Friday, November 20, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Just when you thought Conservatives couldn't get any more partisan...
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
You gotta hand it to the Progressive Conservatives - they really know how to waste taxpayers' money.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
If he does, maybe some light will be shed on what the Harper government knew, and when they knew it, on the possible torture and abuse of Afghan detainees.
Mr. Alexander was in Afghanistan in May 2006 when Richard Colvin, another Canadian diplomat, warned the Conservative government that there “serious, imminent and alarming” problems with the surrender of Afghan detainees to Afghan officials and jailers.
The Conservative government denied (and continues to deny) knowledge of torture or abuse of Afghan detainees handed over by Canadian troops to Afghan officials.
Hon. Helena Geurgis, Rahim Jaffer's better half, affirmed that the Harper government knew nothing about these allegations on May 1, 2007:
"Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member has specific evidence for these allegations we would be happy to receive it. I do not know why he would continue to hold onto it if he had something that our brave Canadian men and women and the Afghan police have no evidence of whatsoever, with no specific evidence to support any of these allegations."
So either the Harper government or former diplomat Chris Alexander are incompetent, or they don't care. Or both.
If Mr. Alexander wins the Conservative nomination, he'll be forced to either tow the party line and side with Harper's version that they knew nothing, or he'll defend the word of one of his diplomatic colleagues.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, "the world has to find ways to both produce and consume oil and gas more efficiency, because consuming fossil fuels accounts for 80 per cent of the emissions created from fossil fuels..."
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Labels: BC, Campbell, Gordon, harmonized, HST, Kreskin, sales, tax
The Amazing Kreskin offers to read the premier's mind
by Rebecca Aldous - The North Shore Outlook
(with links by the Alberta Report Editorial Collective)
It's on Gordo.
One of the world's most recognized mentalists has offered to use his talent to determine whether B.C.'s premier planned the Harmonization Sale Tax before the provincial election.
"It's a formal offer," The Amazing Kreskin says.
Kreskin is confident he can weed the truth out of Gordon Campbell.
It's no biggie, the 74-year-old has been reading people's thoughts since he was nine – back when his name was George Kresge.
It all started with a simple game involving a red beanbag.
His Grade 3 teacher in his hometown of Montclair, N.J., asked a classmate to leave the classroom while the remaining children hid the beanbag.
When the girl returned, she had to find it and her fellow classmates were only allowed to help her with the directions "hot" and "cold."
Little Kresge didn't get a turn. Eager to play he begged his brother to conceal a penny in his grandparents' house.
Once his brother had done the deed, Kresge climbed the basement stairs, went through the kitchen, passing his grandmother and the old coal stove, and walked straight into his grandparents' bedroom. There he climbed up a big maroon chair and, on his tippy toes, reached for the penny on top of the curtain railing. It was no problem, he recalls.
The problem was his brother had not once called out the words "hot" or "cold" and his Greek grandmother was now convinced Kresge had the devil's eye. It was only a matter of minutes before all his relatives heard the tale.
By the age of 12, Kresge was reading thoughts full-time and became know as "The World's Youngest Hypnotist."
"I realize this is not the way to relate with people," Kreskin says. "I don't do this in everyday life or otherwise people couldn't and I couldn't stand myself."
His talent is one reason Kreskin is drawn to the isolation of night. He does most of his thinking during the dark hours and sometimes his jogging too, Kreskin says.
It's unadulterated and empty.
Although Kreskin believes his skills can't be taught, he thinks there are other people in the world who share them. But as schedules get crammed with more deadlines and events, less people have the time to discover their talents, he says.
It's a shame, Kreskin continues, as there is so much in life worth slowing down for, things that even his talent can't dissect. Love is one, he points out.
"The human mind is an amazing instrument," Kreskin says.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
It seems like only yesterday when PM Harper was promising, "Reform that will make the Senate more democratic. More accountable."
Nevertheless, hypocrisy and promise-breaking aside, it looks to us like one of Harper's appointments may be breaking the Senate's Code of Conflict rules.
