Broyce Jacobs Ed Stelmach Iris Evans Jack Hayden Len Mitzel Lloyd Snelgrove Mel Knight Ray Danyluk Richard Marz Wayne Drysdale

the rural alberta advantage.

While speaking to the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties this week, Premier Ed Stelmach confirmed the obvious when defending his government’s decision to increase the number of constituencies in the next election: it was in order to preserve the existing number of rural constituencies in the Legislative Assembly. This decision continued the over-represention of rural Alberta ridings in the Assembly, despite rapid growth in the urban centres.

With a few exceptions, the PCs have been able to rely on non-competitive electoral districts in rural Alberta since wiping out the Social Credit rump in 1975. Over the past 39-years, the PCs have relied heavily on rural politicians as a “farm team” to replenish their ranks of rural MLAs (some now include Premier Stelmach, and Ministers Jack HaydenIris EvansRay DanylukLloyd SnelgroveMel Knight, and MLAs Wayne DrysdaleBroyce JacobsRichard Marz, and Len Mitzel).

The PCs have dealt with competitive elections in the two major urban areas (Edmonton and Calgary), but the threat of a Wildrose insurgency across Alberta would be cause for great concern and is likely the reason behind Premier Stelmach’s posturing over rural over-representation.

Broyce Jacobs Ed Stelmach Iris Evans Jack Hayden Len Mitzel Lloyd Snelgrove Mel Knight Ray Danyluk Richard Marz Wayne Drysdale

electoral boundaries mashup.

Earlier this week, I posted the poll-by-poll results from the 2008 provincial election for Calgary and Edmonton, and (once again thanks to reader Alan Hall) posted below are the 2008 results superimposed over the proposed boundaries from the interim report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission. A listing of the interim ridings with the 2008 results and margins are also posted below. If the political environment continues to change before the expected 2012 election, the past electoral results could mean very little, but until that time, these maps provide an interesting view of the previous election and what could be in 2012:

Alberta Electoral Boundary Review Iris Evans

interim electoral boundaries report attracts some interesting responses.

An NDP letter writing campaign to change the name of a northern riding to Notley-Central Peace, at least two messages sent from a Blackberry, and a hand-written congratulatory note from Minister Iris Evans are among the many Spring 2010 submissions to the Electoral Boundaries Commission. The Commission recently published its interim report and maps, and is set to hold its second round of public hearings on April 12 to 30, 2010.

For readers interested in the political implications of the changes, thank reader Alan Hall, who emailed me these Calgary and Edmonton maps and poll-by-poll results from the 2008 election (data provided by Elections Alberta). It would be interesting to see these poll results transposed on the interim boundaries and the final report boundaries (due in July 2010).

Dave Hancock. Jonathan Denis Ed Stelmach Fred Lindsay Gene Zwozdesky George Groenveld Iris Evans Janis Tarchuk Lloyd Snelgrove Luke Ouellette Mel Knight Ray Danyluk Ron Liepert Ted Morton

alberta cabinet shuffle: a lot of hype.

I am not going to write a lot about today’s cabinet shuffle, as there really is not much substance to write about. While three new MLAs have been appointed to the cabinet, the problems facing Premier Ed Stelmach are much larger than anything a minor cabinet shuffle can solve. Today’s cabinet change was hardly the dramatic change that it was hyped to be.

Going political and trying to head off the insurgent Wildrose Alliance at the hard-conservative pass was one goal of today’s shuffle. This explains the appointment of Ted Morton as Finance Minister. If he can survive in Finance, Premier Stelmach may have just anointed Morton as his unofficial successor. Minister Morton will have a high-profile new role, but much of the Government’s financial levers will remain held by Stelmach-loyalist and Treasury Board President Lloyd Snelgrove.

Newly appointed Housing and Urban Affairs & Housing Minister Jonathan Denis is known as nice guy, but also as a pretty comfortable hyper-partisan. Some people I have spoken with expect him to fulfil a political role similar to his former business partner, Pierre Poilievre.

