Having just got back from vacation (we visited the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida), it’s time to get a bit more back into blogging. I posted the following as an extended comment for Crommunist who recently discussed the Alberta election.
My shortage in blogging lately hasn’t been for lack of topics.
This past week has seen blow up and scandal plague Alberta politics, as the boobs come off the Wildrose bus. First, we have a compilation of quotes by Danielle Smith shaping her as a Christian Libertarian, then we have her denouncing established climate science, plus she has refused to chasten her candidates for slandering the Edmonton Public School Board and damning homosexuals to burn in “the lake of fire” or for saying that being white is an advantage.
It’s well established that Conservative Party of Canada insiders, like former strategist Tom Flanagan and past Edmonton-Strathcona candidate Ryan Hastman, are working closely with the Wildrose Party. So we shouldn’t be surprised to see the social conservative forces, fresh off their recent Ottawa takeover, are feeling threatened by a new Albertan premier who started to put a bit too much emphasis on the progressive in Progressive Conservative.
After Naheed Nenshi became mayor of Calgary and Alison Redford won the Progressive Conservative leadership race, becoming Alberta’s first female premier, I thought things were turning around for my homeland.
Moderate, pragmatic, and relatively progressive ideas were starting to take hold. Plans were on the way to improve the Alberta School Act and mass transit was taking precedence over freeways.
But now polls are suggesting that Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Party are on track to a majority government. Of course, polls can be wrong, and things can still turn around for Redford (or for that matter for Brian Mason or Raj Sherman), but we’re sitting in dangerous territory.
Much ink is starting to spill on Smith’s dangerous flirtations with so-called conscience rights whereby marriage commissioners and physicians would be free to discriminate against gays, lesbians, interracial couples, and women. Dave Cournoyer took a closer look at some of the candidates carrying the Wildrose flag, showing that a Wildrose government could very easily put homophobes, Christian extremists, and bigots into cabinet.
I think the key to understanding Albertan politics is that it’s not so much about left or right, conservative or liberal, but about pure populist tribalism.
In over 100 years, the province has been represented by 4 different governments. The leaders change, but the governments are routinely re-elected, so long as they maintain the air of competence (actual competence is not required).
When government change occurs, it seems a bit like dominos falling. Once a certain threshold of legitimacy is crossed by the opposition – or perhaps illegitimacy by the current government – voters move en masse to the new choice.
This is why the federal Conservatives win with more than 60% of the vote in many Alberta ridings and arguably even how Linda Duncan increased her share of the vote in 2011. It also explains the quick rise of Naheed Nenshi, the rising support of Stephen Mandel, and the lasting strength of other mayors like Dave Bronconnier and Al Duerr.
It’s this key that also worries me most. With the Wildrose is seen as the alternative and the PCs looking like corrupt crooks, it could very well shift even more. Hence, my bets (and fears) for the final result are Wildrose – 50%, PCs – 19%, Liberals & NDP – 11% each, Alberta Party/EverGreens – 4% each, others – 1%.
NDP Leader Brian Mason is calling the Wildrose Alliance’s two newest members to take their decision to cross the floor back to voters.
Anderson and Forsyth said Monday they do not plan to resign their seats because byelections would be too expensive.
With news from Daveberta (the National Post link is dead at the moment) that the Wildrose Alliance has surged to 28% to the Stelmach PC’s 34% support (just over half of what they had less then a year ago), let’s look at the Wildrose Alliance Party platform looks like (note to federal Liberals, want to look like a government in waiting? Get a platform):
- All Policies are preceded by: “A Wildrose Government will….”
- defend Alberta against intrusions by the federal government by protecting the property, legal, constitutional and democratic rights of Albertans.
Well they start off quick with the anti-Ottawa stance. It’s big in rural Alberta, and remember that one of Danielle Smith’s early opponents for leadership called for referendums on seperation every time a federal Liberal government was elected.
- work to remove inter-provincial trade and professional certification barriers by the expansion of the Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement to other Provinces.
- institute fixed election dates for Provincial Election every 4 years. The Legislative Assembly will be able to call a vote of non-confidence at any time.
- be accountable to the people of Alberta by having free votes with the exception of the budget and votes of non-confidence.
