I do not mourn for Steve Jobs

Back in early August, I recall reading a comparison between the NDP and Apple.

At the time both leaders were still alive, but had each taken a leave of absence for health reasons.

When Jack Layton left, it was unclear who could fill his shoes. When he became leader in 2003, the party appeared lost and was written off by nearly all media pundits. Through a combination of tireless work and personal charisma, Layton built the party up both internally and in the minds of the electorate. With each successive election, he increased the party’s seat count, and increased the NDP’s vote in every region. In 2008, the NDP could truly claim to be a national party, winning seats in Alberta and Quebec. Finally, after cancer and a hip injury early this year, his determination paid off with a record-breaking performance in the election. He turned the Parliament’s conscience into the Official Opposition and government-in-waiting.

Similarly, Steve Jobs returned to the company he founded in 1997 when as it drifted into oblivion. Microsoft was dominating the computer market and there seemed little space for Apple. Yet through his vision and dedication, Jobs brought Apple back. He introduced style to the personal computer and marketed the company aggressively to urban artists. While Apple didn’t invent the portably mp3 player, the iPod made it cool. Very quickly iPod became synonymous with mp3 player. The iPhone revolutionized the smartphone industry and recently the iPad made the tablet mainstream.

Both of these men were able to tap into the public consciousness to make their brands cool. And now cancer has taken the lives of both of these men.

Yet there is a stark contrast between their legacies.

I mourned the loss of Jack Layton, while I feel little about the loss of Jobs. A part of this difference has to do with my personal connection to each brand.

I have voted for the federal NDP consistently since turning 18 and in 2008 spent many afternoons knocking on doors in Edmonton-Strathcona to help elect Linda Duncan. I have seen Jack speak a couple times and met him in 2008 at a nomination meeting. I saw his commitment to bringing diversity and social justice to the House of Commons.

Conversely, I can honestly say that I have never owned an Apple product. I find iTunes to be an inconvenient and bulky software and have never been a fan of Apple’s proprietary hardware. I have built most of the desktop computers I have used, which allowed me to keep costs low while getting exactly the performance I want. This meant I was always tied to PCs, whether Windows or Linux. Apple products felt like you spent more just to get the logo. To me they are the Nike of computers.

But there is more to this difference than my subjective attachment to each brand.

To put it crassly: One dedicated himself to a life of public service, seeking to make life better for the people of Toronto first, and then Canada; the other made billions of dollars by making products that he convinced people they needed.

Now, it is not my intention to slander the legacy of Steve Jobs. Hence why I delayed posting this until after the long weekend. I really don’t want to come off as Christie Blatchford, who, mere hours after his death, rhetorically danced on his grave over the public mourning that followed.

Jobs was a visionary; however, it feels shallow to celebrate the corporate icon as anything more than he was.

One of my friend’s pointed out on Facebook how we ought to instead remember the exploited sweatshop workers who make Apple products and are often driven to commit suicide. Another friend questioned why we don’t mourn for the heroic Arab Spring protesters, murdered by tyrannical regimes. The sad fact of my generation is that too many of my peers identify with brands and logos rather than fellow human beings. The irony is that people are not mourning Steve Jobs the man, they are mourning his brand.

A similar criticism could be levelled against the outpouring of grief after the loss of Jack Layton. But where Layton’s death left us with a progressive message of hope, Jobs death leaves us with cheap gadgets.

The idea of a brand is morally neutral. It is a device that can be used for good or bad, progress or profit. Brands, as Naomi Klein argues in No Logo, are much more effective than products. She notes in the 10th anniversary edition how politics has absorbed the branding ideals, turning politicians into brands – notably Barack Obama, but arguably Jack Layton. The problem with this transformation is that brands tend to be shallow. They are substitute emotions. Layton and Obama became substitutes for hope in politics, while Jobs became a substitute for being hip and cool.

And this is where I think the two legacies diverge.

I believe there was more to Layton than his brand. While he would compromise with other politicians, it was always to advance a progressive project of his own. His support for Paul Martin’s budget brought in several NDP projects, and his support for a coalition in 2008 was dependent on a progressive alternative to the Harper Conservatives. Even with Stephen Harper, Layton would offer conditional support when it could bring better support for seniors or the unemployed.

