Ed Stelmach Fred Horne Health Care Raj Sherman Ron Liepert Stephen Duckett

stelmach chats in medicine hat.

After months in apparent seclusion, Premier Ed Stelmach recently emerged for a rare interview with Medicine Hat’s CHAT Television (an interview that was a much less scripted production than what is expected in his upcoming pre-taped televised address). The interview doesn’t give any new indication to the direction that the Premier would like to take Alberta, but he did touch on the topics of of Education, the Wildrose Alliance, the provincial deficit

…, and Health Care.

While poorly communicating changes in Alberta’s Health Care system has more recently become the exclusive domain of Health Minister Ron Liepert and Alberta Health Services CEO Dr. Stephen Duckett, it now appears that Edmonton-Rutherford PC MLA Fred Horne is the new third wheel in the group. After vocal public pressure emerged against Duckett’s announcement that he was closing mental health beds at Edmonton’s Alberta Hospital, Horne was appointed to co-chair the “implementation committee” that will now oversee a slower closure of the beds.

I expect Horne to be a competent appointee, but I am curious what his elevation to this committee means to the internal politics of the PC caucus. Given that Edmonton-Meadowlark PC MLA and parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health Raj Sherman has a unique insight into the medical world and has been very honest about his past challenges with mental health, I find it very curious that he wasn’t chosen to be the “Premier’s eyes and ears” on this committee.

Michael Ritter Scandal Rob Nicholson

remember michael ritter?

He’s back.

Former Legal Counsel to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta Michael Ritter has been released from prison after serving 18 months of a 10 year sentence at a minimum security prison in Grande Cache, Alberta. Three years ago, Ritter pleaded guilty to stealing $10.5 million from one client (who had stolen $43 million from Merrill Lynch) in a deal to avoid extradition to the United States for helping another client revive a $270 million Ponzi scheme that victimized more than 6,500 American investors.

The 6,500 American investors may be interested in reading a recent Globe & Mail feature to learn that Ritter has returned to his lavish home in Edmonton, and according to his Facebook status has:

“finally got his Jaguar running again after not driving it for over three years!”

Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson recently announced his intentions to introduce legislation to help combat white-collar crime.

Danielle Smith Dave Bronconnier David Swann Ed Stelmach Ernie Isley Joe Anglin Kyle Fawcett Paul Hinman Ralph Klein

save the date: alberta politics in fall 2009.

October 14: Premier Ed Stelmach will deliver a televised address on CTV and AccessTV.

It is no surprise that Stelmach has a difficult time articulating himself when speaking in public, so these kind of productions will allow the Premier to present a message that is pre-produced, edited, and heavily scripted. The address is being pitched as a talk on the economy titled “The Way Forward.”  This avenue presents Stelmach with the opportunity to make bold announcements, but I expect that while making numerous references to tough economic times, he will focus on the government’s legislative agenda, economic agreements with neighbouring provinces, public service salary freezes, the recently implemented lobbyist registry, and the international role of Alberta’s oilsands. It is also difficult to imagine Stelmach not mentioning that the Governments of Alberta and Canada have provided a $865 million subsidy for carbon capture projects to Shell, one of the largest and most profitable oil companies in the world.

Stelmach’s 2007 televised address cost taxpayers $145,000, and with internet ads already popping up, I wouldn’t be surprised if the total cost was closer $200,000 this year. The Premier has already been booked on the Rutherford Show for the next morning, so expect a full court press.

October 17: Riding high in the polls, the Wildrose Alliance will announce the results of their leadership contest after over 11,000 members vote to choose either Danielle Smith or Mark Dyrholm as their new leader. It was first rumoured that ten, and now four PC MLAs are interested in chatting with Smith if she wins the contest. Since outgoing leader Paul Hinman was by-elected in Calgary-Glenmore, a number of former Progressive Conservative MLAs, including former cabinet minister Ernie Isley have joined that party.

Also on October 17 is ChangeCamp Edmonton, an event that invites Edmontonians and Albertans to re-imagine government in the age of participation. As citizens, we have a responsibility and opportunity to start redesigning the way that we participate in government. Interested? Register online for free and join the conversation on October 17!