Remember Doug Finley, the National Campaign Director for the Conservative Party? Harper appointed him Senator back in September 2009.
Senator Finley has said that he'll stay on as the Conservative Party's campaign director even after his appointment.
The Senate's Code of Conduct, Section 8, states, "a Senator shall not act or attempt to act in any way to further his or her private interests, or those of a family member, or to improperly further another person's or entity's private interests."
There's no doubt that the Conservatives are preparing for an election. Every two-bit party in Canada must be preparing at a time like this.
If Senator Finley's still the campaign director of the Conservatives, there's no doubt that he's "attempting to further a private entity's interests" (the Conservative Party's) while he's a Senator.
The Alberta Report Editorial Collective will file a complaint with the Senate Ethics Officer if we get 20 comments on this article...we promise.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Good on you, Rahim. Rage, rage against the dying of the light!
Rather than falling on his sword and declaring a teary mia culpa, Mr. Jaffer's going to fight the charges.
The Alberta Report Editorial Collective applauds this decision.
Not only will this make for good copy, questions must be answered. Like, what did his wife, Hon. Helena Geurgis, know and when? Does Rahim have a valid drivers license? And, did he leave any gas in the tank of Hon. Geurgis' car when he was done his (allegedly) cocaine and booze-fueled joyride through rural Ontario?
By the way, your tax dollars paid for part of Mr. Jaffer's (allegedly) cocaine and booze-fueled joyride.
Ministers, like Hon. Geurgis, Minister of State (Status of Women), receive $2,122 in federal funding for cars.
Beep beep mm Beep Beep Yeah!
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Labels: 8 ball, blow, cocaine, lines, Rahim Jaffer, rails, schay, snow
Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared it open season on Columbian marching powder north of the 49th parallel, retroactive to September 10.
“In today’s tough economic times, we need to be flexible in seeking solutions,” Harper said. “This portion of Canada’s economic action plan is to take luxury recreational drugs out of the hands of drug dealers and put them into the hand of drug companies and discerning consumers.
“It’s to allow individualized stimulus and infrastructure development – the best kind.”
The government also indicated that installing mirrors on coffee tables will qualify for the recently-passed home renovation tax credit, and struggling danceclubs may claim a tax credit for installation of new mirrored bathroom counters.
"This is a blow against liberal nanny-state interventionists and recession-mongers nationwide," Harper declared.
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, whose department drafted the bill over a “late night of Risk,” added that former MPs and businessmen alike have been suffering from issues such as reclining gumlines, gastrointestinal leakage, and complications of the septum due to varying degrees of coke quality in Canada.
“This is a huge step forward for the nation’s blow,” he said.
Nicholson also made it very clear that the legality of the eight ball in question would be dependant on the drug being in the businessman-friendly powder version, and sourced exclusively from Defense Department-approved Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia organizations.
“We’ll weigh it, tax it, and most importantly, standardize it, so that Canadians can take heart in knowing that their schney is as pure as the driven snow,” Nicholson said.
In an unrelated development, Nicholson also moved an amendment to the criminal code to allow impaired drivers the opportunity to bust lines in order to sober up.
“It’s a well-known fact that a few fat rails cancels out a few beers,” he said. “Hell, I probably drive better when I can’t feel my teeth.”
Cocaine in hardened, crystallized form, known as ‘crack’ will “absolutely not” be made legal, the Minister added.
“A little blow never hurt anybody, but anything that’s popular in the inner city is subversive – and right out.”
When pressed about the apparent time overlap between the new bill's reach and the news about the arrest of former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer last weekend, the Minister's aides brought the scrum to an end and Nicholson was led to the bathroom.
WARNING! THIS IS A SATIRICAL POST AND SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY!
- the AREC.
But there's some seriousness to yesterday's drunk driving and cocaine possession charges.
Specifically, what does Jaffer's wife, Helena Guergis, minister of state for Status of Women, know about Jaffer's cocaine purchases and use? Has anyone in the media asked her?