Loyalty was big. Stelmach confidants Luke Ouellette, Ray Danyluk, Iris Evans, and Mel Knight all remain in cabinet. George Groeneveld, Janis Tarchuk, and Fred Lindsay were rightfully bumped out of the cabinet. Not surprisingly, Ron Liepert‘s departed Health & Wellness to Energy. Where, as Paula Simons suggested that “he’ll use his unique brand of charm to win new friends and influence more people.” His successor, Gene Zwozdesky will likely bring a more easy going face to one of the more heavy-lifting portfolios in government.

Look for more substantive content in the Ministerial Mandate Letters later this week and the February 9 Provincial Budget.

Alberta Cabinet Shuffle Dave Hancock Diana McQueen Doug Horner Ed Stelmach Fred Horne George Groenveld Iris Evans Jack Hayden Mel Knight Rob Renner Ron Liepert Ted Morton

alberta cabinet shuffle.

With a cabinet shuffled expected in the near future (possibly as early as tomorrow), there is no shortage of speculation about who will be shuffled in, out, and around. A cabinet shuffle will put a new face on the tiring PC cabinet that has weathered a brutal public beating on issues ranging from unpopular health care restructuring, Bill 44, resource royalty tinkering, international attention on the oilsands, a by-election defeat, a seismic drop in the polls, and MLA defections.

As I wrote in December 2009, It is going to take something much more meaningful than a cabinet shuffle to change PC Party fortunes. One of Premier Ed Stelmach‘s greatest challenges is that his government doesn’t have a defining purpose beyond governing for governing sake, and it shows.

Iris EvansRon Liepert

Finance Minister Iris Evans may keep her job, but there are strong rumors about a comfy patronage appointment as Alberta’s Representative in London, UK. With a strong political pedigree, Doug Horner is a key candidate for promotion – to Finance, or more likely, Health & Wellness. His father, Hugh Horner, served as an MP, MLA, and cabinet minister between 1958 and 1979, including as Deputy Premier and Minister of Agriculture of Alberta.

The rumor mill appears to have come to an unlikely consensus that Minister Ron Liepert will relieve Minister Mel Knight of his position in Energy. Delicate as a wrecking ball, Minister Liepert oversaw the haphazard dissolution of Alberta’s regional health authorities and centralization under the Alberta Health Services ‘Superboard.’ I am sure that the energy sector will love him.

Iris EvansLindsay Blackett

As the Godfather of Edmonton PC MLAs, Dave Hancock is expected to remain Education Minister, not interrupting the ongoing School Act review. Also expected to remain in their job is Environment Minister Rob Renner, who has proved his ability to deliver a respectful media performance on dirty files like climate change and the oilsands. 

First-term MLA Diana McQueen wooed PC delegates in her introduction of Premier Stelmach at their 2009 leadership review convention. McQueen could be a strong addition to a weak cabinet. After playing interference for Premier Stelmach on the Alberta Hospital Edmonton bed closures, another rookie MLA, Fred Horne, has been rumored to be a candidate for Minister of Health, but more recently has been rumoured to replace Minister Horner in Advanced Education. Horne served as Executive Assistant to Minister Hancock, who also he served in the portfolio.

Long-time Stelmach confidants Jack Hayden, Ray Danyluk, and Lloyd Snelgrove will likely stay rewarded for their loyalty, but may be shuffled. Ted Morton is clearly enjoying his current role as Sustainable Resource Development Minister, but columnist Don Braid has suggested that he may be moved to the Treasury Board position. Weak Ministerial performers Lindsay BlackettJanis Tarchuk, Heather Klimchuk, and George Groenveld are also prime targets for being shuffled.

After taking another look at the rumoured shuffle, it does not appear to be much of a change after all. We shall wait and see.

Danielle Smith David Swann Doug Horner Ed Stelmach Iris Evans Norman Kwong Preston Manning Reboot Alberta

save the date: alberta politics in 2010.

