Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Trick or Treat

It's interesting to see the Tories rush what would have been a good news spring budget up to October and take a 1% GST cut out of their next election platform by bringing it in now. I suppose with money to burn and Dion calling for tax cuts, it was inevitable that Flaherty would be slashing taxes. As for the GST cut, given that every economist and every news story calls it "bad policy but good politics", I suspect Harper recognized that it's usefulness as an election issue had passed and that he might as well get it off the table. People aren't stupid - after a while "bad policy but good politics" simply becomes "bad policy and bad politics".

More interesting is the arrival of a new auditor general's report. Even from Paris, the timing looks a little coincidental:

Back in the mid-'00s, we used to enjoy a chuckle whenever the Paul Martin crew would come up with some extraordinarily contrived sideshow in an attempt to bury an embarrassing headline.

But even that PMO would never have thought it could get away with announcing tax cuts on 24 hours' notice, simply to bury an auditor general's report.

UPDATE: As pointed out by an astute reader, the federal government must give 60 days notice to the provinces that harmonize their taxes before changing the GST. As a result, if they wanted to make the change for January 1st, it had to be announced yesterday so it was likely not connected to the AG's report. It's still interesting to see them rush the GST cut to January 1st, but it doesn't look like there's anything involved in the day-to-day timing of it.

UPDATE2: I elaborate a bit more on my thoughts on this Macleans post.

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Would a right wing party by any other name, smell as sweet?

The Wild Rose Party still don't have a leader, but they now have a policy platform. Among the highlights of their founding convention:

-Setting up an Alberta provincial pension plan

-Abolish health care premiums

-Allow private health care in Alberta

-No funding of abortions by health care (except in extreme circumstances)

-Their view on Stelmach's royalty compromise with big oil: "The paltry $1 billion or so extra that the government hopes to collect by forcing a royalty hike, will do far more harm than good."


Monday, October 29, 2007


There are only 9 days to go in the Saskatchewan provincial election and due to a complete absence of any polling data, there's actually a bit of intrigue around the whole thing. I tend to agree with the common concensus that the NDP have hit a wall and the Sask Party is marching to a healthy majority on the strength of their charismatic leader. Look for the Liberals to increase their seat total as well...at the very least, it won't be going down. Here are a few other random notes from the election trail:

-The complete NDP platform has been released and the highlight has been a universal drug plan. Given rumblings that the Liberals might eventually put something like this on the table federally, it will be interesting to see how it plays.

-The Sask Party have released their crime platform, claiming that crime has skyrocketed under the NDP government. Of course, given that their candidate in Saskatoon Northwest has been arrested 20 to 30 times for things ranging from drug dealing to money laundering, it would be unfair to peg the entire thing on Calvert.

-The Liberals, meanwhile, are promising big tax cuts.

-The NDP have had a candidate Klanderized. The Sask Party are also down a man.

-Finally, John Murney has, far and away, the best Sask election coverage anywhere on the net. Constituency profiles and analysis of police positions...for all you saskophiles out there, it's the place to go.

UPDATE: Ask and ye shall receive. We've finally got poll numbers. Sask Party at 50%, NDP at 35%, Liberals at 10%.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Reviewing the Review

While the oil companies do Stelmach a million favours by claiming he was too tough on them, every independent expert in the field continues to say that the Stelmach compromise will cost Albertans billions of dollars. The latest:

An independent energy economist who worked closely with the province and royalty review panel said Saturday the Stelmach government's new royalties policy fails miserably on the oilsands -- the province's top energy play -- and won't deliver nearly enough economic rent to Albertans.

The analysis from world-renowned oil and gas economist Pedro van Meurs came a day after a member of the government-appointed royalty panel argued Premier Ed Stelmach's new strategy is "a blatant deceit" of Albertans and doesn't offer them a fair share of energy development.

