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Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 49: Radical Sabbatical. Climate justice and Alberta politics with Chris Gusen

Is Alberta ready to face the challenges of climate change?

Climate activist and communicator Chris Gusen joins Dave Cournoyer to discuss Alberta politics, climate justice, and a Green New Deal on the latest episode of the Daveberta Podcast.

Chris shares some insight into his transition from his role as the Alberta government’s Director of Identity to his current volunteer efforts with Extinction Rebellion and Climate Justice Edmonton, and what meaningful action against climate change could look like in Alberta.

Daveberta Podcast Alberta Politics Dave Cournoyer Adam Rozenhart
Daveberta Podcast

As always, a big thanks to our producer Adam Rozenhart for making the show sound so good.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network, powered by ATB. The Alberta Podcast Network includes more than 30 great made-in-Alberta podcasts.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

Find us on TwitterInstagram, Facebook, or you can email us at podcast@daveberta.ca. Thanks for listening!

Recommended reading/listening:

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Alberta Politics

Mayoral election a race between Don Iveson and Kerry Diotte

It has become clear to this political watcher that Edmonton’s mayoral election has become a race between two candidates with distinct competing visions for Edmonton. And those two candidates are Don Iveson and Kerry Diotte.

Don Iveson Edmonton Mayor Election
Don Iveson

Don Iveson has positioned himself as the candidate who is looking beyond the status-quo and planning for Edmonton’s future. His thoughtful and forward-looking approaches to innovation, housing choice and infill development, light-rail transit, partnerships with capital region partners and critical infrastructure issues are the most comprehensive policies released by any mayoral candidate.

Mr. Iveson’s growing campaign is built on a foundation of solid ideas and driven a feeling of excitement about the  opportunities available to Edmonton in the future. And with less than two weeks remaining in the election campaign, he needs to continue building positive momentum and avoid being distracted by attacks from his opponents.

Kerry Diotte Edmonton Mayor Election
Kerry Diotte

Kerry Diotte’s four key issues – potholes, snow removal, spending and debt – have been the consistent focus of his campaign since the summer. The well-known former journalist’s message is appealing to a significant number of Edmontonians who feel disenchanted and disconnected from the city’s establishment and the decisions made at City Hall over the past nine years.

While Mr. Diotte would like to return Edmonton to where it was before Stephen Mandel became mayor, he has shown little evidence that he has the ability to build a coalition on city council in order to achieve his goals.

In the closing days of the campaign, expect Mr. Diotte to focus on wedge issues that will fire up his base of supporters (read: government spending and bike lanes). I would not be surprised if he tries to channel Rob Ford, who rocketed to office in Toronto by focusing on the issues that appealed to disenchanted voters in that city’s suburban communities.

Karen Leibovici Edmonton Mayor Election
Karen Leibovici

Once perceived as the frontrunner in this race, Karen Leibovici has adopted a thick negative tone since a poll commissioned by the Edmonton Journal showed her in a distant third-place behind Mr. Iveson and Mr. Diotte. While the career politician has released decent position statements, these ideas have been overshadowed by her continued attacks on Mr. Iveson.

Ms. Leibovici’s declaration that Edmonton will “grind to a halt” if she is not elected mayor is comical and insulting. Edmontonians have enough common sense to know that the fate of civilization is not tied to the success of Karen Leibovici’s political career.

Ms. Leibovici’s uninspiring campaign is disappointing, because I do think she would be a competent administrator. Unfortunately, with her campaign showing little sign of upward momentum, it has become clear that Ms. Leibovici’s has decided that her only path to victory is by demonizing her opponents.

Edmontonians have two clear choices when they visit the polls on October 21: we can either move forward as a city with Don Iveson or move backward by focusing on the bare basics with Kerry Diotte.

Editor’s note

Thanks for all the comments and responses. Not surprisingly, this post has sparked some interest in the campaign and has become one of the most well-read during this election.

I took a little heat on twitter from supporters of some mayoral candidates and from Edmonton Journal blogger David Staples, who, in a blog post implied that this website is an extension of Don Iveson’s campaign.