Further, Layton’s positive brand inspired a positive legacy that succeeds his life. His death echoes Obi-Wan Kenobi’s final statement that “In death I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

Tragic though it remains, Jobs’ death leave us with no similar inspiration.

I want to add one additional note that doesn’t really fit in the above discussion. The extra tragedy of Jobs’ death is how preventable* it was. Had he employed modern medicine, rather than succumbing to modern snake-oil salesmen, he would still be alive today. It is unfortunate that this story is not receiving the attention it needs to. Alternative medicine kills.

*Modern science would likely only have bought him an extra 10 years, but death can only ever be delayed.

When will BP ruin BCs coastlines?

By the time you finish reading this post, well over 5500 litres of oil will have leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. The oil continues to pour out of a busted well and the slick continues to grow and has already hit land in some parts of Florida. Meanwhile, closer to home, the question that seems to be off of the provincial radar is when will our offshore wells be built so they can threaten our fragile habitats?

It has been over a month since an explosion rocked British Petroleum’s (BP) Deepwater Horizons oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. The blast left eleven people missing and presumed dead and well over 790,000 litres of oil has gushed into the sea. There has been little success at stopping the flow so far.

It seems hard to tell if any remorse is being felt by the heads of BP for a disaster that is shaping up to be worse than the Exxon Valdez spill in the North Pacific years ago. Perhaps their biggest fear is either the public relations hit or that they will not be able to profit off this spilt oil.

Just a week prior to the last provincial election in 2009, Premier Gordon Campbell signalled that a provincial Liberal government would continue to lobby for an end to the offshore drilling moratorium that inhibits BC from building wells at sea. This position was in line with the Liberal’s 2001 commitment to have an offshore drilling industry in BC by 2010.

Days later he squeaked by with a slim majority government. It was soon leaked that the provincial deficit would be much larger than promised and that BC, along with Ontario, would be implementing an HST. It should not be a surprise then that after dropping twenty points in the polls that Campbell would not want to broach the subject of offshore oil wells.

Yet with the recent tragedy in the Gulf, it is more pertinent than ever to find out what our far-too-secretive government is up to. While the typically oil-friendly federal Conservative environment minister Jim Prentice has backed off from any new offshore projects and has reaffirmed moratoriums on drilling off BC’s shorelines.

Darrell Dexter, the newly-elected NDP premier of Nova Scotia, was quick to pledge his continuing support to offshore moratoriums in his province and even Barack Obama has gotten behind a temporary slow-down. Obviously no leader would want to publicly come out as pro-drilling right now, so I guess Campbell’s silence on the issue speaks as much to the issue as a press conference would. There is currently no sign that Campbell plans to back down on offshore drilling.

As a non-renewable resource, it is quite clear that at some point in the future we will run out of oil. And while there is still a lot of it underground, the remaining supplies are in increasingly difficult regions to access. Whether it is in the Alberta tar sands, under politically unstable regimes, or deep under the Arctic ice sheets, there are many political and environmental issues that must be addressed if we want to responsible drill for this oil. And while a leak off BCs coast may be containable, imagine the damage that could be done were a disaster to befall an arctic well, with hundreds of thousands of litres of oil covering the undersides of the ices sheets.

Of course, I personally would love to see the end of the oil age in my life time, the fact of the matter is that this laptop I am typing on, the synthetic portions of my clothes, and countless other products use barrels and barrels of oil, let alone the amount that we use for energy. A lot of work has been done on alternative energies, and there is a huge need for more investment, but until those industries are positioned to meet the demands, we will either have to continue drilling for oil, or massively cut out consumption.

I believe that it is possible to extract oil from the tar sands and deep underwater both safely and with as little environmental damage as possible, however, if our leaders fail to discuss if they are even interested in such activities, how are we to trust them to ensure the proper regulatory regimes are in place when corporations do begin to stick their pipes in the ground?

Where did the UofA’s money go?

Further to my comments yesterday about the University of Alberta’s Engineering Student Society endorsing plans to tax students, Brendan Taylor, with the Student Worker Action Group of APIRG has linked me to his complete financial analysis of the operating budgets of the UofA (plus many other institutions) over the past decade. To complement his analysis, I thought I’d highlight some striking differences between the UofA and Simon Fraser University (my current school).