"I believe that the proposed terms are highly detrimental to Alberta. They provide for only a minimal increase in revenues, compared to what was already a very modest proposal by the panel. The new terms will not give Albertans a fair share of the oilsands revenues," van Meurs said in an analysis provided to the Herald.


In crafting the new framework, the Tory government rejected nearly half of the 26 recommendations from the royalty panel -- including six of 11 suggestions on oilsands.

One of the panellists, who asked not to be identified, agreed with van Meurs that Albertans aren't receiving a fair share of the publicly owned oil and gas resources under a deal that's not grounded "in too much economic reality."

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Friday, October 26, 2007

The 5 Rs: Royalties Raised. Report Recomendations Rejected.

Somewhat predictably, Stelmach has compromised with the oil industry on the royalty review. He'll leave half a billion dollars on the table each year and delay the changes until 2009 but there will be no grandfathering of existing deals and the rates will be going up - something the government Stelmach was a Cabinet Minister in refused to do despite all the evidence that changes needed to be made [someone in the Liberal research bureau needs to dig up an actual figure of how much money has been pissed away and then ram it out there time and time again during the next campaign].

Whenever a politician compromises like this, it will either be seen as a brilliant tactical move, or he'll be attacked for indecision on all sides. Honestly, I have no idea how this one will be spun and, really, it's all about the spin now. I would have personally liked to have seen the entire report implemented since that's what the experts recommended. Andrew Coyne has a non-conventional alternative for anyone interested in the topic of royalty rates (and who isn't interested in that topic?). Another outside the box idea I really liked was to bring in a carbon tax equivalent to the total royalty rise (1.4 billion...2 billion...whatever number you want) so that there's an incentive for the oil industry to become more environmentally efficient.

As for the decision (or non-decision)? Historians will either be calling this the "pension moment" that saved Stelmach's government or the beginning of the end of a 36 year dynasty. And without the results of the next election in front of me, I'm really hesitant to predict which way it will play.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said distributors and retailers should lower prices "as soon as possible" to reflect a soaring Canadian dollar, and held up a copy of the latest Harry Potter book as an example of how some items are still much cheaper in the U.S.


Flaherty said he looked at a copy of the recent Harry Potter book in Washington this past weekend, which was selling for US$29.74 before tax. He came back to Ottawa and purchased the Canadian version, which was $36 before tax.

What the wire story forgot to include was the following:

Upon learning that Dumbledore was gay, a visibly shaken Flaherty promptly returned both the American and Canadian copies of the book.

In other Flaherty news, it appears Jim will be presenting a fall mini budget as part of he who cannot be named's devious scheme to plunge us into an election. The thinking is, I guess, that the Liberals will want to fight an election against tax cuts. Some advice to the dark lord - if the Tories really want an election, just put forward the "Kitten Genocide Bill" and it will happen. Proposing popular tax cuts is not going to do it, especially when the Libs support all the proposals except the GST cut.

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Tonight, Ed Stelmach makes his much anticipated TV address to Albertans. Oil companies have been anticipating this for weeks, fearing a raise in royalties. The media have been anticipating this for months, since it finally allows them to break out the "Ed TV" pun they've been itching to use since Stelmach was elected Premier last December. Insomniacs have been anticipating it for reasons anyone who has heard Mr. Ed speak will understand.

On Tuesday, Kevin Taft announced that the Alberta Liberals are standing behind the royalty review recommendations and the Auditor General's report. While this might seem like an obvious course of action, this was actually a very courageous stand. The ALP is still in debt and has been doing quite well with corporate donations recently - this effectively means that they've kissed away any oil company donations from now until election day. You can watch Taft's explanation here:

Now we just wait and see if Stelmach is willing to do likewise or if he'll cave and resort to half measures and grandfathering changes. Unfortunately, I won't have a chance to watch Ed TV tonight, but I have obtained a leaked copy of Stelmach's team prepping him for how to answer the big question:

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

They Lasted Longer Than New Coke

Let's shed a moment of silence for "Canada's New Government" which is, alas, no more. After 21 months, the oft-ridiculed slogan is gone.

