Alberta Oil Sands Ed Stelmach Kevin Taft

november 24 to 26 in the alberta media. cynicism is inevitable.

Number of news stories in the main stream media covering Kevin Taft‘s non-binding Private Member’s motion urging the Government of Alberta to adopt rodeo as Alberta’s official sport: 14 (G&M, G&M, CP, Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Sun, Calgary Sun, Calgary Herald, CP, Metro, iNews 880, Canadian Cattlemen, CTV Calgary, iNews 880, 630 CHED)

Number of news stories in the main stream media covering a “secret” Ministerial Briefing written by a scientific expert detailing why Carbon Capture & Sequestration (CCS) is not viable in Alberta’s oilsands, contradicting speeches made by Premier Ed Stelmach during his trips across Canada, the United States, and Europe that the $2 billion tax-payer investment in CCS would green the oilsands: 2 3 (CBC, Metro + Edmonton Journal)

2008 Alberta Provincial Election Brian Mason Ed Stelmach George Read Kevin Taft Paul Hinman

alberta election 2008: the leaders’ debate.

Tonight is the only Leaders’ Debate of the 2008 Alberta Provincial Election. The debate will be televised on CBC, CTV, and Global from 6:30-8pm. Here’s my rundown of what to watch for from the party leaders:

Ed Stelmach, Progressive Conservatives: It is no secret that Ed Stelmach is not a strong public speaker. Many political watchers have been predicting that his debate performance will mirror the first week of the Tory campaign, I am going to disagree. Though I don’t think Stelmach is a decent debater by any stretch of the imagination, I do think that because the expectations are so low for him that an even moderately okay performance by Stelmach will be seen as a win for him (regardless of how painful the experience is for both Stelmach and viewers).

This will be the only debate that Stelmach will participate in during this election. According to his campaign manager, George Sebest, “the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, Premier Stelmach, will debate only other party leaders in provincial forums,” meaning that Stelmach will be a no-show at the all-candidate forums in his constituency of Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville.

Kevin Taft, Alberta Liberals: In the 2004 televised debate, Kevin Taft performed well against Ralph Klein and Brian Mason, but Ed Stelmach introduces is an untested dynamic in a televised debate. This debate is Kevin Taft’s chance to shine and convince Albertans that he is indeed a Premier-in-waiting. If he can do this without falling into the trap of sounding too stiff and academic and he is able to connect with viewers in a confident Premier-like fashion, he just might be able to convince Albertans that, after 37-years of Tory rule, it’s time.

Paul Hinman, Wildrose Alliance: After being excluded from the Leaders’ Debate under his previous leader in in the 2004, Paul Hinman has won points by just being included in the debates. If Hinman is able to get a word in edge wise and communicate a competent message, this will be a personal win for him.

Brian Mason, New Democrats: Mason issued a challenge to the other party leaders to stick to the issues during the debate. I agree this is a great idea, but I’ll be looking to see if Mason actually sticks to his challenge. Expect Mason to go after Kevin Taft as much or even more than he takes aim at Ed Stelmach. If his party is going to gain seats in this election it will be at the expense of the Taft Liberals in Edmonton, not of the Stelmach Tories.

George Read, Alberta Greens: Unfortunately, George Read was not invited to participate in the debates (I would have supported Read’s inclusion in the debates). Instead, Read will be contributing to the debates through a YouTube video cast following the election. Make sure to check it out.

I will be live blogging the debates here on and blogging my reaction on CBC YouCast (you can also watch the debate on the internet thanks to CBC).

2008 Alberta Provincial Election Conflict-of-Interest Legislation Elections Alberta Kevin Taft

a modest proposal.

Calgary Grit has a pretty good rundown of the ongoing Tory CRO appointment scandal and here’s a great clip from Friday’s Edmonton Journal:

“On Thursday, Stelmach insisted he had nothing to do with selecting the returning officers. Tom Olsen, a spokesman for the premier, later clarified that Conservative MLAs and Tory constituency associations put names forward to party officials, and those officials submit the list to the chief electoral officer at Elections Alberta. Cabinet then approves the choices through an order-in-council.”

