Thursday, October 28, 2010

Iggy's "game"

Former Liberal strategist, Scott Reid, you know, the "beer and popcorn" guy, has opined a piece on what Michael Ignatieff needs to do to be winnable--"up his game."

How many times does this guy need to be resurrected from continued contradictions, pretending to 'get back to work', having thinkers' conferences, a blah blah tour, and now 'open mike' sessions (how clever!)?

Reid says that Harper hasn't been able to grow his support and is not a successful leader in a united Conservative Party (although he is the PM), yet in the same breath says that the reason we have perpetual minorities is because of the Bloc.  So why doesn't this logic also apply to the Liberal Party, Scott?  Your fearless leader Paul Martin, who was set to sweep the nation, didn't even come close all thanks to... a brand-spanking new united Conservative Party, and guess what, the Bloc.

You know, you can go on and on about what Ignatieff needs to do to win. You can look at Canadian political history and the comeback stories all you want.

You want my advice?

First thing, Mr. Ignatieff, that you should probably do, is actually SHOW UP TO WORK!

You see, his voting record is the worst out of 307 MPs.

You can't up your game unless you actually show up to play now can you?

h/t Ardvark

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mr. Harper goes to Ukraine

U of A history and classics professor David Marples has written extensively on Ukraine for many years and I try to read everything he writes.  We are lucky in Edmonton to have such an astute academic providing occasional journalism on a country that means a lot to many Canadians of Ukrainian descent. 

Prime Minister Harper's recent visit to Ukraine was important and timely.  Professor Marples has written an excellent synopsis of Ukrainian politics under newly elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, who is deemed as pro-Russian, compared to his pro-Western predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko.

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visit to Ukraine this week has offered some clear signals that Canada is concerned about recent developments in Ukrainian politics, particularly violations of human rights, a pro-Russian orientation, and the growing accumulation of power in the hands of President Viktor Yanukovych.

"In taking such a clear stance, Harper's position departs from that of countries of the European Union, which appear to be concerned primarily about regional stability and favour warmer relations with Russia. The EU's motivation, ostensibly, is the need for reliable imports of Russian gas and oil, which were disrupted frequently during the administration of Yanukovych's predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko.

"The Canadian prime minister seemed more at ease during his visit to L'viv on the second day of his tour than during official meetings in Kyiv. 

On Holodomor, the Great Ukrainian Famine in the early 30's caused by the Stalin Soviet regime:
"“One of the great crimes of history,” Mr. Harper said later. “I hope always that it will remind the Ukrainian people of the importance of their freedom, their democracy and their independence, and of the necessity of always defending those things.”  More...
"Ukrainian independence conjures up images of embroidered peasant shirts, the nasal whine of ethnic instruments, phony cossacks in cloaks and boots, nasty anti-Semites" (p. 106). "My difficulty in taking Ukraine seriously goes deeper than just my cosmopolitan suspicion of nationalists everywhere. Somewhere inside, I'm also what Ukrainians call a Great Russian, and there is a trace of old Russian disdain for these 'little Russian'"
I now ask, with the Harper government's strong pro-Israel stance in the Middle East, and in sending a strong message and development funding to Ukraine, strong messaging to China on human rights, amongst other free-trade initiatives, is there any other leader right now in the free world promoting freedom and democracy the way Prime Minister Harper has, even in the last six months?
My grandfather, who emigrated from Ukraine into Canada just before communism took over, must be happy as heck in heaven knowing where Canada stands with his homeland.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Civic obedience

So there's a Muslim as the new mayor of Calgary.  Why is this news?  Is Calgary all cosmo now because of this?  No.  It'll never be like yoghurt.

Edmonton's had a Jewish mayor for six years and no one is making any fuss.  At all.

So the brash and abrasive Rob Ford easily gets elected as the new mayor of Toronto.  What does this mean for conservatism in the liberal fortress?  It means that no matter who your candidate is, if the voters are upset and motivated enough, by running a disciplined campaign with a simple message,  you can win.  But you also need to GOTV.  Will this win convert into invigorated support for Tim Hudak's PCs come next Ontario election?  Not necessarily, but the potential is there.