October 26-December 3: The Alberta Legislature will sit for the first time since the spring session ended with widespread opposition to Bill 44. I anticipate the first two weeks of the fall session to be about positioning Stelmach and his cabinet in a positive light before the PC leadership review. There continues to be talk of a cabinet shuffle, and with the retirement of Ron Stevens, Stelmach has been left without a designated Calgary Lieutenant. Justice Minister Alison Redford appears to be a natural fit for this position, but with rumoured leadership ambitions herself, she may be cautious to how tight she tethers her horse to Stelmach’s buggy.

I foresee the building conflict over Bill 50, the mess inside the Department of Children Services, staff pay hikes and bonuses, cuts to health care and education, and continuing anger over Bill 44 to dominate the debate. With the Copenhagen Conference happening in December, expect Greenpeace hold another round of oilsands actions. Also, with new allies (including Enmax and Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier), landowners rights advocate Joe Anglin will be out in full force against Bill 50.

November 6-7: Premier Stelmach will face delegates at the PC leadership review in Red Deer. There is a lot of talk about how unhappy some PC supporters are with Stelmach and I don’t doubt it. Former PC insider Hal Walker has publicly dismissed the Premier, Ralph Klein has mused that the Premier should step down if he receives less than 70% support, and Calgary-North Hill PC MLA Kyle Fawcett has publicly said that Stelmach has “done very little” to convince Calgarians that he’s capable of leading the province. There is also a rumoured behind-the-scenes campaign to draft Calgary philanthropist and media personality Brett Wilson to save the dynasty that Peter Lougheed built.

The critics are vocal, but when push comes to shove I believe that the delegates to this convention will heed to the party brass and rally to protect the brand by giving Stelmach the support he needs to continue to occupy his current office.

November 6 and 26: The Alberta Liberals will be hosting their annual leader’s dinner in Calgary and Edmonton, the first since David Swann became leader of the Official Opposition in December 2008. While some Liberals remain optimistic, that party has been tied down by debt since their disasterous election campaign in 2001. The ticket sales and fundraising numbers from these two dinners will be a key indicator of the financial support that the Liberals are receiving from their traditional larger donors.

Calgary-Glenmore Danielle Smith Darshan Kang David Swann Ed Stelmach Kent Hehr Paul Hinman polls Wild Rose Alliance

snapshot wildrose: new poll places wildrose alliance in second place.

Polls can sometimes be strange and unpredictable snapshots, but this one is fascinating:

Progressive Conservative: 38.4%
Wildrose Alliance: 21.5%
Liberal: 20.5%
NDP: 10.7%
Other: 8.5%

Progressive Conservative: 34.5%
Liberal: 27.5%
NDP: 17%
Wildrose Alliance: 13.1%
Other: 11.1%

Progressive Conservative: 38.2%
Wildrose Alliance: 27%
Liberal: 20.7%
NDP: 6.6%
Other: 7.7%

Initial thoughts: A public approval poll in June revealed that Albertans were disgruntled and cranky with their current political leadership and the results of this poll appears to confirm that.

This is obvious good news for the Wildrose Alliance because it means that many Albertans are aware enough of their existence to support them when questioned by a telephone surveyor (even if they’re not sure what that party stands for). Their leadership vote is on October 17, and this poll paired with the recent by-election of Paul Hinman in Calgary-Glenmore strengthens the appearance that they are the only party with a semblance of momentum. The challenge will be to keep Albertans interested as they learn more about the right-wing party. In my opinion, Danielle Smith is the only candidate in their leadership contest with the potential to drive the momentum further.

The poll results show negative momentum for the traditional political parties in the two largest urban centers (I haven’t seen the rural results). With Official Opposition leader David Swann hailing from Calgary, the Liberals should be concerned by their 13% drop in the city that was their only growth area in the last election (the Liberals increased their Calgary seat total to five MLAs with the election of Kent Hehr and Darshan Kang). While they remain in a province-wide distant third place, the poll results suggest that the NDP are have largely held on to their base of support in Edmonton and very moderately increased their already extremely small base of support in Calgary.

