Saturday, April 7, 2012

An Alberta election rant

April 23rd us Albertans have to vote on our next provincial government. Normally in Alberta such an event is a snoozer, but this one is exciting. Since Alberta became a province in 1905 there have been 27 elections, and only 4 governments. Most of the time the governments have had enormous majorities. It's said that Albertans don't so much elect governments as anoint them. Here's the list to date.

1905–1921 Alberta Liberal Party
1921–1935 United Farmers of Alberta
1935–1971 Social Credit Party of Alberta
1971–present Alberta Progressive Conservatives

The current PC's have been in power for 41 years. There are Communist dictatorships that haven't lasted that long. However, this election may see the PC's turfed out. Hence the excitement.

Here we only vote for our local representative; we don't cast a ballot for the party leader. I'll list my choices in Calgary Lougheed, and talk about the parties a bit. Then you'll understand why I'm having trouble deciding who to vote for.

John Carpay - Wildrose
Brent Kelly - Alberta New Democrats
Dave Rodney - Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta (Incumbent)
Fred Stenson - Alberta Liberal Party.
There does not appear to be an Alberta Party candidate in my riding.
There are several other fringe parties that are not running in my riding and no independents this time around. I always take a serious look at the independents. Most of the time they are one issue candidates, but you have to admire their gumption to run.

Here's some info about each candidate, taken from their official web pages, with my commentary after.

John Carpay

John Carpay was born in the Netherlands, and grew up in Williams Lake, B.C. He earned his B.A. in Political Science at Laval University in Quebec City, and his LL.B. from the University of Calgary. He is fluent in English, French, and Dutch. John served the Canadian Taxpayers Federation as Alberta Director from 2001 to 2005, advocating for lower taxes, less waste, and accountable government. John is the founder and president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (

My comment:
A wolf in sheep's clothing. Mr. Carpay doesn't believe in funding the arts through taxes. In fact, he doesn't seem to believe in taxes at all. He doesn't like our system of representative democracy, where rightly or wrongly, we enable our politicians to make decisions for us and do the right thing, and not slavishly represent what might be a neanderthal public opinion. He wants to see tax increases put to a public referendum, and thinks Prop 13 in California was a success story. He thinks City Council should contract out services presently provided by city employees. He is in favor of privatizing health care, ( I suspect to the American model) based on a ridiculous comparison between health care and the food production system. He was unhappy with Premier Klein that he didn't do enough to protest or fight the Vriend decision and it's implications on gay rights. His notion of freedoms for people lets them restrict other people's freedoms. There's lots more, read for yourself.

Brent Kelly

Brent Kelly is an elected representative in the student government at the University of Alberta and in the final year of his bachelor degree in political science and international studies. He works at the career centre at the university, educating undergraduate students, graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows about career-related opportunities in Edmonton and beyond. Kelly spent six weeks in Vietnam engaging in development research through the World University Service of Canada. Kelly has served on the board of directors of several non-profit organizations, including the Alberta Public Interest Research Group.

My comment:
How nice. He seems to parrot the ND line well enough, and is so young he's not likely to have got himself in any real trouble. Still, some federal NDP types won their seats in Quebec without knowing French, and without visiting the riding to campaign. One took a vacation to Las Vegas during the election. Maybe he's hoping for the same revulsion to the governing party going his way here. If so, I admire his optimism.

Dave Rodney

Dave Rodney has served as MLA for Calgary-Lougheed for the past two terms, including as Parliamentary Assistant for Health & Wellness and for Sustainable Resource Development. Dave has worked on the Provincial Treasury Board and the Agenda & Priorities committees, and as Energy Representative to the Council of State Governments.  His activity is focused on his constituency and his government work has taken him across Canada, the U.S., Europe, and beyond. He has chaired AADAC and Calgary Caucus, and served on dozens of other committees. Dave has spearheaded more private members’ business than any other MLA since being elected, including the “Smoke-free Places Act”, “Alberta Get Outdoors Weekend Act” and “Physical Activity Credit”. Dave Rodney (BA, BEd, MRE) is an international entrepreneur, educator, keynote speaker, and humanitarian; and is the first Canadian to scale Mt Everest twice.

My comment:
I pay moderate attention to Alberta politics and I can't recall Dave's name coming up in the news. All in all, that's probably a good thing. I have not been able to find out if he was on the committee that didn't meet for 4 years and got paid for it, or what his thoughts are on that issue. I've been doing a bit of scrounging around the web and Mr. Rodney appears to be a bit of a political nonentity. He might plausibly present himself as a hard working politician who has been overlooked when it comes to sitting at the cabinet table. A cynic might say he's keeping a chair warm for the Conservatives and has stayed out of trouble more through good luck than good management. I don't know.