And will that translate into growing support for Harper's Conservatives in T Dot?  This has been slowly growing for years.  Maybe a few seats to gain at most.  Liberals have no where else to go.  It's a war front, and the Liberals will have to throw much at it to defend it, leaving other areas, like BC and the West out to dry and fend for themselves.

It's tough for a politico or volunteer to be involved in so many consecutive elections.  While fun, it can be gruelling.  This Toronto mayoral race was relatively intense.  But it was nice to see conservatives united.

And when they are united, disciplined, and offer clear conservative policy messages, Conservatives rarely lose.

Monday, October 25, 2010

"The Toronto Song"

With today's Ontario civic election and the hotly contested Toronto mayoral election (I predict Rob Ford), and this past week I was recently in Toronto for a few days and Calgary for a couple of days, if you haven't seen it before, it gives me great pleasure to present to you the infamous "Toronto Song" by Three Dead Trolls In A Baggie.  (It gets going about 30 seconds in, so be patient..)

Link here.

Go Oilers!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Edmonton civic election 2010 results

Ok, here are my thoughts on the results...

Am I disappointed that David Dorward didn't win the mayor's chair?  Nope.  I think he would have been a good mayor, but I didn't think he'd win in the first place which is why I didn't lift a finger.

Am I angry that Stephen Mandel is still our mayor?  No.  He hasn't done a terrible job, and has improved since three years ago, but as I've said, my vote for Dorward was in protest to the poor manner in which the airport decision was made.

Am I disappointed that Jane Batty won in Ward 6 and is still on council?  Yep.  It's going to take a really strong candidate to beat her but there is potential in three years.  She seems to win without trying and goes on incumbent name recognition.

Am I pleased that new guy Kerry Diotte won in Ward 11?  Oh hells ya.  This is really the only shining light in this election.  Kerry ran an excellent campaign, picked the right ward with no incumbents, and was energized with a good team of volunteers.

Am I pleased that voter turnout increased and was near what I predicted at 35%?  Yep.  The airport issue really helped.  But I hope in the next three years that any future major decisions which greatly affected thousands of Edmontonians is put to a plebiscite

In Calgary, am I shocked that, Naheed Nenshi, a Muslim won the mayor's chair?  I could care less what religion he professes and wonders why so many people are yapping about this fact.  He simply had the best ideas and most thorough policy platform.

And now here's an issue barely anyone is talking about except for Wildrose Alliance Party leader Danielle Smith...

Was I really really really disappointed that there was not a senate election?  You bet ya.  Thanks to Ed Stelmach, we didn't have one, especially when we have a prime minister who would have appointed any newly elected senators.  The existing senator-elects all wanted another election as it's been six years since the last one.  They seem to support democracy, unlike others.  Not sure what the PCs are so afraid of.

In summary, as you were my fellow Edmontonians.  Nothing's really changed but continue to be engaged in setting the direction of our exciting, growing city.

Now back to cheering on the Oilers...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Edmonton civic election 2010 decision

I have thought long and hard about this election, researched candidates, read what they've said in media, vexed others' opinions through conversation and blogs.

There are a multitude of ongoing issues that I agree and disagree from every candidate I looked at. 

But there are two issues which, whether you agree or not with them ideologically, are in the spotlight because how much they impact business and people but more so because of HOW council's decision was made.  Those issues obviously being the City Centre Airport (CCA) and the sale of EPCOR.

Those two huge issues, which impact thousands of people, weren't around in the last election, so we didn't vote for a candidate based on it.  There was no plebiscite. 

Then in the last three years, our mayor and council voted to shutdown the airport and sell off EPCOR.

So electorally, and democratically, the people of Edmonton didn't have a say.  At all.  Developers and private interests did.

Sure it was late and they didn't have quite enough valid signatures, but the petition from EnVision Edmonton is valid in the sense that this is a large number of people who wanted a say, didn't get it, and council didn't want to listen.

Keelor Road got a plebiscite.

Moving large air traffic to the International Airport got a plebiscite.

But selling EPCOR?  No plebiscite.

Shutting down the City Centre Airport?  No plebiscite.

Now one can argue that the city is 'moving forward' with these decisions having been made as strong leadership.  But is the electorate being blinded by council's group-think.  Strong leadership also means listening to the people.

