Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Alberta PC leadership race - Southpark version

It's been a while since I've done this, but here we go!

Doug Griffiths

 Rick Orman

 Doug Horner

 Alison Redford

Gary Mar  

 Ted Morton

 Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, hoping Albertans choose none of the above

Premier Ed Stelmach on his way out...

Monday, August 29, 2011

NDP and Liberals

With the passing, deification, and Saturday's memorial for Jack Layton, pundits, bloggers, and journos were quick to begin the speculation on who should run for the NDP leadership.  Names such as party prez Brian Topp and Quebec MP Thomas Mulcair, uh, top the list.  And Jack was right in his final letter saying they need to pick someone as soon as possible.  Because with Quebec Solidaire member Nycole Turmel as it's interim leader, the worse the NDP will fair in the public eye or be taken seriously in the House of Commons and in the media.

For the other interim leader, Liberal Bob Rae says a merger with the NDP is not his focus "at the moment".  Ah Bob, always leaves a slight crack open.  As the Liberals gear up for a meeting among MPs, senators, and more failed candidates than ever, they need to do a lot of things to get back in the game.  Merging with the NDP right now is the dumbest thing the Liberals could do from a position of great weakness.  As well, that all depends on who they and the NDP pick for their leader.  And even if that leadership candidate says a merger is not in the cards, I'd dare them to ask Stephen Harper and Peter Mackay their thoughts on that.

Even though he said he's not running (they all say that at the start), the best hope for the Liberals, in my humble Hatrock opinion is Justin Trudeau--maybe not in 2015 but 2019.  That said, I've heard of absolutely no rumours of anyone running, which is how Bob would like it.  My guess is that a lot of Liberals think Harper will win the next election, but then the public will grow tired of him and that's the time to run.  Bob Rae will finally step down and a new Liberal leader will emerge.  And if I was Justin Trudeau, that's exactly what I'd do.

Entering the political fray is about three things:  patience, timing, and momentum.

So back to the NDP speculation.  Patience is short, the timing is in the next month, and the momentum is derived from a build up of the speculation.  I'll be honest I don't know who Brian Topp is, although I've heard the name before and that name is certainly being built-up.  So is former Manitoba premier and Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer.  The more they resist the urge to run, the more build-up and support occurs.  That said, Thomas Mulcair has the best advantage being from Quebec, which is where most of the NDP is from now.  Olivia Chow should not run because she won't win, which will be an embarrassment.

Meanwhile, Stephen Harper and the Conservative government sit back and run the show with a majority in both houses and yet not too much attention on them.

Friday, August 26, 2011

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage...

For the continent he was on 45 years ago, his words are quite fitting to this year, don't you think?
"It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
- Robert F. Kennedy, South Africa, 1966
 (Photo taken by me at the Arlington National Cemetery, March 15, 2008)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Jack Layton (1950-2011)

A sad time for Canada.  My sincere condolences to his family and especially Olivia (his wife and MP).

I need to dig up some of my old posts on him regarding his flawless, positive campaigns--a model, really, on how a fringe socialist-based party can galvanize a nation in less than a month.  No one saw or has been able to explain how he was able to win over Quebec this last election. 

I rarely agreed with his policies.  His politics alluded me at times. Remember when he suggested that we should talk with the Taliban?  Everyone laughed.  But then guess what? 

In the previous Parliaments, Jack showed how the NDP, as a small opposition party, can still be effective in "getting things done" within a minority government situation.

His performance in the debates last Spring was really quite outstanding--especially the French one.  If there's one thing my father taught me about politics, no matter what stripe, it's that you have to have passion and conviction.  Jack had that.

I also know that Prime Minister Harper respected him greatly.  It is really too bad we weren't going to see more of these two men debate in the House of Commons--a huge loss for our democracy.  You all know my detest for Liberals--primarily for their lack of ideas and well, ideology altogether.  But I praise the NDP for having convictions and fighting for their cause.  Jack did that.  He inspired others to do so.

Jack proved that campaigns matter, that polls up to then don't really matter, that personality, warmth, and character matters--that despite a bummed hip and cancer treatments, you can still fight to the bitter end.  

