Thursday, May 31, 2007

Alberta-wide Smoking Ban

YAY! The Alberta PC government caucus just approved Minister Dave Hancock's smoking ban proposal, which no longer allows smoking in all public and work places, which includes bars, bingos, and the like.

Party members agreed, also deciding to ban tobacco sales in pharmacies and on post-secondary campuses, as well as outlaw promotional and so-called "power wall" cigarette displays in retail stores.

For someone like me who suffers from chronic sinusitis, I loathe cigarette smoke. Since Edmonton has had such a ban, I have enjoyed going to the bar again, my clothes don't smell like an ashtray, and I can breathe without nearly vomiting.

They don't have a state-wide ban in Kansas, like they do in California, and it sure is noticeable when I head to the pub here in Topeka.

There is one thing I do not like about the bylaw in Edmonton is it does not allow smoking on bar patios or in outdoor beer gardens, which is really odd for two reasons:

1) When the popular Fringe Festival is on, for example, adults are not allowed to smoke in the outdoor beer garden, yet children walking with their parents around the Fringe grounds outside the no-smoking beer gardens are subjected to public smokers.

2) These laws often do not have requirement that smokers are not allowed to gather right outside the door of a building, which in the winter time usually entails a swoth of stinky smoke when you enter and leave a building. Not only that, especially outside of bars and niteclubs, the amount the cigarette butts (that smokers think are biodegradeable) which are left on the cement or nearby sidewalks has dramatically increased. Since Edmonton has had a smoking ban, I've taken notice of this disgustingly massive increase in making Edmonton look dirty and grose. This is littering. I guess more covered ashtrays is the solution or bylaw enforcement will have to step up and fine businesses that do not clean up their patrons' crap.

Regardless, although I'm a libertarian at heart, smokers have crossed the line with my health and enjoyment of fresh air too many times to count. It's not about us non-smokers being whimps or intolerant, and don't give me that "cigarette taxes pay for health care" bullshit, when we all end up paying for your lung cancer surgery anyway. Many friends of mine who've quit always tell me that while smoking, you don't really notice the smoke until you're a non-smoker.

And because we all share in the burden of increasing healthcare costs in Alberta, it's time we all shared in the prevention.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Mind your ADQs -- The Quebec budget '07

You know, I don't understand Mario Dumont, leader of the Quebec opposition and the Action Democratique du Quebec (ADQ).

During the recent Quebec election, Premier Jean Charest promised that the $700 million federal transfer funds to Quebec will go to tax cuts. Many have said that the election was timed in conjuction with such an announcement. This is likely.

I thought the ADQ party was about tax cuts, deregulation, and autonomy? I was excited that they did so well, but now it appears they're threatening to not support the latest budget. Why not support these measures? I don't get it.

Tax reductions in Quebec something I think they badly need to reinvigorate their economy. Instead, they remain the highest taxed group in Canada, and they continue to fall into debt.

Jean Charest is on the right track here. Time and time again history has shown that when governments cut taxes, they eventually GAIN tax revenue as the money goes through the economy to provide raises, better jobs and more of them, and thus a better tax base. They don't "blow a hole" in the budget as many socialists like to squawk. Government spending can be said to be that "hole" and it's no wonder why Quebec is still a have-not province despite a good Canadian economy.

Anyway, back to Mario Dumont. His party wants more autonomy for Quebec. Well if that's true then why is he supporting the use of money from the FEDERAL government, earned by people from Alberta and Ontario, to pay for things instead of giving it back to the people, you know, the QUEBEC people who earned it in the first place?

You know with the federal government not offering broad-based income tax reductions in its last two budgets, the Alberta government not doing the same thing either in its recent budget, and supposed conservative opposition parties voting against tax cuts, it kind of makes you wonder if there are any real libertarian-conservative parties remaining in Canada... except for Jean Charest's Quebec Liberals?


Friday, May 25, 2007

"High" taxes in Kansas

I thought I'd share with you a weird law in the great state of Kansas. The Drug Tax Stamp has to be one of the strangest forms of taxation. Do any of the dealers actually buy these things?