- institute the right of recall of elected officials if 20% of the electorate sign a petition calling for such an action and 25% if the electorate is less than 1000.
- hold elections for Alberta Senators at the same time as Provincial Elections.
- establish an independent agency to determine the compensation, pension, and severance packages of elected governmental officials.
- limit the Provincial Cabinet to 16 members.
- institute strict conflict of interest guidelines facilitated through the Provincial Ethics Commissioner’s office.
- establish set dates for Throne Speeches, Budget Announcements, and Legislative Sessions.
- institute an open and comprehensive Freedom of Information Act.
- follow any downloading of services from the province to municipalities with the appropriate amount of funding.
- extend greater autonomy and better planning tools to local governments to reduce pressure on property taxes.
- ensure that crown corporations are subject to local zoning and land-use by-laws.
Just about all of these points I agree with, I’d go farther and push for electoral reform, but remember that the federal Conservatives promised many changes too. A big one they missed is banning corporate and union donations, but there’s only one party in Alberta that really wants to do that. Of course any party/election financing reform would be a huge step.
- entrench individual property rights within an Alberta Bill of Rights.
- strike section 3 of the Human Rights and Multiculturalism Act.
Of course section 11 is just fine…
- institute legislation allowing the citizens of Alberta to call for a binding referendum on a matter of significant public concern upon the presentation of a petition signed by at least 10% of the total voters of the last Provincial election in Alberta.
- only use Section 33 (the Notwithstanding Clause) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, with the consent of the Alberta people in a referendum.
Again, both reasonable.
- support the elimination of all indirect taxes and tariffs on farm inputs and the reduction of provincially controlled input costs.
- support marketing programs for Alberta agricultural products, nationally and internationally.
- support research and education into enhancing agricultural productivity and value added production for agriculture.
- oppose international agriculture subsides.
- develop an effective and financially viable long-term agriculture safety-net program.
- encourage private sector value added opportunities for Alberta’s agriculture sector.
- support Alberta producer market choice to sell grain independent of the Canadian Wheat Board or to sell through the Canadian Wheat Board voluntarily.
- take on the responsibility to negotiate commercially competitive access to international markets with respect to beef marketing.
- base government regulations of the beef industry on appropriate management of real risks and an accurate analysis of the costs and benefits of these regulations.
- leave investment in business and the development of beef marketing as the responsibility of the industry, not government and must be based on market signals rather than government programs.
- will allow government support for the beef industry to come from national programs that minimize the risk of adverse impacts on international and interprovincial trade, and do not distort free market behavior.
My only comment here is that the Wheat Board maintains a competitive advantage by having a monopoly, I’m not sure whether we should castrate it. Most of the rest seems reasonable enough. Of course that last point is completely contradictory.
institute a zero based budgeting program in all government departments. The program will require justification of all new funds spent each year.
I have no clue what “zero based budgeting” is.
- pass legislation that ensures all provincial finances are fully, accurately and honestly reported under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.
- limit growth in program spending to the rate of inflation and population growth of Alberta.
- support the Auditor General’s Office to help identify and prevent wasteful spending in order to ensure value for money.
- use budget surpluses to pay debts owed by the Alberta Government first and secondarily deposits to the Heritage Fund.
Seeing as Danielle Smith has a business background, these seem like they’re straight out of accounting school. Of course I could see the need for funding to exceed inflation to make up for infrastructure deficits.
- support a stable and price sensitive approach to energy production.
- ensure an internationally competitive fiscal regime that attracts investment capital and makes reinvestment attractive.
- support education and research into energy-efficient homes, businesses and government offices.
- require building and land use-planning codes to have high-energy conservation standards.
- recognize the importance of the energy sector to the province and strive to reduce the cost of doing business.
- support the diversification of Alberta’s energy supply.
- support the development of value added facilities through tax incentives.
Some sounds like code words for not charging anything to big oil to steal our oil, others are reasonable (diversification and energy-efficiency).
cut red tape and the regulatory burden by 1/3 from 2009 levels.
Does this mean drop 1/3 of the laws we have on book arbitrarily? This is really random to me.
