Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Alberta PIpelines

Notley NDP’s latter-day conversion to Keystone XL boosterism

Premier Rachel Notley Calgary Stampede Alberta

Rachel Notley

It has been fascinating to watch the Alberta New Democratic Party transition from being skeptical of oil pipelines as opposition to fairly effective advocates for pipelines as government.

While the approval of the Trans-Canada Keystone XL Pipeline from Hardisty to Texas Nebraska has nothing to do with the Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan, the more diplomatic approach taken by Premier Rachel Notley’s government has translated into overall success in pipeline expansion approval.

Alberta’s action on climate change and drive for social license played a key role in the federal government approving the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia. The action on climate change was even lauded by former president Barack Obama during his visit to Parliament Hill last year.

Premier Alison Redford

Alison Redford

Notley was supportive of the Trans-Mountain pipeline and the TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline but not supportive of the Keystone XL pipeline when she led the NDP Opposition before the 2015 election. The NDP election platform even took the Progressive Conservatives to task for focusing so much energy on Keystone XL and exporting raw bitumen, and jobs, to Texas. The old PC government, especially under premier Alison Redford, was harshly criticized for spending so much time travelling to Washington D.C. and other big American cities, to lobby for pipelines.

Public opinion and pressure from corporate leaders would make it tough for any elected officials in Alberta to be unsupportive of oil pipelines these days. Support for pipelines in this province feels like it ranges somewhere close to 100 percent on some days.

Otto von Bismarck

Otto von Bismarck is said to have coined the phrase “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best,” as David Climenhaga of AlbertaPolitics.ca fame reminded me today. That seems true of the Alberta NDP and their pro-pipeline conversion.

Approaching two years in office, Notley’s NDP government has become more pragmatic and centrist than one might have predicted, on pipelines specifically and most government policy in general. This probably bodes well for the NDP in terms of appealing to broader public support but could cause trouble for Notley from the party’s more ideological supporters.

And, reminding Canadians of the deep split over pipelines between the Alberta NDP and national NDP, federal leader Thomas Mulcair called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, apparently to accomplish little more than to pick a fight with Trump.

At this moment, I can see little benefit from the Canadian government doing anything but keeping out of the new president’s line of fire (or line of Tweets).

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

According to executive orders signed by Trump today, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will have 60 days to approve the Keystone XL pipeline once the TransCanada corporation has submitted its application and the Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross will have 180 days to create a plan to ensure all the steel used to construct the pipeline is manufactured in the United States.

As Postmedia columnist Paul Wells pointed out yesterday, it was probably good that Notley took a measured tone and did not do cartwheels during her press conference in response to the Keystone XL Pipeline approval. Trump has proven to be irrational and unpredictable and his government had indicated it may try to renegotiate the deal with the TransCanada corporation.

With that in mind, it might be smart for political leaders in Canada to remain cautious, even if they feel optimistic, about the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline approval.

Listening to podcasts is fun.

Podcast recommendations to start off 2017

Back in October 2015, I shared a list of podcasts that were on my regular listening feed. Each year I purposely look for new podcasts to listen to. This means removing some of my older regular listens and keeping some of my favourites.

The Expats, Radiolab, Hardcore HistorySlate’s Political Gabfest and Whistestop remain at the top of my list, but I intentionally branched out from politics-themed podcasts in 2017 in response to the saturation of coverage of the American Presidential election and Donald Trump‘s election victory.

Here are some of the podcasts new to my feed that get my stamp of approval:

Let’s Find Out: Edmonton’s Historian Laureate Chris Chang-Yen Phillips answers questions about our city’s history in this semi-regular podcast, which released its sixth episode last week.

SpyCast: An interesting podcast from the International Spy Museum in Washington DC. The two most recent episodes about a Canadian diplomat in Havana working for the CIA and the lead up to the attack on Pearl Harbour are particularity fascinating.

Don’t Call me a Guru: A podcast about social media strategy hosted by Edmontonians Linda Hoang and Tyler Butler. (I’m a guest on episode three).

Escape Plan and Horizon Line: Atlas Obscura is the definitive online guidebook and friendly tour-guide to the world’s most wondrous, weird, and obscure places and it is one of my favourite websites. They are now producing two podcasts.

The World Next Week: The Council on Foreign Relations produces a weekly podcast that provides previews, analysis and information about upcoming international events.

The Axe Files and the Ezra Klein Show: Both of these podcasts include interesting and thought-provoking interviews with some of America’s key cultural, academic and political players. David Axelrod’s final podcast of 2016 included an interview with outgoing President Barack Obama.