And, proving the internet exists to prove the deliciousness of irony, Alberta Reporters remember this little outburst by Rahim in the waning days of his losing campaign in 2008. Our favourite line:
"Edmontonians understand how difficult it is to make sure our children make the right choices, especially on serious issues like drug use. The Conservative party supports drug-free schools and getting tough on drug dealers who sell illegal drugs to children. Don't let our schools go up in smoke."
Jaffer said the ad tells listeners about the NDP's position on crime."The NDP claim that they're tough on crime, but their actions speak completely differently," he said.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Labels: Brian Mason, Calgary Glenmore, Calgary Glenmore election results, DRP, Garth Turcott, glenmore by-election, Paul Hinman
Well, as we here at the Alberta Report pointed out a month ago, the conditions were right - as long as they did the work.
In a constituency set to record one of the worst voter turnouts in Alberta election history, what really turns the tide is your ability to visit doors, phone voters, and run an effective e-day mechanism.
Never underestimate the power of zealotry. The Hinman campaign and WRA hacks like our friend Wildrose Jane trucked in activists from across the city and beyond.
NDP types may well remember the 2000 Edmonton Highlands by-election where Mason "Won by a Mile" as the morning papers said. Well, the Dippers did it then.
Old timers may recall a certain Pincher Creek by-election where the NDP type of campaigning was pioneered - the party bussed folks in from across BC and Alberta. That's where they pioneered the current NDP vote-numbering system later modernized by Stephen Lewis. As one veteran put it: "When we rang their bell the first time they slammed the door in our faces. When we rang it the next time they shouted at us to leave. When we rang it the third time they locked in shocked incredulity - you guys are really serious!"
Garth Turcott became the first NDP MLA to sit in Alberta's Legislature.
The Wildrose Alliance won't like it, but their campaign had a similar type of zeal. They were on a mission (from God - like the Blues Brothers?). They can be proud of the win. It's a convincing one - and Paul Hinman is an admirable MLA.
The pretentious DRP was about as useless as a hat full of busted assholes. No Green candidate - barely a whisper of a NDP campaign - all of the right conditions for dissent... yet beaten by a Mormon from Cardston (though yes, he grew up in Glenmore). Maybe that'll put their voter-trickery-schemes to bed. But we doubt it.
As for Paul Hinman, let's hope he represents his constituents well in the Brian Mason mold and doesn't suffer the fate of Garth Turcott.
Garth lost - and never returned to politics.
Okay, so here's who owes us money/coffee as a result of the Paul Hinman prediction:
from @JonoMLA - Jonathan Denis, PC MLA, Calgary Egmont
@albertareport I don't bet money on anything but I'll bet a coffee on a Colley-Urquhart victory :)5:48 PM Aug 17th from TweetDeck in reply to albertareport
And two others. They know who they are. We'll collect. :-)
Some highlights and lowlights:
There has been more than enough twitter talk and blogging about the DRP - though we'll add our two cents to one aspect of the argument later, and a few humorous reflections. The standing vote count was 123 to 27 - against. We'd be curious to see any actual proof of this 300+ number that Finkel (and now, apparently, the media) has been bandying about. The Alberta Report sure haven't seen any evidence of this.
Matt Hebb from Nova Scotia delivered an important and concise message for moderation, organization, and taking advantage of opportunities when they manifest. He provided some real one-liner gems - "hug a liberal," "reach out to the NDP-curious," and the Newhart-esque "it's hard to grow when you're shrinking." Unfortunate that only 150 or so delegates were in attendance, for this was perhaps the highlight of the weekend.
Paul Moist from CUPE National provided a fiery and eloquent message for delegates about working with organized labour - something some delegates had a difficult time stomaching at last year's convention in Calgary. Rumours abounded that the Electrical Worker delegation would try to stymie the anti-nuclear policy proposals from the Peace Country (they supported the resolution) or generally be anti-environment (they weren't).