Drug Tax Stamp

The fact that dealing marijuana and controlled substances is illegal does not exempt it from taxation. Therefore drug dealers are required by law to purchase drug tax stamps.

The drug tax is due as soon as the dealer takes possession of the marijuana or controlled substance. Payment of the drug tax will purchase the drug tax stamps. Attach the stamp to the marijuana and/or controlled substance immediately after receiving the substance. The stamps are valid for 3 months. Drugs seized without stamps or having expired stamps may result in criminal or civil penalties which may include fines, seizure of property or liens against real estate.

A dealer is not required to give his/her name or address when purchasing stamps and the Department is prohibited from sharing any information relating to the purchase of drug tax stamps with law enforcement or anyone else.

Purchasing drug tax stamps does not make possession of drugs legal.

Does this actually work? If so, it may be one of the only forms of "high" taxes that Americans can agree on.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Angry In The Great White North's Steve Janke

This week in the Canadian political blogosphere, top blogger Steve Janke has been amazing us by delving deep into the backdoors of Kyoto/Liberal lobbyists, David Suzuki's hypocracy, and sock puppet Justin Trudeau.

You just can't find this good stuff in the mainstream media, folks, so a big hat tip to Steve for continually showing us the cloud of power that socialist Liberals operate under.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

99 elephants banned from joining Thai political protest

And you thought the Republicans didn't have any clout in Thailand. For shame!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Fast Train or the Slow Road?

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach thinks a high-speed train between Edmonton and Calgary is "inevitable". When you consider how well these trains are used in Europe and Japan, it makes sense, but in the U.S. there hasn't really been a demand for such a project, although slower trains are definitely in use.

The idea of a train between Edmonton and Calgary would dramatically change the culture of the province as more people are connected more often. There is a distinct culture difference between the two cities and years ago, a drama professor noted a slight difference in speech accent with Edmonton being more farmer-folksy and Calgary more rancher-American tongue.

But I digress. What bothers me the most though, is the priority of this transportation project being brought forward at a time when the government has been dragging its feet on other ones. Why hasn't construction on the widening of Highway 63 between Edmonton and Ft. McMurray even begun? Everyone knows what a deathtrap it's been with all the large trucks and the exploding population of that town due to a massive increase in oilsands production and projects.

Make it a $5-10 toll road where it branches away from the other roads for all I care. I never drive the thing. In winter time, have dedicated fast-graders to keep it clear. It's mostly businesses that use it, so let them write it off.

For a province that depends so much on the oilsands for revenue, I can't understand for the life of me it doesn't maintain a better infrastructure to support it. And what about regular maintenance on the QEII highway and other secondary highways? Frankly, compared to the highways and roads here in Kansas, for example, Alberta's roads don't match up. Not even close. The Kansas Turnpike which runs from Kansas City to Topeka to Wichita is one smooth, well-maintained highway and when snow falls, it's cleared up right away by truck graders that move along at a pretty good speed.

Then there's roads in the cities. Each time I go back home to Edmonton every month, I take note of how terrible the roads are. They are immensely frustrating on me and my car. The province should dedicate more to helping cities deal with these problems especially because Edmonton property taxpayers are supporting roads which citizens of outlying cities commute through every single day. It's really unfair.

Except for Councilor Mike Nickel, Edmonton City Council, including the Mayor, were too afraid to go into debt by taking out a loan, as Nickel proposed three years ago, to build an interchange on the first intersection from the south corridor, the 23rd Avenue, Gateway Blvd./Calgary Trail intersection. Construction hasn't even begun on the dangerous intersection, which now has the most traffic accident occurances in the city, costing injuries, health care costs, insurance costs, and many other things. Three years later, the cost to build is likely more than if they took out a loan back then to start construction.

With the cities booming in Alberta more than anywhere in the country (and perhaps the continent), the provincial government can talk about a fast train all they want, but like with many things they talk about, actual action on any of their ideas always seems to be on the slow road, and its the citizens and taxpayers who'll continually be forced to travel to a dead end.

