Albertans choose progressive mayors

After a surprise victory in the 2010 purple wave, Naheed Nenshi became one of Canada’s most popular mayors during his handling of severe floods in Calgary earlier this year.

Few predicted any chance of him losing his position in yesterday’s election and perhaps the only shock was the size of his victory, with 74% of the city voting for him.

Meanwhile, Edmonton saw a heated race as popular incumbent Steve Mandel opted to retire on a high note (rather than be unseated like most of his predecessors). Three councillors stepped forward to challenge for the seat, with Don Iveson’s ‘policy wonk’ campaign taking over 60% of the vote in the end. Iveson’s campaign drew on his time at the University of Alberta and engaged a number of my friends.

Both mayors have promised to slow urban sprawl by investing in urban density, mass transit, and bicycle lanes. This approach is familiar and popular in Vancouver, where Gregor Robertson is equally popular.

The results aren’t too surprising for anyone who closely follows Alberta politics. Despite the province’s tendency to vote overwhelming for Conservative provincial and federal parties, the cities tend to be more liberal and many mayors of both major cities have been further to the left than their provincial and federal colleagues.

Meanwhile, a right-wing slate of candidates for Airdrie’s city council was rejected in favour of the incumbents.

And congrats to my aunt who was re-elected to the Rocky View Municipal Council.

“If you don’t feel comfortable with your children in that kind of milieu, don’t send your students here.”

Following up on the religious proselytization and abstinence-only sex education occurring in Edmonton Public Schools comes a quote from Orville Chubb, candidate for the Edmonton Public School Board, from his time as executive director of Meadowlark Christian School Foundation.

Chubb was asked in 2011 about a proposed anti-homophobia policy at the Edmonton Public School Board (which was passed). As head of the school, Chubb stated in an interview about his school:

It’s not that we are anti-gay in any way, shape or form. We just need to be able to articulate the moral element to all Christianity … and our Christian community is not able to accept that homosexual acts are not immoral. If you don’t feel comfortable with your children in that kind of milieu, don’t send your students here.

It’s worth noting that since 2004 Meadowlark Christian School has been operated as an Alternative Program within Edmonton Public School Board. This means that despite parent’s paying up to $1,600 in tuition for their child to attend, the school still receives public funding and can discriminate against staff and faculty who aren’t Christian enough. Furthermore, it means that Chubb’s 2011 comments represented a desire to violate a proposed policy of their own school board.

When asked by local blogger Daveberta about the comments, Chubb argued the views were those of the parents and that

My position now, as it was then, is that you cannot legislate belief. I am a firm advocate for freedom of speech and conscience. I staunchly defend those who are discriminated against in any way.

Perhaps Chubb was just doing his job but the argument that “some” students should not be sent to some schools offered by the Public School District only highlights the discriminatory nature of permitting faith-based schools within a public system.

Edmonton voters, it’s up to you to push for a secular school board. Get informed and vote wisely.

Anti-choice Christian front promotes abstinence-only sex ed in Edmonton Schools

Anti-abortion Christian groups are notorious in Canada for setting up “Crisis Pregnancy Centres” as fronts to proselytize to women facing a pregnancy scare and are unsure whether to exercise their legal right to terminate it or not. The Centres are often filled with deceptive anti-choice propaganda and mislead women.

One such front group in Edmonton, Alberta offers a program called “WAIT! Let’s Talk Sex!” to local schools, with a strong emphasis on abstinence-only based education. Education that has been demonstrated time and again to fail students, leading to higher rates of dangerous sex, teen pregnancy, and sexually-transmitted infections.

The program is designed to fit the provincial curriculum for grades 7 through 10 and they claim to have reached 14,000 students in Edmonton and area. Edmonton’s ostensibly secular public district has about 80,000 students and lists the centre as an “approved vendor.”

There is a petition circulating to get Edmonton Public Schools to bar these ministers from proselytizing to students and to instead teach comprehensive sexual education, as mandated by the Alberta curriculum.

Sign and share it now.

If you live in Edmonton, make sure you contact your Public School Trustee candidates and have them pledge to keep Edmonton Public Schools secular.

(H/t Luke Fevin)

The Atheist Census–obnoxious and obscure marketing?

Update: Make sure to read the comments for discussions that include founder Lucas Matheson who responds to some of the criticisms of his project.

Atheists tend to be a very skeptical bunch – at least those who participate in online communities, so when an email arrives in my inbox titled “AtheistCensus Mailing List – Action Required” when I never signed up for such a thing, my skeptisense gets tingling.