Rebecca Blaikie (son of Bill Blaikie, former Quebec section director, aide to Manitoba's Minister of Labour) was okay - her message contained a disproportionate amount of the banal - nothing new, and her familiar, informal speaking style (though quite warm in smaller quarters) made it difficult for her to capture the attention of delegates.
A steady stream of observers and guests participated in the convention, with at least one blogger, a photo-blogger, a number of tweets - and guests from the Alberta Teachers, AUPE, the Multicultural Coalition, and representatives from the city's Kurdish, Somalian, Lebanese, Romanian, and other ethnic communities (multicultural guests were given free admittance, along with citizen media folks). On another note, pot activist and banned federal delegate Dana Larsen was allowed to attend, to zero controversy, just like every other year.
The twitter conversation is still ongoing, we might add.
Saturday night's dinner honouring Brian Mason's 20 years of service featured a motley collection of current and past political figures, including: Calgary Councillor Bob Hawkesworth, Edmonton Councillors Tony Caterina and Amarjeet Sohi, former councillor Michael Phair, former MLAs Jim Gurnett (Spirit River-Fairview), Derek Fox (Vegreville), Alex McEachern (Edmonton Kingsway), and possibly others that we missed. Jack Layton's anecdotes were a highlight, and the performance of MC (and Mason's EA) Michelle Jackson was honest and endearing.
The schism that characterized last year's convention in Calgary seems to be over, with new Party President Nancy Furlong of the Alberta Federation of labour promising to utilize her skills as a facilitator to mend the breaches - but with the notable absence of Electrical Worker and Insulator delegates from the convention floor, one wonders if new fights are forthcoming. The election of Gil McGowan as the General VP for Edmonton over rank-and-file labour delegate Jason Rockwell was rumoured to be by the smallest of margins - 2 or 3 votes - meaning "Brother" Gil still has a long way to go in terms of overcoming his significant staff relations problems at the Fed, and his dalliance with Alberta's Liberal Party over the past two years.
A New Executive round-up:
President - AFL Secretary-Treasurer Nancy Furlong.
Treasurer - Linda Duncan campaign manager, Amnesty International activist, and Duncan "Minister of Everything" Erica Bullwinkle.
1st Vice-President - Electrical Workers Organizer and Business Agent Al Brown
2nd Vice-President - Past Party President, former Communications Executive of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569, and staffer for the Centre for Civic Governance, Steve Bradshaw.
Edmonton: AFL President Gil McGowan - teacher and Edmonton Beverly-Clareview President Peggy Wright.
Calgary: Electrical Workers Organizer, Calgary Glenmore Candidate, World Skills volunteer Eric Carpendale - CUPE Local 1669 President and former Canadian Labour Congress rep Rh'ena Oake.
Central: Seniors' Action Liaison Team (SALT) organizer and board member Carol Wodak of Sherwood Park - Ironworker activist Len Legault of Provost.
North: Former Alberta Liberal Caucus outreach worker and National Farmers' Union activist Mandy Melnyk of Dunvegan-Central Peace - City of Grande Prairie councillor, Grande Prairie Regional College Instructor, and recently published author Elroy Diemert (defeated carpenter Ken Kuzminski of Jasper).
South: University professor, federal candidate Mark Sandilands of Lethbridge - criminal lawyer, past candidate, Anne Wilson of Banff.
Lastly, Alberta's NDP Conventions have been steadily changing over the past few years. A rising group of youth have been taking charge, and taking important positions in the party. It's readily apparent that party and leg staffing has been provided by a core of 20 and 30-somethings for some time - but the changing demographics of participation in the party proper, particularly from core constituencies such as Edm. Strathcona, Beverly-Clareview, Highlands-Norwood, Dunvegan-Central Peace and the Peace Country in general, as well as from the downtown ridings one would expect such as Edmonton Centre and Calgary Centre/Centre North, bodes well for New Democrats. One blogger commented in passing on twitter that their weren't "as many grey hairs" as one would expect. These also aren't the typical University activist core, but rather the young professionals - lawyers, teachers, nurses, computer techs, technical writers, communications people, small businesspeople, accountants, Ironworkers, and other tradespeople - that the party needs in order to grow beyond its current third-party status.
