Monday, December 31, 2007

Auld Lang Syne

Well here it is folks, my last post of 2007. I thought it was important to get to the computer and jot a few things down before our visitors (all 30 of them!) arrive for New Year's Eve celebrations.

As I sit here in my father's office at the family home in Kelowna, I can't help but think that i'm perfectly positioned for the transition to 2008.

Geographically speaking, I am almost smack in the between the world i've known for the past 18 months (Victoria) and the world i'm returning to soon (Calgary). During my time here I have often found myself torn between those two worlds, so its fitting that i've spent so much time here in the Okanagan this year.

The year has been a rather eventful one.

Trying to adjust to life in a place that's different from Alberta (and I mean REALLY different) has been a challenge. I use the word challenge because I think it denotes both the positive and negative aspects of the adjustment. Negative in that it became clear over time that, while I enjoy visiting, Vancouver Island isn't a place where I can settle down. But positive in the sense that it has crystallized a few things for me. I also leave the Island with a number of new friendships that I expect will carry on for some time to come. And, for as much as they can drive me nuts, living alongside your typical Vancouver Islander has certainly helped me better understand what drives the other side of the political spectrum.

In keeping with the theme of discovery, I was able to take my first overseas trip this year. Even though my destination, London, was less of a culture shock than other places would have been, it was still a moving experience. No matter the similarities, there was still the undeniable feeling that I was in a completely different part of the world. Those of who with experience travelling abroad know what I mean. To those of you that don't... DO. Whatever it costs you to get on that plane, its worth it to come back with a suitcase full of memories and a better perspective of the world we live in.

Politically speaking, its been quite a year. Ups and downs, left and right. You've heard it all from me through this blog so i'm not going to bother rehashing it. Why?

Because for as much as travel and politics and all that other jazz matters, sometimes it doesn't matter at all.

I say this because, for all the things that have happened this year, none were more important than events surrounding my family and friends. I watched one of the most intelligent people I know walk down the aisle with, truly, the woman he was born to be with. I have shared in the joyous news that a few more of those special people in my life will be walking down that same aisle next year. And, best of all, I found out that my little sister was going to give me a brother-in-law to terrorize AND a niece/nephew to spoil in 2008. This is what its really all about.

So what do I hope for in 2008?

Politically speaking, I obviously hope for election victories for both Premier Ed Stelmach and, should Canada go to the polls, for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. I have great respect for both of these men and their visions for the province and the nation. In the broader sense, I hope for a return to a more civil tone in the national discourse that goes on in Ottawa. I realize that no one party is guilty or innocent when it comes to the horrendous behaviour in the House of Commons, but I sure hope that the rabble rousers on all sides grow up and remember they are conducting the people's business.

In the blogosphere, I hope that more people with well-thought opinions choose to join this vast online community. I also look forward to continued interaction and the occaisional battle of wits with those who care so passionately about the future of Alberta, namely Dave, Will, Ken, Allie, Duncan, and the mysterious man from Calgary.

On the lighter side, I hope for a Royal Bank Cup for my hometown Fort McMurray Oil Barons, a Stanley Cup for the Calgary Flames, and a Super Bowl for the Seattle Seahawks. And, if the Seahawks can't have the Super Bowl... I hope that the Patriots are equally denied.

Most of all, though, I hope for good health and happiness for all my friends (that's you) for the coming year. Because, when the dust settles, that's really all that matters.

Company's here, I gotta run.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Something to think about

An interesting thought crossed my mind after reading a post from Ken Chapman today.

Ken muses about the need for a federal election in the first half of 2008. Ken, as those of you who read him will know, is no fan of the Conservative Party of Canada or Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Fair enough... Ken is certainly entitled to his opinion. While it is rare that someone in Alberta supports the Liberal Party of Canada AND PC Alberta, it is not unheard of and its well-known in federal conservative circles.

You'll recall that, a while back, I noted that Kevin Taft's extraordinary attempts to distance the provincial Liberal party from their federal cousins had the potential to do more harm than good. Duplication of volunteers, after all, could only help the Liberal cause in Alberta.