First, If we look just at surplus, until 2008, the UofA had a steadily increasing budget surplus while SFU has actually been running a deficit for the past 8 years, only getting the deficit under control in the past year. So while this current deficit may seem radical for the UofA, it seems peculiar and more likely to be in part due to a one-off lost in investments as opposed to evidence that they aren’t ripping students off enough.

Next, we can see that SFUs funding has been mainly attacked by a 12% reduction in provincial funding over 10 years, while the UofA has maintained a constant proportion of provincial funding. That last data point for the UofA getting 15% more funding in 2007-08 represents a large sum of money going only to capital projects. SFU clearly made its budget losses from the provincial government up by raising tuition while the UofA shows a small drop in percentage funding from tuition. However, non-tuition fees at the UofA have nearly doubled in the past decade, and with the proposed COSSS fee and “Market Modifiers” tuition will increase by roughly 20% or more in the next five years.

The UofA has also shifted its budget from the academic ranks and increased benefits and non-academic salaries. The largest increase is the doubling of expenses on external contractors. Meanwhile, SFU slashed academic funding from its budget in roughly 2003-05 and cut other salaries equally. We do notice with SFU a steady increase in student support that is absent from the UofA. This funding likely explains SFUs consistent top-notch performance in comprehensive university rankings.

As I mentioned, the UofA got 15% more provincial funding in 2007-08 than average, but similarly capital costs were up 15% as well, so that more likely represents singular grants for construction costs. This does help confirm the scenario where the UofA tried too hard to expand too fast under the “Top 20 by 2020” mandate that the administration has now disowned.

Brendan’s best graph for the UofA compares the runaway costs to students to cover the runaway costs of the university executive:

Tuition is legislated to rise no faster than CPI, hence the nearly perfect correlation, meanwhile, we can see that before the market modifier tax is applied (which will raise engineering student’s tuition by an additional 10-15% per year) students are already being forced to pay almost exponentially increasing amounts to cover salaries that are fast outgrowing inflation.

Education may cost money, but it’s clear that education is no more expensive then it was a decade ago, the only change has become this competitive drive to “be the best” school which has brought on overpaid bureaucracy and unaffordable expansion.

The free market model of competition between universities does not seem to make them any more efficient, in a story almost identical to Wall Street, we see corporate execs earn top dollar while those on the bottom continue to suffer.

Whiny corporate shills and the Corporate Vote

People generally acknowledge that BC politics is messed up, but this push to regain the corporate municipal vote [pdf] here really takes puts the ass in asylum.

The claim is that businesses are being unfairly taxed without representation, ergo businesses ought to have a vote at the municipal level.

Never mind that every business owner and employee that actually lives in the city they operate in already has a vote.

Never mind that the only other place in the world that shills like this is the business district of London, England.

Never mind that the guy who wrote that trite in the Vancouver Sun is “known for showing up at Burnaby council meetings wearing his scoutmaster uniform.”

Just remember that democracy is, in it’s most pure form, a system of people governing themselves. In Canada, at least, corporations are not people.

What does the Wildrose Alliance promise?

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.

Electoral Reform

  • 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.

Government Reform

  • 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.

Municipal Government

  • 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.

Property Rights

  • entrench individual property rights within an Alberta Bill of Rights.

Human 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).

    Financial Responsibility

  • 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.


    Heritage Fund

    • 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.

    Pension Plan

    • 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.

    Education Standards

    • 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.

    Post-Secondary Education

    • 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.

    School Choice

    • 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.

    School Safety

    • 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.


    Clean Water

    • 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.

    System Confidence

    • 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.

    First Nations

    • 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.”

    Social Assistance

    • 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)

    Happy poverty birthday

    It reminds me of when I was young and Alberta had the lowest minimum wage in the country and Ralph Klein would say things like:

    Premier Gordon Campbell maintains that the minimum-wage law doesn’t need updating because most people in B.C. make more than the minimum wage. Increasing the minimum wage, according to the premier, would mean many corporations would be forced to lay off employees at a time when jobs are scarce.