New LG?: On January 20, the traditional 5-year term of Lieutenant Governor Norman Kwong will come to an end. With a lower profile than his predecessor, Lois Hole, Kwong brought a different personality to the office of Alberta’s viceroy. All of Alberta’s LGs appointed since Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne have been former attempted or elected politicians (including Helen Huntley, Gordon Towers, and Bud Olsen). If Kwong does not continue in the office I am at a loss to name who the next LG might be, but I can think of someone who might be an interesting pick.

Cabinet shuffle: Premier
Ed Stelmach is expected to shuffle the provincial cabinet early in the new year. I have laid out my thoughts here

Manning Centre: The conservative politics institute formed by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning has taken an interest in provincial politics and will be holding a ‘Conference on Alberta’s Future‘ on February 5 in Edmonton.

Speech from the Throne: This year’s Sessional Calendar has
not yet been posted on the Legislative Assembly website, but all indications point to a Speech from the Throne on the week of February 8. If a new LG is appointed in January, this will be their first high profile event.

Provincial Budget: Another tough economic times budget is expected to be tabled during the week of February 15. The Finance Minister at the time will wear this budget, whether it be Minister Iris Evans or a successor (odds are on Minister Doug Horner). Potential deep cuts to pubic health care have led some longtime PC supporters to question the longtime governing party.

Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission: The deadline for release of the interim report (including interim riding maps for the next election) is February 26 and the second round of public hearings are set to begin in April 2010. A final report will be released by July 2010.

Reboot Alberta 2.0: Following a highly successful first meeting in Red Deer in November 2009, a larger gathering of progressive Albertans is being planned for February 26 to 28 in Kananaskis. I reflected on the first Reboot Alberta meeting in early December 2009.

Alberta Liberal convention: Alberta’s Official Opposition Party will be holding their annual policy convention in Edmonton. There is not any information on their website, but I believe that it will be held in March 2010. Expect to hear more from the Liberals in the new year following David Swann‘s recent State of the Party Address.

Alberta Progressive Conservative convention: On April 30 and June 1, members of Alberta’s near 40-year governing party will gather in Edmonton. With low approval ratings and dropping party support in recent polls, expect Premier Stelmach to use the first four months of 2010 in an attempt to boost his political fortunes.

Wildrose Alliance convention: Since selecting
Danielle Smith as their leader, the Wildrose Alliance has conveniently been able to avoid answering questions about social issues under the guise of self-described libertarianism. One of Smith’s largest challenges at their 2010 policy convention will be to moderate some of the more destructive social conservative elements within her party’s membership.

Municipal Elections: Monday October 18. More to come…

Alison Redford Calgary-Glenmore Dave Rodney Doug Horner Ed Stelmach Iris Evans Janice Sarich Janis Tarchuk Len Webber Peter Lougheed Ron Stevens

a calgary-glenmore induced cabinet shuffle?

I briefly touched on this point in my previous post, but the potential for a cabinet shuffle before the fall session of the Legislative Assembly begins in October seems imminent after yesterday’s results in the Calgary-Glenmore by-election. I started hearing serious rumours of a cabinet shuffle during the spring session of the Assembly. They mostly began following the announcement of the deficit in the 2009 provincial budget and intensified following the controversy over Bill 44.

A shuffle within Finance & Enterprise is the rumour I’ve heard most frequently. With Minister Iris Evans being in the most unfortunate position to have tabled Alberta’s first deficit budget in 15 years, it wouldn’t be completely shocking if Premier Ed Stelmach wanted this position shuffled. Sources close to a PC cabinet minister have told me that Advanced Education & Technology Minister Doug Horner is seen as the natural fit for this position. Horner is well-respected and has been a competent Minister in his current portfolio.

The resignation of Deputy Premier Ron Stevens left Stelmach without a recognized Calgary Lieutenant in his cabinet. Although she doesn’t have the type of corporate Calgary credentials as Stevens, I could see the Deputy Premier role being filled by Justice Minister Alison Redford.