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Continue reading The Atheist Census–obnoxious and obscure marketing?

Progressive sweeps in Alberta!

Municipal elections are being tallied in my home province today, and to some surprise all the progressive candidates are winning!

Stephen Mandel has been re-elected as mayor of Edmonton with over 50% of the vote. Don Iveson has also been sent back to council with a large share in his new riding (Edmonton has just switched from 2 councillors per ward to 1).

Also in Edmonton, my friend and former Lister Hall and UofA Students’ Union president Michael Janz has been elected as a Public School Trustee. Sarah Hoffman, with the support of the Alberta NDP has also won as trustee.

Calgary is the more exciting race as underdog Naheed Nenshi pulls far ahead of former alderman Ric McIver and former (maybe soon again) TV anchor Barb Higgins. Nenshi was a long-shot going in but put a lot of legwork in, made massive uses of social networking and has earned the nickname the “Obama of Calgary” for drawing out the younger vote.

Official results for Calgary are here and Edmonton here.

Red mayors are nothing new in Alberta, but perhaps the young movements behind Nenshi, Janz and Iveson will translate to the next provincial and federal elections if any party can inspire them (and so far the Alberta Party is the only one that looks like it’s doing it right).

Perhaps there’s interest for a Reason Alberta? 😉

Ashamed of my peers

Picture 54

That’s my naked right pinky finger. On most engineers (who are right-handed) you will typically find a piece of iron (actually stainless steel) that represents their obligation to engineering. I didn’t get mine because I refused, and still do, to sign the Obligation that would have required me to hypocritically betray my conscience while pledging to be honest. While I would still appreciate being offered the olive branch to be included in that ceremony, I’m growing even more ashamed of the people who were once my peers.

Today’s Facebook check brought an invite to the page “Engineers in favour of improving our faculty and supporting the ESS" which lists a statement by the University of Alberta’s Engineering Student Society’s Board of Directors, a body made of up of the democratically-elected presidents of each discipline plus the executive of the ESS.

The statement outlines how the Board has consulted with the faculty administrators and decided that the best when to ensure that the “world class facilities and faculty” are kept in place is to tax students.

Oh wait, they don’t use the word tax, they call it a “Market Modifier.”

Market modifier my ass, the ESS has just sold the average engineering student up shit creek without a paddle.

I’m glad my finger is naked, because I’m ashamed of these tools.

Currently the UofA administrators are pushing forward, almost without protest, a mandatory tax, sorry “Common Student Space, Sustainability and Security Fee,” of $570 per student per semester to recoup some of it’s $57 million deficit. This fee is on top of the market modifiers, so the ESS is proposing that engineering students ought to pay even more than the average student.

But don’t worry says the University and the ESS, some of these fees will go straight back into scholarships!

So to help the un-affordability that extra student taxes are creating, they offer to throw a few bucks back, at only a few students. But don’t worry, titles like “ESS President” look really good on scholarship applications, so our wonderful Board members may be able to get their funds back, plus a little of their peers.

But why is the UofA in such dire straights?

Having the highest paid administrators in Canada can’t have anything to do with it, I mean, combined they only take in $2.57 million. That’s not even counting how much the deans and their staff are bringing in. Their vision of making the UofA “top 20 by 2020” (whatever the fuck that means, remember how they never explained it) has come at the financial stability of the school and now they’re pinning the exorbitant costs on students.

Where’s the lobbying to Stelmach? Where’s the lobbying to Ottawa? These people are also in part to blame.

But instead, you have students being manipulated by these people trying to protect their overpaid jobs.

I thought it was bad enough that far too many engineers are creationists or anti-science climate change denialists. But this takes the stereotypical right-wing engineer to a far new level.

Notice how they even tilt the language, using the word “market” as though a degree is a mere product to be traded, not earned. Entitled shits. Universities used to be about higher learning and expanding your mind. If this is the future of engineering, move it back to technical school and leave university for the actual academic pursuits.

Market modifiers my ass. A tax is a tax, and this is only going to hurt the University of Alberta. Tuition only goes up, and letting them raise it will only screw students in the long run.

I’m glad I got out. I feel sorry for those who will no longer be able to get in.

SkyShuttle Refund

Guess what came in the mail today (besides the notification that my tax refund will be at least $850 and my giant welcome package to Coast Capital Savings):


That’s my $30 refund from Edmonton SkyShuttle. They also offered “apologies for the lack of service.”

While I still have no plans to use the SkyShuttle in the future (with three trips through the Edmonton Airport before May planned), it’s good to see that a Better Business Bureau complaint can still get resolved after some patience.