With a leadership review fast approaching, this poll is bad news for Premier Ed Stelmach. The PC party brass may attempt to spin the results as a case for party members to rally to protect their party’s brand, but for the non-partisan majority, there is a large question of what the long-governing PCs even still stand for. With their lowest poll results in recent memory, it is clear that many Albertans are questioning the leadership and the confused direction that the the near 40-year ruling party is taking our province.

UPDATE: Here is a link to the PDF of the poll results.

Alberta Oil Sands Brian Beresh Ed Stelmach Fred Lindsay Greenpeace Mike Hudema

alberta and greenpeace: claims of political interference.

At a media conference on the steps of the Alberta Legislature this afternoon, lawyer Brian Beresh raised concerns that comments by Premier Ed Stelmach and Solicitor General Fred Lindsay could constitute political interference in Alberta’s judicial system. Beresh, who is representing Greenpeace activists recently arrested in Fort Saskatchewan and Fort McMurray, told reporters that he was stunned by Stelmach’s comments that protesters who trespass at oil and gas facilities should face harsher punishments and Lindsay’s musing about using the province’s counter-terrorism provisions against protesters.

Alberta and Greenpeace: Brian BereshAlberta and Greenpeace: Mike Hudema

With no evidence that the legal system is not working as it should be, it is being suggested by some legal experts that Stelmach’s comments may have hurt the prosecution’s case in court. In a media release, Greenpeace campaigner Mike Hudema was quoted stating that “most of us learned in Grade 5 that it is fundamental to our legal system that there must be a separation between the premier and the judicial process.” Beresh noted that the tone of the bail negotiations changed after Premier Stelmach’s public comments, implying that the release of the activists in Fort Saskatchewan was made more difficult because of the Premier.

Via twitter, my friend Chris Henderson put it best:

Special penalties for protesting is tantamount to suppressing free speech. Punish trespassing, not dissent.

Related Post:
Alberta and Greenpeace: It’s about site security, stupid!
Alberta and Greenpeace: Tourists home and abroad.

ChangeCamp Edmonton Pecha Kucha

changecamp edmonton media availability.

ChangeCamp Edmonton will be holding a media availability tomorrow from 2:00pm to 2:30pm at McKay Avenue School in Edmonton. Read the release for more information and if you haven’t already, you can register for ChangeCamp Edmonton online now!

Here is the old school audio and slides from the ChangeCamp presentation that Diane Begin and I did at Pecha Kucha 5 on October 2, 2009.

(Mastermaq, Alex Abboud, and Sarah Chan have written reviews of the evening)

Alberta Oil Sands Alberta Security and Strategic Intelligence Support Team Ed Stelmach Fred Lindsay Greenpeace

alberta and greenpeace: it’s about site security, stupid!

Following recent actions by Greenpeace, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach and Solicitor General Fred Lindsay have suggested that protesters who trespass at oil and gas facilities should face harsher punishments.

I have no doubt that the two politicians are eager to see justice dealt, but at this point in time there does not appear to be any evidence to suggest that our legal system is not working as it should be. The protesters have been arrested and are now facing charges of trespassing and mischief.

There are a number of obvious root causes of these incidents and none of them have to do with getting tough on crime. While attempting to focus international media attention on Alberta’s oilsands before the Copenhagen Conference, Greenpeace activists planning and executing actions like these know what they are doing is illegal and they don’t care. Instead of blaming the legal system, Stelmach and Lindsay should take real action by 1) articulating why their vision for oilsands development is the right one for Alberta, Canada and the world; and 2) improving public confidence in how our most valuable nature resources are being safeguarded.

What is the state of security in Alberta’s oilsands?

Just as a confidential report prepared by sector experts has highlighted serious concerns about security in the oilsands, Shell is now taking productive steps by publicly vowing to review facility security. While the conclusions have now been contradicted by the evidence presented through Greenpeace’s canoe-paddling incursion skillz, Solicitor General Lindsay described the provincial security plan as “one of the most comprehensive in the country” in the Legislative Assembly on February 19, 2009.