With Children’s Services Minister Janis Tarchuk reaching the end of her political rope, Evans could easily be shuffled back into the Children’s Services portfolio, an position that she passionately filled from 1999 to 2004.

For Advanced Education & Technology, I have heard a number of names floated including PC backbenchers Len Webber, Janice Sarich, Doug Griffiths, Jonathan Denis, Dave Rodney, and cabinet ministers Heather Klimchuk and Ted Morton. I have a difficult time believing that Morton would be moved from Sustainable Resource Development (a ministry where he is recognized as being competent), the results of the Calgary-Glenmore by-election make it likely that a Calgary MLA will be picked.

I’m told that many inside Stelmach’s inner circle take great joy in comparing themselves to the government of Peter Lougheed. If this is a motivator, I could easily see both Horner and Webber, two second generation PC MLAs whose father’s served in Lougheed’s government, be appointed to elevated positions around the cabinet table.

UPDATE: Len Webber has been appointed Minister of Intergovernmental and International Affairs. This appears to be Premier Stelmach’s only new appointment to the Cabinet.

Further UPDATE: From the GOA:

Premier Stelmach also named Calgary-Egmont MLA Jonathan Denis as the new Parliamentary Assistant for Energy. Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Broyce Jacobs becomes the Parliamentary Assistant for Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD). And Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths moves from his role as the Parliamentary Assistant in ARD to become the Parliamentary Assistant for the Department of Solicitor General and Public Security.

Alberta deficit Carbon Capture Scheme Ed Stelmach Iris Evans

alberta’s record deficit: a $16 billion switch.

On August 26, 2008, Finance Minister Iris Evans announced that the Government of Alberta was headed to a $8.5 Billion surplus. “It’s clear that our economic outlook continues to be bright,” Evans was then quoted.

On August 26, 2009, it is expected that the Government of Alberta will announce a $6.9 to $8 billion deficit. That is a $16 billion dollar difference in one year.

Once considered to be the land of endless money and honey, Toronto-style bragging rights included, Albertans have now found their government back in a place that our political leaders swore they would never take us. But as development of our bitumen-glazed energy beach has slowed to a more manageable pace and natural gas prices have dropped, is it fair to criticize a one or five year deficit in a province that has in many ways become a rentier state?

Personally, it is not so much the existence of a deficit that I have a problem with, as much as it is the sloppy political decisions that led us here. This won’t be a surprise to regular readers, but I sincerely believe that mediocre leadership from each end of the political spectrum is holding Alberta back. There are a lot of smart people in Alberta, so it’s not as if there was a lack of warning to the Alberta Government to save while the boom was hot.

I don’t usually like to be the person who says ‘I told you so,’ but in this case I’m going to take a bit of guilty pleasure out of it. For years, many of my PC-supporting friends would tell me again and again that because of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, Alberta was forever protected from future deficits. “Dave, you silly lefty,” they would tell me, “deficits are illegal in Alberta. Period.” I would of course respond with “it’s nothing a quick legislative amendment can’t change,” and we’d quickly go back to drinking our beer. Minister Evans introduced amendments to the Fiscal Responsibility Act in April 2009.

Aside from a significant downturn in resource revenue, our provincial leaders haven’t exactly been diligent in the area of smart planning. The lost revenue from the cancellation of approximately $1 billion dollars in Health Care Premiums and the 5-month long Alcohol Tax, as well as the continued support of the Carbon Capture Scheme (CCS), are the kind of decisions that have and will continue to contribute to the loss of billions of dollars of revenue.

As I wrote in my review of the 2009 Alberta Budget, before politicians and pundits begin talking about slashing spending and cutting services, let’s please keep some perspective on economic growth:

Alberta’s economy has depended on revenue from cyclically priced resource commodities for decades and has seen much worse economic times. After years of unsustainable growth, no one should be surprised that Alberta’s economy has slowed down and now is facing a 1.8% contraction. With +$50 barrels of oil and 2% projected economic growth next year, Alberta is in a much better position than it was during previous economic recession. Let’s please try to keep some historical perspective in mind when we’re talking about these tough economic times.