And judging from the pessimism and negativity of some of the party's older delegates, that's a damn good thing.
Oh - and Mason's mustache was back. But we REALLY did not doctor that photo.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Why are people taking to the streets to protest the American government's foray into public health care? For emphasis: PUBLIC HEALTH CARE!
People are calling Obama Hitler, but Bush was a patriot.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
So, the following Alberta NDP news release went out today to at least a few Alberta Bloggers.
Yup, bloggers (and tweets too!) get full and free access as media observers to "#ANDP09" (as the hashtag the release proclaims) - the NDP's annual convention, being held in Edmonton this year.
Yesterday, our pal over at St. Albert Diary sagely noted that the Wildrose Alliance was also up to the same thing - though bloggers will be charged $30 to enter (WTF? Would they charge real journalists too?).
We at the Alberta Report have just one question remaining:
How long before bloggers become like the regular hacks?
(No offense Graham, really).
Social media invited to attend Alberta NDP Convention
Bloggers & Tweeters encouraged to provide alternative media coverage
EDMONTON – For the first time in Alberta, the provincial NDP are opening the doors of their annual convention to non-mainstream social media bloggers, tweeters, and citizen journalists.
“This invitation is designed to help kindle interest in the inner workings of a democratic political party like the NDP,” said convention organizer and blogger Katharine Hay.
“Political discussion is increasingly happening through social media. More and more people are using Twitter, Facebook, and blogs to become engaged in the political process, which the NDP supports,” she added.
Free social media kits for the convention – known as “#ANDP09” on Twitter – will be available to bloggers and Tweeters during convention registration.
Alberta NDP Convention
Date & Time:
Sept.11 to Sept.13 (Registration 4 p.m. Friday, adjourns 1:30 p.m. Sunday)
Crown Plaza / Chateau Lacombe
10111 Bellamy Hill
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Labels: Brian Mason, cropped-English-style-tickler, Jack Layton, mustache, womb broom
CALGARY - Alberta's NDP Leader Brian Mason's mo is no more.
Yup, we mean it. The patented cropped-English-style-tickler was pared back prior to Mason's appearance at the Calgary & District Labour Council Labour Day BBQ over the long weekend.
An insider source told the Alberta Report today that the no-mo move shows that Mason is prepared to make the tough decisions.
"Mason is bearing it all for the electorate," she said. "He's showing voters that he's prepared to make the tough cuts - and just like Stelmach's carbon capture scheme, it was time for the cookie duster to hit the trail."
The Mason soup-strainer had been in full effect for the extent of his political career, which hits the 20 year-mark this year with a celebration at the 2009 Alberta NDP Convention this weekend.
Articles abound on the death of the political mustache. But Mason's lip warmer was a bristly reminder that he was no Conservative.
In fact, Mason's flavour-saver proved to be an inspiration on the Alberta political scene, leading to a 12% rise in soup-strainers upon candidates for public office in Alberta since 1989.
On the federal scene, 'stache-laden leaders have risen 100% since the ascendancy of Mason's power stache in 1989, despite the stache-bashing of naysayers.
The man who made the Alberta political scene safe for mustaches couldn't be reached for comment, but Winston Churchill was once told by a woman that she did not like his politics or his mustache. The prime minister replied, “Madam, you are not likely to come in contact with either.”
We don't know how that's relevant. But it's damn funny.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Laureen gets her own little webpage, paid for by Conservative donors (and taxpayers' "subsidies" don't forget), that joyfully tells us she was born in Turner Valley, AB, and enjoys "riding her motorcycle, newly purchased this past fall."
On the other hand, Michael Ignatieff's wife, Zsuzsanna Zsohar (that is her really name), barely gets a mention on the Liberal Party website.
Friday, September 4, 2009
According to Greyhound, there's simply too much regulation, too much cost, to run a for-profit transportation system.