Some have argued that certain councillors say they do not regret the decision and will stand in the next election on their record.  Yeah, but you see, I didn't know where you stood three years ago on it, so guess what? Now I'm not voting for you.  But now, there's already been a decision.  I didn't have a say on it back then did I?

So for me, this election comes down to a fundamental philosophical aspect of our representative democracy here. 

Do you elect representatives to government based on their policy platform and when issues arise that are outside the scope of their platform and that impact thousands of people, simply trust them to vote accordingly, and when we disagree, vote them out, although the decision was already made?

On smaller issues, I don't see this as a problem.  But on issues that have such a lasting impact, shouldn't our representatives then default to perhaps conducting a poll in their district, have a town hall, or defer to holding a plebiscite next election.

So because I see the potential of future decisions being made and the input of the people being continually thwarted by this group-think autocratic mayor and council, I am voting accordingly in protest to their actions, sending them a message, and holding them accountable with the candidate I feel has the best chance of defeating them.  It also helps that I agree with them ideologically on several other issues obviously.

David Doward for Mayor

James Johnson for Ward 6

For Public School Trustee, I think instead of having retired administrators and bureaucrats, the board needs some young fresh people on it with new ideas about education.  I strongly support public education, so this is not an ideological thing for me. I mean, former city councillor Michael Phair is endorsing this guy, and I'm on the total opposite end of the political spectrum as Phair, but that doesn't matter here.  What matters is the kids.

Michael Janz for Ward F

So there you have it folks.

Don't forget to vote this Monday October 18th!  Click here to find your voting station.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

More on the UN Security Council vote...

Our crack team of reporters have learned that the UAE sought to sink Canada's bid and that possibly the U.S. snubbed us by not lifting a finger to campaign for their closest neighbour.

Wait. What? The U.S.?  Aren't they our friends?

I can perhaps understand the UAE as recent disputes about airlines and airbases came to light last week, but the U.S.? Say it ain't so?

In fact, U.S. State Department insiders say that U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice not only didn’t campaign for Canada’s election but instructed American diplomats to not get involved in the weeks leading up to the heated contest. With no public American support, Canada lost its bid to serve. That gives the EU more than 25% control of the body and a strong voting block to ensure EU priorities become global priorities. -- This was the second time a high profile ally could have used U.S. help yet Rice chose to stay silent.

So the question I posed yesterday was not what's wrong with Canada, but what's wrong with the U.N.?

I'd now like to change the question to: "What's wrong with the United States?"

h/t Iceman

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

You can't spell undo without the UN!

In light of Canada not being voted onto the United Nations Security Council by the General Assembly yesterday, here's the background and other comments.

The United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday elected Colombia, Germany, India, Portugal and South Africa to serve on the Security Council for two-year terms, beginning 1 January 2011.

They will replace Austria, Japan, Mexico, Turkey and Uganda, whose two-year terms come to an end on 31 December.

To be elected to the Council, candidate countries need a two-thirds majority of ballots of Member States that are present and voting in the 192-member Assembly. The seats are allocated on the basis of geographical groupings.

Colombia, India and South Africa ran unopposed and were elected to represent their respective regions, having received 186 votes, 187 votes and 182 votes, respectively, in the first round of balloting.

The two available seats from the Western European and Other States category were contested by Germany, Portugal and Canada, with Germany winning one seat with 128 votes in the first round. The contest between Canada and Portugal went to a second round but then Canada withdrew paving the way for Portugal to win the remaining seat, with 150 votes.

The five countries elected today will join Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Gabon, Lebanon and Nigeria, whose terms on the Council end on 31 December 2011. The five permanent members are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
You can read more on how it all works here on Wikipedia.

Ok, so I'm not happy that we didn't get on again but not surprised that we didn't.

That said, on a global political scale, I've never been a big fan of the UN or any non-sovereign undemocratic umbrella organization for that matter, especially the Security Council (UNSC) with the permanent members getting a veto.  I mean, look at the two countries who are on it:
  • USA: democratic republic and the shining light of democracy
  • UK: democratic constitutional monarchy
  • France: democratic republic
  • Russia: former communist and now semi-democratic republic with a history of justice issues
  • China: communist with a history of human rights abuses, justice issues, and vast economic interest around the world

So let's look at this more closely when it came down to the vote for the last spot for the Western Europe and Others Group between Canada and Portugal.  My bet is that while Canada used to get voted on before, Arab and Muslim nations, including many African, European, and South American didn't give support primarily due to Canada's increasing and unwaivering support for Israel, coupled with the fact that we appear to be so closely tied with the US and the UK already.  But I think there's more to it.

