Citizen Engagement Don Iveson Government Accountability Open Data Transparency

what would an empowered alberta look like?

One of my favourite bloggers, David Eaves, has recently published a twopart series addressing a question raised by the Australian Government’s Web 2.0 Taskforce:

“…imagine for a moment it was your job to create the guidelines that will help public servants engage online. Although you have the examples from other organisations, you are given the rare luxury to start with a blank sheet of paper (at least for this exercise). What would you write? What issues would you include? Where would you start? Who would you talk to?”

This question made me think about many of the issues facing Albertans and the challenges facing our provincial government in engaging and interacting with citizens. The Government of Alberta holds frequent traditional style consultations on many issues, but are they generating the kind of discussions that our system of governance needs in order to create value for citizen participation? I would encourage all the readers of this blog who work in Alberta’s public service to take a look at some of the innovative ideas for citizen engagement that are being implemented in other jurisdictions. I believe that creating value in citizen participation is key to re-engaging the millions of Albertans who have disengaged from our democratic institutions and the process governing them.

In 2007, the Government of New Zealand took an innovative step to engage citizens by creating a wiki to allow public input in the redrafting of their Police Act. More recently, the Government of New Zealand has launched a website to host government datasets. Similar decisions to open data to citizens have happened in Toronto and Vancouver. Open data was a hot topic at ChangeCamp Edmonton and Councillor Don Iveson has submitted a formal inquiry to the City Administration on the topic.

I have had conversations with many friends, family, and associates who have expressed a general feeling of disempowerment and distance from their elected officials and the decisions they make on our behalf. We elect our fellow Albertans to represent us in our democratic institutions, but as our society has changed in monumental ways, we have seen very little change in our democratic institutions.

Premier Peter Lougheed understood the need for our democratic institutions to evolve with mainstream society when in the early 1970s he created Alberta’s Hansard and allowed for the televised recording of Assembly debates. Both Hansard and Video of the Assembly are now available online, but nearly forty years later, do our provincial democratic institutions reflect the needs our society? Is it important to preserve the current form of parliamentary democracy where the Executive Branch (the Premier and Cabinet) holds sway over the Legislative Branch (the elected Assembly) or is it time to rethink how we allow ourselves to be governed? Why? Is it possible bring the backrooms of the political establishment to the living rooms of Albertans?

With the New Zealand example in mind, I wonder what the outcomes would have been had citizens been empowered to play a real role in shaping legislation like Bill 44, Bill 19, or Bill 50. How different would our province be in twenty or fifty years if regular Albertans were allowed to play a sincere role in helping shape the future of our resource royalty structure, our health care system, or how our abundance of natural resources are developed?

Accountability Alberta Royalty Review Transparency

reveal yourselves,

The scandal has received no shortage of attention in the blogosphere – you can find some good posts on this astroturf here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The astroturfing has also spread to the emerging facebook world.

Luckily, online civil society is alive and well as another group is set up calling on the Government to ‘Do what’s right for Alberta.’

But, the question still remains: who is behind Hill & Knowlton’s

The debate over Alberta’s natural resource royalties is too important to include anonymous stakeholders. Reveal yourselves!

Accountability alberta auditor general report 2007 Ed Stelmach Mark Norris Provincial Government Credit Cards Ron Stevens Sasha Angus Transparency

ron stevens’ hawaiian vacation.

What a week in Alberta politics. First, the damning Alberta Royalty Review Report and Auditor General’s Report slammed Ed Stelmach‘s Tory Government for failing to collect BILLIONS of dollars in resource revenues owed to Albertans over the past 15 years. Then only days later, Ed Stelmach was refusing to fire his Cabinet Ministers responsible for the Department of Energy royalty scandal.

Now, it appears that the Stelmach Tories are being hit with new emerging scandals to deal with.

CBC has discovered that Stelmach’s Calgary Lieutenant, Deputy Premier and Calgary-Glenmore Tory MLA Ron Stevens, used his government credit card to make a three-day ‘pit stop’ in Hawaii on a 2003 winter trip to Australia for government business.

Credit card statements obtained under Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act show meals and drinks for Stevens, his wife and four others during their Honolulu stay were paid for with government cards.

Stevens defended the spending as saving Albertans money by taking a three-day tax-payer funded Hawaiian vacation.

Earlier this week Auditor General Fred Dunn revealed that former Tory Minister and leadership candidate Mark Norris and his assistant Sasha Angus used government credit cards to rack up nearly $50,000 in personal expenses with little record keeping (including for a bachelor party in Las Vegas). So, I think Albertans can be forgiven if it’s a little hard to take Stevens’ ‘word for it.’

Accountability Alberta Royalty Review Ed Stelmach Transparency

who’s behind ‘’

Over the past week, a new website has popped up – – calling for Alberta’s Tory Government to keep the resource royalty structure the way it is – even after the damning Alberta Royalty Review Report and Auditor General’s Report slammed Ed Stelmach‘s Tory Government for failing to collect BILLIONS of dollars in resource revenues owed to Albertans over the past 15 years.

The big question is, who is behind this website?

A bit of investigating will reveal that the website has been set up by the consulting firm Hill & Knowlton and a quick check at CIRA will reveal that the website registration is listed as:

Registrant Name Hill & Knowlton
Registrar (UBC Research Enterprises Inc.)
Renewal Date 2008/09/25
Date approved 2007/09/25
Last changed 2007/09/28
Registrar Number 70
Registrant Number 2010422
Domain Number 2010422

Administrative Contact
Name Lisa Litz
Job Title
Postal Address Suite 540, 202 – 6th Avenue SW Calgary AB T2P2R9 Canada
Phone 1-403-5146236

Technical Contact
Name Lisa Litz
Job Title
Postal Address Suite 540, 202 – 6th Avenue SW Calgary AB T2P2R9 Canada
Phone 1-403-5146236

Now, far be it from me to assume that a slick large national consulting firm like Hill & Knowlton wouldn’t set up a website like this out of the kindness of their hearts, but I’m going to do just that – assume that Hill & Knowlton isn’t doing this out of the kindness of their hearts.

So, the question remains: who is behind ‘’

Interestingly, Hill & Knowlton’s Calgary office is led by none-other than Mr. Ken Boessenkool, a member of the infamous firewall six and former adviser to Stockwell Day and Stephen Harper.

So, the still question remains, who is really behind ‘’

The debate about Alberta’s resource royalties is too important to Alberta’s future to include ‘hidden stakeholders.’

Who is paying Hill & Knowlton to run this site?

Albertans should email Mr. Ken Boessenkool and ask him straight out.

Albertans are owed an explanation.


in the spirit of accountability and transparency.

In the spirit of accountability and transparency, I thought it was important that I take the next step in my blogging lifetime and lay something out for public consumption: my identity.

Now, to be clear, I’ve always assumed that anyone with a single shred of investigative knowledge would have the ability to use google and take the 2-5 minutes to figure out who I am (see example), but for those who haven’t (and I’m not sure how many of my readers this includes), I have decided to expose my real life identity to you.

So, in this spirit, my name is David Cournoyer. I am a University of Alberta Political Science student.

I am the immediate past-Vice President (External) of the University of Alberta Students’ Union and immediate past-Chair of the Council of Alberta University Students.

I am also working for the Alberta Liberals starting this summer. This being the case, I will do my best not descend this blog any further into the realm of partisan hackery than it has already traveled.

So, that’s it.