In a bizarre string of press release, Greyhound stated that operations will cease in Ontario and Manitoba. Greyhound will also be "reviewing its operations in Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Yukon and the Northwest Territories."
The company wants "assistance to cover its losses...in order to maintain this essential services."
Stuart Kendrick, Senior VP of Greyhound said that the company needs $15 to $20 million in public funding in order to be profitable. He said Greyhound has tried repeatedly to "right-size" [shudder] bus routes, but federal and provincial government wouldn't allow Greyhound to abandon some routes.
A few things to note:
- Greyhound acknowledges that its services are essential, as do some MPs and officials in the provinces directly affected.
- The company (Greyhound Canada Transportation Corp.) is a subsidiary of Scotland's FirstGroup Plc. Stock prices look good.
- Greyhound operations in Canada and the US made a profit of $86.3 million CAD last year (48.5 million GBP) - see page 12 of the Annual Report and Accounts 2009 - although we can't find a route-by-route profitability breakdown.
- In the above annual report, FirstGroup Plc. says, "We have reduced mileage by 7.6% in the US and in Canada, where we have to seek regulatory approval prior to network
Or, at the very least, some sort of government intervention to allow Canadians who don't own a car access to national transportation, something we have a long history of doing.
Manitoba NDP MP Jim Maloway has even suggested the province develop its own bus service.
Someone will blink in this standoff, either Greyhound, Manitoba, Ontario or the federal government.
Our bets are on the feds to make the first move. With an election ever more immanent, look for the Tories to make a move to appease their rural supporters who rely on small town bus service.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Labels: BC, harmonized, jobs, lowest, minimum, sales, tax, wage
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Labels: assembly, british, columbia, economy, god, jesus, parliament, prayer
Does Jesus have a place in provincial legislative assemblies? Apparently, he still does in BC’s.
This year’s session at the BC Leg. opened with the line, “Almighty and everlasting God, we give you thanks for all the blessings you shower upon us.”
Yes, may blessings shower on you, dear readers.
Now, the Alberta Report Editorial Collective are not a bunch of raving atheist prudes who bristle at any and all mentions of some vague divine overlord. And the cleric who invoked the prayer isn’t some “God hates fags” douchebag.
But the closing line of the BC legislature’s opening prayer is cause for concern: “Make all of us who come from different backgrounds, nations and who speak many languages a united people, in Jesus's name.”
At least the Alberta Legislature’s prayer is non-denominational. As is the prayer in Parliament.
BC’s Legislature allows members to select a daily reading, and this one, opening what is sure to be a tumultuous session, generated a lot of debate in BC about the role of God in politics.
BC’s different than other Western democracies, you see. In British Columbia, “God gives us the government we pray for.”
Don’t bother voting. Pray, pray, pray!
That’s about the only thing the BC government can do...
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
(1980 Democratic Convention nomination concession speech; Ted lost to incumbent Jimmy Carter).
The last original Kennedy hope for the White House has passed away. Ted Kennedy is dead at 77.
The tributes are pouring in. From President Barrack Obama, from former First Lady Nancy Reagan, from former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, and from Canada - though while Chretien and Mulroney ooze platitudes, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says only "sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of Senator Ted Kennedy," and the statement does not appear to have been put on the PMO website.
But the youngest brother of John F. and Bobby, whose controversial, comedic fodder providing, and occasionally deadly drinking exploits effectively ended any dreams of becoming the USA's CEO, could have been a contender, many maintain.
And his most likely opportunity? According to Hunter S. Thompson, it was 1972's Democratic Nomination contest. George McGovern was the eventual victor - and was slaughtered by Tricky Dick Nixon. After Watergate (which was a actually a secret plot to make Ted Kennedy President), Jimmy Carter took it for the Dems in a squeaker - only after, in 1980, did Ted try for the brass ring. He lost. So did Carter. Thus begat Ronald Reagan and Reaganomics, Margaret Thatcher and Brian Mulroney - paving the way for Ralph Klein, Mike Harris, and the Common-Sense Revolution.
He shoulda been a contender.