So what does this say about Canada?  It's a bit of egg in the face, but other than that by history, every ten years or so, it was sort of our turn to be on it again.  It's not that Canada is still not a strong voice in international affairs, it's that in the last ten years, there are a slew of other countries that have seen growth and development.

So what does this say about Stephen Harper as Prime Minister?  It's not for a lack of trying but I don't think voters are going to change their support at all based on this issue, especially conservative ones.  Even then, the last time we were on the UNSC was in 1999/2000.  So since then, a lot has happened geopolitically wouldn't you say?  Would a different gov't in Ottawa have changed any of that?  Perhaps, but I doubt it.  I doubt it because it's not that Canada has really changed, but that the world has changed. Dramatically.

Many people have a view that the UN is a happy rainbow of nations that gets together often to try and do good things for impoverished people and nations around the world, and does peace-keeping missions in war-torn areas.

The reality is that it's record is not very good.  The list of places in the world where the UN did NOTHING to stop genocide, to stop war, to stop famine, is endless and far outweighs where it does any good.

The UN has become a sandbox for dictators, for crappy quasi-nations to beg, and especially for anti-Israeli banter.  The UN Human Rights Commission membership is a total joke, admitting China, Libya, Uganda, and Cuba. Seriously.

So the more important question is, with Canada and our strong history of supporting democracy and human rights around the world, in not getting its usual turn on the UNSC, I ask you, what does this actually say about the UN?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Ignatieff and his mother's illness

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and other Liberals have been trying to hammer away at the Conservative gov't for buying new stealth planes instead of adopting the Liberal home-care plan.  To do that, Ignatieff has been mentioning examples of home-care stories, including one about his mother.

With that, I invite you to read the following post from fellow Blogging Tory, Alberta Ardvark, on:

A new low? Ignatieff again uses his mother's illness for personal gain.

"Said Andrew: "I came in one evening and my father was really upset, and I said, 'What's the matter?' and he said, 'Michael's written an article about your mother'"

There were family members — for example, Alison's sister, Charity Grant, and her brother, George Grant, and his wife, Sheila — who could never bring themselves to forgive Michael for having publicly exposed his intensely private mother.

That summer, George Ignatieff died. Andrew was with him. Michael was in France.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Edmonton civic election 2010 thoughts

With the closure of the City Centre Airport supposedly off the campaign trail (nice to have that out of the way, eh, Mayor Mandel?), the usual list of non-contentious civic issues are what each candidate for mayor and councillor are bringing forward, although many are still clambering to keep the issue alive.

Now that council has voted on closing the airport, it's too bad this issue wasn't at the true forefront, because whether it went to referendum, I believe it would have invigorated a usual tuned-out electorate to bring voter turnout (26% last election?) to maybe above 35%.  (But will the new 12 ward system help increase voter turnout and have candidates focus on local community issues more?  I hope so.)

Also, does anyone find it odd that there are still pro-International Airport TV ads on the air?  I thought the issue was settled (by council)?

So the standard issues are LRT expansion, infrastructure, crime, downtown revitalization, affordable housing, community development, and others.  Of course, people are talking about the new hockey arena district but I don't get the sense there will be an exodus to the polls on this issue by any means.  Same with extended bar hours, one issue I've taken on in this blog.

But the vibe I am hearing and seeing more this election is Edmontonians are feeling like they do not have a voice on council, that they are not being heard.  Many candidates are trumpeting that they are "your voice".  Citizens are seeing potholes galore and reduced services, while taxes continue to climb.

I'll add more on my thoughts on downtown Edmonton in an upcoming post.