I’m still holding out hope that Edmonton Transit will get their shit together, work with the region, and get any kind of bus service to the airport.

Linda goes to Denmark

There will be at least one Albertan in Copenhagen fighting for real reductions in emissions from world leaders, and she’s posting her daily updates to a website for you to follow.

This is great for Linda Duncan and it comes on the heels of the news that Bill C-311 has finally passed the committee that the majority of Liberals needlessly sent it to a few months ago.

Copied below is her most recent e-newsletter that outlines the work she has been doing in Edmonton-Strathcona that may have been unnoticed compared to some who would seek to upstage her. Note how this is neither a wasteful 10%er nor a hyper-partisan attack ad.

December 2009

Newsletter from Linda Duncan, M.P.

Dear Friends,

As the holidays are almost upon us I wish to take this opportunity to wish you all the best of the season and share a few highlights from my work on the Hill. It may be an understatement to say it has been a very hectic Fall Session. We have celebrated some successes, but also some frustrations in our efforts to address the dual challenges Canada faces taking action for the economy and for the planet. I have provided brief updates on just some of some of our initiatives. We are doing our best to help you track my efforts and those of my colleagues in the federal New Democrat caucus through my web site and my newsletters.

Climate Change and Environment

As the NDP Environment Critic, I have been fighting to get our bill, Bill C-311, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change to the final vote in the House of Commons before Copenhagen. Bill 311 would impose binding science-based targets for reduction of greenhouse gases and hold the government publicly accountable for taking concrete measures to comply.

Regrettably, 67 of 77 Liberals voted with the Conservatives to delay the final vote leaving the Bill languishing in Standing Committee hearings. (Testimony of the witnesses can be accessed via my website.)  As a result the only message from Parliament to the international negotiation tables will be the same regressive position of the Harper government.  Most other nations now view Canada as an impediment to success rather than a leader for change.  Rajendra Pachauri, head of United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has said, “In the last couple of years, I’m afraid, Canada has not been seen as sitting at the table. I think Canada should be doing much more.” But the pressure on Canada mounts and I will continue to dialogue with other governments.

In December, I will be going to Copenhagen for the talks.  I will be posting a daily report on my website I encourage you to contact me with your views and actions so that we may post them.

I recently introduced a private member’s bill to establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights, Bill C-469, which outlines the Government of Canada’s obligations to protect our rights to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment.  If you would like a copy, please contact my office:  780-495-8404.

Fair, Sustainable Trade

The Government’s indifference to the environment is also apparent in their international policies.  In June, for example, we debated the Canada-Peru trade agreement.  In my speech, I said, “Instead of strengthening the environmental provisions of our trade agreements, we are moving to water them down further. Despite the weaknesses of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, NAAEC, recommendation after recommendation to strengthen that agreement went in the opposite direction. The government has chosen to further downgrade any responsibilities for environmental protection either on this country or on the countries with which it signs trade agreements.”  You can find the rest of this speech and others at

In November, we again debated the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Deal and I noted:  “Every time we raise concerns about the government’s failure to act on environmental protection measures and climate change, it speaks of balance, and yet this agreement and the side agreement on the environment has severely pared back any environmental conditions as found in the agreement that we have with Mexico and the United States.”


We tabled a series of bills and motions to implement a comprehensive plan designed to place Canada’s retirement income system on a more secure and equitable footing. A number of the motions received all party support. Many of the bills are in Committee.

Some of those measures include:

· Eliminating seniors’ poverty by increasing the income-tested Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) by $700 million a year. Since the majority of poor seniors are women, this is also the equitable thing to do. We will pay for this by cancelling $700 million from the Conservative’s next planned corporate tax cut, due in January.

· Working with the provinces to phase-in a doubling of CPP benefits (from about $11,000/yr. to almost $22,000/yr.), thus giving Canadians the chance to save in the least expensive, most secure, inflation-proof, retirement savings vehicle. Cost? An additional 2.5% of wages (matched by employers.

· Security for workplace pension plans through (a) a mandatory national pension insurance plan, paid for by pension plan sponsors and guaranteeing pension pay-outs of up to $2,500/month, and (b) a national facility, managed (with provincial agreement) by the CPP Investment Board, to adopt pension plans of failed companies and continue them on a going-concern basis to take advantage of market conditions and maximize pay-outs.

· A public National Pensions Summit, with representation from all interested parties -federal/provincial/territorial governments, employers, workers, seniors and experts – to consider these and other proposals for addressing the national pensions crisis.