Ken's post on the need for a federal election next year got me thinking, though, about potential implications for the PC Alberta campaign.

Should Stephane Dion choose to bring down the federal government around the same time as our expected February/March election in Alberta he likely won't be doing himself any favours. He may, however, be giving his buddy Kevin Taft a hand.

Having been quite active with both the provincial and federal conservative parties in Alberta, I can tell you first hand that there are far more people who put a greater priority on the federal party than they do on the provincial party. Moreover, those who work primarily with the feds have much more access to technology and the latest campaign strategy than has been available through PC Alberta in the past.

This hasn't been an issue in recent memory. Provincial and National campaigns have occured within 6 months of each other, but they haven't overlapped in quite some time. Moreover, the days when the federal and provincial parties shared a deep-seeded organizational and structural link are no more. The greatest collusion between provincial and federal conservatives these days is at the grassroots level, where volunteers are often doing double duty.

Although there is no clear way to measure how someone with a busy schedule will prioritize their campaign volunteering, there are a few litmus tests. Specifically how much popular support does each party have, and; how much money does each party raise?

The answer to the first question is easy to find. In the 2004 Provincial Election, 417902 Albertans cast a ballot for PC Alberta for a total of 46.8% of the popular vote. In the 2006 Federal Election, 931701 Albertans cast a ballot for the Conservative Party of Canada for a total of 65.03% of the popular vote.

The second question is difficult to answer, given that there is no simple way to track party contributions provincially in Alberta. Still, though, it is pretty well-accepted that the federal conservatives have a wider donor base.

Of course, these numbers are not static. Circumstances change from day to day, nevermind election to election. Still, though, they paint the picture as best they can.

There may be some in provincial circles who may want to ignore the possibility of overlapping campaigns either because its beyond our control or because they do not support the federal party altogether. That's the wrong attitude. We have a new leader and a new message, but we NEED people to help us get that message across.

The important thing will be for the powers that be in the PC Alberta campaign to recognize this potential risk and plan for it.

Complacency is no longer an option.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Post-Christmas Roundup

Hello friends! I hope everyone had an enjoyable Christmas surrounded by family and friends.

Its been a week since I last posted and, although the provincial news cycle is slow, there are still a few things to offer comment on.


First of all, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is an absolute tragedy and will likely have serious implications not only for Pakistan, but for the rest of the world as well.

Ken Chapman has an excellent post on this today. He nails a point that I was pondering last night. Being of a younger generation, I can't help but think that historic events have a way of repeating themselves. 9/11 is our Pearl Harbor, the Challenger disaster is our Hindenberg tragedy, and, perhaps, Benazir Bhutto is our JFK.

If nothing else, she was Pakistan's JFK.

Godspeed Ms. Bhutto... and thank you for everything you did for your homeland. May your struggle never be in vain.


This is old news, but I did want to offer my two cents on a bit of a controversy going on in Calgary Montrose.

Northeast Calgary politics are known for being divisive and controversial and Montrose is no exception. In 2004, Gus Barron was disqualified from running in Montrose's PC nomination. He subsequently sued the Montrose PC Association. Barron won the initial lawsuit before having it overturned by the Alberta Court of Appeal. The Montrose PC Association, however, was stuck paying its own legal bills. The constituency association, like every other one in the province, is made up of dedicated volunteers who selflessly offer their services to the party.

PC Alberta has refused to cover the legal bills for Calgary Montrose, totally some $180,000. Calgary Montrose is not, by any means, an affluent area. Were this to happen in another part of the city, it would just be a drop in the bucket. In Montrose, however, this is big bucks. It has gotten to the point where some people named in the original lawsuit may have to sell their homes to pay legal bills. Legal bills which stem from their work on behalf of and, some have suggested, at the direction of the party.

This is shameful and totally unacceptable.

Duplicitous double standards may have been the mark of some people who used to run PC Alberta, but we have all been led to believe that this has changed under the new regime. If the party can step in and do the right thing in Calgary Egmont, surely it can do the same in Calgary Montrose.

Anything less will be a slap in the face to each and every person who volunteers for PC Alberta.