- work to eliminate the duplication of government authorities and services.
- institute complete financial disclosure of all provincial finances including the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund, Crown corporations and government investments. The disclosures will be made in the Legislature with a complete accounting available to Alberta citizens.
- establish a “Waste Buster” website to help report and stamp out government waste.
I wonder how much the “Waste Buster” website will cost, and how many people will complain about it through it. Great blog fodder to come with that.
- grant the Provincial Auditor full access to all Government funded companies, Crown corporations and subsidiaries of Crown corporations.
- have open tendering on government contracts that allow fair competition for businesses and to provide
better value to taxpayers.
If these are contracts that are going to be given out anyways, then I agree. But don’t outsource for the sake of it.
- make sure the role of government is not to own and operate businesses when a competitive business market exists.
Does this include police competing with local security companies, or medical services, or charter schools?
- permit only ecologically sound and economically sustainable forestry management methods.
- invest in research to promote good forest stewardship.
- encourage other value-added uses of Alberta’s forestry resources.
- institute a policy of providing from the Heritage Savings Trust Fund when anticipated or prior annual Real Gross Domestic Product growth of Alberta is less than 2%.
- institute a policy of depositing a set percentage of government natural resource income each year into the Heritage Savings and Trust Fund.
These both are generally good ideas. Tough economic times are nevertheless tough.
- allow individual workers the choice to determine their membership in labour organizations.
- allow competition to the Workers Compensation Board.
- extend to workers the democratic right to a secret ballot vote on labour organization certification under the Labour Code and ensure that the same rule apply for de-certification as for certification.
- restore education as an essential service under the Labour Code ensuring that no child’s right to an education is denied by school strikes or lockouts.
Up until this point I was thinking, they’re not doing that bad. Maybe they’d be an okay clean-up the leg in a minority situation. Then we get the attack on unions. WCB competition – what the hell is that about? And that last point exists to ensure that they can force those damn liberal teacher’s unions back to work rather than giving them any recognition for their work.
- withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan and create an Alberta Pension Plan. The Alberta plan will offer at minimum the same benefits while giving Albertans control over the investment fund.
Why do this unless you want to destroy it? Is there precedence in other provinces?
- oppose unfair and industry specific taxation from the federal government.
Aka “carbon taxes”
- fight for Alberta’s deserved share of federal tax dollars through a more equitable distribution of federal transfer payments and contracts.
- establish a per child income tax deduction for parents or guardians.
- collect the Alberta personal income tax.
Is the current government not collecting personal income taxes?
- increase the basic personal exemption to benefit the lowest income earners.
- provide greater tax deductions for charitable contributions.
These aren’t bad.
- encourage tourism as a major growth area of the Alberta economy.
- will stimulate tourism with international marketing in cooperation with tourism operators.
- develop new transportation corridors to relieve the pressure on current routes.
- develop a comprehensive transportation strategy that recognizes the interdependence of Alberta’s economy with its neighbours.
Fluff in these two categories.
- ensure that the arts, music and physical education curriculums are fully funded and encourage entrepreneurial courses in Alberta’s public schools.
- enhance online educational initiatives for students.
- set high standards for education. These measured standards will include academic testing, teacher quality, and high school graduation rates including public reporting.
- eliminate the policy of social promotion in Alberta’s schools. Students will be expected to meet standards in order to be promoted to the next grade.
- institute methods to hold educators accountable for performance.
Again, they start out not that bad, then some odder ones. I don’t know what “methods” they’re referring to, but I will say that almost all of my grade school teachers were above average in quality compared to university professors (although I have had some great university professors, I had very few poor grade school teachers), so I’m not sure that we have a crisis in teaching quality. But we don’t need to care if the teacher’s don’t want these changes, they won’t be allowed to strike.
- increase research and development funding for colleges, universities and institutes and encourage private sector partnerships.
Because Alberta universities aren’t sold out enough (see: Schulich School of Engineering) let’s just sell them out more. Remind me where the data is that p3s are a cost effective solution to infrastructure deficits?
- give priority for admission and funding to Alberta students to post-secondary institutions.
- work with employers, post-secondary institutions and the Alberta Industry Training and Apprenticeship Commission to increase training and apprenticeships in the trades and technical sectors.