In the meantime, as far as who I'm supporting and considering, it looks a little like this, although I'm not fully convinced yet:


  • David Dorward -- David has lived here his whole life, has his whole family here, and has been strongly involved on the business and community side of the city.  He is the only serious contender to beat Mayor Mandel.  Despite what some believe, I know for a fact that the Envision Edmonton group is not sharing its list of petitioners with the campaign. They can't so they aren't.  Anyway, I agree with most of Dorward's policies.

Councillor Ward 6 (most of downtown):

  • Brian Kapitza -- His simple website also has a lot of well-thought out ideas on issues and on his top ten list, he makes a jab at Jane Batty which almost totally won me over.  His lawn signs are the most basic I have ever seen in my life but I remember them for that reason. Interestingly enough, he hasn't printed a huge lot of signs like many do, but placed the few he has in strategic locations. I'm thinking this guy is pretty smart and frugal and is somewhere between a Liberal and a Conservative.
  • James Johnson -- I can tell that his website looks a lot like federal Conservative candidates' so I know which team he's on.  He's still a student, so it's obvious he's taking a kick at the can and getting some campaign practice before he really gives it a go.  But I gotta tell ya, I agree with each of his policy points 100%, especially on no Stony Plain Road LRT.
  • Cris Basualdo -- She's definitely put a lot of time into trying to revitalize 118 (Alberta) Avenue, but she makes no mention of taxes on her website.  I think she's somewhere between a Liberal and a Dipper.
And if I was in Ward 11, I'd be going door-to-door with Kerry Diotte.  If anyone knows city council and how it doesn't work, it's Kerry.  City council DOES need some common sense.  This will be a tight race.

Public School Trustee:
  • I don't have a frickin' clue.

So there you have it... for now.  But before I publish this post, here are the issues I care about:
  • City Centre Airport -- I know, I know.  It's a dead issue right?  Many cities have multiple airports to serve different needs.  I think we need even more service to that airport.  While I don't think we should have large commercial jets landing, the passenger size for aircraft should be increased, so that Calgary-bound Dash 8's could run and allow private companies to haul more oil and gas workers to Ft. Mac.  There is too much infrastructure already in place and dependent businesses that it sickens me that city council makes a decision without listening to its citizens.
  • Property Taxes -- They will always go up unless council puts its foot down on the City Manger to look for efficiencies, savings, and preventing managers from empire building within (I've seen it firsthand).  Citizens want value for their tax dollar.
  • Infrastructure -- This past year seemed to be the biggest construction season yet and hopefully the Henday ring road will be done before 2017, so in the near future, we can also concentrate on having no stops to downtown from the International airport, which will involve building a tunnel from Gateway Blvd. at Sask. Drive toward replacing the Walterdale bridge.  Will the 23rd Avenue interchange ever get completed?  I also believe it's smart to go into debt to pay for these things as costs only go up years down the road, plus it literally helps move the economy through the city.
  • Bar Hours -- I don't think we should have any.  It's been proven that in cities with loose bar hours, that less incidences occur (see below cities).  Not only that, at 2:00am, currently it's difficult to get a cab and stretching the closing exodus will alleviate that. Which brings me to the next four items...
  • Cabs -- New York, Chicago, and Vegas cabbies are the best.  Even if they're recent immigrants, they know their city, and they know YOUR city too.  Not only that, but they're way cheaper.  We need more competition and to do that, we need to loosen the pricing regulation, allow way more cabs, but ensure cabbies are well qualified.
  • Policing -- The EPS are some of the finest in the world and we need more of them walking the beat.  I called for this many years ago after the Canada Day riot on Whyte Ave and the cameras there proved they don't work while actual beat cops have dramatically turned the tide. 
  • LRT -- I'm a proponent of trying to use existing abandoned rail corridors which exist throughout the city which saves on cost and doesn't tie up traffic.  One being the old line off 105 Ave to 125 Street, which could continue North as well as veer off to where there is actual room to put LRT, 107th Avenue.  To see my conceptual LRT design in Google Maps, click here.  It's really too bad we didn't expand many years ago. 
  • Downtown development -- It's coming along and I've seen the plans the city has, which are impressive.  People are moving here. It's affordable. 104 Street is a small sample of how the rest of downtown can be... accessible, small retail, funky, and fun.  Adding more park space, not just on a corner, but the park strip they plan along just north of 100th avenue are excellent.
I welcome my readers to a good debate on these issues.