Graham Thomson has an excellent column about Alberta’s record high deficit in today’s Edmonton Journal that should be recommended reading for those wanting more insight into Alberta’s fiscal situation.

Iris Evans

that’s a pretty big tangent…

Finance Minister Iris Evans

Following a speech to the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto, Alberta Finance Minister Iris Evans suggested to the audience that two-income parents place less importance on raising children than families that keep a parent home. Evans’ then drifted even further from the topic of the economy and ‘suggested a link between a lack of education and mental illness or criminal behaviour.’

“The huge failure of Canadians is not to educate the children properly and then why should we be surprised when they have mental illnesses or commit dreadful crimes?”

Alberta’s Finance Minister then targeted her criticism on an even more unexpected area as she criticized funding for new police officers:

“The great tragedy in this year’s budget in Alberta … is that we put 200 more policemen, police officers, for the next two years and more Crown prosecutors, more law enforcement people,” she said.

“If we had put 200 more positions in place to help parents be better parents I would have been much happier.”

Only hours later, Evans apologized for her bizarre comments.

UPDATE: Is there a chance that this is simply a genius political distraction by Evans’ in order to distract Albertans from the announcement that Alberta may need to borrow up to $5 billion in the coming years?

Carbon Capture Scheme Ed Stelmach Green Trip Iris Evans Public Transit Smart

story time: a tale of two ($2 billion dollar) funds [ccs and public transit in alberta].

Let us all take a magical journey down to a sunny day less than a year ago. July 28 to be exact.

The bright yellow sun filled Alberta’s big blue sky and everything was right. Construction cranes filled the skylines of our cities as our captains of free enterprise filled their Hummers and Beamers with premium gasoline before driving their merry way to Calgary’s International or Edmonton’s City Centre airport to fly their private jets to a Las Vegas vacation or to their Okanagan hideaway. While they may have lost countless nights of sleep to nightmares of Pierre Trudeau’s poltergeist, they were warmed with by the thoughts of Stephen Harper warmly embracing soon-to-be United States President John McCain. Liberals and Socialists complained, but oil was aplenty and times were good.

Even better were the expected resource revenue surpluses in Alberta, which predicted to be larger than expected. That glorious summer, Finance Minister Iris Evans predicted a surplus of $8.5 billion, based on a estimate of $119.25 per barrel of Oil. Trumpeting the wonderful news, a Government press release announced the creation of two new funds that would come from the significantly larger than expected surplus.

Our glorious leader, Premier Ed Stelmach, had decided in his growing benevolence that he would bestow upon Albertans two generous monetary funds. The large sums of money that would fill these funds would help fulfill the dreams of millions of citizens, and make Wild Rose Country a better place to live. Times were good and people were proud.

For those who held the energy industry dear, $2 billion was dedicated to the creation and development of Carbon Capture Storage technology. If developed, CCS technology would allow companies to capture C02 and pump it deep into the cavernous underground of our Earth before it could reach the atmosphere.

For Albertans who held our urban centers dear, a second $2 billion fund was created to support innovative public transportation to connect Albertans both in- and outside of our growing cities. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs boasted that this Green Trip Fund would ‘promote the use of local, regional and inter-city public transit and will support new public transit alternatives throughout the province, significantly reducing the number of vehicles on Alberta roads and reduce greenhouse gas emission.’ A noble cause indeed. Alberta was getting smart with its approach to urban growth, and was backing their approach with serious money.

Times were good.

But, less than one year later, the fate of these two sister funds could not be more different.

Times were bad.

Alberta’s bright blue skies remained, but as the winter thaw began, there were less construction cranes on the horizon, a son of Pierre Trudeau had returned to haunt us, a bleak future predicted an extra ten to twenty minute drive for our captains of industry to reach their private jets, Barack Obama was President of the United States, and Megan McCain had signed a major book deal. And despite the tough economic times, Liberals and Socialists continued to complain.