So there's something that Jack had that most politicians don't -- chutzpah and humility.  Here's a couple old clips that show this side of the man.

Singing at the Parliamentary Press Gallery Dinner...

Not Jack's greatest parliamentary moment, but one of my favourite comebacks.

And here's his last appearance in Question Period only two months ago fighting for Postal Workers. Note his calmness--bringing some needed dignity in the House of Commons, a place that will never be the same without him.

"To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer...

"My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

RIP Mr. Jack.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"No comparison between London, Vancouver riots"

Article here.

Both police forces had a somewhat slow response to the criminal incidents.

But yeah, he's right--no comparison.  The London riots occurred only a couple weeks ago with over 1000 people being charged.

In Vancouver?  The riots occurred two months ago and not one person has been charged.

That'll teach 'em.

Edmonton knife ban?

The top cop is pondering a city-wide knife ban.  I don't need to say much on this because journalist Mindelle Jacobs from the Edmonton Sun outlines exactly what I and many are already thinking.

"Despite legal obstacles and the practical impossibility of controlling edged weapons, police Chief Rod Knecht is seriously exploring the idea.

"This is probably of little comfort to the couple viciously beaten unconscious last weekend with either an aluminum bat (according to witnesses) or a piece of wood (according to police).

"Will we ban bats and sticks next? And anything else that Edmonton's lowlife goons find handy to terrorize, maim and kill anyone in their path?

"If you think the cops are swamped now, imagine them searching every suspicious- looking character for edged weapons. Then watch the defence lawyers storm into court to get their clients off because of unreasonable search and seizure.

"Yes, folks, this zany plan will be deep-sixed because it's impractical, unworkable and unconstitutional.

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Alberta government repeating 1980s missteps with deficits, denial"

The Fraser Institute sent out a release today, coupled with appearing on the Rutherford Show on radio this morning.

Here's an excerpt:

Examples of government statements from both eras:
“Alberta is not in debt”
  • In his 1985 budget speech, then treasurer Lou Hyndman said, “There are few governments in the world that can match the financial strength of the Province of Alberta.”
  • In February 2009, Finance Minister Iris Evans noted that “Alberta has absolutely got more resources available to it than anybody else facing a decline.”
The four-year budget target is missed
  • By June 1989, the Alberta government admitted its earlier forecasts of a balanced budget would be delayed one year. Then treasurer Dick Johnston insisted the deficit would be eliminated by 1991/92, a year later than projected; however, it wasn’t balanced until 1993/94.
  • In a late-2010 interview, Premier Stelmach announced a four-year balanced budget deadline would be pushed off further into the future, until at least 2013/14—one year later than initially forecast.
Fiscal comparisons between both eras:

Overspending leads to deficits
  • Between 1980/81 and 1985/86—before any significant (later) decline in revenues—Alberta’s revenues rose by 49 per cent, but program spending increased by 85 per cent.
  • Between 2003/04 and 2008/09—before any significant (later) decline in revenues—Alberta’s revenues rose by 38 per cent, but program spending increased by 70 per cent.
The ramp-up in real per-capita spending
  • In the 1980s, real per-capita program spending hit a high of $11,496 in 1985/86 and took significant reductions to bring the books into balance. Real per-capita program spending declined to a low of $6,498 in 1996/97.
  • Since then, the trend-line has been mostly upward. Real per-capita program spending hit $10,235 in 2008/09, dipped slightly in the next year, and rose again to $10,204 in 2010/11.
Yeah, wow, that PC Party sure has a real darn good organizational memory.  Must be all that experience and all. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Alberta PC leadership debate! - Ft. Mac version

I didn't watch it.  But I did read the tweets from various journalists and blog pundits.

I have one point on a loooong-standing issue that basically defines where I stand with the PC party.  They all agreed that the Highway of Death (HWY 63) needs to be twinned.  Well holy Tory, now that's progress!  Aren't/weren't all of these candidates in government when promises were being made about it years ago.

So how is anything going to be different?  It's not.