It appears the "North Star" is gaining favour as the new catch phrase. I guess it's no surprise that the hockey historian PM would pick a defunct hockey team to brand the country, and I guess we should be grateful he didn't go with Golden Seals or Mighty Ducks.

What I find somewhat confusing is that if Canada is the "North Star", that makes the PM The Little Dipper, which is really more of an appropriate nickname for Jack Layton than Harper. Maybe "The Little Gipper" will catch on.

Due to inconsistencies like this, I think The North Star will never work as a slogan so I'd like to launch a "New Name for Canada's New Government" slogan contest. Please submit your suggestions in the comments section below and I will put them to a vote. To get things started, here are a few slogans I'd suggest:

North North America
Soviet Canuckistan (hat tip - Pat Buchanon)
Trudeauland (hap tip - Mario Silva)
Canada: Can You Hear Me Now?
Canada: Better than Denmark
Canada: A Warm Comfy Welcome Mat With Lots Of Fur
Canada's "Better than the Chretien-Martin" Government
Canada's Non-Corrupt Government
Canada's "We've Seen Worse" Government
Canada's Grrrrrreat Government
Canada's Straight Government
Canada's Temporary Ad Hoc Rainbow Coalition Government

What's the French word for "sorry excuse for a party"?

It's kind of refreshing to see a party in worse shape than the Liberals:

Curzi backtracked from suggestions a sovereign Quebec could strip West Island anglophones of their right to vote, saying that once Quebec became sovereign, all residents of the new country would automatically become Quebec citizens, with full voting rights.

In an interview with Gilles Proulx, a pioneer in shock-talk radio, Proulx called the West Island "Ontario," and said West Islanders would never accept a PQ proposal for Quebec citizenship before sovereignty.

"We can't change that with a magic wand," Curzi said. "If these people want to benefit, as long as we are a province, we can't do more.

"We can't take away their right to vote because that is a right we cannot control because we are still a province within the federation. Obviously, the day when the country is there, we will control citizenship, which will have more teeth, if I can dare to say so."


Enter Fergie

The Liberals hire a new national director - former Rae leadership guy, Greg Fergus.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Bart's Books - Rick's Rants

Satirist and sporadic blogger Rick Mercer has a new book out this fall, cleverly titled "Rick Mercer Report: The Book". Unfortunately, there's nothing really new, per se, in the book. It's a transcript of Rick's rants and blog postings from the past couple years. That's a shame too, because Rick could certainly put together something the caliber of America: The Book. I know Will Ferguson has written Canadian political humour in some detail, but I think there's some fresh ground to be covered and Mercer is certainly the man to best do it.

That's not to say that his book isn't enjoyable. Even though I watch his show on a weekly basis, a lot of the jokes seemed new to me and I was lol'ing quite a lot. It certainly makes for an easy book to read on the bus (as supposed to, say, Mulroney's autobiography) in bits and pieces.

So, rather than a full review, I present some of my favourite highlights from the book for your enjoyment:

You remember Focus on the Family. They’re the ones who think that SpongeBob SquarePants is gay. Take a look at their website – these people think about gay sex more than gay people do.

And, tragically, watching a few thousand socially retarded adults jump up and down [at the Liberal leadership convention] and wave signs with someone else’s name on it is what passes for excitement.

I’m not saying [appointing Fortier] was easy for Stephen Harper. It must be hard to look all your MPs in the eye and tell them they’re imbeciles.

From the teleprompter of Michael Ignatieff: “It has been almost one year now since I made the difficult decision to immigration to Canada and run for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. Since that time I have taken clear positions on difficult issues and I have taken difficult positions on clear issues. Unfortunately, people do not seem to understand what I am talking about. If anyone is at fault here it is me; please bear with me, Canada, I am used to teaching the advanced class."

