Tag Archives: Don Braid

Don Getty Ray Martin Laurence Decore Alberta Family Day Debate

Repost: The Great Family Day Debate of 1989

[This post was originally published on Feb. 16, 2010]

The annual Family Day long-weekend is something that many Albertans look forward to. The many Albertans who take for granted the holiday on the third Monday of February may be surprised to know that the idea of creating Family Day was incredibly controversial when it was first introduced in 1989. It may be his greatest legacy as Premier, but when Don Getty introduced the Family Day Act on June 1, 1989, it generated some intense debate on the floor of the Legislative Assembly. Here are some quotes from the debate, care of Hansard:

Kurt Gesell MLA Alberta

Kurt Gesell

June 5, 1989
Laurence Decore (Liberal MLA Edmonton-Glengarry): “It seems to me that when your province is in difficulty, when you know that you’re going to be experiencing the lowest economic growth rate in Canada, something should be brought forward to excite and energize and stimulate Albertans. The family day Act doesn’t do that.”

June 6, 1989
Kurt Gesell (PC MLA Clover Bar): “The promise of the throne speech of love of family, home, community, and province facilitates these choices. The family day Act is an excellent start, and forms part of the measures stressing the importance of Alberta families. I want to applaud our Premier for the introduction of this initiative.”

June 7, 1989

Don-Tannas-Alberta MLA

Don Tannas

Don Tannas (PC MLA Highwood): “Government alone cannot create a true family day. It can merely provide the opportunity for others to make it a family time, and therefore it is an important step to bring focus to the fundamental importance of the family, through family day. Many of our Christian denominations emphasize having at least one day a week devoted to family activities. A family day once a year provides an ideal opportunity for all families to focus on themselves, to look at reconciling their differences, to take joy in their common ancestry, to participate in shared activities, and to focus on all the members of their extended family on a day other than a family funeral. No, Mr. Speaker, a government cannot do it by itself. Family day must grow in the hearts and minds of all Albertans, and I’m proud that this government has taken this important step.”

Norm-Weiss-Alberta-MLA

Norm Weiss

June 8, 1989
Ray Martin (NDP MLA Edmonton-Norwood): “I’ll stand up in the Legislature and give them credit if it’s anything close to what we’re doing in Bill 201. I point out that just like your so-called family day, Mr. Speaker — I recall them running that Bill down, but then for once they did the right thing and brought it in, the midwinter holiday. So I’m hopeful after the eighth try that they might take a look at a Bill like that. Again, government members, if you don’t understand the problem and you think everything’s okay, you’re just not listening to the public.”

June 19, 1989
Norm Weiss (PC MLA Fort McMurray): “I hope we’d see such things as family cards for family days, as we see for Valentine Day and Father’s Day and Mother’s Day and instances like that.”

Bettie-Hewes-Alberta-MLA

Bettie Hewes

Bettie Hewes (Liberal MLA Edmonton-Gold Bar): “We still are beset with runaways, with dropouts, with an increase in teenage pregnancy. Yet it doesn’t seem to me our Family Day will in any way help those problems that are a consistent source of stress in family life in Alberta and an increasing source of stress. Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier and the members of the Legislature what Family Day will do to alleviate the need for respite for young families who’ve been encouraged to keep mentally or physically handicapped children at home.” … “This government’s commitment to strengthen family life has yet to materialize. With regret, Mr. Speaker, this particular family Act doesn’t accomplish it in any way.”

Derek-Fox-Alberta-MLA

Derek Fox

Derek Fox (NDP MLA Vegreville): “It’s not enough to pay lip service to the family in Alberta, just to say, “Well, we love the family; therefore, everything’s going to be wonderful for families in Alberta” or “We’re going to name a holiday Family Day, and everything will be wonder- ful for families in Alberta.””

Don Getty (PC MLA Stettler): “The members opposite from the Liberal and ND parties are surely a hesitant, fearful, timid group, unable to bring themselves to look at something in a positive way. I guess they’ve been in the opposition that long that they just can’t turn around their minds in a positive, thoughtful way and think of the kinds of things they could have raised to support Family Day and talk about the exciting things that will happen in the future in Alberta on Family Day. Instead we heard a series of complaints and fears, and that’s really sad.”

“We will have this thinking of Family Day, thinking of the importance of the family. Both the NDP and the Liberal members said: will people participate; will they actually get together as families? Their view is: force them to; use state control in some way. Force litem to. Make it the law that you’ve got to get together. Now, what kind of nonsense is that? Surely that’s the kind of centralist, socialist thinking that is so wrong and the reason why they’re where they are, Mr. Speaker.”

Marie-Laing-Alberta-MLA

Marie Laing

Marie Laing (NDP MLA Edmonton-Avonmore): “…all too often the member of that family that is forced to work is the mother or the woman, because they are employed in the retail trade. So we have to say: what kind of a Family Day do you have when the mother has to be at work and cannot be with her family?”

August 10, 1989
Mr. Weiss: “…the proposed amendment, as introduced by the hon member, certainly would create chaos. She went on to say, and I quote how would it help battered women, those sexually abused? I would like to say to all hon members of the Assembly that I really don’t know. Does any body know? But maybe just the reality of knowing one day has been designated as Family Day will shock both sides of a broken family into the realities that there are problems in this world, and as a realist we don’t run from them, we try and work towards improving them and bettering them from all sides It’s not just “empty rhetoric” as quoted by the hon member.”

Mr. Decore: “It is that not everybody is allowed to celebrate the holiday. The moms and the dads and the grandmothers and the grandfathers and the uncles and the aunts and the children aren’t able, many of them, to come back to that family unit to participate in that Family Day. Therefore, the Act isn’t fair; it isn’t fair to the thousands of people who must work.”