Watch the US Presidential Election results on the big screen at the Garneau Theatre

donkey-and-elephant-fighting-e1453464526473Still deciding where to watch the results of the United States Presidential election roll in tomorrow night? If you are in Edmonton, come over the the Garneau Theatre and watch the future of democracy unfold on a the big screen!

Starting at 5:00 p.m. on Nov. 8, 2016, the election coverage will be played live on the big screen at Metro Cinema. The evening of election results will also include live music by The Give ‘Em Hell Boys in the lobby, food for sale from Urban Diner and a quick panel discussion from local politicos (including myself as a moderator).

I had a fun time moderating a similar political panel at Metro Cinema as results rolling in during the October 2015 federal election and I am looking forward to being there again tomorrow night. I hope to see you there!

Details:

Location: Garneau Theatre (8712-109 Street, Edmonton)
Start time: 5:00 p.m.


If you are watching from home, here is a look at when the polls close in states across the USA (image from Daily Kos Elections):

img_9536

Trump Never Had A Chance

Guest Post by Chris Henderson

Seemingly every day, someone tells me that they’re worried Donald Trump will win the election. Aside from the natural anxiety that comes with a  potentially catastrophic (yet still remote) possibility, I really don’t believe Trump winning is even remotely realistic. Here’s why:

1. Trump has no ground game.

Every modern election is won on ground game. Candidates can’t rely on speeches and cable news appearances. They need an army of people and tools to reach out to millions of voters throughout the election, collect data and guide campaign decisions. This matters. It defines your strategy and it helps you convert voters on the margins – the ones that you need to help you win swing states.

Building this infrastructure is essentially the modern-day purpose of the US primary nomination system. Parties believe that the successful nominee will emerge with (and because of) a sophisticated and mature ground game infrastructure to head into the general election. Trump didn’t do this. He coasted on a unique mix of populism and the anger of 13 million voters to help him rise to the top of a diverse and crowded GOP nomination field. He went into the General with no ground game, he has failed to build one since. In fact, he’s been piggybacking on the (comparatively weak) Republican infrastructure to get him through. That was a bad strategy in the first place and now after the GTBTP (Grab Them By The *cat emoji*) debacle, that resource appears to be out of his reach.

2. This is not a professional campaign operation.

Professionalized politics starts at the very top – with the candidate. A candidate sets the tone, drives the policy and starts the strategy. They attract and retain talented staff to make it all real and turn it into votes. The campaign staff create diverse and smart opportunities for the candidate to go out and represent and augment that strategy and policy. While a candidate is in charge of the campaign, a professional staff will set limits. Professional campaigns do not allow candidates to rant on Twitter at 3am. They don’t allow a candidate to skip debate prep. They don’t film half-apologies at midnight. They don’t allow a candidate to spend a week fixated on a single non-campaign issue. They don’t allow the rest of the party to abandon its Presidential candidate. They don’t outright insult and alienate people like Mitt Romney and John McCain. Trump’s campaign is completely bereft of all of these qualities.

3. He’s checkmated himself with his own rhetoric and bluster.

Donald Trump has built a campaign on a style that attracts a large number of voters who, by and large, are disenfranchised with the direction of America and the type of people who have been traditionally tasked with leading it. That’s fair enough. And it was a smart strategy to win the GOP primary, especially with Obama in office. Applying that strategy to the General election has brought him within close to striking distance of a chance at winning.

Here’s his biggest problem. He needs more than this relatively reliable cohort to win. He needs to capture the votes of more moderate, independent voters who are mailable or undecided. With the stark nature of the offence in his GTBTP video, he needs to work harder to access those particular voters. But what he needs to do to access those voters threatens to alienate his original base of voters, which he also needs in order to win. They don’t want to vote for a guy that apologizes for “locker room talk.” That puts Trump in an impossible position that a talented, experienced candidate and team might be able to navigate out of – but, as discussed, Trump doesn’t have that.

4. He’s only been ahead for a fleeting moment in this election.

Take a quick look at polling aggregators. Only once – after the GOP Convention – has he ever been polling better than Hillary Clinton. And that peak was followed with his steepest decline of the last year. His polling has been over the place, but it hasn’t crossed Hillary Clinton’s horizon. And, at this point, it seems extremely unlikely that it will. Only the most charismatic, skilled politician could make up that structural polling deficit. He doesn’t have either.

These are all critical problems. Each of them would need to be rectified in order for him to be victorious in this election. No single debate performance, Clinton scandal, rally speech or publicity stunt can save him from these serious systemic problems.

Breathe easy – Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States.


Chris Henderson has been working on campaigns since he was 11 years old. He once successfully convinced Dave Cournoyer to shave his beard. Today, he is a Strategist at Calder Bateman Communications.