Mr. Richard Marz: My first question is to the Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security. What measures are in place to protect Alberta’s energy resources such as the oil sands?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Mr. Lindsay: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This government does have a plan in place to protect all critical infrastructure in our province. The Alberta counterterrorism crisis management plan emphasizes the use of intelligence from a range of sources to identify, mitigate, or prevent a security threat before it occurs, and the Alberta Security and Strategic Intelligence Support Team gathers, analyzes, distributes critical intelligent information to industry and law enforcement. Partnership and collaboration between government, industry, and law enforcement is the backbone of our counterterrorism plan.

Mr. Marz: My final question, Mr. Speaker, to the same minister. There have been several pipeline bombings in northwestern British Columbia in the past few months. What assurance can the minister provide that pipelines in Alberta will be protected from attacks such as the ones in B.C.?

Mr. Lindsay: Mr. Speaker, the Alberta government takes the security of our energy resources very seriously. There is no indication that Alberta Energy infrastructure is at risk, and our threat level remains low. However, we will continue to work with the oil and gas industry and law enforcement agencies to ensure the security of the industry. Our counterterrorism and crisis management plan is regarded as one of the most comprehensive in the country and is continually reviewed to make sure it meets the stringent requirements of both government and industry.

Related Post: Alberta and Greenpeace: Tourists home and abroad.

Alberta Tourism Ed Stelmach Greenpeace

alberta and greenpeace: tourists at home and abroad.

Agree or disagree with their intentions and methods, it is hard to not be fascinated with the recent Greenpeace actions across Alberta at oilsands extraction sites near Fort McMurray and a Shell smokestack near Fort Saskatchewan. These live-streamed-to-the-world actions are part of a new reality as our province becomes more internationally known for our energy resources and the results of the extraction practices that we allow the oil companies to use.

The stunted political discourse in Alberta may continue to focus on the folly of a $2 billion carbon capture scheme, but Albertans should know that much of the international discourse around energy and the environment is centered around the decisions that will be made at the Copenhagen Conference in December 2009.

The reaction to the Greenpeace actions from our politicians was as provincialist as I expected. Premier Ed Stelmach, perhaps still perturbed over Greenpeace dropping in at a PC Party fundraiser, was reportedly fuming when he declared that the government would not “put up with this kind of behaviour again.” Rather than taking the high-ground in this debate, Stelmach was then quoted saying something that I found to be quite debasing:

“Most of these protesters are from outside the country of Canada. They are really tourists telling us how we should develop our resources.”

The Alberta government has spent hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollars being tourists. In an attempt to attract international attention and investment the Alberta government operates trade offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Munich, London, Mexico City, and Washington DC. The Alberta government spends hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to send Cabinet Ministers and MLAs to international conferences around the world as representatives of our natural resources. This year, the Alberta government spent $25 million on an advertising campaign in an attempt to re-brand the oilsands after the unfortunate Anatidae family incident.

I do not oppose the Alberta government representing our province overseas, I encourage it. But I expect that as our Cabinet Ministers and MLAs wine and dine at expensive international cocktail parties, that they appreciate of subtle shades of responses that the international attention they desire will draw. Just as the Alberta government sends its tourists around the world, our elected officials would be fools to not expect international organizations like Greenpeace to spend resources being tourists in our backyard.


wildrose alliance outsells liberals in leadership contest.

Alberta Liberal leadership contest (December 2008):

A total of 6,258 ballots were mailed to eligible members, with 4,599 returned to the office before Friday’s deadline.

Wildrose Alliance leadership contest (set for October 17, 2009)

Wildrose Alliance Party Executive Director Jane Morgan says the party now has 11,670 paid memberships, a huge increase over the approximately 1,800 members at the time of the party’s annual general meeting in June of this year.

Alberta Electoral Boundary Review

guest post: a reasoned defence of rural representation.

As the lone rural wolf commenting on Dave’s blog, I was asked to present a guest feature for him on the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission. I have mixed feelings on the issue as a whole. I have written before about the significant electoral reforms that are needed in the Alberta and Canadian system beyond gerrymandering, and I’m certainly more passionate about those issues. However, as these types of changes are outside of the purview of the Boundaries Commission it would be inappropriate to address them here.