And Quebec…cripes, if you’re a federalist in Quebec, you couldn’t get elected as a prostate examiner.

The Conservative ad where they’ve taken the ugly picture of Paul Martin and turned him red so he looks like Satan is very effective. By and large, Canadians do not like the idea of being governed by Satan, no matter how well the economy is doing. And then there are the Liberal ads. These have shown that while negative ads work, stupid ads don’t. Because the Liberals have taken stupid to a whole new level. It’s an art now. It’s like the Liberals woke up one morning and said, “You know, Canadians, they think we’re arrogant and corrupt. Let’s add stunned to the list and make it a hat trick.”

Wouldn’t our 60 million in aid be better off going to Sudan [rather than China] – which, you know, doesn’t have a space program?

Now they’ve gone completely off their heads. Martin is spending like Belinda Stronach in a shoe store.

And what’s Quebec going to do with that money? They’re going to give the people a personal income tax cut. That noise you can hear is the sound of blood vessels bursting in the heads of Tory voters across the country.

So if you are dead or near dead, hurry now and give your body to the party – all leadership candidates are looking for support from dead people. Bob Rae, for example, has recently accepted the public endorsement of Hedy Fry.

Meanwhile, the new leader of the Liberal party’s out there running around, and he’s wearing so much green he’s looking like some sort of demented Keebler elf.

This must be driving Donald Rumsfeld completely nuts. Suddenly the only thing standing between him and his Buck Rodgers missile shield is a nation of pot-smoking, homo-loving peaceniks.

Book Recommendation: Pick it up in the bargain bin

A copy of this book was provided by Random House for review

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Who Audits the Auditor?

Tsk Tsk Tsk


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Weekend News

1. The latest Ipsos poll has Canadians warming to Stephen Harper. OK, so they may not yet feel about him the way Ellen DeGeneres feels about homeless puppies, but it's getting there. 58% of Canadians want a majority government and 58% of those want a Tory majority. Which means Harper is looking at a pretty solid base of 34% of people who want a Tory majority.

2. Mario Silva has proposed a national "Pierre Elliot Trudeau" holiday to celebrate Xavier Trudeau's birthday. In the words of UWHabs "I just can't wait to see the PET Day parade in downtown Calgary".

3. Although it doesn't look like we'll get a crime election, I do kind of miss the prospect of the inevitable "child pornography moment" it would be sure to generate.

"If they have a problem with the area on dangerous offenders, and that's the hill they want to die on, standing up for dangerous offenders in this country, that's their decision," Nicholson told reporters.

4. The PQ is proposing a bill that would prevent non-French speakers from running in elections or donating to political parties:

Under the proposed law, immigrants who can't speak proper French after an appropriate apprenticeship in provincially funded language courses would be forbidden from running for election in provincial and municipal elections as well as those for school boards.

PQ Leader Pauline Marois said she sees the measure as "normal.''

Normal? Well, for South Africa, maybe. But to deny someone the right to run for School Board trustee on the West Island because they can't speak French? This is absolutely insane.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Star Candidates

For the first time in recent memory, there's good news for the Liberals in Quebec, with Marc Garneau agreeing to run in Westmount - this after a fairly public feud between him and Dion last month.

There was good news for another Quebecois star candidate as well today, as Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire gave birth to Xavier James Trudeau. And, wouldn't you know it, little Xavier shares a birthday with his grandfather. Since it's never too early to start planning these things, may I suggest the following slogan for the 2059 Liberal leadership race: "Mark an X for Xavier".

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Crime, Crime, Everywhere a Crime

Stephen Harper's new New Government appears to have survived the throne speech so its next test will be on an omnibus crime bill - most of it being composed of legislation sent to parliamentary purgatory this spring. It will be a matter of confidence which seems fair enough to me, given the size of it and the fact that it's one of the original "five priorities" that still hasn't come to pass (fun fact - "The 5 Priorities" is also the name of Stephen Harper's garage band).