Il Duceppe

Gilles Duceppe is being welcomed back into his Bloc leadership.

"In the Bloc caucus, there is two kinds of people -- those who were upset
because he was jumping in the race so they'll be happy to see him come back
home, and there is those like me who are supporting Mr. Duceppe in any
situation. So I think there will not be any kind of problem for him in the Bloc
Smart move on the Bloc's part. Who else was ready? And what point is there for the Bloc to have a new leader? It's not that they're looking to gain power and it's doubtful they can ever increase their seat count, so what's the incentive? None. Methinks he'll be in there for a long time now until he retires when someone wants to take a crack at being the steward of the party for another dozen years.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Duceppe Duped

Ever jump into a pool of water, thinking that you'll be able to swim, but then realize that it's just way too cold, and so you get out right away?

I guess my last post prediction about Gilles Duceppe was almost true, well, for 24 hours that is. It's obvious that he bowed out so quickly because he knew he wasn't going to win.

I am amazed that this veteran politician was duped into going for the PQ leadership. I guess like me, little did he know that Pauline Marois had already been rallying support -- and according to a poll, twice as much support (42%). So now, not only did he get shutout at the Parti, but will he be Bloc'ed and his caucus not take him back as leader after abandoning them?

Keep in mind that his short-lived jump to the PQ also announces by default that he longer wishes to be the MP for his riding. What will his supporters there think?

Who was scheming behind the scenes to ensure that he did in fact take the plunge, making him think the water was warm? Was it Marois? She certainly must have masterminded the quick departure of Andre Boisclair. With the door open to the PQ leadership, to not show her cards, was a brilliant strategy. The timing of the poll, of course, was everything here. Were there strings pulled?

With political smarts like this, Mario Dumont and Jean Charest may be even more worried.

Although the Bloc is due for a leadership race, is it really necessary for a separatist protest party that would never form government? The smart move for the Bloc would be to take Gilles Duceppe back and not have two separatist leadership races going on. That said, is Duceppe damaged goods now? Is his once strong credibility in the House of Commons now gone?

One thing is certain, his MP pension will always be there for him.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Schmolly Poll

While I'm not big on polls, this one isn't surprising. The latest SES Research poll (which are usually the most accurate) has the Liberals one point ahead of the Conservatives for the first time since before the last election.

Where the big flip happens is in Quebec, where the Liberals have gained at the expense of the Conservatives. And this can mean only one thing: Afghanistan. The recent Liberal motion to withdraw troops sooner than later was obviously favoured by Quebeckers. As well as the contradictory statements coming from Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Mackay, and less so from Prime Minister Harper regarding regarding Taliban prisoner abuse. What gets me is that Opposition Leader Stephane Dion's statement about bringing the Taliban prisoners to Canada, just before all that government confusion, was about the dumbest thing I've ever heard, but it just didn't stick to Dion.

But the Conservatives gain in Atlantic and Liberals drop. Basically, since Dion has been leader, Liberals have remained stagnant.

Another striking trend on the graph shows the Greens in double digits at 10%, but Conservatives dropping at their expense. Green leader Elizabeth May has done everything she could to grab the spotlight for her party, and this has drawn the attention of environmentally-minded protest voters who used to vote Liberal in in 2004 and voted Conservative in 2006, would never vote NDP, but are parking their protest with the Greens.

What this means essentially is that the Liberals have lost the environment issue, but the Conservatives haven't gained it, which really ticks me off because I don't like some of the Conservatives new environment policies with banning lightbulbs and costly CO2 emissions bullshit.

I like them beefing up our military, letting farmers decide on whether they want to be a part of the Wheat Board, and the family-friendly agenda. I don't like them taxing income trusts or not finally bringing in some needed middle and lower class tax cuts. I don't like how they threw a bunch of cash at Quebec again.

This past month hasn't been a good one for the Conservative government with the environment and with Afghanistan, hence the hit in the polls. Understandable. But I think this is just a blip and that they'll be able to rebound back up a bit.

But whenever Conservative governments stop being conservative, they lose, because then voters might as well just go Liberal. Careful now.