- reduce student loans by 10% per year to students in the educational and health care sectors attending accredited schools of education provided they work in underserved communities.
- strengthen the network of colleges, institutes and on-line learning opportunities throughout the province.
- support “School Choice” Legislation.
Aka more Christian Fundamentalist schools, as well as opening the gates to any other religion that wants public money to indoctrinate their students. I could foresee a WRA government in Alberta to be the first to give money to a school for Scientology.
- institute a student based funding system for financing education which will allow funding via Alberta Opportunity Scholarships to follow the student to the accredited education facility of parental choice.
Basically, trying to legitimize the fact they’re funding fundamentalist creationism.
- mandate that Alberta Opportunity Scholarships include all funding for student education for instruction, support and capital.
- invest in school safety to ensure a safe secure leaning environment for students.
- establish a school violence and crime electronic data reporting system.
- work to reduce absenteeism and truancy.
- encourage conservation of water taken from lakes or rivers for agricultural, industrial and domestic purposes.
- impose strict regulations on effluent producing industries.
- Develop and implement an on and off-stream fresh water storage plan.
- recognize the value of parks to society and protect these areas from intrusive activities.
- require governments to meet responsible environmental standards in their procurement, recycling and construction operations.
- conserve Alberta’s environment and monitor environmental impacts with enforcement provisions while balancing economic development opportunities in the province’s future.
- invest in research for clean coal technology and provide tax incentives for capital investment.
- establish an environmental ombudsman for Alberta.
- require Ecological Impact Reports for all large projects. Projects in sensitive areas that use unproven technologies, or generate significant public concern will be a priority.
All I have to say about this section is they convieniently neglected the words “climate change,” “global warming,” and even “carbon emissions.” At least Stelmach reluctantly admits carbon dioxide ought to be buried (along with $2 billion we don’t really have lying around).
Care of Patients
- enforce the five basic principles of the Canada Health Act which are: Public Administration,
Comprehensiveness, Universality, Portability and Accessibility.
- provide coverage for authorized out of province medical treatment that is unavailable in Alberta.
Why do health care here when BC is selling spots in line?
- ensure the care of persons with a disability to ongoing access of medical benefits.
- develop a Medical Machinery and Equipment Plan that ensures existing medical diagnostic and care equipment is adequately staffed, fully utilized and properly maintained and that provides for future investments in new equipment and technology.
- establish and fund a fully independent Health Ombudsman in Alberta.
- fully fund and implement a mental health initiative.
- focus funding on patient care and reduce wasteful spending in the system.
- provide expanded home care and palliative care services to assist chronically and terminally ill patients with supportive home environments as an option to institutional care.
- performance measures that are annually audited and publicly reported.
- build a unified, universal and cost-effective health services information network that will improve care and reduce long-term costs.
- give all citizens better access to their medical records and treatment histories.
- institute a Health Management System that rewards cost effective cost-saving administration by providing incentives to doctors, nurses and health care professionals.
- encourage and support innovations in the delivery of health care.
Do “innovations” include private/for-profit delivery?
- alleviate pressure on emergency room services by expanding the funding for and the number of multi disciplinary 24-hour-a-day community based health care centres.
“Community based” often means private clinics.
- work with non-profit societies to develop an Intermediate and Long-Term Care Facilities Plan which will address the needs of our aging population including increasing capacity.
- establish a rural and remote health initiative to ensure Albertans get the care they need.
- implement legislation protecting the “conscience rights” of healthcare professionals.
This last line is so doctors no longer have to do the job they signed up for – in providing services like contraceptives, legal abortions, or anything else they deem to be part of their religion. Could a Jehovah’s Witness or Christian Scientist doctor basically refuse to do anything for anyone but still collect a paycheque? This opt-out of work is similar to the failed attempt by a bigoted marriage commissioner in Saskatchewan to attempt to get out of performing gay marriages. Sorry bub, but that’s your job (note that he held a different position then religious officiants).
- provide health care funding that will follow the service to the health care provider and approved facility of choice.