This just cements my opinion that this out-dated party needs to get punted from governing this province.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Yeah, that oughta stop 'em -- UK gov't to disrupt BBM

In a total knee-jerk reaction, I can't believe the British prime minister is even considering this draconian move which will do nothing to thwart riots.

“Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. And when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them.”
Ok, so disrupt Blackberry Messaging.  Then what?  Facebook?  Twitter?  The Internet itself?  Or how about texting and phones altogether?

When will politicians learn?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Bloc is dead. Long live the Bloc!

With all the talk of the current NDP interim leader being a Bloc and Quebec Solidaire member, and other former Bloc members switching to federal parties, I've been trying to understand Quebec politics for years.  This past federal election seemed to uncover some truths about voters there.

- They will turn their back on you in an instant (goodbye Bloc, hello NDP)
- They are quietly organized

So who is behind this quiet organization?  How did so many former Bloc voters switch over to the NDP and why?

Is it Quebec Solidaire?  And who the heck are they anyway?  Let's have a look...

From Wikipedia:

Québec solidaire (QS) is a democratic socialist and sovereigntist political party in Quebec, Canada, that was created on 4 February 2006 in Montreal.[1] It was formed by the merger of the left-wing party Union des forces progressistes (UFP) and the alter-globalization political movement Option Citoyenne, led by Françoise David. The party uses the name "Québec solidaire" in both French and English, as does the mainstream media, but the party's name is sometimes translated as "Solidarity Quebec" or "Quebec Solidarity" in English.[2][3][4]
Declaration of principles
At the party's founding, the congress unanimously adopted a document called the Déclaration de principes which laid out the principles and values that led the two organizations to merge. They are:
  • "Nous sommes écologistes" ("We are environmentalists")
  • "Nous sommes de gauche" ("We are on the Left")
  • "Nous sommes démocrates" ("We are democrats")
  • "Nous sommes féministes" ("We are feminists")
  • "Nous sommes altermondialistes" ("We are alter-globalists")
  • "Nous sommes d'un Québec pluriel" ("We are from a plural Quebec")
  • "Nous sommes d'un Québec souverain et solidaire" ("We are from a sovereign and united Quebec")
  • "Un autre parti, pour un autre Québec!" ("Another party, for another Quebec!")

Well there you go.

So here's what I think happened.  QS members dropped their Bloc support and established informal ties with the NDP because it more closely aligned with the socialist labour union movement or vise versa and saw an opportunity to become official opposition or perhaps involved in a coalition government with the Liberals.

It had nothing to do with Jack Layton's charisma.  And now, because of his unfortunate illness, the Quebec Solidaire has one of their own leading the official opposition.

new tag: Quebec Solidaire

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Ezra Levant's "Shakedown" is top political book

Congrats to my friend Ezra Levant who won the prize for top political book of the last 25 years.  That's good because not only did I vote that way, but while visiting his Sun Network studio in Toronto in June, I was handed a copy (by whom, I won't say) right off the shelf where he broadcasts "The Source".

"Shakedown" is in my left hand (!) and "Ethical Oil" is in my right.

Quoted in the National Post

In today's National Post, yours truly was quoted by journalist Kathryn Blaze Carlson on my views of  Alberta politics--particularly the PC leadership race.

“Everyone knows this is a chance to select the next premier, and people want to be involved in that process — I know a lot of NDP and Liberal voters who will [buy a Tory membership so they can cast a ballot],” said Mike Bayrak, an Edmonton-based blogger who was involved in Progressive Conservative campaigns until he became disenchanted with the party’s direction.
 “I used to be a Morton supporter, but I haven’t been impressed with him while he was finance minister and I disagree with his position on the Edmonton arena,” said Mr. Bayrak, who says his views today align with the Wildrose, a party he said is not quite ready for prime-time. “I like Orman’s libertarian stance, which is something he talks about often knowing it appeals to the Wildrose.”
Oh, yeah, by the way, my name is Mike Bayrak--I've never mentioned that on this blog before, and will likely stay that way.  I'm an Edmontonian and not involved in any provincial political party, and as you know, I describe myself as a libertarian conservative--economically slightly right of centre (I distaste private or public monopolies), and socially quite libertarian. 