Among the proposed highlights:

-tougher sentences on gun crimes (NDP has pushed for this before)
-raising age of sexual consent to 16
-higher penalties for impaired driving
-reverse onus for repeat offenders of violent crimes
-dealth penalty for anyone who doesn't pay back their leadership debt in time (that one is just speculation on my part)

Now, I do think there's a chance the NDP or Bloc might decide to support this legislation, but let's assume they don't for a minute. That leaves Stephane Dion in the unenviable position of, yet again, having to give Harper a de-facto majority or of triggering an election.

And while I think a lot of experts would agree that there are some very bad and very unnecessary proposals here, at the end of the day, this is politics. And there's enough popular policy in here that I don't think this is the hill Dion wants to die on. If he was debating this legislation against Harper in front of a law class, he'd probably win (well, at least a french law class). But explaining to Canadians why you don't want to get tough on drunk drivers and gun crimes? That's a bit harder to sell.

So this one probably falls into the "live to fight another day" category. I would advise the Liberals to let this one through and I suspect they likely will.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ann Has A Dream

For those who missed it:

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Conservative commentator and best-selling author Ann Coulter may find herself in the midst of a controversy for comments Monday suggesting America would be better if everyone was Christian.

Asked by CNBC host Donny Deutsch what the U.S. looks like in her dreams, Coulter said it would look like the Republican National Convention in 2004

"People were happy,” she said, according to a transcript provided to CNN by CNBC. “They're Christian. They're tolerant. They defend America."

When Deutsch responded, "It would be better if we were all Christian?" Coulter said "Yeah."

Deutsch, himself Jewish, continued to press Coulter on her remarks, asking, "We should just throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians then?"

"Yeah," Coulter responded, adding "Well, it's a lot easier. It's kind of a fast track."

Yes, the world would be a better place if everyone were tolerant...just like Ann.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007


They're baaaaaack!

Canada's New Government gave it's second throne speech tonight. And since we've had a month of daily election speculation around it, let's start there. With the Bloc and NDP against it, it's all in Dion's hands now. And while there are certainly some ominous promises, throne speeches are vague enough that the Liberals can likely let it pass.

That said, it's going to be a challenge to make it to Christmas without a lack of confidence vote given the following promises in today's speech:

-an elected senate
-previously defeated crime legislation
-repeal the gun registry
-limit federal spending powers

So...looks like we're in for a few months of election speculation stories.

UPDATE: Dion will let the throne speech pass but Harper says his first bill will be a crime bill that will be a confidence motion.

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Parizeau's Party

The Tories are targeting ethnic voters and the Bloc...well...aren't:

Speaking to about 200 students at the University of Montreal, Mr. Duceppe blasted the "Canadian ideology of multiculturalism" and accused the federal government of failing to protect the French language in Quebec. Over all, Mr. Duceppe said, the other federal parties "are Canadian" and not up to the job when it comes to defending Quebec culture.

"The difference is that the Bloc is a party that is truly from Quebec, only from Quebec, totally from Quebec," Mr. Duceppe said.

Is there anything more useless in Canadian politics right now than the Bloc Quebecois? Seriously. This party totally needs to just go away...even if it means the Tories picking up a bushel of seats in Quebec.


Calgary Votes

And vote they did. With nearly twice as many voters casting ballots as in 2004, there were some very encouraging results from the municipal election last night. Brian Pincott, the new ward 11 alderman, will be a breath of fresh air on council. Three incumbent aldermen went down in defeat - a truly shocking result for an establishment city. Council will be far better off with Joe Connolly than Craig Burrows and I'm hopeful George Chahal can sneak out a recount victory in ward 3.

