudly operated by my good friend Ryan!

Day 6: Victoria to Spokane continued

Alright, I have once again found wireless that I can steal/borrow so you are about to be bombarded with posts...

The mountains west of Seattle slowly gave way to a more gentle landscape, still stunning nonetheless.

The landscape continued to change heading down I-90. The leg of the trip that I travelled on this highway was definetly the nicest surprise, scenery wise.

This little gem is known as "The Gorge". It is a sprawling lake in a sea of coulees. When I crested the hill descending into the Gorge, I knew I had come across the scenery gem of this trip. Thankfully, there was a great lookout for people to stop and take it all in. The view from here was simply breathtaking...

... it was also VERY windy.

Normally a little mom and pop motel wouldn't be worth a picture, but I had a good laugh at this one. If you enlarge this picture, you'll see that its a shot of Martha's Inn. Why is this significant, you ask? Because its in the town of George. That's right... Martha's Inn... in George, Washington.

The water tower in Moses Lake, Washington. If you are ever in Moses Lake, DO NOT fill up at the Chevron... slowest gas pumps i've ever seen... 10 minutes just to get half a tank in the Honda.

Its not the top of the Space Needle, but the view of tonight's sunset from the highway was pretty good nonetheless.

And finally, the destination. Downtown Spokane, Washington... a city whose television i've been watching for 24 years, but am only seeing live for the first time now.

The odometer reading upon arrival in Spokane. Based on the departure reading this morning, the car and I travelled 650 kilometers today... plus the undetermined distance on the 2 hour ferry ride between Sidney and Anacortes.

Friday, July 7, 2006

Day 6: Victoria to Spokane

First off, this was Thursday odometer reading at departure from Victoria. It puts Wednesday's distance travelled at 161km plus the 35 or so nautical miles travelled on the two ferries.

My building is on Maitland Street. One block over is none other than Robert Street. They obviously knew I was coming.

Waiting in line for the ferry back to the U.S. was pretty entertaining since we were right under the approach path for runway 27 at Victoria International. Shown here is a Canadian Forces Aurora.

The M.V. Chelan was my ride to Anacortes and, at over 2 hours, the longest of the 3 ferry trips.

Anacortes seems to be home to a great number of oil refineries and/or storage tanks.

After a scenic jaunt across Washington Highway 20, it was back onto I-5 for the run down to I-90. Besides Highway 63, this is the only stretch of highway that I will see twice on this trip.

On I-90 now. You know, i'm not an expert in concrete, ashphalt, or any other kind of aggregate... but I do know that whatever they put on this stretch of I-90 sucks. Its rough, its loud... its like driving on cut-rate cobblestone. Thankfully, I only had about an hour of this garbage. Anyway, as you can see I had lots of forests and clouds on this stretch.

My wireless is about to run out so i'll have to finish this part later... there's some good pics coming up, too!

Day 5: Seattle to Victoria (continued)

I couldn't add to the old post, so i'll continue Day 5 in a new post...

One of the things that has floored me is how many of you are following my vacation on this blog. Many of you have emailed, some have posted comments on the blog. I even got a phone call from Bill Stewart in Edmonton on Wednesday. He was asking how it was that I was getting these pictures... I guess this answers your question, eh Bill?

One of the other things i've noticed on this trip is how many cars with California plates there are driving around the U.S. Mind you, I suppose with 44 million Californians out there, they're bound to get around.

Downtown Port Angeles, Washington. A cute little tourist town, and home to...

...the M.V. Coho, my ride to Victoria. This ship has been making the 1h25m crossing between Port Angeles and Victoria since 1959.

Nearing Victoria after crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca. If you enlarge this picture, you can see my apartment building... its the one to the right of the big white building.

As we swung into the harbour, we were greeted by an outbound West Coast Air Twin Otter bound for Vancouver. From my balcony I can see and hear these things all day long.

Downtown Victoria, my new home... ain't she beautiful?

The view from my bedroom window. Its certainly a departure from boreal forest, that's for sure.

McVie also pointed out that the Esso oil storage facility you see on the right should be a bit of a taste of home for me.

Now the day's activities didn't end here. I had to go buy a futon so as to have something to sleep on that night... many thanks to Andrew McVie for figuring out how to put it together (and for getting us into Victoria's prestigious Union Club for dinner).

Sadly, pictures of the Union Club and futon assembly aren't available because the batteries on the camera died.

Oh well, next up: Back in the U.S.A....