From CTV: Ed Broadbent mourns a fellow traveler
Ex-NDP Leader Ed Broadbent met Kennedy in the 1980s and described him as "very progressive right across the board."
He said they shared a lot of the same values and discussed health care many times.
"What struck me most about him was his value commitment," Broadbent said in an interview.
"Whether it's workers' rights or, later in his years, concern about the handicapped -- anything of a progressive nature -- he was instinctively on that side."
Kennedy's immense political skills coupled with his "Irish warmth" helped him get things done.
"I think, frankly, it was his capacity for affection for people . . . that enabled him to work so effectively with the Republicans. They liked him personally even though many of them detested his politics."From the Business Pundit - Five Kennedy Quotes
1. For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.
(Concession speech in campaign for nomination as the Democratic
2. We cannot simply speak out against an escalation of troops in Iraq, we must act to prevent it…There can be no doubt that the Constitution gives Congress the authority to decide whether to fund military action, and
(Remarks to the National Press Club (9 January 2007))
3. But don’t you realize, that’s where I sail(!)
(On the Cape Wind Project, as quoted in Cape Wind : Money, Celebrity, Class, Politics, and the Battle for Our Energy Future on Nantucket Sound (2007) by Wendy Williams and Robert Whitcomb)
4. What we have in the United States is not so much a health-care system as a disease-care system.
5. The more our feelings diverge, the more deeply felt they are, the greater is our obligation to grant the sincerity and essential decency of our fellow citizens on the other side. . . .
In short, I hope for an America where neither “fundamentalist” nor “humanist” will be a dirty word, but a fair description of the different ways in which people of good will look at life and into their own souls.
I hope for an America where no president, no public official, no individual will ever be deemed a greater or lesser American because of religious doubt — or religious belief.
I hope for an America where the power of faith will always burn brightly, but where no modern inquisition of any kind will ever light the fires of fear, coercion, or angry division.
I hope for an America where we can all contend freely and vigorously, but where we will treasure and guard those standards of civility which alone make this nation safe for both democracy and diversity.RIP - Senator Edward Kennedy - The Most Nearly-Adequate President That Never Was.
PS - If you're a political junkie and don't mind obscenity-laced drug culture references and ramblings, read this book.
Monday, August 24, 2009
This section looks at depression-era conditions in Alberta and Saskatchewan, as a means to determining the relative poverty levels comparatively, the different ethnic fragments and their influence in each province, as well as the later influence of the oil and gas industry on the developing Alberta polity.
The Alberta & Saskatchewan Agrarian Experience
One oft-cited myth that must be immediately dispelled is that Saskatchewan farmers were more destitute - meaning that the relative electoral radicalism was a natural off-shoot of that poverty. In fact, the socio-economic experiences of the prairie farmers (the bulk of the electorate in Alberta and Saskatchewan through the depression years [i]) were largely comparable in the provinces during that period of radical political development.
As such, one must presume that while Alberta does contain a larger amount of prime agricultural land[ii], both provinces’ farmers felt the destitution and desperation of the depression similarly.
Farmers may have felt less of the ‘dustbowl’ effects in Alberta, but grain prices were still abysmal, and many Albertans had a larger burden of debt that still had to be paid, regardless of global commodity prices[iii].