Child care

Twenty years ago, on November 24, the Leader of Canada’s New Democrats, Ed Broadbent, sounded the alarm bell on the tragedy of child poverty in Canada. Since then, New Democrats have been pushing for action.  Tony Martin, M.P. for Sault Ste Marie, campaigned to bring the House of Commons HUMA Committee poverty hearings to Edmonton.  They took place on December 3 and my office worked with anti-poverty groups across the city to make sure they had the chance to testify.

Quality child care is a vital part of ensuring get a good start in life.  Olivia Chow has reintroduced our Early Learning and Child Care Act and you can find out more at her website

Employment insurance

One of the major failures in the current economic crisis is that we have not properly protected all those who were thrown out of work.  New Democrat bills and motions have sought to enable more unemployed Canadians to get Employment Insurance coverage and to get it sooner.

Protection for consumers

My colleague Brian Masse scored a major victory when a motion fully supporting the goals of his Right-to-Repair Bill (C-273) passed unanimously in the House of Commons.  Brian’s bill dealt with the issue of on board diagnostic capabilities, which are contained in approximately 59 per cent of vehicles on the road in Canada. The use of computer control units is essential for proper vehicle maintenance. Difficulty in obtaining this equipment from vehicle manufacturers has created significant consumer concern and competitive barriers. Bill C-273 resolves these issues and guarantees a level playing field.  Canadians will be able to choose whether to have maintenance done by a manufacturer’s official dealer or an independent repair shop.

Jim Maloway, New Democrat M.P. for Elmwood-Transcona, was less fortunate in his attempt to bring in a bill of rights for airline passengers.  The Bloc Quebecois joined the Conservatives in trying to defeat his bill.  The Edmonton Journal ran an editorial on this on November 25.  In Don’t ground passenger rights, the Journal noted: “The facts are that Bill C-310 is a perfectly reasonable piece of legislation patterned after the European Union’s passenger bill of rights, which has been in force for five years without a hitch.”

Similarly, the Government has failed to act on the motion put forward by New Democrat consumer affairs critic, Glenn Thibeault, calling for comprehensive credit card legislation.  Glenn’s motion was passed by a majority of M.P.s, but the Finance Minister’s response of voluntary regulations have completely failed to protect consumers and small and medium-sized businesses.

Post-secondary education

Like many of you, I am deeply concerned that the financial problems being experienced by the University of Alberta and other post-secondary institutions will mean even higher fees for students, who are already struggling financially.  It is very difficult to find time to study properly when you have to take on two or three part time jobs.  According to the 2009 Statistics Canada report on university tuition fees released this morning average tuition fees for undergraduate students rose this year by 3.6 per cent despite the Consumer Price Index (CPI) dropping 0.8 per cent. Graduate students fared worse, facing an increase of close to 5 per cent.

Niki Ashton, New Democrat post-secondary critic is proposing a Post-Secondary Education Act. Similar to the Canada Health Act, it will guarantee that every federal dollar spent on PSE goes towards building an accessible high-quality post-secondary education system across the country.  I welcome input from students on how high tuition fees are affecting their education.  Please contact me:


We have been overwhelmed this fall responding to a litany of “crime” bills mostly tabled as private member bills by Conservative back benchers. This practice has the very undemocratic result of reducing opportunity for debate. In most cases, no factual basis is offered for the measure. There appears to be a clear policy of reducing judicial discretion. We have agreed to send some of the bills to Committee in hope of improvement and in other instances opposed the reform as unnecessary. We have made constant requests for more resources to prevent crime through increased support to police, RCMP, prosecutors and community prevention programs. I based my vote to maintain the gun registry on the advice of Edmonton’s police chief and officers across Canada who believe it remains a valuable crime intervention tool.

In the riding

I attended the Edmonton Federation of 2009 Volunteer Recognition Gala on November 13th.   Volunteers from Ottewell, McKernan, Argyll, Empire Park and Bonnie Doon were all recognized as heroes of their communities for their extraordinary contributions.

In early November, Strathcona Community League received a plaque from the Edmonton Historical Board.

There have been a wide variety of other events in our riding, from Remembrance Day in the Butterdome to Make Poverty History in the University Quad, which was once again a tribute to the dedication and idealism of the young people who organized it.

I would like to thank McKernan, Queen Alexandra, Hazeldean and Mill Creek Schools, who all invited me to come and read to them during Read-In Week. I was pleased to speak to classes both at University of Alberta and King’s University College.  I would also like to congratulate the students at King’s who organized, with Amnesty International, a rally about Omar Khadr.