I have often said that when Keith Brownsey predicts something, expect the opposite.

Motor mouth Brownsey is at it again this week. While Premier Stelmach talks about the possibility of an Alberta Pension Plan to supplement the greatly-depleated CPP, Brownsey suggests the Premier is fear mongering and that its "absolute nonsense to say it won't be there when young people eventually retire."

Brownsey says people of my generation have nothing to fear surrounding the future of the CPP.

That's reason enough for me to up my RRSP contributions.


Talking about the Premier and looking ahead, its nice to see that he's taking a thoughtful approach to the possibility of nuclear energy for Alberta.

The nuclear decision is a major one with myriad positive and negative aspects. Jumping into any stance would be foolhardy for the government.

People ask why i've come to like "the new guy". Clear and careful planning, as evidenced by how he's dealing with the nuclear question, is a big part of my answer.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Troops, Trains, Reporters and Writ Drops

As many of you know, i'm a staunch supporter of our Canadian Armed Forces. I always consider the difficult tasks they are presented with and extend sincere gratitude to them and their families.

During the holiday season, many people complain about the rigours of shopping, travel, and dealing with the crowds that come with both. While these are inconveniences, they pale in comparison to our brave men and women who are unable to be with their loved ones this Christmas.

This was reinforced for me this morning when, while watching Newsnet, a fellow I went to high school with came on the screen as part of the "Christmas Wishes from the Troops" series that runs on many networks at this time of year.

If you know someone who serving our country, be sure to thank them for their service over the holidays... especially if they are away from their family and friends. Consider using the Canadian Forces' Morale by Messageboard program to send your appreciation to those who proudly fly the Maple Leaf while trying to make the world a better place.

For my part, I extend sincere thanks and a hearty Merry Christmas to Captain Bill Thomey onboard the HMCS Charlottetown and everyone of the brave Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen who are away from their loved ones this Christmas!


In other news...

This item from 630 CHED suggests that the idea of a high speed rail link between Edmonton and Calgary is gaining support with Premier Stelmach. The environmental argument is a difficult one to counter and will go a long way in helping shore up public support should it be persued.


Turning to the federal scene, there is a fascinating saga unfolding regarding collusion between CBC reporters and the Liberal Party of Canada. Stephen Taylor and Steve Janke have both done excellent work in helping to bring things to light.

One of the most intriguing bits is that Pablo Rodriguez, the Liberal MP who asked the supposed CBC-written questions, asked them in rehearsed, lawyer-precise English. In the House of Commons, Monsieur Rodriguez speaks French almost exclusively.

C'est bizarre, non?


Finally, Prime Minister Harper has called 4 byelections for the spring.

Up for grabs are Toronto Centre and Willowdale in Ontario, Vancouver Quadra in BC, and Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River in Saskatchewan.

I suspect the Liberals will have a lock on both the Ontario seats (and add to their internal bickering once Bob Rae gets into the House of Commons).

Vancouver Quadra, although traditionally Liberal, may be more of a fight than people expect given that the Conservative candidate, Deborah Meredith, won a hard-fought nomination against a high profile challenger. She'll also be running against Liberal Joyce Murray, whose greatest claim to fame was a single, exceptionally lacklustre term as the MLA for New Westminster in Gordon Campbell's first government.

Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River will be the most interesting to watch. This seat was held by Liberal Gary Merasty until he quit earlier this year. Mr. Merasty, you will remember, barely won the seat in a shroud of controversy after some exceptionally high turnouts at polls that usually see little or not votes cast at all.

Anyway, there appears to be a fight brewing between my old buddy David Orchard and Ralph Goodale. Orchard is contesting the nomination and wants to be the Liberal candidate. Ralph, meanwhile, is reportedly touting current NDP MLA Joan Beatty as a potential appointee, thus quashing Orchard's hope.

As a conservative, i'm going to enjoy watching this no matter how it plays out.

If a contested nomination goes ahead and Orchard wins it, Stephane Dion and the Liberal Party are going to have their work cut out for them in trying to tame the organic, free-range beast that is David Orchard.