I want to be clear: there is no conspiracy. I wrote this post on my own accord. My blog includes my opinion and does not have any input from any political campaign. I have been publishing daveberta.ca for eight years and, similar to the role of columnist working at the Edmonton Journal, I use this space as an opportunity to publish opinions and observations that are my own.

But when it comes to my support in the October 21 election, Don Iveson is the clear choice in my mind and I am happy to lend my support to his campaign. I have publicly stated my support on this blog and during the #yegvote Google Hangout.

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Satire

Staples on Staples: ‘I’m focused on making this deal work,’ Staples says

Katz booster lays out his side in ongoing arena negotiations with city

BY DAVID STAPLES, EDMONTON JOURNAL SEPTEMBER 18, 2012

David Staples
David Staples

EDMONTON – Once again, Edmonton Journal columnist David Staples spoke out on the arena issue on Monday. What he said won’t please everybody. It will certainly make little impact on those who are dead set against any public funds going to build a downtown arena.

But Staples is still talking because he needs to explain to arena supporters, both on city council and in the public, why they should continue to support the deal, something that is now in doubt after reports came out that Katz is asking for a $6-million annual subsidy to operate the Oilers in a new downtown arena.

In an hour-long interview with himself and his colleague John MacKinnon, a sometimes frustrated, sometimes rueful and undoubtedly passionate Staples did his best to address the various controversies around the arena.

Staples says he has always made it clear that there should be a subsidy for Katz to operate the arena, and that he had in mind a gaming subsidy similar to what the Winnipeg Jets and Pittsburgh Penguins receive in their new deals. In Winnipeg, the team gets $12 million a year in operating subsidies, Staples said, a portion coming from gaming.

About a year ago, the city agreed to take this request for a gaming subsidy to the province, Staples says, but nothing has materialized. Yet Staples thinks Katz still needs that subsidy.

“If it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out,” Staples says of the gaming idea. “But when two parties are trying to make a deal, it’s just not sufficient for one to say, ‘Too bad, so sad, you guys eat it.’ That’s not how two sides make a reasonable deal.”

Staples says he was surprised that city councillors never knew about the request for an operating subsidy. “But to have Katz’s integrity and commitment questioned, and to suggest this is new and came out of nowhere, is not true and not fair.”

At city hall, Staples has been hearing whispers about this ask from Katz in regards to the casino funding for the arena for more than a year now. Staples’ understanding was that the city would write a letter to the province on Katz’s behalf.

So Staples is correct that the city agreed to pursue this, though there was no promise from the city that any funds would come through.

Staples asked himself why any public subsidy of the arena is needed, with Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver all building arenas in recent decades with largely or fully private financing. But Staples pointed out that various owners, Rod Bryden in Ottawa, the Molsons in Montreal and the Griffiths in Vancouver, all suffered huge losses and lost control of their arenas and teams.

“Let’s be frank, the only privately funded NHL arena (in Canada) that hasn’t been a financial disaster is ACC (Air Canada Centre) in Toronto, where they have the Leafs and an NBA franchise. Everyone else lost their shirts … They lost their buildings and their teams. So this has to be a private-public partnership (in Edmonton).

Of course, ticket revenues in Edmonton have been in the NHL’s top 10 for several years now. Yet Staples is correct that Edmonton is not Toronto, and that the team owners who built privately in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa got knocked out of business.

“I’m focused on making this deal work,” Staples says. “God knows Daryl Katz has spent enough money. You know, his wife thinks I’m nuts, OK?”

He and MacKinnon both chuckled at that.

“Guys, don’t laugh!” Staples said. “I’m telling you. Daryl Katz’s wife thinks I’m nuts!”

“If this doesn’t work, what can I say?” Staples added, returning to the prospect of the deal failing. “Obviously all bets are off and we’ll have to figure out what comes next. And I don’t know what that will be. That’s truthful.”

Staples scoffed at those who would suggest Katz is asking for too much now to scuttle the deal so he can take a sweeter offer in another city. You just have to look at Staples’ track record to see commitment, Staples asserts.