Our arts community continues to flourish, with excellent plays at local theatres this fall.  I was very pleased to see that Maria Dunn was nominated for Solo Artist of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards.

Please contact my office with questions, requests and concerns.  You can also visit my websites:

You can also join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

As it is the time of year when we tend to do extra shopping, I would like to encourage you to support our local businesses! I wish you and your families all the very best for the holiday season and the New Year.


Linda Duncan, M.P.


10049 81 Ave

Edmonton, AB, T6E 1W7


Edmonton Sky Shuttle: Doomed!

First the long-overdue news: The Edmonton Transit System Advisory Board is strongly recommending that when the South LRT extension opens at Century Park that ETS add a route that goes from the new LRT station to the airport as an add-fare for an extra $2.50 [pdf report]. They recommend half-hour service and have strong evidence that the service would be hugely successful and would break even at 27 riders per bus (under half full I think).

The better news: This will mean the end of the crap scam-of-a-service that is the Edmonton Sky Shuttle.

Why I want the Edmonton Sky Shuttle to die:

  1. My first experiences with the Shuttle a few years ago were terrifying reckless drivers who made it their mission to race around Edmonton side streets and down the QE2 in record time to attempt to get to the airport.
  2. Their disclaimer that shuttles may be ±15 minutes, which on half-hour service means their shuttles show up at random intervals, up to an hour apart. Note that Edmonton Transit is much more consistent with their timings then this (and don’t give me stories of when the bus was late – think how many times it was on time).
  3. Their shuttles have been 45 minutes late (for my girlfriend a few weeks ago).
  4. Their fake “Going Green” campaign which means they no longer stop (or even slow down) at half their stops, while they still run empty or half-empty vans to the airport. Meanwhile, I’ve had a couple rides since this new “only stop if you book us” policy where the driver still stops at every hotel en route.
  5. The driver I had from the airport at 1 am one night who had his buddy in the passenger seat play a portable DVD player for him to watch while highway driving – that helped me feel safe.
  6. Their grade of F from the Better Business Bureau.
  7. Their new stop at Army & Navy (which is more convenient for where I live in Edmonton), is apparently at the SE entrance (on 104 St.), however that extra information is not listed anywhere on their website (the best they list is in the dropdown list on the “Book Online” feature which gives the Whyte Avenue address).
  8. After waiting 10 minutes past my time of booking for a shuttle at the wrong Army & Navy entrance I had to call them only to find out that they claimed to have stopped at Army & Navy at the scheduled time, and would book me on the next Shuttle.
  9. After waiting until 5 minutes after the next scheduled time, the shuttle I was told was coming and looking for me drove right by and after calling the dispatcher again he circled the block and picked me up, while I was about to hail a cab.
  10. At no point in the 3 phone calls to dispatch complaining about the lack of shuttles for me did they offer any sort of apology for their service, and rather promised a shuttle was going to be “right there” when it was actually still 10 minutes away.
  11. When I brought all my complaints to the driver before getting off the airport before paying, he neither cared, apologized, or even shed a tear that I would never use their service again.
  12. Once, when we were waiting for a sky shuttle with a large group, the van filled and a couple of us had to wait at the curb for a shuttle they were sending, after half an hour we just grabbed a waiting cab. Luckily their atrocious customer service has meant they’re only routinely taking between 1 and 5 people per trip.
  13. (Although more minor) Some sketchy gum got stuck to my foot in the last ride I took to the airport.
  14. Also, I doubt that they have permission from the city to stop at half of the curbside stops they offer (the Army & Navy one is an ETS stop). If they do have permission, perhaps they could get a nice little sign to make it obvious that you’re waiting for their shuttle.

Customer service apparently isn’t important when you run the only affordable way to get from the remote Edmonton International Airport (one-way cabs cost around $50). Their ridership seems to be declining and I don’t doubt that if the city has its act together and approves the airport bus route (and doesn’t cave to the cab lobby) that the Sky Shuttle will quickly disappear from the roads.

It’s bad enough already that the only way to get from the airport to Edmonton is Airport Taxi (no other cab companies are allowed to pick-up from the airport), a limo, or the Sky Shuttle; and to go from Edmonton to the airport you can take any cab (except Airport Taxi), a limo, or the Sky Shuttle. This means that other than the Sky Shuttle – every cab is empty on at least one leg of the 45-minute one way Edmonton-Airport trip.

So here’s hoping that Edmonton Transit listens to their advisory board, smartens up and makes this bus route a go come April – that will mean only a couple cab rides for me, because I’ll be caught dead before another dollar of mine goes to Edmonton Sky Shuttle.