As for the Mayor's race, I was hoping for a slightly higher total for Alnoor, but I'm fairly happy with the results - 17% of the vote makes it the top challenge of an incumbent mayor in 27 years. More importantly, his presence in the race got people (if not the media) talking about issues, boosted voter turn-out, and gave Calgary a real race. Given Calgary's historical voting trends, Bronconnier's 61% of the vote is a real slap in the face and it will hopefully send a message that changes need to be made. I think he'll take the message to heart and, given his political skills, I expect him to do a good job over the next three years.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Go Vote!

Monday is municipal Election Day and, after fewer than 1 in 5 Calgarians voted in the last municipal election, I’d encourage all my Calgary readers to take a few minutes from their time to cast a ballot. Hell, if you’re surfing blogs right now, you can’t use the “I’m too busy” excuse. Since the City decided against sending out “where do I vote” cards, if you’re looking for your voting station, you’ll need to click here.

While I could give a somewhat unbiased run down of the candidates, if the Herald’s not going to be impartial, I don’t see why a freaking blog should. What I can do is point you towards the Enlightened Savage who has an AMAZING recap of all the candidates for all the positions. Incredibly detailled - it's well worth the read. As for me, here’s why I’m voting for my guy.

I think the most important thing to do is to send a message. Calgary is, above all else, an establishment city. In the past 27 years, the incumbent mayor has won every time. It’s never even been close. The strongest challenge against an incumbent in that time was Ray Clark, who garnered 17% of the vote in 1998. I think Calgarians need to send a message in this election that the City is off track in some key areas.

The “roads, roads, and more roads” doctrine that swept Bronconnier into power twice has not worked. Traffic has worsened and Calgary Transit, despite high ridership numbers, has fallen behind where it should be. Public Transit only works if it’s accessible and enjoyable to ride. To make it accessible, we need to get the West and South-East LRT legs built. To make it enjoyable, we need to get four car trains running on existing routes, to ease congestion. Bronconnier’s proposal to expand the C-Train further north-east and north-west before building the south-east line or going to four car trains will just mean more overcrowding, turning more people off of the transit option. That's why Alnoor wants to get 4 car trains on the system and create new lines before expanding the existing, overcrowded ones.

Another key plank is transparency and accountability. Despite the howls Calgary raised towards the federal government on accountability issues, there are no rules right now at the municipal level. There is no ethics commissioner. There is no municipal auditor general. There are no campaign finance rules. Barry Erskine walked away from his job 4 days before the election and his entire war chest is his to keep. Bronconnier hasn’t ruled out using his sizeable war chest to run for MP or MLA. There’s also no real estate registry so there’s no way to know if elected officials are in conflict of interest on votes that can dramatically change property values.

The third issue that I personally feel strongly about is the secondary suite one. Right now, there are thousands of illegal secondary suites across Calgary because it’s illegal to rent out your basement in most parts of the city. Legalizing secondary suites would ensure the current suites are safe and would add thousands of units of rental space to the market.

Those are just the issues that grabbed me the most. Feel free to browse the full platform if taxes, the environment, or crime are the things that get you going.

I wouldn’t say that Bronconnier has been a bad Mayor. Far from it. But there is just so much potential in this city and it’s important to send a message that there needs to be a shift in some key areas. And the best way to send a message is by voting for Alnoor Kassam.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sask Grit

With the Saskatchewan election in full swing, here's an interview with Saskatchewan Liberal leader David Karwacki I did a week or two ago.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

McGuinty Majority

McGuinty cruises to an easy majority win - kudos to his team on a well run campaign. As for John Tory...well, it was better than '93 if nothing else...

More interestingly, MMP is getting crushed and the Greens appear to be doing fairly good (but no seats).

UPDATE: Tory loses his seat but vows to stay on. Final results:

Liberals 71
PCs 26
NDP 10

Greens get a moral victory, but there's very little for the PCs or NDP to be happy about in these results.


Would that have been my choice? Probably not.

The mayoral debates were held last night and I must say I found it quite enjoyable. You get a wide range of characters up on stage at things like this ("all my clothes are recycled except for my pantyhose").