Bob-Hawkesworth-Alberta-MLA

Bob Hawkesworth

Bob Hawkesworth (NDP MLA Calgary-Mountain View): “…it’s really a shame to me that they would miss the real opportunity that this Bill could provide to create a genuine Family Day, not just some bogus, poor substitute for something that we once had once a week in this province. It’s a shame to me and a tragedy to me that this government over the years has failed to act in this important way. I think it’s highly regrettable. Here is some small
way that they could rectify an injustice.”

August 15, 1989
Mr. Getty: “…the hon. Member for Edmonton-Centre [editor’s note: the MLA at the time was William Roberts] has such a hesitant, fearful, timid view of the capacity of the people of Alberta that he would want in some way to pass legislation that forces people to do certain things. It’s the socialist, state-control thought, and it’s wrong. It has been wrong in the past, and it’s wrong now. You have to have faith in the people of the province that they will develop this family day, that they will work. The government merely provides the framework; it’s the people who do it. It’s not people against their employers. Surely they’re all the people of Alberta. They work together, and together they’re going to develop family day. I know that someday in the future that poor, timid, hesitant Edmonton-Centre MLA, wherever he will be in those days, probably . . . Well, no, I won’t even speculate, because we’d probably have to help him to the food bank.”

February 1, 1990
Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid wrote about the first Family Day: “The premier failed to consider a few realities of modern family life – little things like children, work, school and day care. These matters refuse to vanish just because the couch potatoes in the legislature want another holiday and the premier waves his wand.”

Put some Alberta Politics under the Christmas tree

Looking for that special gift for the political junkie in your family? Or maybe you’re searching for a good book to read by an open fire on a cold winter night? If so, here are a few Alberta politics books that might look good under your Christmas tree this year:

Where the Bodies Lie

Mark Lisac
NeWest Press
$20.95 at Audreys Books

An enjoyable mix of politics and intrigue make this fictional murder mystery a must-read for political watchers in Alberta. “Lisac’s backdrop may be the political scene, but his story is in the heart of his main characters, their flaws and aspirations. He is an elegant and efficient writer and sets lovely scenes and characters, creating a murder mystery with twists and engaging characters,” wrote Samantha Power in Vue Weekly.

 

Notley Nation: How Alberta’s Political Upheaval Swept the Country

Sydney Sharpe and Don Braid
Dundurn Press
$19.99 at Audreys Books

Calgary author Sydney Sharpe and Postmedia columnist Don Braid look at how decades of one-party rule, right-wing discontent and a growing progressive streak in Alberta led to the election of Rachel Notley’s NDP in our province’s historic 2015 election.

 

Farm Workers in Western Canada: Injustices and Activism

Editors: Shirley McDonald, Bob Barnetson
University of Alberta Press
$29.95 at Audreys Books (by special order)

This book was launched today, so I have not yet had a chance to read it. Here is the description from U of A Press:

Bill 6, the government of Alberta’s contentious farm workers’ safety legislation, sparked public debate as no other legislation has done in recent years. The Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act provides a right to work safely and a compensation system for those killed or injured at work, similar to other provinces.

In nine essays, contributors to Farm Workers in Western Canada place this legislation in context. They look at the origins, work conditions, and precarious lives of farm workers in terms of larger historical forces such as colonialism, land rights, and racism. They also examine how the rights and privileges of farm workers, including seasonal and temporary foreign workers, conflict with those of their employers, and reveal the barriers many face by being excluded from most statutory employment laws, sometimes in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

 

Grant Notley: The Social Conscience of Alberta

Howard Leeson
University of Alberta Press
$24.95 at Audreys Books

Written by his former executive assistant, this biography provides a look into the compelling life story of Grant Notley, the father of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who led the NDP from 1968 until his death in 1984. His passion for our province and social democratic politics is a refreshing reminder of a level of respect that used to exist among political opponents and adversaries in our province.

 

Thin Power
Andy Marshall
Friesen Press
$16.99

Thin Power is the unauthorized biography of former mayor of Calgary, Rod Sykes, featuring the achievements and bitter controversies of his eight-year term ending in 1977. David Climenhaga wrote a review of the book over at AlbertaPolitics.ca.

 

The Tar Sands: Syncrude and the Politics of Oil

Larry Pratt
Hurtig Press

Hard to find but worth the read, this 1976 book provides a thorough background background to the politics and economics that led to the creation of the Syncrude project and development of the Athabasca oil sands. A review by ActiveHistory.ca describes the book as an essential text on the history of Alberta’s tar sands. Used copies can be found on amazon.com.

And from south of the border:

Whistlestop

John Dickerson
Hachette Book Group
$39.00 at Audreys Books (by special order)

A compendium of John Dickerson’s favourite moments from US Presidential election history. The host of Face the Nation on CBS News and columnist for Slate Magazine does an excellent job translating stories from his popular Whistlestop podcast into this fun to read political history book.

 

(This post was inspired by Stephen Maher’s piece over at iPolitics.ca

Sandra Jansen’s brave statement against online harassment and violence


Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen, who crossed the floor from the Progressive Conservatives to the governing New Democratic Party last week, stood in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly today to speak against the disgusting online harassment and violence that has been directed at her and other women MLAs.

This is not the first time an Alberta MLA has raised this issue but it was a brave statement that is certainly worth watching.

Once you have watched the video of Ms. Jansen’s statement, head over the to Calgary Herald and read Don Braid‘s powerful column in response. Here is an excerpt:

We have to face it — some men in this province simply can’t stand the sight of a government run by a female premier, who is in turn supported by a caucus with a higher percentage of women than any other in Canadian history.