If the nomination is quashed and Beatty is appointed, the Liberals will face the wrath of David Orchard and his small army of fringe activists who can't really be counted on to "do the right thing" by accepting the party's decision... particularily since Orchard delivered a sizeable chunk of votes to Dion during the leadership race. PLUS, we get to hold Beatty to account for having run and won as a provincial MLA just SIX WEEKS AGO!

Liberals are painting these byelections as a opportunity for Dion to save some face. I disagree. No one expects him to lose the Toronto seats anyway... but they also don't expect him to lose Quadra, which may happen. Add to that the drama unfolding in Northern Saskatchewan, and Stephane Dion may end up wishing he could tuck himself into his backpack and be carried away from the whole mess.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I'm packing, so read these instead ;)

Quickly, before I hop the plane tomorrow morning, I wanted to share 3 interesting reads from today's Alberta-based Canwest papers...

First is a year-end interview with Energy Minister Mel Knight, the man who so ably shows why Hugh MacDonald shouldn't pump gas, let alone be an Energy critic.

The second is an excellent piece about Canadian/Albertan greenhouse gas emissions from the Journal's business writer Gary Lamphier.

The third is a bit of a retirement piece on Lyle Oberg courtesy of Don Martin, a man who spent a great deal of the Klein era covering the Legislature and has more than a few stories to tell.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Winding down for the Holidays

Hope you all had a lovely weekend. I, admittedly, enjoyed a little too much of the Christmas spirit(s) on Saturday night... but t'is the Season, right?

I leave for Christmas Holidays with my family in Kelowna later this week. I'll still be near the computer but, given the traditional slow news cycle over the Holidays, i'm not sure how often i'll be posting.

Given that, I want to leave you with three quick items today:


I hate to keep talking about this guy and his crew but the more publicity they get, the more people realize that these guys really are lunatics.

The latest development is that he and members of his team will be running as Independents or as candidates for either the Wildrose or Alberta Alliance parties in four Calgary and area constituencies.

In addition to Craig running as an Independent in Calgary Egmont, they are:

-Jim Blake, Chandler's Communications Chair during the nomination and National Chairman of Concerned Christians Canada, will run either as an Independent or for the Wildrose Party in Calgary Currie.

-Sid Helishauer, a Chandler volunteer during the nomination and National Business Club Chair for PGIB, will run as an Independent or for the Alberta Alliance in Airdrie-Chestermere.

-Harley Shouldice, Chandler's Campaign Manager during the nomination and the Chief of Staff at PGIB, will run as an Independent in Calgary North Hill.

-David Crutcher, Chandler's GOTV Chair during the nomination and the recently ousted President of the Calgary Egmont PCs, will run as an Independent or for the Alberta Alliance in Calgary Glenmore.

These guys obviously take themselves way more seriously than anyone else does if they believe they're going to have any impact.

The fact that they can't even decide which fringe party to run for and, even more telling, the fact that the fringe parties don't seem to want to have much to do with them is a pretty clear indication that, much to their chagrin, their 15 minutes of fame is just about up.


This piece in the National Post paints a very interesting and accurate portrayal of what goes on in a political family. It also gives you a bit of insight into one of the most decent people I know.


Finally, but most importantly...

Friday, December 14, 2007

The highway

Highway 63, the main road to my hometown of Fort McMurray, is again in the news.

It hasn't been a stellar winter thus far when it comes to road safety on 63. Sadly, a number of people have lost their lives travelling to and from Fort McMurray.

The opposition and angry columnists are keen to place the blame on the provincial government for not doing enough.

Liberal Leader Kevin Taft is demanding that a clear end-date be provided with regards to the completion of Highway 63.

Edmonton Sun Columnist Neil Waugh has a lengthy missive about what he believes is a complete failure on the part of government to move the project along.

Both Neil and the Liberals have suggested that precious little work has been done on twinning the highway.

First of all, I doubt that either Kevin Taft or Neil Waugh drive Highway 63 on a regular basis. Although the last time I was on the highway was over a year ago, I remember noting great progress compared to the highway we used to know.

Let's take a look at the list of major provincial highway projects. There are 15 separate items on the wish list for Highway 63.