To be clear from the outset, I am not advocating for the creation of more rural electoral districts – I’m not so naive as to see the disenfranchisement Edmonton and Calgary voters feel by only having half  of the seats (though this rises to roughly 65% when you include other urban areas such as Airdrie, Fort McMurray, Lethbridge, Red Deer etc), however, I do emphatically support effective representation which may result in some electoral divisions, particularly in the north, being given “special consideration” as they will be well below the 25% population threshold.

Chair Walter of the Commission introduces every public hearing with the same disclaimer—that the Commission is guided by Canadian Law which requires electoral districts to give Albertans the right to effective representation. Effective representation is the crux of the argument for constituencies in rural and remote areas. Extremely large electoral divisions are neither effective, nor efficient. Rural and remote areas face challenges of accessibility that frankly, those in the Edmonton/Calgary corridor do not. Communications issues plague much of the province and there are areas where efficient internet is minimal or non-existent. The closure of the City Centre Airport (a closure I still support and will NOT enter into debate here for) left many northern airports on life support, making air travel unfeasible. That leaves driving, and all the budget in the world cannot make up for the human-time it takes to travel massive constituencies. Until one has lived in an Alberta community outside of the big urbans, they cannot fairly assess what type of political representation is effective.

It is my assertion that those who focus on the rural electoral divisions are kind of missing the point. The Commission is charged with providing effective representation. Surely an MLA representing well above the 25% population variance is just as ineffective as an MLA who spends the majority of her or his time travelling to and around their constituency. That should be the focus of Edmonton and Calgary voters… Don’t disenfranchise the rural electorate because the system sucks – fight for what the system is supposed to do for you: Effective Representation.


Born and raised in Edmonton, Shannon recently moved to northern Alberta. She received her BA in Political Science from the UofA in 2005 and is currently working in local government. She is an avid follower of various political blogs and a fervent supporter of electoral reform for all levels of government in Canada.

Categories hilarious domain name pranks Stephen Harper

And to think that some Tories were pissed off at me for owning and directing to a wikipedia biography of a former Premier.

I yield to

It appears that someone in Ottawa forgot to renew a domain name

Note: You might not want to click the link if you are on a work computer.

(thanks to reader D.P. for this link)

UPDATE: The Globe & Mail have picked up this story: Harper not master of his own domain.

Ralph Klein Rich Vivone

king ralph aims a shot across stelmach’s bow.

My review of Rich Vivone‘s new book about former Premier Ralph Klein, Ralph Could Have Been A Superstar is in this week’s edition of SEE Magazine.

The release of Vivone’s book is perfectly timed. As provincial surpluses have turned to deficits and we are seeing some of the repercussions of negligent governance, the former Premier has once again poked his head into the political world. In what some may suspect is a coordinated assault on the current leadership of the PC Party, Klein wrote in an email to the media this week that:

“I would advise he [Stelmach] step down if he doesn’t reach 70%. [in the November PC leadership review]”

Any Premier would have a hard time facing the internal party dissent that would come from a less than 70% approval rating, but this advice would be odd if it weren’t coming from Klein. Traditionally, former Premier’s step behind the scenes. You rarely heard a peep from Don Getty and only more recently Peter Lougheed has began to offer a kind of statesmanly advice to Albertans on the future of their natural resources.

After being unceremoniously dumped in a leadership review after 25 years in politics as Mayor of Calgary, Cabinet Minister, and Premier, I would imagine that it has probably been a difficult transition for Ralph Klein to no longer be the focus of the spotlight.

He could have been a superstar…

Bill 50: Electrical Statues Amendment Act Brett Wilson Danielle Smith Dave Bronconnier Don Iveson Ed Stelmach

the you’re fired grab bag.

1) You’re fired. At least that is what supporters of Calgary philanthropist Brett Wilson may want delegates to November’s PC leadership review to tell Premier Ed Stelmach.

While Stelmach attempts to deal with his predecessor’s solid track-record of short-sighted fiscal planning, Wilson was spotted in the company of American billionaire Donald Trump while participating in the Eastern Ontario Economic Showcase.