Alberta has become a kind of social laboratory, unique in North America, to test whether a near-majority of women in a government caucus makes a change in style and substance. The verdict is already in — they do, as shown both by Notley’s conciliatory style and the NDP’s advancement of women and minorities.

The more obvious this becomes, the more the language escalates. It slimes its way from women to the LGBTQ community and back again.

Politicians with embarrassing Facebook photos? Get used to it.

Since Alberta’s provincial election on May 5, Calgary-Bow MLA-elect Deborah Drever has been the target of much criticism over some photos posted on Facebook from before she was a candidate. Working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology at Mount Royal University, it is unlikely Ms. Drever, 26, believed she would actually be elected as the NDP candidate in the long-time PC Party-held constituency.

While many conservatives on social media, many of them anonymous, have aimed their frustration with the NDP’s historic win at Ms. Drever, it is important for level-headed Albertans to keep these photos in perspective. In the context of the recent election and the government that was just tossed out of office, Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid might have said it best in one tweet last week:

In the years ahead, it will be hard to expect Canadians younger than 35 not to have had any sort of embarrassing photo posted on social media. It is just what happens when you are in high school or university: sometimes you do dumb things and they end up on the internet.

For the incoming generation of young politicians, “do you have any embarrassing photos on Facebook?” could be the new “have you ever smoked marijuana?” that the senior generations will ask. The future candidates will try to deny it, but they will all know that somewhere, on someones Facebook page, Instagram account or iPhone, there are embarrassing photos from that halloween kegger or university pub crawl that could one day become public.

It does not mean we are an irresponsible generation, it is the burden we bear for living in such a technologically connected society.

Had mobile phones and social networks been around in 1980, I am sure there would be many embarrassing photos of young Brian Jean, Jim Prentice, Ric McIverRachel Notley and Stephen Harper floating around for all the internet to see. But due to the limitations of film photography in the 1970s and 1980s, these photos are not easily accessible through a Google Image search.

But that does not mean some photos have not made it online. Would anyone argue that Peter Mackay is unfit to be Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada because he was photographed guzzling from a beer bong when he was 20-years old?

Ms. Drever probably should have removed these photos before she ran as an election candidate, a conclusion she would have made soon after the photos were discovered and the personal attacks on her began. It was a hard lesson to learn but an important one for the group of energetic young NDP MLAs to be aware of. Conservatives still bitter from their first electoral defeat in 44 years will be searching for any opportunity to undermine the new government’s credibility.

Now as the elected MLA for Calgary-Bow, Ms. Drever has an opportunity to disappoint her critics and prove to her constituents, including the 5,680 who voted for her, that she will work hard and be a responsible and fair voice for in the Legislative Assembly.

As for the rest of us, we should stop getting excited about politicians with embarrassing Facebook photos, because I can guarantee that it will be lot more common in the years to come.

NDP leader Rachel Notley speaks to a crowd of more than 2,000 Albertans at a May 4 election rally in Edmonton.

An Orange Chinook howls in Alberta. Is the PC dynasty at its end?

How badly do the Progressive Conservatives need to mess up for Albertans to want to elect an NDP government? It may sound like a silly question in the context of Alberta politics, but we might find an answer on May 5.

Judging by the more than 1,500 Albertans who showed up at an NDP rally in Edmonton yesterday, the momentum behind Rachel Notley‘s NDP is real.

Jim Prentice Alberta Premier

Jim Prentice

“I think the PC Party needs a break from government and Albertans need a break from the PC Party,” Ms. Notley told the massive crowd at the Ramada Hotel on Kingsway Avenue. “You don’t have to repeat history on Tuesday, you can make history,” she said.

Legions of Albertans tired of Jim Prentice‘s long-governing PC Party have rallied around the NDP in this election. With the confident Ms. Notley at its helm and a moderate Lougheed-like platform, the NDP campaign in this election has been near flawless. With exception of a few bumps, including a fiscal miscalculation that was quickly fixed and one candidate’s past praise of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the NDP machine has run smoothly.

In contrast, the PC campaign has appeared distant, robotic and fraught with controversy. The latest controversy has forced Mr. Prentice to call for a review of MLA expenses. Metro Edmonton uncovered the expenses last week, which included one Edmonton PC MLA who expensed $12,500 for a Christmas Party.

‘The PCs sound, in fact, like Social Credit Premier Harry Strom, the one they beat in 1971,’ wrote Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid. Albertans young enough to have voted in the last election are at least 65 years old, meaning that most voters will not remember the last time we had a change in government in Alberta, 43 years ago.

Mr. Prentice wanted this election to be about his spring budget, but Albertans appear to have decided this election is about trust and acceptability, two areas where the PCs have a poor track record.

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

Standing in the crowd at the NDP rally, I spoke with two senior citizens who were very excited to experience their first political rally. It is also the first election they will vote NDP. They voted for the PCs in the last election and in many elections before that, they told me.

If the Orange Chinook is real, what will the results look like on election night?

Most media coverage since the leaders’ debate has focused on the NDP and PC parties, but outside of the major urban centres, Brian Jean‘s conservative Wildrose Party is expected to be a big factor. You only need to take a quick drive outside Edmonton City Limits and you will immediately notice the campaign signs change from NDP orange to Wildrose green.

The PCs have placed third behind the NDP and Wildrose parties in most recent polls, but it would be foolish to predict a that party’s defeat even with only on day left in the election campaign. After 43-years in government, the PC Party Establishment is pulling out all the stops to ensure it wins re-election, including its recent fear campaign against the NDP.