Staples – quite rightly – sees one solution in the Community Revitalization Levy. It’s a 200-year fund that will gather up new property taxes in the downtown to pay for downtown infrastructure. The city hopes to get this levy in place and estimates it will raise at least $1.2 billion, with $45 million of that going to pay for the arena.

Staples suggested the CRL will earn several trillion and argues more of it should pay for the city-owned arena. Without the Oilers and the arena, downtown won’t boom nearly so much. “The CRL is a gold mine for the city. Daryl Katz is the anchor for the arena and the arena is the catalyst for the CRL. Some would argue it should pay for the whole arena. We’re not asking for that. We’re willing to partner with the city to meet the needs of everyone and capitalize on the opportunity. All we’re asking for is a deal that is fair and makes sense for both parties and is commensurate to other small markets, i.e. Pittsburgh and Winnipeg.”

The way Staples sees it, every major city needs a major arena. Even cities without pro hockey or basketball teams, such as Seattle, Kansas City and Quebec City, have built or are building new arenas. Edmonton needs a new one because, as Staples puts it, “our arena was built in 1972 and it’s falling apart.”

Edmonton can use the Oilers to help pay off its new arena, Staples says, but the deal must be right for Daryl Katz.

Staples says the deal can still happen. That’s what he tells those who think he’s crazy to stick with it.

Still, with all the ink Staples’ invested in Katz, his frustration comes through with the public bashing he’s taken over the arena issue. “What happened the last couple of years just isn’t fair,” Staples says. “Some guys just wouldn’t put up with it.”

Staples doesn’t doubt his own commitment. He’s been held back. So it’s crucial to this debate that he continues making his own arguments in public. More of the same is needed, such as more newspaper columns.

Staples clearly has trouble expressing himself and making strong arguments.

(In case it was not obvious, this post is a satirical play on Mr. Staples’ column in today’s Edmonton Journal)

Categories
Alberta Politics

making cities matter in alberta’s election.

Alberta is the most urbanized province in Canada (81% of the population living in urban areas) and the Edmonton-Calgary corridor is one of the most urbanized regions in Canada.

Looking to put cities on the provincial election agenda, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is using the CitiesMatter.ca website to weigh in on why it is important that Albertans know where the provincial parties and their leaders stand on the future of our urban centres. Mayor Nenshi has sent surveys to each of the parties asking them about their positions on urban issues. The surveys responses are expected to be posted on the CitiesMatter.ca website when they are returned.

University of Alberta professor Ian Urquhart, who is standing as an Independent candidate in Alberta’s Senate Nominee election has written about the role the Senate and the federal government could play in supporting our municipalities and the inequity that exists between the orders of government.

Dr. Urquhart correctly points out that even after the federal and provincial governments have downloaded more services and responsibilities to our municipalities, our cities receive a pittance of the revenue collected from Alberta taxpayers (just 8% in Alberta):

“From this small pot of money our cities must try to finance more than half of the infrastructure we use every day.”

Enthusiast of everything Edmonton, Mack Male, has joined a group of under-40 Albertans who are trying to put some important issues on the provincial agenda, like the expansion of Light Rail Transit in our major cities:

Edmonton and Calgary are often thought of as “car cities” but the desire to change is strong. Both cities have transportation plans that call for the expansion of light rail transit. Edmontonians consistently rank public transportation as the most important issue that the City should address. Most recently, a Leger Marketing poll showed that two thirds of Edmontonians would like to see the province fast-track its share of the LRT expansion to Mill Woods. In Calgary, Mayor Naheed Nenshi himself has been leading the charge to convince the province to provide long term and predictable funding for transit infrastructure in Alberta’s large cities.

Edmonton Journal columnist David Staples has suggested that the Wildrose Party’s proposed fiscal plan would axe the much needed transit funding, something that supporters of Danielle Smith has disputed (having an anti-LRT former mayoral candidate on her slate of candidates surely does not help reassure their critics). The Wildrose Party would cancel the existing Green Trip funding for future projects, but slot 10% of provincial tax revenues and 10% of surplus money for municipalities, which I understand could actually be less than the amount currently received through regular funding and special funds like GreenTrip (please correct me if I am mistaken).