The short trip down green public transit lane ended as unceremoniously and abruptly as a flock of duck landing in a tailing pond, when a much less jubilant Finance Minister Evans unveiled a $4.5 billion dollar deficit. Evans declared that “Just as you do in a family, you see that your revenues aren’t going to be there, then you reduce your spending, and you try to look at other ways to make the dollar stretch. That will definitely happen here in Alberta.” Accordingly, the $2 billion Green Trip Fund was cut down to a mere $10 million in 2009 and $520 million over the following three years, creating an uncertain future for public transit development in Alberta’s major cities. Alberta’s growing cities were left far behind their counterparts across the land.

Yet, the billions for Carbon Capture Storage remained largely intact as $100 million were allocated for 2009 and the remaining $1.9 billion over the following years. Even as major companies such as Suncor, Syncrude, and ConocoPhillips withdrew their plans for to bid for Carbon Capture funding and critics warned of boondogglery ahead, Premier Stelmach pushed ahead with his Carbon Capture dream, convinced that the undeveloped and unproven technology was the key to greening the sandy shores of Alberta’s vast Energy Beach.

So strong was his belief in the unproven Carbon Capture dream, that Premier Stelmach was willing to go much further than simply abandoning his promise to fund a proven public transit strategy that would actually remove vehicles (and carbon) from the roads of Alberta’s cities. He was willing to break his promise to never again to put Alberta into a deficit position.

As Premier Stelmach quietly removed the anti-deficit emblem that had adorned the lapel of his suit jacket for fifteen years, it became apparent that the anti-deficit legacy was just as dead as the legacy of the $2 billion Green Trip Fund.

As our magical journey comes to an end, it appears that the mere daydream of a warm breeze in an uncertain and unproven carbon captured future may have been all it took for the these two $2 billion funds to meet two very different ends.

Alberta Budget 2009 Iris Evans

reading the budget.

Budget commentary coming soon. Until then, I will leave with the word cloud from Finance Minister Iris Evansbudget speech.
Alberta Budget 2009 David Swann Greenpeace Iris Evans Lindsay Blackett Lindsey Telfer Mike Hudema Neil Waugh Paul Hinman Photo Post Rachel Notley Sierra Club Ted Morton

photo post: alberta budget 2009.

Finance Minister Iris Evans.

Official Opposition Liberal leader David Swann.

Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MLA Rachel Notley.

Wildrose Alliance leader Paul Hinman.

Lindsey Telfer from the Sierra Club and Mike Hudema from Greenpeace.

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel.

Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett.

My favorite: Sustainable Resource Development Minister Ted Morton and fan Neil Waugh.
Alberta Budget 2009 Auditor General Capital Region Board Ed Stelmach Iris Evans Jim Dinning

2009 alberta pre-budget playbook.

Alberta’s 2009 Provincial Budget will be unveiled at 3pm today, but before you sit down to attentively soak up Finance & Enterprise Minister Iris Evans‘ every word, here’s a short pre-budget playbook:

– How have Alberta’s financial and economic prospects been, according to Premier Ed Stelmach? Good, really bad, not as bad as I told you 24 hours ago, rosy, depending on which month of the year it is.
– A report from the University of Calgary School of Public Policy (pdf) warns that the province could return to a 1980s Getty-style fiscal situation. According to the Calgary Herald, Premier Stelmach reportedly dismissed the report (which was written by two Government Finance and Economics experts) as “nonsense.
– Both the Liberal and NDP Opposition are tackling the budget from an outreach angle. The NDP launched a roundtable consultation months ago, and the Liberals recently launched a website where Albertans can suggest questions for the Official Opposition to ask during budget debates. It would be nice to hear some constructive criticism from the opposition on the budget, but prepare for some railing.
– On April 2, 2009, the Capital Region Board (comprising the municipalities in the Edmonton region) unveiled the Capital Region Growth Plan: Growing Forward. With this report, municipal leaders have taken an important step in guiding the future development of the Capital Region, but like any major development plan, it will need to be backed up with funding to become a reality.
– Iris’ shoe collection. Alberta’s Best Dressed Woman MLA will be shelving her expensive designer shoes (from last year’s budget) in favour of something more modest.
UPDATE: Twitter is #FAILWHALE today, but if it gets fixed, you can follow #ableg for live tweets.
I will be in the Public Gallery for the Budget Speech, and after I make my way through the post-budget scrums, I will report back.
Alison Redford Bridget Pastoor Dave Hancock Doug Horner Fred Lindsay Gene Zwozdesky Heather Klimchuk Iris Evans Jack Hayden Lloyd Snelgrove Luke Ouellette Rob Renner Ron Stevens TILMA