It is also important to remember that the constant stream of polls showing the NDP leading the Wildrose and PC parties might not necessarily be reflected in the number of MLAs elected in our first past the post system (as we saw in the 2012 election when the Wildrose Party earned 34% of the province-wide vote and only 19% of the seats in the Assembly).

If a party’s support is too concentrated in one area of the province, it may win seats but not enough to form a majority government. And if a party’s support is too thinly spread across the province, it could be shut out.

On May 5 we will find out if Albertans are ready to take a break from the PC Party and embrace an Orange Chinook. It could be Alberta’s most interesting election night in 43 years.

Don Getty Ray Martin Laurence Decore Alberta Family Day Debate

Alberta’s Great Family Day Debate of 1989

[This post was originally published on Feb. 16, 2010]

The annual Family Day long-weekend is something that many Albertans look forward to. The many Albertans who take the holiday on the third Monday of February for granted may be surprised to know that the idea of creating Family Day generated some controversy when it was first introduced in 1989. It may be his greatest legacy as Premier, but when Don Getty introduced the Family Day Act on June 1, 1989, it generated some intense debate on the floor of the Legislative Assembly. Here are some quotes from the debate, care of Hansard:

June 5, 1989
Laurence Decore (Liberal: Edmonton-Glengarry): “It seems to me that when your province is in difficulty, when you know that you’re going to be experiencing the lowest economic growth rate in Canada, something should be brought forward to excite and energize and stimulate Albertans. The family day Act doesn’t do that.”

June 6, 1989
Kurt Gesell (PC: Clover Bar): “The promise of the throne speech of love of family, home, community, and province facilitates these choices. The family day Act is an excellent start, and forms part of the measures stressing the importance of Alberta families. I want to applaud our Premier for the introduction of this initiative.”

June 7, 1989
Don Tannas (PC: Highwood): “Government alone cannot create a true family day. It can merely provide the opportunity for others to make it a family time, and therefore it is an important step to bring focus to the fundamental importance of the family, through family day. Many of our Christian denominations emphasize having at least one day a week devoted to family activities. A family day once a year provides an ideal opportunity for all families to focus on themselves, to look at reconciling their differences, to take joy in their common ancestry, to participate in shared activities, and to focus on all the members of their extended family on a day other than a family funeral. No, Mr. Speaker, a government cannot do it by itself. Family day must grow in the hearts and minds of all Albertans, and I’m proud that this government has taken this important step.”

June 8, 1989
Ray Martin (NDP: Edmonton-Norwood): “I’ll stand up in the Legislature and give them credit if it’s anything close to what we’re doing in Bill 201. I point out that just like your so-called family day, Mr. Speaker — I recall them running that Bill down, but then for once they did the right thing and brought it in, the midwinter holiday. So I’m hopeful after the eighth try that they might take a look at a Bill like that. Again, government members, if you don’t understand the problem and you think everything’s okay, you’re just not listening to the public.”

June 19, 1989
Norm Weiss (PC: Fort McMurray): “I hope we’d see such things as family cards for family days, as we see for Valentine Day and Father’s Day and Mother’s Day and instances like that.”

Bettie Hewes (Liberal: Edmonton-Gold Bar): “We still are beset with runaways, with dropouts, with an increase in teenage pregnancy. Yet it doesn’t seem to me our Family Day will in any way help those problems that are a consistent source of stress in family life in Alberta and an increasing source of stress. Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier and the members of the Legislature what Family Day will do to alleviate the need for respite for young families who’ve been encouraged to keep mentally or physically handicapped children at home.” … “This government’s commitment to strengthen family life has yet to materialize. With regret, Mr. Speaker, this particular family Act doesn’t accomplish it in any way.”

Derek Fox (NDP: Vegreville): “It’s not enough to pay lip service to the family in Alberta, just to say, “Well, we love the family; therefore, everything’s going to be wonderful for families in Alberta” or “We’re going to name a holiday Family Day, and everything will be wonder- ful for families in Alberta.””

Premier Don Getty (PC: Stettler): “The members opposite from the Liberal and ND parties are surely a hesitant, fearful, timid group, unable to bring themselves to look at something in a positive way. I guess they’ve been in the opposition that long that they just can’t turn around their minds in a positive, thoughtful way and think of the kinds of things they could have raised to support Family Day and talk about the exciting things that will happen in the future in Alberta on Family Day. Instead we heard a series of complaints and fears, and that’s really sad.”

“We will have this thinking of Family Day, thinking of the importance of the family. Both the NDP and the Liberal members said: will people participate; will they actually get together as families? Their view is: force them to; use state control in some way. Force litem to. Make it the law that you’ve got to get together. Now, what kind of nonsense is that? Surely that’s the kind of centralist, socialist thinking that is so wrong and the reason why they’re where they are, Mr. Speaker.”

Marie Laing (NDP: Edmonton-Avonmore): “…all too often the member of that family that is forced to work is the mother or the woman, because they are employed in the retail trade. So we have to say: what kind of a Family Day do you have when the mother has to be at work and cannot be with her family?”

August 10, 1989
Mr. Weiss: “…the proposed amendment, as introduced by the hon member, certainly would create chaos. She went on to say, and I quote how would it help battered women, those sexually abused? I would like to say to all hon members of the Assembly that I really don’t know. Does any body know? But maybe just the reality of knowing one day has been designated as Family Day will shock both sides of a broken family into the realities that there are problems in this world, and as a realist we don’t run from them, we try and work towards improving them and bettering them from all sides It’s not just “empty rhetoric” as quoted by the hon member.”