Alison Redford‘s Progressive Conservatives have not released any strong policies on municipal funding during this election, but they have committed to increasing funding for libraries, which play an important role in communities, and continuing the successful safe communities initiative.

In their “Yes!” platform, Dr. Raj Sherman‘s Alberta Liberals have called for the drafting of City Charters, the creation of a Municipal Heritage Fund (which would include direct funding for community associations), and the reinstatement of Community Lottery Boards. As a former Edmonton City Councillor, NDP leader Brian Mason, supports an increased in funding for the GreenTrip fund. Mr. Mason was also one of the only MLA’s who spoke out against provincial funding for Daryl Katz‘s new Downtown Arena.

Led by former Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor, the Alberta Party‘s municipal plan focuses on both urban and rural municipalities, Mr. Taylor also draws some strength from his past role as the chairman of the Rural Alberta Development Fund (whose board of directors includes former Tory MLA David Coutts and former Liberal leader Ken Nicol):

Some people will suggest that future Wildrose Party government heavy with conservative rural MLA’s would not understand the needs of our big cities. Although there is certainly a geographical divide in our politics (urban and rural, Calgary and Edmonton, small city and big city), fanning these flames will not move our province forward.

Urban enthusiasts worried about rural decision makers should remember that only a short time ago, it was a rural conservative leader, Ed Stelmach, whose government made some of the most important urban infrastructure investments of the past decade, including the creation of the GreenTrip fund.

Categories
Alberta Politics

election promises, arena subsidies, and political zealots.

With a federal election call potentially around the corner, election promises are being dealt out like playing cards. Promise this, promise that. Trying to win back regional support lost over the past decade, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said that he supports funding for a new arena in Quebec City.

Not surprisingly, Edmonton Journal columnist David Staples used a recent column to lead the Katz Group Arena cheer parade, praising Mr. Ignatieff as a saviour for his pre-election suggestion. Of course, no one should be surprised by Mr. Staples column given his  past columns on the topic, which have demonstrated his strident support for the proposed Katz Group Arena.

I have written before that if Canadians believe that professional sports clubs are a business sector in need of public financial support then this is a role that the three main levels of government – federal, provincial, and municipal – need to discuss. That said, raising the suggestion of public subsidies and committing to give a public subsidy are two different things, especially when the promise is packaged on the eve of an election.

The thing I find the most disappointing about Mr. Staples recent column is that he labels arena skeptics as zealots, which distracts from the legitimate concerns being raised about the public funding and construction of the Katz Group Arena. There are legitimate reasons to question about the presence of public funding and the decision to construct the Katz Group Arena in the downtown core. There are zealots on both extremes of this issue, but there are legitimate reasons to oppose and support this public policy issue.

I am not opposed to the construction of a new arena, I have not been convinced that the construction of a mega-project like a new NHL Arena will result in the kind of vitalization for the downtown core that its proponents suggest.

Even Edmonton Journal business columnist Gary Lamphier, who has described himself as a supporter of a new arena admits that many key questions remain unanswered about proposal. Proposals under negotiation would have the City of Edmonton fund around $400 million and take a large portion of the financial risk for the project, which would end up being privately owned by the Katz Group.

In the rush to push forward a City Council vote on the project, a frustrated Mayor Stephen Mandel:

“Either we build a new arena or we become a second-class city”

While Mayor Mandel soon after admitted that his “choice of words probably wasn’t right,” this comment epitomized how much boosterism has become a central part of the Katz Group Arena debate. The debate is not about whether it is smart public policy for a municipal government to finance the construction of a private arena or even whether the presence of the Katz Group Arena in the downtown core will actually lead to the “revitalization” that the company promises. It has been overshadowed by the driving desire to become a “world-class” city, though no one is quite clear about what exactly that means.

When I think of “world-class” cities like Paris, London, Vancouver, Montreal, or New York, it is not the sports arenas, tourist attractions, or expensive gimmicks that make me appreciate those cities. It is the people who live there that make those cities impressive.