Here’s some video footage that I took of Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft announcing that an Alberta Liberal government will put the Chief Electoral Officer in charge of ensuring free and fair elections in Alberta, rather than… say… the Progressive Conservative Party. A modest proposal if I’ve ever heard one…

2008 Alberta Provincial Election Alberta Liberals Kevin Taft YouTube

kevin taft on youtube.

In what I only expect to be the beginning of many YouTube videos released during the 2008 Alberta election campaign, the Alberta Liberals have released a video highlighting Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft

2008 Alberta Provincial Election Arts and Culture in Alberta Ed Stelmach Hector Goudreau Kevin Taft

alberta not civilized – tory minister.

With a provincial election call potentially less than 10 days away, both of Alberta’s main political parties are presenting their ideas and plans for the future. As a fan and follower of the arts community in Edmonton (and more specifically L’Unitheatre and the Varscona Theatre) I took notice of when both the Alberta Liberals and Tories made arts and culture announcements this week.

On Wednesday, Kevin Taft’s Alberta Liberals announced of a new policy titled Fuelling an Alberta Renaissance: Policies to Invigorate Arts and Culture in Alberta, proposing some key changes to how the Alberta Government interacts and provides support to Alberta’s struggling arts community. Ed Stelmach’s Tories followed their lead with an Arts announcement two days later. Much like Ed Stelmach’s environment announcement earlier in the week, the Stelmach Tory arts announcement was short on substance and big on pictures.

I heard through a media source in Calgary that at the media scrum following the announcement, Ed Stelmach struggled to answer the straight forward question of “who are your favorite Alberta artists, Mr. Premier?” (couldn’t even name Corb Lund?).

As if it wasn’t indicative enough of the Tory Government’s attitude towards the arts that the Premier had a hard time naming an Alberta artist, but I was blown away when I read Peace River Tory MLA and Tourism, Parks, and Culture Minister Hector Goudreau’s speaking notes from the policy launch:

“We can build a civilized society that aspires to excellence and beauty…”

Wow. Thanks, Hec.

A look back at 2007 Ed Stelmach Kevin Taft

alberta politics in 2007.

Using Alberta political measurements, 2007 was probably the most interesting year in nearly a decade. With a new Premier and shifting political winds, 2007 presented Albertans and political watchers with no shortage of entertainment and material to talk about. In no particular order, here is a short list of what Alberta politics brought forth in 2007:

Notable Ed Stelmach quotes of 2007

Welcome to the Alberta Stampede

Mr. Suzuki’s comments reflect the unproductive emotional rhetoric and personal attacks that distract from efforts to find constructive solutions.

I wasn’t aware of anybody getting a $1,000 increase

There’s a lot of push by Quebec and Ontario to do something on interest rates, encourage the governor of the Bank of Canada to increase interest rates.

Biggest missed opportunity of 2007 – Though you’ll probably hear Ed Stelmach, Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft, ND leader Brian Mason, and Alberta Alliance leader Paul Hinman claim they came out on top after this debate, no political leader or party was able to capitalize on Alberta’s royalty review debate. The brass ring was there for the taking and no one grabbed it before it drifted off.

Most entertaining nomination scandal of 2007Craig Chandler’s short-lived candidacy for the Progressive Conservatives in Calgary-Egmont.

Shifting winds of 2007 – Calgary-Elbow by-election. Alberta Liberal Craig Cheffins scooped up a win in Ralph Klein’s former constituency of Calgary-Elbow in June 2007.

Most ridiculous political quote of 2007 – “I’d choke our premier.” Calgary-Elbow Tory by-election candidate Brian Heninger on his working relationship with Tory Premier Ed Stelmach.