Mr. Decore: “It is that not everybody is allowed to celebrate the holiday. The moms and the dads and the grandmothers and the grandfathers and the uncles and the aunts and the children aren’t able, many of them, to come back to that family unit to participate in that Family Day. Therefore, the Act isn’t fair; it isn’t fair to the thousands of people who must work.”

Bob Hawkesworth (NDP: Calgary-Mountain View): “…it’s really a shame to me that they would miss the real opportunity that this Bill could provide to create a genuine Family Day, not just some bogus, poor substitute for something that we once had once a week in this province. It’s a shame to me and a tragedy to me that this government over the years has failed to act in this important way. I think it’s highly regrettable. Here is some small
way that they could rectify an injustice.”

August 15, 1989
Premier Getty: “…the hon. Member for Edmonton-Centre [daveberta note: the MLA at the time was William Roberts] has such a hesitant, fearful, timid view of the capacity of the people of Alberta that he would want in some way to pass legislation that forces people to do certain things. It’s the socialist, state-control thought, and it’s wrong. It has been wrong in the past, and it’s wrong now. You have to have faith in the people of the province that they will develop this family day, that they will work. The government merely provides the framework; it’s the people who do it. It’s not people against their employers. Surely they’re all the people of Alberta. They work together, and together they’re going to develop family day. I know that someday in the future that poor, timid, hesitant Edmonton-Centre MLA, wherever he will be in those days, probably . . . Well, no, I won’t even speculate, because we’d probably have to help him to the food bank.”

February 1, 1990
Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid wrote about the first Family Day: “The premier failed to consider a few realities of modern family life – little things like children, work, school and day care. These matters refuse to vanish just because the couch potatoes in the legislature want another holiday and the premier waves his wand.”

Albertans defend modest pensions, Redford staff defend Palm Springs flight

Rally for Pensions Alberta

Close to 2,000 Albertans gathered in Churchill Square on March 2, 2014 to rally for secure public sector pensions.

About 2,000 Albertans from every corner of the province braved the -33C windchill yesterday to defend their modest pension plans at a rally in Edmonton’s Churchill Square. Many municipal and provincial employees are concerned that Finance minister Doug Horner‘s proposed changes to Alberta’s public sector pension plans could impact their retirement security.

David Eggen Deron Bilous NDP MLA Alberta

NDP MLAs Deron Bilous and David Eggen show their support at yesterday’s rally.

Despite rhetoric about ‘gold-plated pension plans,’ the average full pension under the Local Authorities Pension Plan is only $15,000 per year.

Meanwhile, Premier Alison Redford is facing questions about another taxpayer funded flight on a government plane, this time from sunny Palm Springs, California.

After receiving a tip about a suspicious record in the Alberta Government Flight Manifests, I asked Ms. Redford on Twitter why a government plane flew empty to Palm Springs and returned to Calgary with her, her daughter and two members of her security detail onboard in April 2013.

David Climenhaga Laurie Blakeman Liberal Alberta MLA

Blogger David Climenhaga and Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman at yesterday’s rally.

Ms. Redford did not respond to my tweet, but her communications director Stefan Baranski did. He explained that the flight brought the premier back to Alberta from her vacation home in order to attend former premier Ralph Klein‘s memorial service.

While the cost of the $9,200 flight to and from Palm Springs is not as salacious as Ms. Redford’s $45,000 flight to South Africa, it is unclear why the premier did not return to Alberta on one of the many commercial flights available in the six days before the memorial service.

Both the Calgary Herald’s Don Braid and the Calgary Sun’s Rick Bell have penned articles in response to Ms. Redford’s Palm Springs flight.

Here’s the original tweet I sent on February 27, 2014:

Speech from the Throne & Budget
A Speech from the Throne will open the spring sitting of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly today at 3:00 p.m. The 2014 provincial budget will be tabled by Mr. Horner on the afternoon of Thursday, March 6.

NDP to nominate the first candidate of the 2016 election
As was first reported last week on this blog, the Alberta NDP will hold a candidate nomination meeting on March 4 in the Edmonton-Riverview constituency. The NDP are expected to nominate Lori Sigurdson, manager of professional affairs with the Alberta College of Social Workers, as their candidate. The constituency is currently represented by PC MLA Steve Young.

Celebrating 42 years in power, PC Party expected to back Redford

UPDATE: Delegates to the PC Party convention in Red Deer have voted 77% not to hold a leadership review, leaving Ms. Redford firmly in the leader’s chair for the time being. This is a solid endorsement, though the vote indicates that opposition inside her party ranks is still a concern. 

This “teaser” video released before the Progressive Conservative Party Annual Meeting focuses on “trust.”

There was no mention of the ‘Socred Retreads‘ in Premier Alison Redford‘s speech to Progressive Conservative Party faithful last night. Unlike her speech to her party’s annual general meeting in November 2012, Ms. Redford took no partisan thrusts at the opposition Wildrose Party during her speech at this year’s PC Party convention. Instead, she promised to continue her party’s “legacy of success.

Alison Redford Alberta Speech

Premier Alison Redford delivers her opening speech to PC Party convention delegates.

Demonstrating the organizational strength of a party that has been in office for 42 years, the PC Party is said to have drawn up to 1,500 delegates and observers to their annual convention in Red Deer.

Although the event has attracted the attention of partisan faithful, most regular Albertans turned elsewhere for their Friday evening entertainment. According to the ticker on the party’s website, only 40 viewers appeared to tune in to the the online streaming of Ms. Redford’s opening speech. With the Grey Cup kicking off tomorrow in Saskatchewan, the Canadian Football League will attract significantly more attention for the Saskatchewan RoughridersHamilton Tiger-Cats game.