Admittedly, things are not moving as fast as anyone would like. Ideally, we could just plunk down a new twinned highway tomorrow. Kevin Taft and his party may think this is possible, but most Albertans know better.

Highway 63 is certainly over-taxed when it comes to the volume of traffic it serves and twinning will be an important part of improving its safety.

What scared me far more when I was a regular user of 63, though, was the reckless and careless manner in which so many drivers operated their vehicles... particularily during poor winter weather.

Highway 63 sees a far greater incidence of excessive speed, dangerous passing, and drunk driving than other highways.

To cut down on this, the police have stepped up Checkstops and patrols on 63. The provincial government has also brought on highway traffic sheriffs to help crack down on dangerous drivers.

These measures help, but more can be done. Namely, by those that drive Highway 63.

The twinning is happening, but it's a massive undertaking that will take several years. In the meantime, drivers need to take personal responsibility for their actions on the road. Its not only their lives they put at risk.

The companies who employ workers who make their living in the oilsands but make their home elsewhere also have a role to play. Make sure your employees aren't getting behind the wheel in a state unfit to drive. Provide transportation if possible, fewer vehicles with overtired or intoxicated drivers are always a good thing.

Finally, residents of Fort McMurray need to realize that, if the weather on the highway is poor, having to spend the weekend at home isn't a bad thing. Sure, it may mean missing out of that shopping trip, hockey game, or concert in Edmonton, but its not worth the risk when the roads are in bad shape. Shopping locally, watching the game on TV, or listening to your iPod won't kill you.

McMurrayites have long complained about the need for twinning Highway 63. Finally, they have been heard and are getting results as quickly as can be expected given the scope of the project.

A twinned Highway 63 is what McMurray needs.

What it does not need is duplicitous lip service from columnists eager to sell papers or opposition politicians who (falsely) think they can gain a seat in the legislature.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The power of positive-ish thinking

Its a bit of a ho-hum Wednesday, but a good friend and faithful reader forwarded me an article i'll share with you.

I pass this along to you mainly because of this stellar quote from Kevin Taft:

"Listen, in 102 years the government of Alberta has changed three times. The odds of it happening in the next election aren‘t great. But it will happen sooner or later"

Talk about an optimistic outlook, eh Kev?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

End-of-session review: A tale of two parties

With the fall sitting of the Alberta Legislature now behind us, Albertans have two distinct version of events at their disposal.

The first comes from Premier Stelmach himself.

The Premier held a news conference outlining the progress made based on the mandate letters issued to the new Ministers when they were sworn in last year. A handy pdf document details items in the mandate letters and the progress made on said files.

The document is everything you'd expect from the Premier, detailed and well-planned.

Meanwhile, the Liberal caucus have released their own version of events this past year and it, naturally, paints a much different picture.

Needless to say, a quick read of this piece proves once again that any sane, reasonably pragmatic person left the Alberta Liberals when Laurence Decore quit. I'm not going to debunk this entire left-wing leaflet, but I will be happy to take on a few items:

In addition to the usual nonsense about making Mel Knight resign, the Liberals take a shot at the government for allowing bitumen to be shipped to the United States for development.

Interesting. Perhaps they have forgotten that the new royalty framework includes a ‘bitumen-in-kind’ principle to encourage more of our resources to be upgraded in Alberta.

We all want to create more value-added industries when it comes to our oil here in Alberta, but do the Liberals think Mel can just snap his fingers and make new upgraders appear?

Interestingly, the Liberals criticize the government for not "looking for opportunities to work with our western neighbours to form an energy partnership"... yet just a few paragraphs later, slam the government for passing the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) through the legislature.

You'd think a party that was once referred to as the political wing of the Alberta Teachers Association would have lots to say on this, right?

Wrong. Their criticism of the department headed by Ron Liepert has a grand total of 14 words about children with special needs.

I wonder why they're so sheepish about education?

Could THIS have something to do with it?

The Liberals point out that several day cares have closed due to lack of staff because wages in this sector are low.

Fair point, maybe that's why Janis Tarchuk gave child care providers a huge shot in the arm this spring.