The debate featured some lively exchanges between Alnoor and Dave on taxes, secondary suites, and accountability. Anything else I could add would just be subjective so, instead, I'll turn things over to the Better Calgary Campaign who, I might add, have already endorsed Dave Bronconnier (with reservations...growing reservations one imagines):

To quickly recap, a member of the audience complained that the Tourism Calgary, an agency partially funded by the city, had promoted Calgary as a friendly destination for gay and lesbian tourists prior to the North American Outgames, which were held in Calgary earlier this year. The Mayor, to our astonishment, did not defend Tourism Calgary, but went to great pains to distance himself from their actions (i.e. advertising to the gay community). In fact, he actually said that if the decision were up to him, he would not have ran the same advertisement. David Bertram, on the other hand, spoke passionately about diversity and the positive economic impact that reaching out to gay and lesbian tourists had on our city.

At the Better Calgary Campaign, we believe a vibrant city is a city the celebrates and promotes diversity. We are profoundly disappointed that Mayor Bronconnier, when faced with the opportunity to stand up and defend Tourism Calgary's admirable attempt to reach out to the gay and lesbian community, couldn't bring himself to do the right thing. We expected better.

You can read their full debate recap here.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Danny Boy

The PCs win the Newfoundland election.

This is somewhat surprising. I didn't even know Newfoundland had an election going on.

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Air Ed

In yet another case of taxpayer funded globetrotting, a pair of retiring Tory MLAs jetted to Germany to learn how to become better MLAs.

EDMONTON - Last Thursday, Gary Mar learned he'll become Alberta's new agent in Washington and must resign as a Tory MLA by late October.

Three days later, he jetted to Germany on a publicly funded trip to learn how to become a better legislator.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation's provincial director laughed when he was told.

A trip on how to become a better MLA? I hope one of the suggestions they made was about not wasting money on silly trips designed to teach you how to become a better MLA.

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Poll Smoking

Can anyone out there imagine the reaction if a major daily published poll results during a federal campaign 8 to 18 days after the poll was taken? And tried to pass it off as front page news a week before E-Day?

Especially when more recent polling data has already been published?


Thursday, October 04, 2007


Time for your daily PC scandal...

Alberta Deputy Premier Ron Stevens made a three-day pit stop in Hawaii on a 2003 winter trip to Australia for government business, a CBC investigation has shown.

Stevens, also the province's justice minister, was the minister responsible for gaming when he travelled to Australia in January 2003 to study that country's gambling system.

Stevens defended the stopover Tuesday, saying it was a short layover to break up a long flight and was taken to save money.

"I don't recall whether it was a three-day stop or not," Stevens said when questioned about the trip.

"But I do recall that we did it in that fashion because it was less expensive than flying business class. In other words, it was the most economic way of doing it."

Credit card statements obtained under Alberta's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act show meals and drinks for Stevens, his wife and four others during their Honolulu stay were paid for with government cards.

Although the Hawaiin stop over is funny, my favourite part is that he had to fly to Australia to "study" their gambling system...

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Wednesday Round Up

Municipal: On the municipal election front, things are heating up. Imagine my surprise when my Tuesday night joindave newsletter had veiled references directed towards the Go Alnoor campaign not once, but twice. The first was a response to Dave's proposal for six new taxes that Dave now says are not a "priority" [note to Love & co: How hard is it to just say no?]. The second was Dave explaining why he is losing the sign war.

On the policy front, Alnoor has released his 24 page platform. It's quite possibly the most detailed policy platform ever released for a civic election in Calgary and I'd encourage all potential voters to read it. Hell, even if you're not a Calgarian, for policy geeks, it'll be more exciting than Maxim.

Provincial: While I wish I had time to read through the 192 pages of the AG's report (and that's just volume one), it continues to draw headlines. Daveberta gives a detailed run down of Stelmach's refusal to fire his ministers. The same ministers who gave the auditor general the run around and didn't see anything wrong with deceiving Albertans.