Andre Boisclair just announced that he's stepping down as Parti Quebecois leader effective immediately. I am surprised by this occurring so soon, but I guess before the National Assembly kicks off, it appears he didn't have the momentum to have any credibility as a third party opposition leader or ever becoming premier.

Rumours are now spreading that long-time Bloc Quebecois leader, Gilles Duceppe, will throw his hat (hopefully not that cheese factory head thingy) into the ring. I think it's fair to say that if he does, he'll win.

I've always liked Mr. Duceppe's style. He is incredibly intelligent, steady, and forthright. You've always known where he stands and I respect his passion for his cause. He was excellent in the 2006 leadership debates. He never insulted Canada or Canadians and squashed the use of the divisive word "separatist" by using "sovereignist"--certainly a more fuzzy and friendly word.

On these things, I think the opposite of Boisclair, who's been facing a lot of pressure from his own party to take a hike. I don't think being gay is any of the reasons, but the coke thing lingered and I don't think he came across as a solid leader. You see, you just don't question these things with a guy like Gilles Duceppe.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Duceppe didn't really help out much during the last Quebec provincial election. I wonder if he was hoping for the present situation, where the PQ would lose out, but not lose too badly. Hmmm. I call this a "Duceppetion".

So now what does this mean for the Bloc Quebecois? Being that it's only had two leaders, both of which appear to have used that parliamentary leadership to jump to the Assembly, unless they find a larger than life leader in the image of Lucien Bouchard or Mr. Duceppe, they won't be up at the 50 or so seats they are now. I would have picked long-time and effective opposition MP, Michel Gauthier, for the job, who was already leader for a year after Bouchard stepped down, but he's not running again, nor did he keep the caucus together then, so who knows will step up.

I think Mr. Duceppe (by the way, notice how everyone calls him that and not Gilles?) has taken the Bloc Quebecois as far as he can and has certainly kept it as an effective voice for Quebec on the national stage. I think this is a good move for him and would certainly cause Mario Dumont, let alone Jean Charest, some nervousness, being that Mr. Duceppe has more experience in opposition than anyone in Canada.

With Duceppe gone, the next federal election won't see the Bloc do as well, probably down in the 40 seat area with the Conservatives picking up most of them--that is, if the Afghanistan issue doesn't become the big concern in Quebec at the time of the election. Poll trends are showing that when our soliders die, Conservatives take a hit in the polls in Quebec.

Stephen Harper's Conservatives have certainly thrown a lot of bones to Quebec in the last five months -- declaring them a "nation" (of course, thanks to an impending Duceppe motion) and a whack of cash, "solving" the fiscal imbalance (trumpted over and over, again, by Duceppe), which Charest is using for tax cuts. Has it changed voters minds about Stephen Harper? Well, I don't think they believe he's better than before, just not scary anymore. Our Prime Minister though, doesn't need to throw cash at Quebec, he simply needs to get out on the street and connect with the people, much like Gilles Duceppe has done so effectively for the last 10 years.

With the three Quebec parties being so close in seats, if ADQ (and official Qeubec National Assembly opposition leader), Mario Dumont, does not come across at least as equally credible, steady, and effective as Duceppe, the next Quebec election could very easily see Gilles Duceppe as premier, and a vote on Quebec "sovereignty" would be just around the corner, I'd say 15 years after the last one (1995), which was 15 years after the one before that (1980).

Remember that Charest's Liberals are in a minority, and if Dumont wants to, he can trigger an election with the help of Duceppe. But I think the new PQ leader will pull a "Duceppetion" of his own, making Dumont think he's better than he is, let him take some of the spotlight, but then crush him in a campaign, rallying even the "autonomy" folks who voted ADQ last time.

Let's face it, the ADQ did well because Boisclair wasn't effective and a lot of soft-sovereignists (see, he's got me saying that word now too) were drawn to Dumont, even if they disagreed with his policies. And that's all Gilles Duceppe, as the new Parti Quebecois leader, would need to win back, take the crown, and lead the Quebec nation to his dreamed statehood.