    But now BC’s $8 minimum wage is the lowest and has been constant for 8 years. Recession or not, people deserve adequate compensation for their labours.

    In reality, BC’s real minimum wage is $6 since that’s what they can pay people who are “in training.”

    Perhaps we can set a maximum wage too. There’s more than enough work and cash to go around. Let’s share the work and share the pleasure.

    Greyhound wants out? Time for mass-public transit!

    Greyhound says it can’t afford Northern Manitoba or Ontario to continue doing business, so it’s pulling out, leaving many rural communities stranded.

    Seeing as Greyhound is a Texas based company, perhaps the most economically stimulating solution (to our economy) would be (rather than bailing out foreign interests which would save 20-100 jobs of drivers and station managers)  to invest in a public transit option.

    In fact, there’s a few options here.

    The governments could opt to buy out Greyhound’s business in the provinces, thereby providing public busing between the towns and cities (the major city bus routes would also have to be bought up to afford the smaller routes). This would be the fastest and cheapest solution, but maintains a dirty diesel fleet of buses.  It’s worth noting that in this first option since Canada Post is already delivering mail daily to these communities, the parcels could be carried along with the buses, saving a trip to each location (and lessening the environmental impact since buses are likely marginally worse than the Canada Post trucks).

    A better option might be to pay Greyhound to run the lines while the governments invest in a large-scale commuter rail project, thereby creating hundreds to thousands of jobs (something “Canada’s Economic Action Plan” seems to have been failing to do) across the country. The rail system could even be expanded to cover the entire country.

    Of course, both of these options being far too interventionist by nature will likely give way to the Friedmanite Third Way of saying screw the small communities that aren’t profitable and let them pay for gas to get to town.

    Although, perhaps with an NDP government, Manitoba may actually be able to make some real changes here (they supposedly already demand that Greyhound service all routes or none).

    Recession ending for rich while many still lose jobs

    Stories like this are crocks of shit.

    I say big deal that our economy increased a bit. The jobless rate still climbs higher.

    The money that’s supposed to be creating jobs and spurring on the economy is merely lining fewer pockets now. Things may be looking up for them, but for the nearly 3 million unemployed (and uncounted underemployed), that 0.1% increase in GDP doesn’t really mean shit.

    Tomorrow the BC Liberals will announce a multi-billion dollar deficit with cuts to schools, hospitals, arts, students and libraries. I’d say Campbell’s hoping for a senate appointment when he retires, but for some reason the man wants to face another election in BC.

    Ft. McMurray and misconceptions

    I just got home yesterday after a week in Fort McMurray, Alberta’s largest unincorporated town. I was there giving science workshops as part of my summer job.

    The students were awesome, and the town is surprisingly beautiful (it is in the middle of the Boreal Forest).

    Then we made our trip to the Oil Sands on Wednesday evening. And for this, I think pictures will speak louder than words (and remember, this is only what you can see from the highway, it’s not even the bad stuff that lurks beyond the hills).

    First the Google Map of our road trip:

    View Ft. McMurray in a larger map

    (Click any image to enlarge)

    Here we can see the change from natural forest on the right to strip mining on the left:

    Now, to understand the scale of the Oil Sands, you have to remember that the machines are big (zoom in on the map above to the marker where you can see the following from space):

    And now the tailings ponds and vast stretches of strip mining that you can see from the highway:

    Social Media Hiatus

    Today, rather than study, I visited the new Bass Pro Shops in Balzac, AB (my hometown, just north of Calgary). My short summary: I’m pretty sure every purchase over $5 comes with a Conservative Party membership.

    Think IKEA but for the crowd that likes to kill animals and stick them on the wall. There was a snack bar that sold ice cream, fudge, and sandwiches, and perhaps about a hundred dead animals stuffed around the store (including a number of endagered species, like the polar bear, arctic fox, pronghorn sheep, etc.). Mens shirts came in Large to 3XL, but you might be able to find a medium if you tried.

    It was a little sickening to say the least.

    And after that, I got home, played a bunch of PS3 with my brother, and got no studying done.

    So until next Friday, when I’m done all of my exams, I’ll be cutting myself clean from Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. If you need to get a hold of me, either call or email me.

    See you in a week.