While delegates will spend time today discussing issues and party policy, the main event of this weekend’s gathering is Ms. Redford’s leadership review. Each delegate will have the opportunity to vote on whether they would like to hold a leadership race to replace Ms. Redford or to keep the current leadership.

Speaking to the Calgary Herald’s Don Braid, former Premier Ed Stelmach‘s chief of staff Ron Glen questioned why his party continues to schedule mandatory leadership reviews two years after elections.

Managing expectations before the vote, staunch supporters of the Premier began to lower expectations this week. Former party campaign manager Susan Elliott told the Globe & Mail that “Anything in the 60s is good. And anything in the 70s is actually a triumph.” While Ms. Redford does have her detractors inside her caucus and party, and recent budget cuts have threatened to unravel her new electoral coalition of moderates and former Liberals, it appears unlikely that party faithful will turn on their leader this weekend.

With Ms. Redford’s staff working hard to stack the meeting with supporters, it would be an organizational failure if her support at this convention reaches even the low 70% range.

What are the pundits saying? Despite a long list of broken election promises, including deep budget cuts to colleges and universities, the Calgary Sun’s Rick Bell does not believe the PC Party is ready to part with Ms. Redford and the Edmonton Journal’s Graham Thomson agrees. David Climenhaga believes her victory in this leadership review is a forgone conclusion, and I agree.

Spin, silence, and beef boosterism as company and politicians react to XL Foods beef E.coli.

Cow XL Foods Alberta Beef

Beef.

Until its licence was temporarily suspended on September 27, more than one-third of Canadian beef was processed in the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alberta. The plant processed 4000 cows a day and produces 3000 steaks each minute. The sheer size of this plant raises serious questions about the centralization of the packing industry in Canada and the implications for food security after E.coli contamination in beef produced at the plant has poisoned 10 Canadians. Meanwhile, new E.coli cases in British Columbia and Hong Kong are reported to be linked to XL Foods.

Verlyn Olson Alberta Agriculture Minister

Verlyn Olson

Premier Alison Redford and Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Verlyn Olson spoke out in support of Alberta’s beef industry, but avoided directing questions to federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz about why the federal Canadian Food Inspection Agency took more than ten days longer than their American counterparts to identify the problem.

XL Foods and their parent company Nilsson Brothers Inc. have done an incredible job sowing confusion among Canadians by refusing to speak with the media, only releasing a pre-recorded audio statement late last week.

In 2005, Brian Nilsson and Lee Nilsson, co-CEOs of Nilsson Brothers Inc., XL Foods parent company, were selected as Alberta Venture Magazine’s Top 50 Most Influential Albertans for their role as “major players in Alberta’s beleaguered beef industry.” In 2012, it appears that they have reassumed this role, though not as the champions of the beef industry that they were eight years ago.

As Globe & Mail health columnist Andre Picard wrote this week, “transparency is the hallmark of good crisis communication,” and in the case of this E.coli contamination, this is a textbook case of failing to communicate. As Mr. Picard’s wrote in his column, the communications failure is a result of foot-dragging and inappropriate beef boosterism from XL Foods, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Minister Ritz.

“When you’re poisoning people, even unintentionally, a voice message three weeks into the outbreak doesn’t cut it, nor do ministerial blandishments, nor do CFIA press releases whining that “investigations into outbreaks of food-borne illness can be complex.” – Andre Picard (Globe & Mail, October 7, 2012).

Danielle Smith Wildrose Party Alberta Election 2012

Danielle Smith

Also ignoring the opportunity to discuss food safety issues in the beef industry is Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, who will be hosting a lunch-hour 100% Alberta beef barbecue on the Legislative Assembly grounds. Ms. Smith, Little Bow MLA Ian Donovan and Strathmore-Brooks MLA Jason Hale will play the role of champions of Alberta’s beef industry while serving beef burgers at the October 10 lunch (hopefully they will be thoroughly cooked).

New Democrat leader Brian Mason appears to be the only Alberta politician raising questions about the federal government’s role in food safety, questioning recent budget cuts to food inspection.

Some might point to Mr. Mason’s comments as a partisan response, which would not be incorrect, but his is a position not limited to the political left. As was pointed out by Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid, Saskatchewan’s conservative Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart has not shied away from demanding answers from the federal government since the E.coli outbreak was first detected.

Premier Redford and Alberta’s legislators should be standing up for the beef industry not by retreating to old populist tendencies, but by demanding answers from XL Foods, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Minister Ritz to ensure that this does not happen again.

 

Waiting for Christy Clark to go away. Will the BC NDP warm up to the pipelines?

BC NDP Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline

The BC NDP oppose the Northern Gateway Pipeline now, but will their position change if they form government? (Image from the BC NDP website)

Frosty” was the word used to describe the meeting between Alberta Premier Alison Redford and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark in Calgary this week. The two provincial Premiers have spent the summer months clashing over the proposed construction of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. Premier Redford supports the pipeline, Premier Clark opposes it.

I have two thoughts this week about Premier Clark’s visit to Calgary and the continued debate around the pipeline:

1) Reacting to the BC Liberals drop in the polls, Premier Clark was speaking to British Columbians as she visited Calgary. She is standing up to those oil-thirsty Albertans by waving the BC flag in Calgary. If she is re-elected, I would not be surprised to see Premier Clark return to her free-market principles and support the pipeline.

2) The BC New Democrats have already firmly claimed the anti-pipeline territory that Premier Clark is now trying to claim. This does not necessarily mean a future government led by NDP leader Adrian Dix will not be open to negotiating a better deal or alternative route for the Northern Gateway Pipeline in the future.