Best campaign headquaters of 2007Calgary-Elbow PC candidate Brian Heninger.

Most impressive MLAs of 2007– There are a number of MLAs in the Alberta Legislature that have stuck out and impressed me in their performance over the course of 2007. If I have to break it down to three MLAs, the list would include Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Rick Miller, Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman, and Edmonton-Calder MLA David Eggen.

Biggest upset of 2007 – On October 15, 2007, underdog candidate Don Iveson surprised political watchers across Alberta by defeating high-profile Councillor Mike Nickel in Edmonton City Council’s Ward 5.

Best political feature articles of 2007 – I have to give credit to Darcy Henton and Jason Markusoff of the Edmonton Journal for their two-part feature article on the ridiculous amount of partisan political patronage under Alberta’s 36-year old Progressive Conservative government.

Best media website of 2007 – This one easily goes to CBC Edmonton for their comprehensive website coverage of Alberta’s royalty review issue. If you want information on Alberta’s royalty review, this is the website for you.

Most creative use of taxpayers dollars in 2007
The Alberta Energy and Utilities Board using taxpayers dollars to hire private investegators to spy on rural landowners and their lawyers.
Former Alberta Ambassador to Washington D.C. Murray Smith’s $105,000 bonus for quitting 6 months before his contract was to end. The contract was signed by Ed Stelmach when he was Intergovernmental Affairs Minister.

Best political names of 2007 – This is a clear tie between Calgary-Varsity Alberta Liberal MLA Harry Chase and Red Deer-South PC candidate Cal Dallas.

Least work done by a government task force in 2007 – This was a tough one because there seemed to be many provincial government task forces struck and then forgotten in 2007. Tory MLAs Cindy Ady of Calgary-Shaw and Barry McFarland of Little Bow for their $19,000 bonus for their world on the Alberta-Idaho Task Force. It was later admitted by Premier Ed Stelmach’s office that:

the task force didn’t do much in the end, but they had good intentions and tried to set up meetings with their American counterparts. “Can I show you a report, an agreement, a memorandum, anything? No, I can’t. It just isn’t there,” David Sands said.

Worst political showing of 2007 – This has to be a tie between the Alberta NDP and the Alberta Alliance in the Calgary-Elbow and Drumheller-Stettler by-elections. Brian Mason’s NDP gained a stunning 3% and 1% in these two by-elections that were completely based on protesting Ed Stelmach and the state of affordable housing and the environment. Paul Hinman’s Alberta Alliance placed a dismal fifth place in Drumheller-Stettler, which is arguably the most rural and conservative constituency in Alberta. Signs of things to come?

Most appropriate quote describing Alberta’s political environment – “Money is like manure. If you spread it around, it does a lot of good; but if you pile it up in one place, it stinks like hell.” – Clint Murchison

An issue that deserves more attention in 2008 – Democracy in Alberta. The unequal distribution of constituencies between urban and rural Alberta.

As of December 30, 2007, the two-thirds of Albertans who live in urban Alberta are represented by less than half of the seats in the Alberta Legislature. Rural Alberta, with one-third of Alberta’s population holds the majority of seats in Alberta’s Legislature. This isn’t something that will change easily with the large majority of Ed Stelmach‘s cabinet ministers coming from those very same rural constituencies, but it is a clear and simple question of democracy and fair representation.

Kevin Taft

happy holidays from kevin taft and jeanette boman.

A holiday message from Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft and his wife Jeanette Boman.

Ed Stelmach Graham Thomson Kevin Taft

capturing alberta’s hot air.

Graham Thomson had some pretty interesting columns this past Wednesday and Thursday as he interviewed Premier Ed Stelmach and Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft for the year-end editions of the Edmonton Journal.