The Minister's mandate letter includes a line about expanding the capacity of Alberta's highway system to address growth pressures.

The Liberals say that road capacity and quality don't address growth pressures.

Really? So we should stop the twinning of Highway 63 then? Kill the ring roads in Edmonton and Calgary, perhaps? I'm sure Luke Ouellette will get right on that.

Get real.

Throughout their end-of-session critique, the Liberals are short on substantial criticism and even shorter on their proposed alternatives (almost nil).

Kevin Taft and the Liberals may have thought this thing was a good communications idea, but a closer read just shows Albertans more compelling evidence that the Liberals aren't even much of an opposition, let alone a government-in-waiting.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

One housecall the Doc won't be making anymore

I got word late on Friday night from a very reliable source that the rumours surrounding Lyle Oberg's departure were accurate.

Movement on the newswires confirms this.

The story on the wire seems to lend strength to the suggestions that Lyle wasn't really getting along terribly well with caucus, his cabinet colleagues, or the Premier. With a cabinet portfolio comes the expectation that you're going to be a team player. It would appear as though this wasn't the impression left on the Premier.

Personality issues aside, the job of an MLA and a Minister is a difficult and often thankless one. Dr. Oberg should be thanked for his nearly 15 years of public service. I'm sure the people of Strathmore-Brooks appreciated having such a forceful voice representing them in Edmonton.

The Strathmore-Brooks PC Association will likely be holding a new nomination meeting in January. It will be interesting to see who steps forward to fill the shoes of one of the most colourful politicians in the history of the Alberta Legislature.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Retirements, Redundancies, and Relocations

Rumours are starting to swirl about a possible announcement by Finance Minister Lyle Oberg that he has decided not to seek re-election in the upcoming election.

Rick Bell's column (linked above) suggests that this may be the result of the good Doctor being taken to the proverbial woodshed one too many times. Ken Chapman also takes a critical look at the member for Strathmore-Brooks in his latest post. I suspect we'll be reading more about this in the days ahead.

If it IS true that he's leaving, there could be any number of reasons. Lyle has been splitting his time between family in Brooks, family in Sherwood Park, and his duties as a Minister. That takes a toll on anyone and it could well be that he's simply choosing to get out to cut down on that strain. Of course, the woodshed argument is entirely possible, too.

One thing is for sure, Lyle doesn't have much of a poker face.

Whatever the reason for a departure may be, it'll be pretty obvious from his demeanour at this anticipated announcement.


Of all the areas of public policy that I find myself caring about, the most boring is probably issues surrounding license plates.

Ever since I was a child, i've had some bizarre interest in plates (as well as an uncanny knack for remembering people's plate numbers). I started thinking a few years ago that I can't ever remember the Alberta plate looking any different than it does now and that perhaps it was time for a change.

Imagine my joy, then, when Service Alberta Minister Lloyd Snelgrove announced that his department was going to begin a consultation on the future of the Alberta license plate.

(Hard to believe I can't get a date, I know...)

One item in the consultation, which you should all take a few minutes to do, ponders a return of the front license plate.

I think this is a colossal waste of money.

Prudish defenders of bureaucracy, though, are lining up in favour.

In a recent blog post, Graham Thomson details a speech given by Liberal MLA Mo Elsalhy during the marathon sitting of the Legislature. The post is a good reminder that Graham Thomson is the best unpaid spin machine the Liberals have, but that's another matter.

In his speech, Mr. Elsalhy justifies the need for a return to a two-plate system by explaining that places like BC have cameras that can identify a vehicle and determine if the owner is wanted for any number of things from a crime to child support arrears. This kind of a system alerts the police and allows them to stop the vehicle a little further down the road.

I actually don't think this is a particularily bad idea. And the cost of $100,000 as quoted by the Liberal member isn't at all unreasonable.

Here's the thing, though:

The camera is pointed at oncoming traffic to capture front plates in BC, right?

If we implement a similar system, couldn't we just turn the cameras the other way to capture the rear plates that we already have?

More brilliance from your Liberal "Shadow Ministers", folks.


Finally, a note about the labour shortage in Alberta.