Margaret Chase Smith served as the United States Senator for Maine from 1949 to 1973.

Republican Senator’s speech against McCarthyism could have been about Trump

In the eleven years since I started publishing this blog, I have almost entirely focused on Alberta politics. But while my writing focuses on provincial politics here at home, like many Canadians I pay close attention to what is happening south of the border.

It is an understatement to say that the current state of American politics is very concerning to most outside observers. The deep partisan divide in US politics and the rise of an egotistical demagogue like Donald Trump is frightening. His campaign has actively appealed to racist and xenophobic elements of that country and as the Republican presidential primary and public opinion polls show, there is a receptive audience to his message.

The rise of this new brand of fascist authoritarianism in American politics reminded me of a speech delivered by a United States Senator sixty-six years ago. On June 1, 1950, Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith stood in the Senate chamber and delivered her Declaration of Conscience speech against McCarthyism. This excerpt from her speech feels just as relevant today as it did in 1950:

“…I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny — Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear.

I doubt if the Republican Party could — simply because I don’t believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest. Surely we Republicans aren’t that desperate for victory.

I don’t want to see the Republican Party win that way. While it might be a fleeting victory for the Republican Party, it would be a more lasting defeat for the American people. Surely it would ultimately be suicide for the Republican Party and the two-party system that has protected our American liberties from the dictatorship of a one party system.”

I hope for the sake of our neighbours to the south that Ms. Chase Smith’s message is as true in 2016 as it was in 1950.

“Everyone’s as bewildered as, I think, the American media is about the rise of Donald Trump. We’re kind of redneck down here, but not that redneck.”

– Jim Hillyer, MP for Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner speaking to Embassy News about the rise of Donald Trump.

recommended reading: how the katz group did an end run around the best interests of edmontonians.

If you read one article today, please read Paula Simons well written column on how billionaire Daryl Katz and the Katz Group were able to score major concessions from the City of Edmonton during their campaign to secure public funds to build their new downtown arena.

Simons: Katz Group power play scores major concessions from city

Call it the art of the deal — raised to the level, not of a Donald Trump, but of a Leonardo da Vinci.

Back in April, Edmonton city council agreed that it would only support Daryl Katz’s proposal for a new downtown arena under a long list of very strict circumstances. Among them? The motion required the Katz Group to put up at least $100 million toward the capital cost of the arena. It put a strict $125-million ceiling on the city’s direct cost for building the facility. And it specified that no deal would go ahead until another level or levels of government had somehow made up the remaining $100 million funding shortfall.

There is still no public hint of that magical $100 million, from either the Alison Redford Tories or the Stephen Harper Conservatives.

Yet at a hastily called meeting this past Friday, with three councillors out of town and one on a medical leave, city council voted to buy the land that Katz has optioned for a new arena. (Bryan Anderson, who’s recovering from surgery, missed the vote. So did Ben Henderson, who was stuck on a plane. Karen Leibovici and Linda Sloan were out of the country on holiday, but voted over the phone.) Of those councillors who did vote, only Sloan, Tony Caterina, and Kerry Diotte opposed the purchase.

Read the rest and if your stomach is feeling queasy when you reach the end of the column, phone or email the Mayor and your City Councillor, and tell them how you feel about the decisions they are making by rushing the decision to provide public funds to pay for a downtown arena for Mr. Katz and his company.

the katz group proves that all the money in the world can buy some pretty bad political advice.

In their effort to secure more than $225 million in public funding for their proposed Katz Downtown Edmonton Arena, local billionaire Daryl Katz‘s company, the Katz Group, has proven that even billionaires can buy bad political advice.

The CBC revealed last week that the Katz Group has been contacting Edmonton’s Progressive Conservative MLAs asking them to redirect phone calls from constituents about the Edmonton Oilers arena deal between the city and the group. Imagine the public response if MLAs constituency offices began forwarding calls about environmental issues to a Syncrude or Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers 1-800 hotline?

The Edmonton Sun reported that the Katz Group has had discussions with the Enoch First Nation to build the area on their land west of Edmonton if the downtown proposal is not successful. The threat to move the Edmonton Oilers to another city, or to a geographical location outside of Edmonton, is a pressure tactic as old as professional sports teams have existed. It is the worst kind of bluff and it shows that the Katz Group takes Edmontonians and Oilers fans for fools.

The failure to secure an extra $100 million in public funds, despite pressure on City Council and provincial leaders, is obviously frustrating the Katz Group, which has been burning through its public good will quicker than Donald Trump‘s failed presidential run.