Federal: I've got to tell you, I'm kind of digging the fact that no matter how much the Liberals screw up, they're still in a statistical tie with Harper. And bBringing in David Smith and John Rae to help with the next campaign is a step in the right direction for the grits.

Meanwhile, the man Smith and Rae helped win time and time again is recovering from heart surgery. Here's hoping he's up and running for the book tour.

And... for those who missed it, be sure to take a look at Conrad Black's Rick Mercer Report appearance from last night.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Jamey Carroll with the game winning hit

Jamie Carroll resigns

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Billion Dollar Boondoggle

Alberta's Auditor General brought down a scathing report today that contained almost half a dozen scandals inside of it. If you closed your eyes and imagined yourself in federal politics, or any other province, you'd have to see this as a fatal blow...because this is right up there with the worst reports Sheila Fraser has delivered. Kevin Taft has already called for an election and this report will certainly shift the focus away from Stelmach's impending decision on the royalty review. Because the question is no long whether or not Stelmach will implement the full report - we all know he'll make major changes. That's a no brainer at this point. And I don't mean "no brainer" in the sense of "it's a no brainer for anyone but Ed Stelmach" - even Ed will pull this one off. He'll try to spin it as standing up to the oil industry but, by this point, there isn't a politician alive who wouldn't make major oil royalties changes in Alberta. It's not really "leadership" when any brain dead primate would make the same decision.

The real question Stelmach needs to answer is why a government he was a Cabinet Minister in failed to act. He needs to explain why Ralph Klein and Greg Melchin repeatedly said government studies showed Alberta was getting its fair share, when the opposite was true. You want a billion dollar boondoggle? How about this:

The Alberta government knew as far back as three years ago that Albertans could collect at least another $1 billion a year from the oil industry, provincial Auditor General Fred Dunn said in his annual report.

The report, released Monday, paints a damning picture of lax accounting and accountability in the province’s energy ministry, years before the release of a royalty review panel report last month that concluded Albertans are not getting their “fair share” from oil and gas development, and should be collecting another $2 billion annually in royalties.

The principles of transparency and accountability, I believe, were not followed,” Dunn said. “I’m not impressed.”

Dunn said the province has had all the information it needed to harvest another $1 billion in royalties for years without harming the oil industry, but kept that information to itself.

“Neither this information nor the reasons why changes have not taken place have been made public,” his report said.

Despite this, Stelmach is still backing Greg Melchin. Now, by itself, lying to Albertans to cheat them out of several billion dollars is bad. But there's more:

1. Remember the fuss over golf balls at the federal level? Well, Tory MLAs have been spending up to $50,000 a year on gifts including "including golf balls, fridge magnets, books and watches." One wonders if Santa's gift budget is that high...

2. MLAs have been claiming exorbitant bonuses:

Some MLAs have collected surprisingly high monthly living allowances, or have given huge bonuses to their constituency staff, Auditor General Fred Dunn said today in his annual report.

In one case, a part-time constituency aide earned $18,000 a year, but received a bonus of $21,500. Three other MLAs doled out bonuses of more than $15,000 a year.

"The current guidelines that allow for unrestricted lump-sum payments to be made to employees are counter to the goal of equity and put the integrity of the system as a whole at risk," Dunn writes in the report.

Out-of-town MLAs are using "needlessly complex" rules to simultaneously tap several different pools of cash for their living expenses in Edmonton.

In March 2007 alone, one MLA claimed $5,425 and three others claimed $5,075 for a month for which a monthly capital residence allowance was $1,750.

3. A Mark Norris aide spent $50,000 on the government tab over three years without submitting any receipts. Norris himself racked up $10,000 in undocumented expenses on his own.

All this coming after what amounted to nearly weekly patronage and spending scandals throughout September.

Considering how loudly right wing Alberta screamed against the federal Liberals for similar transgressions, one wonders how much longer they'll put up with this.

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