Federal Human Resources Minister Monte Solberg, himself a top-notch Albertan, was in Calgary to speak to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce and addressed the shortage and the actions that the feds are taking to address it. His comments were obviously important and well-received, given that they got coverage in two separate stories in today's Calgary Herald here and here.

The labour shortage is something that has gone past being an issue of exceptional job security and more into a crippling burden on employers.

Alberta remains the place where the maverick, can-do, get-er-done spirit goes a long way to building a promising future. Its something I have always believed and that grows ever stronger as those who promote that kind of thinking continue to find great success in Alberta.

And so, friends, I have decided that my BC experiment will soon be drawing to a close.

By the end of January I will once again be a proud resident of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Flames: Calgary, Alberta.

Living on Vancouver Island has certainly opened my eyes to a different way of thinking and a different way of life. While I can certainly appreciate where the residents here are coming from, it just isn't for me.

I will look forward to visiting the many friends I have made here on a regular basis, and in turn look forward to hosting them in what I believe is the greatest city in Canada.

I'll admit that, over the last few years, i've been somewhat of a modern-day gypsy. There are few who know me who wouldn't say i'm a traveller at heart. I love being on the road or in the air, heading to destinations old and new to see their sights and meet their people first hand. I don't expect that spirit to change in me anytime soon.

But even the most frequent travellers always know, in their heart, where home is.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Smear jobs

Allow me to divert your attention briefly away from Alberta politics and shift it over to Ottawa, where decorum is reaching an all-time low.

Earlier this week, BC MP James Moore was accused by Irene Mathyssen of the NDP of looking at "scantily-clad women" on his laptop in the House of Commons. Further investigation has completely absolved James and made an embarrassment of Ms. Mathyssen (rightly so).

I have known James Moore for at least 5 years now. If ever there was a young parliamentarian who understands and respects the sanctity of a legislative chamber, it is he. Irene Mathyssen attempted to grandstand a misunderstanding that could have been cleared up in 2 minutes if she had done what any other reasonable human being would have done... she should be rightly ashamed.

Watching James respond to this allegation was troubling. Troubling because he was quite clearly hurt by these allegations. No matter how untrue they are, victims will still feel like victims.

It reminds me of a similar episode from a few years earlier in the Alberta Legislature, courtesy of this man.

For those who don't remember, a summary thanks to the archives of the Canadian Parliamentary Journal:

On April 28th, Hugh MacDonald (Liberal, Edmonton-Gold Bar), raised a purported question of privilege relating to a document found in the Assembly which he considered to be hate literature. He stated that he had seen the document earlier in April and had notified the Speaker, who conducted an investigation. Mr. MacDonald indicated that he and other Members of his caucus had seen it in the possession of Drew Hutton (PC, Edmonton-Glenora), on April 24th. Mr. MacDonald submitted that this constituted a contempt of the Assembly. Mr. Hutton indicated that he had received the document but found it repugnant and offensive and threw it in the trash.

In his ruling, Speaker Kowalski acknowledged the exchange of documents with Mr. MacDonald, indicating that after an investigation by the Sergeant-at-Arms it could not be determined who placed the documents in the precincts on April 15th. The Speaker indicated that Members receive “countless” documents with which they do not agree. He ruled that there was no question of privilege. The next day, Mr. Hutton raised a purported question of privilege based on the allegations contained in Mr. MacDonald's question of privilege the previous day. The Speaker ruled that “there are few allegations that can be more detrimental than one of promoting or condoning discrimination.” He found that the remarks constituted an improper obstruction to Mr. Hutton performing his parliamentary work.

I remember how angry I was when this took place. Watching Drew Hutton, whose wife and children are Jewish, being forced to explain that he is the LAST person who would be spreading hateful literature was beyond unfortunate.

Elected officials, particularily those who tend to think more in terms of headlines and sound bites, need to remember that our legislatures are still made of real people who have feelings. The odd jab is to be expected, but false character attacks are usually way over the top AND usually backfire.

It certainly backfired for Irene Mathyssen, who has now been throughly embarrassed in the national media.