Fred Stenson
Fred was only recently announced as the candidate, and there isn't much (anything really) about him on the official Liberal website. This is from Wikipedia. (Yes, I know.)

Frederick (Fred) Stenson (born December 22, 1951) is a Canadian writer of historical fiction and non-fiction relating to the Canadian West.
In addition to his published work, Stenson has been a faculty member at The Banff Centre, where he has directed the Wired Writing Studio for eleven years. He is also a documentary film writer, with over 140 credits. He writes a regular wit column for Alberta Views Magazine. His 2000 novel The Trade was shortlisted for Canada's Giller Prize. Both The Trade and his 2003 novel Lightning won the Grant MacEwan Author's Prize for best Alberta book of the year. His 2008 novel The Great Karoo was nominated for the 2008 Governor General's Literary Award in Fiction and was a nominee for the 2009 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book (Canada/Caribbean).
Stenson was raised on a farm and cattle ranch in the Waterton region of southwest Alberta.

My comment:
I think it's safe to assume he would be in favour of arts funding, and he says he is an admirer of Premier Lougheed. No idea where he stands on any of the issues in the news for this election. Being a writer is a huge plus in my books. He has demonstrated the ability to organize his thoughts, state them clearly in writing, and get paid for doing so. That is a rare talent in today's world.

The parties.
The problem is that we vote for people that belong to political parties. It is entirely possible that the best qualified candidate might be running for a party you find repugnant. Or the opposite, you strongly support a political party, but find the local candidate to be repugnant. That's just the way it is.

The Dippers, as they are called here, are widely seen to be the left wing fruit loop party, proposing more taxes, and more public spending on improving social conditions. They don't mind running deficits and have a very idealistic view of the political world. Their base of power is in "Redmonton" as it's known. They've been in power in some provinces, and have held the balance of power in Canada's parliament, with mixed results. They are currently the federal opposition, with a herd of new young MP's. In the eyes of some commentators the current PC leader, Alison Redford,  is known as Alison the Red and is derided as the first NDP Premier for what are perceived as her left wing policies.

The Liberal brand name is toxic in much of Alberta, and I'm probably understating the issue. A federal Liberal government imposed the National Energy Policy in 1981 (yes, more than 30 years ago) that gutted the oil industry and cost Alberta billions of dollars. Albertan's remember. They are widely perceived to be hapless do-gooders. They are a somewhat more centrist version of the Dippers.

The Progressive Conservatives have been the only ruling government that most Albertans know. They claim to be conservative to placate the strong rural base, but are blandly central where they have to be. Until very recently describing them as cozy with the oil and gas industry would be an understatement, and provides a living example of "what goes around comes around." The Premier before the current one screwed that up with a botched attempt to revise the Royalty structure that companies pay to extract natural resources here. Botched is putting it politely.

They have grown smug and arrogant, with numerous abuses of power. The most recent one that really seems to be gaining traction is the scandal of the committee that didn't meet for 4 years, while the committee members got paid $1000 a month for not doing anything, on top of their already very generous pay. MLA pay is complicated to go into and not the focus of this rant, but go here if you want to read more. Here's a timeline of the scandal for your amusement.

I think this one captured our attention more than bigger scandals have is because $1000 is a real amount of money for ordinary people. Larger amounts are real too, but people can relate to $1000. They know how long they have to work to earn it, and what it will buy them. It's a clear example of theft from an employer. And when it was discovered, they blew the messaging.

Anybody that intentionally bills for time they didn't work is a thief and is likely to get fired when it's discovered. An unintentional overpayment, which many of the MLA's can reasonably claim happened in their case, is ok provided that arrangements are made to correct the situation in a reasonable period of time. With a couple of exceptions, that's the last thing that happened. They flipped and flopped and flapped and everything else on the issue rather than do the right thing. The head of the committee wouldn't give any of it back, and didn't see why any committee member should, and said he "had done nothing wrong."

There were 21 committee members, and there were 83 MLAs. So almost exactly a quarter of the MLA's were on the take, and one could argue all the rest of them were in on the deal. Except for the ones that promptly paid it back they should all be voted out of office. But that's just the most recent sin, there are many more over the years. One could feel a bit sorry for Ms. Redford, in that she is reaping the whirlwind that was sown by her massively incompetent predecessor, Mr. Stelmach. Sort of like Kim Campbell following Brian Mulroney.

Then there is Wildrose. A new party amalgamated with the Alberta Alliance Party. They claim to be a populist party fighting for lower taxes and increased freedoms for Albertans, and to represent "mainstream Albertan opinion". They would fit in just fine with the American Republican party. Most recently they are speaking in code to support the "rights" of marriage commissioners to refuse to marry people they disapprove of. This means gays and inter-racial couples, and anything else that might offend that particular commissioner. They say it doesn't extend to allowing doctors to decide who they'll treat or not, and won't elaborate if it would allow pharmacists to refuse to fulfill prescriptions they don't approve of, like birth control.