While I am an outside observer to BC politics, I would not be shocked to see an NDP government support a future deal for the Northern Gateway Pipeline that they could trumpet as a job creator and celebrate as better deal than the previous BC Liberal government could negotiate.

As noted by Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid and Victoria Report’s David Heyman, Mr. Dix recently hosted a Vancouver fundraiser which was attended by representatives from large energy companies Encana, Suncor, and Canadian Natural Resources. Tickets for the NDP fundraiser cost $3,000 a plate and $5,000 for two.

It would appear that the both the BC NDP and the energy industry, which have significant investments in Alberta’s oil sands, are interested in improving their working relationship in the event Mr. Dix becomes Premier of BC after next year’s election.

As I wrote earlier this week, Premier Redford may have to wait for an NDP Premier to be elected in BC before a more pragmatic discussion around the Northern Gateway Pipeline can occur.

albertans in the dark after rolling power blackouts.

Alberta Rolling Power Blackouts

A total of four power generating plants went down across the province causing electrical blackout.

Rolling power blackouts yesterday across Alberta have some politicians raising questions about the accountability of privately-operated electrical utility companies. The blackouts also reignited the long-standing debate over the construction of controversial new electrical transmission lines in rural Alberta. A total of four power generating plants went down across the province causing electrical blackout during one of the hottest days of the summer.

Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MLA Rachel Notley told the Edmonton Journal that re-establishing a regulated energy market in Alberta would reduce the chance of market manipulation:

“But if we aren’t going to do that, we better darn well have some answers as to why we have this coincidence of everybody not producing power on the same day,” she said. “We need to look into the relationship between the prices AESO is allowing and these plants all going off-line.”

The sale of electricity in Alberta was deregulated by the Progressive Conservative government of Premier Ralph Klein in the early 2000s.

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre Wildrose MLA Joe Anglin raised suspicions about the blackout and the provincial government’s drive to build new electrical transmission lines:

“Four major generators tripping off is really weird. It can happen, but I’m having trouble swallowing that at the moment… Even if this is 100-per-cent legitimate, they still need to investigate because economically this costs the province. But on the surface, this looks really suspicious and manipulative.”

During the recent provincial election, the Wildrose Party was successful in translating opposition by landowners to the construction of new transmission lines into electoral success in rural south and central Alberta constituencies. The Wildrose Party swept 14 constituencies in these two regions.

In response to claims of market manipulation, Calgary-West PC MLA and Energy Minister Ken Hughes told the Calgary Herald’s Don Braid:

“I’m not aware of any evidence of that. I think it would be very unlikely.”

(This post was written and published while I was in BT Edmonton studios this morning as part of BT Bloggers Week)

illegal donations continue to dog alberta’s tories.

Tories Illegal Donations

Another case of illegal donations to the PC Party has been relvealed.

In the weeks leading to the election call earlier this year, it appeared that a series of illegal donations collected by Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Association could become a defining issue of the campaign. The donations, made public through the great investigative work of CBC reporter Charles Rusnell, revealed that many public institutions, municipalities, and organizations that receive public funds had made financial or in-kind donations to the PC Party. Under the laws that govern Alberta’s political financing, these types of contributions are deemed illegal.

As the Writ was dropped and the electioneering began, the public focus shifted away from the illegal donations towards more sensational issues, like MLA pay, which were soon eclipsed by other issues and the Tories were re-elected on April 23.

Brian Fjeldheim

Brian Fjeldheim

As the Assembly ended and summer break began last week, Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer O. Brian Fjeldheim had announced that Elections Alberta was charging fines to some of these groups but would not make public the names of these groups. Mr. Fjeldheim told the media that he is barred by law from making these names public and does not have the authority to further investigate breaches of Alberta’s political financing laws.

Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk and Justice Minister Jonathan Denis responded by claiming the Chief Electoral Officer’s inability to publicly release the group names was a results of recommendations made by Mr. Fjeldheim’s predecessor, Lorne Gibson.

The Calgary Herald’s Don Braid interviewed Mr. Gibson, who disputed this claim and said he is being used as a scapegoat by Tory politicians:

It stretches the bounds of credibility to suggest that the intention of (my) recommendation was to keep private the results of an investigations that lead to a finding of wrongdoing.

This week, Mr. Rusnell unveiled another case of illegal contributions. Documents obtained by the CBC show that Joe Lougheed, a prominent lawyer and the son of former Premier Peter Lougheed, purchased $4,500 worth of tickets to PC Party fundraisers on behalf of the University of Calgary and billed the University extra hours to pay for them. To the university’s credit, their legal counsel put an end to the practice.

Joe Lougheed

Joe Lougheed

Mr. Lougheed’s connections to the PC Party are more than just familial. He has been active in that party and he ran for to be President of the PC Party in 2007. He was defeated by Marg Mrazek in what was split between northern and southern regional factions within the party (Ms.Mrazek was from St. Albert, which is located north of Edmonton).  At the time, Mount Royal University Professor David Taras described Mr. Lougheed as “a symbol of the old party and Calgary power.”

Since her stepping into the role last year, PC Premier Alison Redford has made a priority to improve her party’s image amid these types of allegations. This is not an easy task. After four decades in government, her party has essentially institutionalized this type of behaviour. I would not be shocked if the University of Calgary is not the final example.

Before the election, opposition party leaders claimed that that many of these institutions and municipalities faced intimidation to make those donations. Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman frequently used the example of the banned donations to accuse the Tories of practising “warlord politics” in rural Alberta.

While there does not seem to be much hard evidence proving the claims of intimidation, Alberta’s one-party state political environment has certainly created the belief that joining and supporting the PC Party is the only way to participate and influence debate in this province. It is just the way business is done in Alberta.

tory attack ad tame by all standards.