no debate on public debate amendment [re: bill 18 & tilma].

They stood up to vote against it, but no PC MLA spoke up to explain why they opposed Lethbridge-East MLA Bridget Pastoor‘s March 18 amendment to remove Section 5 of Bill 18: Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement Implementation Statutes Amendment Act, 2009. In its current form, Section 5 will allow Cabinet Ministers to suspend or modify sections of the TILMA Act without seeking the approval of or having to deal with public debate in the elected Legislature.

Six opposition MLAs rose to speak in support of the amendment, while thirty-one PC MLAs, including Cabinet Ministers Iris Evans, Dave Hancock, Jack Hayden, Doug Horner, Heather Klimchuk, Fred Lindsay, Luke Ouellette, Alison Redford, Rob Renner, Lloyd Snelgrove, Ron Stevens, and Gene Zwozdesky didn’t make a peep before defeating the amendment 31 to 6.

UPDATE: MLA Laurie Blakeman raised concerns about this section of Bill 18 earlier in the week:

Alberta Budget Carbon Capture Scheme Ed Stelmach Iris Evans

a year after alberta’s 2008 election, it’s easy to remain cynical.

On March 3, 2008, less than 40% of Albertans ventured into the March cold to exercise their democratic responsibility, and a full year later the debate around that election still rages.

There are likely many reasons why the large majority of Albertans failed to cast their ballot on that day, but one that continually arises in conversations is cynicism. It’s hard to argue that any of our political parties gave Albertans a compelling reason to race to the polls in droves a year ago, and I don’t believe that much has changed a year later.

Entering the second year of Ed Stelmach‘s first term as Premier, our province is facing many challenges. No longer rolling in the billion dollar surpluses that we had been told were thanks to the now dead Alberta Advantage, Finance Minister Iris Evans now tells us that this year’s $1.4 billion deficit is ‘market induced‘ (and not the fault of a political party which has been happy to take credit for Alberta’s fiscal prosperity over the past decade).

Should Albertans blame the Stelmach PCs for the economic downturn? Of course not, because it’s not their fault, but nor should Albertans praise them for the (also market induced) boom.

In their March 2009 edition, National Geographic shined a powerful international spotlight on Alberta’s oilsands, dealing an unintentional blow to the yet to be launched replacement for the Alberta Advantage. The $25 million taxpayer-funded public relations campaign is set to brand Albertans with a new identity by combating international criticism of the oilsands. Do Albertans really need government-hired public relations consultants to determine our identity? Albertans are more than just a brand, and our identity will be determined by our actions, not by government-hired public relations consultants.

The death of the Alberta Advantage has led the Progressive Conservatives to once again return to the realm of budget deficits, and as the government cuts important programs like the $2 billion GreenTRIP funding for public transit in our cities, they are continuing to funnel $2 billion into a Carbon Capture and Storage project.

It wasn’t that long ago that the governing PCs would claim and shame the opposition parties for wanting to spend Alberta back into a deficit. Now faced with a billion dollar deficit, the same PCs are willing to push aside 15 years of fiscal dogma to continue spending billions of dollars on an unproven technology, that if developed would put Alberta at the forefront of collecting yesterday’s dirty pollution, while the rest of the world focuses on tomorrow’s new and renewable energy.

Maybe Albertans are right to be cynical?