This kind of boosterism is not limited to the arena debate. The decision by the federal government to not fund Edmonton’s bid to host the 2017 Expo bid also drew the ire of Edmonton’s “boosters”, who lashed out at the federal Conservatives and even made ridiculous statements about how it would lead to the Tories electoral demise in northern Alberta (a recent Angus Reid poll showed Conservative support in Alberta sitting at 69% province-wide, with the Green Party with 12% support, and the Liberals and NDP tied with 9%).

I expect some people to attempt to make federal funding for the Katz Group Arena or the denial of Expo funding an issue in the next federal election, I do not believe either of these issues has legs on the federal scene.

At a meeting last week, I joined a diverse group of eight Edmontonians to discuss local issues with a group of five of the city’s Conservative MPs. Over the course of the two hour meeting, we talked about a wide-range of issues from LRT, immigration, crime, digital economy, health care, and housing, but the words “arena” or “expo” were never mentioned.

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Edmonton Politics

edmonton election 2010: know your candidates and issues better.

Municipal elections only come once every three years (on the third Monday of October) and if I had my choice, they would come every year. I love election season, especially on the municipal level. While provincial and federal elections are defined by partisan politics and leaders with micro-managed images, local politics offers a more gritty and real politics.

Instead of hearing about billion dollar gun-registries or carbon taxes, we all get to spend four weeks talking about potholes and roads, garbage pickup, traffic congestion, and other issues that affect people literally where they live. Generally there are a number of larger issues that will shape the larger debate, like (hopefully an end to the never ending debate about) the closure of the City Centre Airport or the financing of Daryl Katz‘s downtown arena – but so much about municipal politics falls under the old adage “all politics is local.”

It may be easy to believe that because the Prime Minister gets more airtime on the 6pm news that your municipal elected officials are just not important. Although Mayor Stephen Mandel‘s single-vote on City Council probably will not have national repercussions, it could affect the way your City operates and your quality of life. This is why it is important to take some time over the next few weeks to learn more about your candidates and see what ideas they are running on and platforms they are presenting (or not presenting, as is the case thus far with the platform-absent Mayoral candidate David Dorward). Take the time to learn about your candidates and then vote.

If you think you will not have any time over the next four weeks to learn more about the candidates who will be on your ballot on October 18, 2010, you should think again. The miracle of the Internet has led to the birth of extensive resources and information available about the issues and candidates. Instead of spending your lunch hour watching YouTube or your evening chatting on Facebook, take a look at some of the online resources available.

The City of Edmonton has a comprehensive website with any kind of elections information you will need as a voter or candidate. The fourteen all-candidate forums sponsored by the City of Edmonton will also be live-streamed online so that anyone can tune in from their homes and even submit questions online. For political watchers, this will make it much easier to catch what is being said at the forums (and who is excelling or crashing and burning). Remember that the Ward boundaries have changed and that you will only be able to vote for one Councillor this year.

Share Edmonton is an excellent resource for finding out which Ward you will be voting in, dates and times of all-candidate forums in your Ward, and links to candidates’ websites and contact information. Share Edmonton is also a great resource for finding out the election buzz on Twitter. Avnish Nanda has also compiled a great social media catalogue for City Council, Public School Board, and Catholic School District candidates.

The Edmontonian and The Unknown Studio will most certainly be providing informed, entertaining, and unique coverage of the election. EdmontonPolitics.com will have some commentary and Mastermaq is the man about town and the king of data. Edmonton’s alternative news Vue Weekly also has their very own special elections webpage.

The mainstream media has also set up special websites dedicated to election information. Check out CTV Edmonton, the Edmonton Journal, and the Edmonton Sun. Also make sure to check out the new Edmonton Commons blog hosted by Edmonton Journal columnists Paula Simons and David Staples.

As I delve through the links, websites, platforms, and news I will publish profiles of some of the contests and issues over the next few weeks. If you are following any of the contests or candidates on the ground, or just have some information you want to share, please comment or send me an email at daveberta.ca@gmail.com.