Here is Ed Stelmach presenting his expert knowledge of climate change and his government’s strategy to capture it…

One Christmas present I’ll give politicians in their year-enders this week is a chance to make their argument without being edited down to a 10-word quote. Here, for example, is Stelmach on the issue of climate change and Alberta’s intent to store carbon dioxide emissions underground:

“There’s a fair amount of research now — there’s no sense capturing it in a way that it’s going to escape. So what is the appropriate geography, or geology, to capture it? So how deep do we have to go? Is it in shallow gas wells or deep gas? Deep oil? Will it make sense to capture that CO2, let’s say, in the Redwater field, or do we have to pipe it to Medicine Hat? These are all questions, research that’s being done today. Once those decisions are made, then the next step is to build infrastructure, because you have to pipe it to those locations. And the efficiency gains, for instance, in the Redwater fields, if you’re sequestering and pressurizing the existing oil and wells, you will then draw much more production out of those wells. So there’s rather than creating a new footprint someplace in the province of Alberta, drilling a new gas well, we would of course bring about much better efficiency. Because they say, about 60 per cent of the gas is still in the old wells.”

Ed Stelmach Kevin Taft polls

sunday: new poll

A new Leger Marketing poll has Ed Stelmach‘s Tories at 42% (up from 33% in the previous survey), Kevin Taft’s Alberta Liberals at 21% (up from 14%), Brian Mason’s New Democrats dropping to 6% (from 8%), and the Alberta Alliance at 5%.

Both the Tories and Alberta Liberals have increased support and remain the two major players, but all parties remain below their traditional levels of support, indicating that there is still a lot of work to be done in the run up to the next election. I would be very interested to see how the regional breakdowns of support in the poll flushed out (ie: Edmonton v. Calgary v. rural).

With the up and down fluctuations we’ve seen in the polls over the past year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see support levels shift a couple more times in the run up to and during the next election.

(h/t to Ken Chapman for the news link)

Ed Stelmach Kevin Taft

stelmachian bureaucratics.

Our brilliantly articulate Tory Premier Ed Stelmach has pretty much cleared up any confusion as to what the problem is with Alberta’s 36-year old Tory government.

[Alberta] Liberal Leader Kevin Taft also asked Stelmach to explain why his governments refused to raise royalties until this year, despite warnings from the Energy Department that they were missing their internal targets.

“We take advice, obviously, from others,” Stelmach said.

“But at the end of the day in this government the decisions are made by government, not listening to advice that may come from bureaucracies.”

Alberta Royalty Review Ed Stelmach Kevin Taft

kevin taft on stelmach’s royalty compromise.

alberta auditor general report 2007 Alberta Royalty Review Ed Stelmach Kevin Taft

ed stelmach tv.

So, how about last night’s 18 minute, $145,000 prime-time infomercial?

As it was already widly known that Ed Stelmach will be responding to the royalty review this afternoon, I’m still confused as to why Stelmach’s Tories felt it necessary to use taxpayers dollars on an infomercial that was purposely vague?

As expected, Stelmach’s much-awaited televised address Wednesday evening offered only vague hints on how he will ensure Albertans get the fair share the panel said they have been long denied.

I’m not sure what channel my friend Ken Chapman was watching (though as always, he has interesting observations), but at one point during Stelmach’s less than inspiring performance, I thought that he was trying to sell me a condo at Del Boca Vista Phase III.

During the address, Stelmach took some vague swipes at his former boss, Ralph Klein, and his closed-door style of leadership (this probably would have been an effective strategy had Stelmach not been a member of Klein’s inner-circle for nine-years and leads a government made up of the same Ministers and MLA’s).

So, all eyes turn to this afternoon when Albertans will find out whether ‘Accountability and Transparency” in the face of a challenge from Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft, the ‘Our Fair Share’ royalty review, and a damning report from Auditor General Fred Dunn will actually faze Ed Stelmach’s Tories.

Alberta Liberals Alberta Royalty Review Kevin Taft

kevin taft on the royalty review.

Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft explains the bottom line on oil and gas royalties: they must rise at least 20%.

alberta auditor general report 2007 Alberta Royalty Review Ed Stelmach Greg Melchin Kevin Taft Mel Knight

what does it take to get fired around here?

Ed Stelmach is refusing to take action against current-Energy Minister Mel Knight and former-Energy Minister Greg Melchin after the Department of Energy was singled out by Auditor General Fred Dunn for failing to collect BILLIONS of dollars in resource revenues owed to Albertans over the past 15 years.

After noting that he recieved the ‘run-around’ from officials within the Ministry of Energy, Dunn slammed the Stelmach Tories management of Alberta’s resource royalties:

The principals of transparency and accountability, I believe, were not followed. I’m not impressed.”

“The department should demonstrate its stewardship of Alberta’s royalty regime and provide analysis to support that stewardship and this was not done.”

“The department’s monitoring and technical review findings were communicated to decision-makers. The question is: Did they hear or were they listening? At the end of the day, I don’t know, but they chose not to act.”

Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft is calling for Stelmach to fire Mel Knight and Greg Melchin.

“The public record clearly shows Albertans have been lied to,” Taft said. “The auditor general tells the truth about the government’s record of handling Albertans’ resources; government ministers, on the other hand, have been misleading the legislature and the public.”

Stelmach responded by saying that he’s “not interested in a witch hunt.

It’s clear that Stelmach is protecting his long-time Tory friends. Mel Knight supported Ed Stelmach’s campaign during the 2006 Alberta PC Leadership Selection and Stelmach, Knight, and Greg Melchin were all full-members of Ralph Klein’s cabinet at the same time that the Tories failed to collect the BILLIONS of dollars in resource royalties owed to Albertans.

With the damning results of the Auditor General’s report coupled with Knight’s defence of the AEUB‘s using public funds to hire private investagators to spy on ordinary Albertans, one really has to wonder, what does it take to get fired in Ed Stelmach’s Tory Government?

Alberta Royalty Review Alberta Tories Ed Stelmach Hugh MacDonald Kevin Taft Lyle Oberg

alberta’s royalty review.

Now that I’ve had a chance to take a look at the much talked about Alberta Royalty Review Panel Final Report, I have some thoughts to offer.

1. The report is much more damning than I think anyone thought it would be.

The report begins with the opening statement: “Albertans do not receive their fair share from energy development.” The report proves this to be an understatement.

2. The report revealed that a lack of government accountability has led to billions of dollars in reduced royalty income over the last 15 years – the royalty holidays and adjustments have reduced Alberta’s income by nearly $8.6 billion over the past 15 years.

Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft and Shadow Energy Minister Hugh MacDonald pointed out that:

the government failed to report a four year royalty holiday period, which began in 1997, under former Minister of Energy Steve West. In 2001, the Auditor General questioned why the royalty holiday and incentive programs were not reported. The Auditor General started to report these amounts in his annual report. Since then, the Department of Energy has buried the amount of the royalty adjustments in their financial footnotes.

Here are Kevin Taft and Hugh MacDonald in their media conference following the release of the report:

3. Though some are rallying against the report, the same people don’t seem to understand the difference between a royalty and a tax.

4. There is no doubt that the release of this report is a defining moment in Alberta’s politics and the reaction or lack thereof by Ed Stelmach‘s Tories may define the main issue of the next provincial election.

5. In 2004, Federal Auditor General Sheila Fraser’s report into the Sponsorship scandal revealed that up to $100 million of the $250 million sponsorship program was awarded to advertising firms and Crown corporations for little or no work.

In 2007, Alberta’s Royalty Review Panel revealed that approximately $8.6 billion in natural resource royalties owed to Albertans were not collected. This failure occured while Ed Stelmach and Lyle Oberg were sitting at the table in Ralph Klein’s Tory Cabinet.

Albertans have been cheated in a big way and should be furious.