2) Duncan Wojtaszek and I were the two lucky guests on the 9th episode of the Unknown Studio, set to be released around the second week of October. The topic? Politics, post-partisanship, and changing the game! If you aren’t familiar with Adam and Scott’s podcast, take a listen to my two personal favorites (episode two and episode four) that include interviews with Don Iveson and Scott Lilwall.

3) Friend of Daveberta, the Enlightened Savage has launched a series of blog posts titled Perfecting Alberta. Take a read and contribute in his posts on Health Care, Primary & Secondary Education, and Economics & Industry.

4) Both Enmax and Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier have waded into the debate over Bill 50. I believe that this is a more complex issue than some proponents may have the public believe and I am working on an expanded blog post with some thoughts.

5) The Alberta NDP have begun hosting a series of meetings on the always hot topic of Health Care. Last week, nursing students from the University of Alberta rallied at the Legislature, expressing their frustrations about future job prospects in Alberta.

6) Premier Stelmach has recently denied rumours that 10 PC MLAs would cross to the Wildrose Alliance if Danielle Smith wins that party’s leadership on October 17. Calgary Rants has some thoughts on the speculation.

ChangeCamp Edmonton

changecamp edmonton.

I am really excited to be involved with a great group of Edmontonians who are organizing the first ChangeCamp Edmonton event on October 17th. For those of you not familiar with the successful ChangeCamps that have been held in Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver (as well as CivicCamp in Calgary), and are also being planned in Halifax and Montreal, take a minute to read Justin Archer‘s guest column on Connect2Edmonton.

The day-of events will take place from 8:30am to 5:00pm at the Lister Centre on the University of Alberta campus. You can register for free and follow the discussion on twitter at #yegchange.

Diane Begin and I will be co-presenting on the topic of ChangeCamp Edmonton at another great upcomign event: Pecha Kucha 5 at the Myer Horowitz Theatre on October 2nd.

(I would also like to thank the sponsors of ChangeCamp Edmonton for their generous support: Edmonton Journal, Alberta Business Awards, Yardstick Software, Cambridge Strategies, and fusedlogic)

Alberta Electoral Boundary Review Alison Redford Bauni Mackay Craig Copeland Guy Boutilier Laurie Blakeman Robert Bouchard Stephen Mandel

alberta redrawing boundaries.

Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission is now into its third week of its first round of public hearings. My previous post on the Commission has generated some great discussion about the challenges of representing rural electoral districts and I am looking forward to an upcoming post by a guest contributor to this blog that will delve deeper into some of the issues raised in that discussion.

Thanks to the good people at Hansard, transcripts and audio are now available from the last two weeks of hearings in Fort McMurray: (afternoon, evening), St. Paul, Wainwright, Edmonton (September 22nd afternoon, evening). The transcripts and audio from the September 23rd public hearings in Edmonton and September 24th & 25th in Calgary are not available yet, but I would expect that they should be posted at some point this week. 

So far, it has been a relatively small number of Albertans who have presented to the commission, including MLAs Laurie Blakeman and Guy Boutilier, municipal officials including Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland, County of St. Paul Reeve Robert Bouchard, Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, and a number of representatives from Liberal and Progressive Conservatives constituency associations.

Due to legislative amendments introduced into the Legislative Assembly by Justice Minister Alison Redford during the Spring session, the Electoral Boundaries Commission will increase the amount of electoral districts from 83 to 87. While it’s very questionable why Albertans would need more MLAs, the increase may help the case presented by Mandel, who urged the Commissioners to increase Edmonton’s representation by two seats. The outcome of the 2002/2003 Boundaries Commission saw Edmonton’s representation in the Legislative Assembly decrease by one MLA, a move that is widely believed to have contributed to the defeats of seven capital city PC MLAs in the 2004 provincial election (Commission member Bauni Mackay penned a spirited defence of Edmonton in her minority position).

These public hearings haven’t been overflowing with presenters, but I expect that interest will rise after the interim report and interim map are released in the coming months. The submission deadline for the first round of public hearings is on October 13.

Brian Dell: My Submission to the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission
Trish Audette: Rural vs Urban tug of war