This helps set up a competitive network within our existing health care system. I think some countries with universal health care have implemented this successfully, but call me skeptical if I doubt the WRA’s sincerity.
- increase funding for home care, supported housing, assisted living, long-term care facilities and palliative care hospices to provide less expensive and more patient-friendly alternatives to hospital care.
Again, good in theory, but looks like code for moving patients to private, for-profit facilities. If this stays on the taxpayers bill, then the extra overhead of for-profit facilities will cost us much more than properly investing in medicare.
- reduce transportation and lodging costs for rural patients who receive treatment that is not locally available by developing a rural medical travel assistance program.
- ensure that patients living at home in palliative or long term care are entitled to the same pharmaceutical benefits they would have received as in a hospital.
- deliver an annual individual statement of benefits to each resident of Alberta.
What the hell’s the point in the last line? Why not just put in online and make it publicly available via MLAs offices? This seems like unnecessary postage.
- expand training and post-secondary programs to graduate more Health Care professionals.
- develop and implement a retention and recruitment plan in full consultation with health care service providers.
- institute a preventative health care and wellness program.
- increase funding for physical fitness and amateur sports.
- enhance efforts and funding to prevent drug and alcohol abuse and addiction.
- institute a program where all sentences given in provincial court will be subject to a truth in sentencing provision..
I have no clue what “truth in sentencing” is or why they trail off…
- support the right of compensation from convicted persons to the victims of their crimes.
So someone who’s in poverty and commits a crime out of desperation, and then serves their time, can then be sued by the victim? An eye for an eye is not the appropriate path to rehabilitation.
- introduce initiatives for Maintenance Enforcement to bring about improved compliance with maintenance and visitation orders.
- support legally enforceable arbitration between all parties in a legal dispute to settle non-criminal actions.
- all Albertans have access to legal representation and justice.
- expand the role of sheriffs to handle Provincial justice issues.
- ensure sufficient funding for municipal policing to allow for effective policing and protection of Alberta people.
- require young offenders to participate in crime prevention courses and other measures.
- work to ensure that the rights of crime victims take precedence over those found guilty of committing crimes.
Every human being has rights, even the evil criminals.
- recognize that all Albertans have equal rights, privileges and responsibilities.
Especially corporations, but not unions (neither of which are people).
Arts and Culture
- encourage and support through funding community projects and school programs for arts and cultural activities as an essential enrichment of life and integral part of Alberta’s communities and cultural diversity.
- implement educational activities to help the abused overcome the effects of abuse and to stop further abuse from abusers. Access to therapy will be provided where required.
- work with foster parents to help them improve the care and placements of foster children.
- enhance and increase the training, resources and authority of social service providers to properly protect children at risk and improve services to families.
- earmark a significant portion of the revenues generated from gambling for the rehabilitation of
gambling addicts and for educational programs aimed at reducing gambling.
- collaborate with non-profit societies and commit funding for emergency residences for victims of
- ensure people fleeing violent situations are provided with sufficient time and support including
increased stays in transition houses as necessary.
- create a permanent First Nations Forum to provide aboriginal citizens living on and off reserves direct communication with government about their priorities and ideas to materially improve their quality of life.
- devote special attention and resources to addressing the challenges and needs of aboriginal women and youth.
Again, a couple sections I generally agree with.
- support social responsibility within the framework of a free enterprise economic system and promote compassionate service, volunteerism, individual responsibility and care for those unable to care for themselves.
Aka the “get off your ass and do it yourself” mentality. Known under King Ralph as “shoot, shovel, and shut up.”
- implement a timely and effective Social Assistance to work program.
I’m not sure what they’re getting at here.
In general, I think I’d agree with 60-70% of every parties platform, since it’s mostly puff words meant to be appealing to everyone, but even in this fluffy web platform that exists far from any general election, there’s some very concerning positions that would cause me never to vote for this party.
From omitting climate change in your environmental platform (because she’s apparently “skeptical of climate change”) to promising greater “school choice” to attacking unions and teachers, I have to say that while the Wildrose Alliance has gotten polished up with their new leader, they are definitely not the modern centrist party that Danielle Smith claims to be.
(and forgive any formatting snafu’s since it’s late and this has way too many blockquotes)