They represent the old Alberta. They haven't noticed or haven't paid attention to the massive waves of immigration to Alberta, and how the social dynamics have changed. Calgary elected a Muslim mayor a year ago or so, and everybody I've talked to about it is happy with him. Gays are out of the closet and are not going back. They can't change abortion law, but they can de-list the procedure so (sarcasm on) that that honest tax-payers are free of paying for something that isn't medically necessary (sarcasm off). They haven't noticed Alberta is becoming a major player in a global multicultural world. 

My problem.
I don't trust Wildrose or the New Democrats with the future of Alberta. Comparing the candidates, what I can learn of Mr. Carpay makes him repulsive. Mr. Kelly is merely young and inexperienced. In the end if I had to choose between them I'd take Kelly and the Dippers because they are at least looking forward. Wildrose wants to go back to the Alberta of the past, and then do it better. Or worse, depending on how you look at it. That's over with.

The PC's have to go. End of story. They've abused our trust long enough and should be fired.

The Liberals are a toxic brand, and are simply not ready for prime time. A competent party should have been able to defeat the PC's any number of times in the past. Granted, they were up against Albertans propensity to vote PC out of habit, but still. Their current leader, Raj Sherman, is a great guy to have on the medical file, and would make a great minister. I'm not so sure about Premier.

My choice appears to be a blandly inoffensive incumbent for a party I want to see gone, or a guy who can write very well indeed but does not appear to have any relevant experience for governing in a party with no particular demonstrated competence in opposition. Decisions decisions. Let's see if anything changes at the leader's debates, or the candidate's forums over the next little while.

In workout news, a short hard bike ride this morning. Warm up, the 5 hard 5 easy, with the 5 hard alternating between high rpms, and low rpms, pushing between 110 and 120% of FTP. Tired legs at end. Cooled down and stretched.


  1. While I agree with you that the PCs should be out, I think the only other party likely to win is the Wildrose. I'm quite sure I live in a riding that will only vote in one of those two parties. So, do I vote for the screw ups, a party that can't possibly win or the party that I think is downright scary?

  2. I'm mad at myself that I didn't get my poo together to sort out how to vote before I left for Mexico...I would vote Wildrose, hands down. On the basis that every time I have heard Danielle Smith on the rahave heard about anti-gay stuff however. That is wrong -- dead wrong. I totally disagree with that.

    NDP -- oh dear Lord. You know who I live with right? :D

  3. I feel your pain. Remember that the idea is not to vote for the winning party, but rather pick the person that you think will best represent you and your riding. Sometimes that means holding your nose and voting for a party you don't like. I have voted Green in the past, knowing they didn't stand the slightest chance of winning. I wanted to see their share of the popular vote go up, and have them get the $2.75 per vote that the Tories have now phased out. If more people voted like this we might be getting results that more accurately reflect our wishes. However, most people seem to think if they don't vote for the winner, their vote was wasted. Sigh.

  4. More and more stuff is coming out about what's behind the populist and telegenic face of Wildrose, and it's not pretty. You knew that Link Byfield was a Wildrose candidate, right? What little the Wildrose says about conscience rights alone should be enough to keep anyone from voting for them. Unless they're a bully at heart that likes to expand their own rights at the expense of others. Wildrose is the party that wants to go back to a time when immigrants "knew their place", oil and gas companies could drill where ever and however they wanted (and I work in that industry and even they recognize there have to be rules everybody follows or it's a deadly race to the bottom) women were pregnant and in the kitchen, the bible was the only source of authority, and father knew best. Barf.
    What enrages me is that we get so few other choices. Don't even get me started about majority governments as a result of winning a minority of the votes.

  5. I hear you. The greens have got my votes a lot in recent years as well. I figured that the tiny bit of funding they got from my vote might help them become more established and a stronger party. No green (or evergreen) party candidate in my riding this time.

    I have never voted for the winning candidate in an election. Maybe in a municipal election, but not a provincial or federal one. I still vote.
    When I think it's a done deal, I vote for whoever I dislike the least. In this case though, I really really don't like wildrose, and think PC has the only chance to beat them, so that's a consideration...

  6. Rodney was not on the no-meet committee.

  7. Thanks, "Guest". I had been unable to find that out. That's the sort of thing that should be reasonably available on the Alberta Government website. My cynical suspicion of why the names haven't been publicized is due to cronyism. Even though the members are in different parties, they consider themselves "one of us" when it comes to trimming the sheep (taxpayers).


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