Hugh MacDonald, on the other hand, is one of Kevin Taft's star "Shadow Ministers".

Way to pick 'em, Kev.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dream team?

As it stands, PC Alberta has nominated candidates in 80 of the 83 constituencies in preparation for an expected election next year. I have done my best to keep you up to date with these nominations and, in the near future, will begin profiling some of our new candidates.

Meanwhile, over in Kevin Taft's supposedly Liberal-free Alberta Liberal party, they've got 47 nominated so far. Your average provincial Liberal will tell you that there are great people lining up to run for them and we evil tories had better be scared.

Let's take a closer look at this.

There are 80 people lined up and ready to run for my party. In the seats that we either don't hold or where the current PC MLA is retiring, almost all of them had contested nominations. Even some SITTING MLAs had challengers for the priviledge of representing our party.

The Alberta-Stephane who?-Liberal party, on the other hand, has had very few contested nominations.

A closer look reveals that, of the candidates nominated to run as Liberals, at least FIVE of them also happen to be that constituency's Liberal President. For the record, i'm referring to Calgary Shaw, Medicine Hat, Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, Wetaskiwin-Camrose, and Little Bow.

For those of us who are active in party politics, its a common threat that the Constituency President has to run if no one else can be found to step forward. One can only wonder if this is happening in these constituencies (and others).

It will be interesting to see if the trend continues as we approach the expected election. You can be sure i'll be watching.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

One year later

About a year ago, most Alberta politicos were waking up and asking themselves "did that REALLY happen?"

Today marks the one year anniversary of Premier Stelmach's PC Leadership victory.

There are a plethora of stories looking back to that night and the year that has passed since. The Edmonton Journal seems to have done the best job with items here, here, and here.

The story in the Journal is pretty good, despite its torqued headline (perhaps Graham Thomson is looking after that these days). Some groups are skeptical and unhappy, of course (the opposition, the political academia, Craig Chandler, etc), but I think that a lot has been accomplished in this first year. Judging from the latest polling info, it appears that Albertans are also coming to appreciate the new style of leadership.

For my own reflection, I looked back at some old blog posts from the tail-end of the race.

My thoughts on the day-to-day issues that come up in Alberta are fairly well-documented here, so I won't bother rehashing them.

But if you ask me how I feel about it all now that a year has gone by, I think i'd sum it best by sharing the closing words of my post from December 4, 2006:

I have a Premier whose hand I have proudly shaken, whose character I admire, whose party I am absolutely and unequivocally proud to be a part of, and whom I will gladly work tirelessly to re-elect.

Folks, you bet i'm glad I have a Premier.

His name is Ed.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The other shoe drops

This just in:

Chandler quits Conservative Party

According to the brief story, Chandler has quit the party. I'm not sure if this means it was a mutual decision, an ultimatum, or something else.

As I had said earlier, there was going to be a firestorm surrounding whatever decision was made today. I suspect that to be the case in the coming days.

From the perspective of an ardent supporter of the party, I believe this was the right call.

I don't want to get into anything that could be viewed as slanderous lest this humble blogger be included in a potential lawsuit. I just simply feel that Craig was a poor fit for our party. His views and his style are welcome in parties like the Alliance, i'm sure, but I don't think they jive very well with PC Alberta.

As for the (short) string of Chandler-related resignations within the party, I wouldn't take much stock in them. These folks are like the David Orchards of the far-right... they claim to have a proper place in a political organization, but make no effort to adapt to it and leave in a huff when they don't get their way.

However this decision came about, I applaud the Premier for it. He was placed in a difficult position, under a great deal of pressure, and came up what most party members will view as the correct solution.

The biggest lesson in all of this, however, should be to the people who run the party... both full-time in the office and the elected volunteer party executive.

The Premier should not have ever had to get involved in this. Political organizations have staffs and executives who should be well-aware of potential troubles on the ground. They have a responsibility to their members and their Leader to neutralize these threats before they ever reach the level we have seen in Calgary Egmont.

This freight train should have been seen miles away. Those who had the power to stop this early on chose to be complacent.

It is a mistake they, hopefully, will not make again.