Social-Credit-Its-a-Big-Decision

Alberta's culture of negative attack ads began with this nasty Social Credit Party newspaper ad during the 1971 election.

Alberta’s political twitterati were atwitter yesterday after a Progressive Conservative radio advertisement was leaked to the Calgary Herald. The ad defend the new law passed by Premier Alison Redford‘s government that will lower a driver’s legal blood alcohol level from 0.08 to 0.05 and respond to the constant, and sometimes creative, criticism of the new law by Danielle Smith and her Wildrose Party.

Judging by the amount of earned media the Tories have already received about the yet-to-be-aired ad, the ad may have already paid for itself.

Unlike the negative ads saturating the airwaves in the Republican Party presidential nomination race south of the border, this Tory radio ad is very, very tame. The ads point out a clear difference between the two parties on a real policy issue that both parties believe they have something to gain from.

Albertans should expect high levels of sensationalism from mainstream political pundits in over the course of the next week. How many times can we expect the phrase “the gloves off” to be used in the next few days? Lots.

The Tory Party’s shift in tactics is important to note. Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid points out on his blog that the ad marks an attitude change in a PC Party that would typically dismiss the opposition (and romp to another election victory).

Normally invulnerable, the Tories may be worried that accusations and evidence of intimidation and bad governance may be starting to stick. The growing pile of Tory political miscalculations and mistakes are starting to pile up with an election call expected by the end of March.

Some of the latest Tory missteps include Dunvegan-Central Peace MLA Hector Goudreau’s threatening letter to school board officials in his constituency, the war of words between Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths and Alberta Urban Municipalities Association President Linda Sloan, and the ensuing tweet of Premier Redford’s now-former Chief of Staff Stephen Carter. Along with Elections Alberta announcing an investigation into allegations of illegal political donations.

Yesterday, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation released information showing that 21 MLAs, mostly Tories, are being paid $1000 per month for being members of a legislative committee that has not met in over three years. Lacombe-Ponoka PC MLA Ray Prins has been collecting $18,000 a year for being the chair of the committee.

Bonnyville-Cold Lake PC MLA Genia Leskiw pleaded ignorance when asked about the extra money she was collecting from the committee, telling the CBC that “I don’t even look at my paycheque.

Maybe the Tories should be worried.

one week. too many tweets. two apologies.

Loose tweets sink fleets

Loose tweets sink fleets

With Alberta’s pre-election season in full-swing, molehills are becoming mountains and politicians are clinging to any issue they believe could help them score political points.

Kicking off this past week, Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths announced that Progressive Conservative MLAs would boycott an annual breakfast hosted by the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association after that organization’s President, Edmonton City Councillor Linda Sloan, criticized the provincial budget. Minister Griffiths claimed that Councillor-President Sloan’s criticisms were unfair, and in a tit-for-tat written letter, he declined the AUMA’s invitation to the meal.

The situation was quickly enflamed when Premier Alison Redford‘s Chief of Staff, Stephen Carter, tweeted that Councillor Sloan had lied, maliciously, by accusing the province of political bias in funding municipal projects. After an ensuing social media firestorm crossed into main stream media reporting, Mr. Carter issued an apology to Councillor Sloan.

Minister Griffiths then tweeted that he would attended the annual AUMA breakfast. Councillor Sloan, a former Liberal MLA, used Minister Griffiths’ u-turn as an opportunity to restate her claim that partisan interests have influence municipal grants. I expect this may be the first of many times the provincial Tories will have to face Councillor Sloan in her role with the AUMA.

Almost immediately after the story of Mr. Carter’s tweet began to die down, Tory caucus communications officer Jessica Jacobs-Mino found herself in hot water after a spat on Twitter with Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid. Her Twitter account has since been deleted.

Opposition politicians were not immune to this week’s pre-election overzealousness.  Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman delivered a pitch perfect apology after a media release sent from his caucus wrongfully accused the Town of Penhold of illegally donating $609 to the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake PC association.

A quick rebuttal from Penhold Mayor Dennis Cooper revealed that the financial transaction was not an illegal donation, but a repayment for unused rent given to the town for use of its facilities. The Liberal accusation was the latest in a series of media releases accusing the Tories of being “warlords” for their part in the painfully-named “donation-gate.”

one fewer lifeboat on the ship: lethbridge liberal mla bridget pastoor to join pc caucus today.

MLA Bridget Pastoor

According to Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid, Liberal MLA Bridget Pastoor will cross the floor and join the Progressive Conservative caucus today. Ms. Pastoor is currently serving her second term as the MLA for Lethbridge-East, a constituency represented by Liberal MLAs since 1993. She is currently assigned Official Opposition critic roles for Agriculture and Rural Development, Seniors and Community Supports, and Municipal Affairs.

Ms. Pastoor was a PC supporter during the Premiership of Peter Lougheed and in 2009 suggested that she was thinking about crossing the floor. As a respected member of the opposition benches, this move would be a blow to Liberal leader Raj Sherman (a former PC MLA) and a certain win for Premier Alison Redford.

In April 2010, Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor left the Liberal caucus to sit as an Independent. He is now the lone Alberta Party MLA in the Assembly.

The Liberal Party has struggled in the polls and suffered from serious internal party dissent since the 2008 provincial election. Though its large outstanding debts have been paid off, the Liberal Party continues to operate with minimal staff support (its executive director position is currently vacant). The party is now lead by its third leader in four years and a recent poll has placed the party in fourth place province-wide behind the PCs, Wildrose Party, and NDP.