The Wildrose Party most closely fits with my views and will likely vote for the candidate in my riding this time as she seems connected with the community (just tried to find her info on the Wildrose.ca website but couldn't!).  Sure I said they're "not fit for prime-time", and by that I mean, while there are some shining stars as candidates, some are not, and so I see them as possibly the official opposition, which will be good for them to gain more legislative experience and work out the kinks so they're fit to govern.  The party is going through growing pains trying to find the balance between grassroots and pragmatism.

Do I hope they become government in 2016?  You bet.  Why?  I don't see the PC party really changing, regardless of who leads it, which means the government won't either and after 40 years, it's about time.

Like the federal Liberals, the PC Party of Alberta needs to implode and find itself because I don't believe it has any sense of direction or vision, which is dangerous for a party that's actually governing this great province as we speak.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Lordy lordy, look who's 40 -- The PC Party of Alberta

Today marks 40 years in Alberta when Peter Lougheed's Progressive Conservative Party defeated Premier Harry Strom's Social Credit government.  The Socreds had been in power for 35 years prior to that.

So without trying to date myself, that has been my entire life--one party rule in Alberta.  I admit that I was a long-time soft-supporter of the PCs way back when Les Young was MLA for our riding in West Edmonton.  I didn't think Don Getty was all that great and I didn't get involved in the leadership race that saw Ralph Klein win.  While in my first year of university, I had many friends who were trying to coax me into supporting Rick Orman.  I didn't bite.

Then King Ralph dominated for many years and we libertarian conservatives voted as he and his cohorts Stockwell Day and Steve "The Knife" West lowered taxes, slashed the deficit and debt, and then literally starting giving money away.

Then at Ralph's last election kick-off rally in Edmonton, which I attended as I was supporting my friend Shannon Stubbs who was running for MLA in Edmonton-Strathcona, I heard a rambling speech, directionless, without vision, and no concrete plans for anything other than to ride the wave of the past.  I walked out in the middle of the speech disappointed and a month later, voted for the Alberta Alliance candidate in my riding.

Then the PC Party basically saw the same thing I did and turfed the guy, soon replacing him with "Steady" Eddie Stelmach, a nice man with deep roots in this province.  In the leadership race, Eddie was my 2nd ballot choice with Ted Morton first.

Soon after, I saw the Tory government go into deficit, record spending, raising taxes on booze, waffle on infrastructure, begin the largest nanny-state encroachment in Alberta history next to prohibition, raise oil and gas royalty rates--driving out business, and putting Ron Leipert in charge of Health--who yet again, changed the organizational structure of an ever-changing bloated healthcare bureaucracy.  Then top it off with Stelmach's disdain for pushing for a Triple-E Senate.

They did eliminate health care premiums and bring in $25 ID cards for homeless folks who could then use shelters as an address, I'll give them that.

But all that said, it was to the point that I don't think the title libertarian could be truly attributed to the ideology of the party as it doesn't represent my beliefs anymore.

So since then, I've made it no secret that I don't support this party or government.

After 40 years, I think it's time for a change.  Don't you?

So you may ask, who am I supporting then?  Well, I currently hold no membership, am being courted by many of the PC leadership candidates through phone calls and emails (hey, Gary Mar campaign, don't call me in the middle of an Eskimo game, ok?) and perhaps the only candidate there who I'm looking at is Rick Orman, but geez, he ran 19 years ago!

So far, Danielle Smith of the Wildrose Party is the only one out there whose policies represent most of my views for the direction of this province.  But, that party needs to get its act together if it has any hope of becoming the next opposition, nevermind government.  It needs a good crop of candidates and more cash.   I fear that because Ed Stelmach is stepping down soon, that the Wildrose momentum is lost ... well actually, it has. 

And so it is... we'll soon be saying "45 consecutive years with an Alberta PC government", definitely marking it as one of the most successful political parties in western democratic history, if not ever.

Wow, we should be so proud.