Another oft-cited focus of the failure of socialism in Alberta is in regards to ethnicity, along with the Hartz-Horowitz theory of the formation of political culture through the “fragment” waves of settlers are alleged to have transported from their point of origin.[iv]
A wave of American settlement to Alberta at the turn of the century seems to account for Alberta’s strong liberal fragment, but the numbers were not much different in comparison to Saskatchewan’s, leaving the importance of this fragment in question. In 1921, nearly a quarter of Alberta’s farmers were of American origin, compared to 16% in Saskatchewan[v]; thus, unless the fragment was a radical one purveying the ideals of the Non-Partisan League movement of the northern states, this interpretation must be discounted as a primary factor in the development or non-development of socialism in the two provinces. As noted by Young, the cultural characteristics were more or less the same.[vi]
More significantly, the membership of the United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) prior to its disintegration as a political entity possessed an inherent radicalism, manifest in countless resolutions at conventions over the course of the UFA’s political career, from the nationalization of industry and cooperative-themed resolutions of 1921, to the pledges of farmer-worker solidarity in 1927. [vii] The convention of 1932 defined the term “Co-operative Commonwealth”, and special note was made of the fact that “under our present social system… luxury-starvation, ease-overwork, wealth-poverty, abundance-scarcity, gluttony-malnutrition, (are) all inherent in a product of the same economic environment… (F)undamental changes in the social system are impending.”[viii]
Thus, the rank and file members of the UFA can be said to have maintained their radicalism, while much of the elected caucus, and most certainly the premier and his cabinet, did not. Macpherson made much of the differences between the farmer and the worker, especially in their different relationship to the means of production. The Alberta farmer, despite the mass destitution of the 1930’s, retained one crucial distinction from the labourer, namely that of ownership. A Central Alberta farmer described farmers from the area as “probably the most fiercely independent people you could meet.”[ix] This independence has been “strengthened (at least in a psychological sense) by the all the pressures on his economic position,” yet: “(H)e must sell his products in a world market and buy and borrow in a restricted eastern Canadian market.[x]
The farmer is certainly distinct from the worker who draws an industrial wage, while experiencing directly the division of labour, but the farmer is also separate from the entrepreneur whose interests the farmer is generally “subordinate” to.[xi] Macpherson called this “an illusion of independence”, and attributed the conservative/radical political oscillations and lack of class consciousness in Alberta to this dynamic.[xii] Instead, this agrarian consciousness is a staple of the farmer’s real class position, that within the petite bourgeoisie.[xiii].
But what then are we to make of the success of the CCF in Saskatchewan? T.C. Douglas’s CCF administration has taken a significant amount of criticism from the left as having retreating into conservatism, being far from his perceived position as revolutionary socialist. Doctrinaire Marxists were even further appalled at the reformism of Douglas, and it is suggested in Seymour Martin Lipset’s analysis in 1950 that the Douglas regime shifted away from socialism to a brand of left-populism.[xiv] Yet, from the right-wing, Robert Tire accused Douglas of maintaining a “disturbing trend towards statism”, with origins in the Regina Manifesto of 1933, resulting in the lack of free enterprise and economic development, state regulation, and patronage in the bureaucracy (despite the irony of his own privileged vantage point as a 'liberal' civil servant in a ‘socialist’ state).[xv]
The hopeless back and forth of this argument will not continue in this study. We will assume for our purposes that the kind of public ownership and redistribution policies begun by the Saskatchewan CCF (over 60% of the 1948 Douglas budget was spent on social programs) represent the definition and likely outcome of Alberta socialism, were it to come to pass. [xvi] Lipset’s work also makes much of the farmer-labour-socialist coalition’s cooperation in electing the CCF in Saskatchewan, which certainly never occurred to the same extent within the class/industrial organization of the UFA. In the first UFA administration, the leadership maintained the pretence of a unified class government by inviting a Labourite to serve as the province’s Minister of Labour, but this did not last past the government’s first re-election. It was the ideology of UFA leaders such as Henry Wise Wood, UFA President from 1916-1931, to maintain the separation of the two groups, despite grassroots cooperation within selected ridings.[xvii]
It could be argued that Labour was not as significant a force as the farmers in Alberta during this time-period, and perhaps not as numerous a demographic to warrant electoral consideration, but labour in Saskatchewan was even less prominent.[xviii] The potential power of labour was lessened further during the Depression years by craft union tendencies among the leadership of the established unions, who refused to bring in unemployed workers, saying instead: “We do not want a lot of people brought in just to get a few votes, but must insist on our members having the Labour discipline and our principles at heart.”[xix]
The Alberta Labour Party and other labour candidates did however enjoy considerable support in both Edmonton and Calgary at various periods, as well as through the coal mine districts of Drumheller, Lethbridge, the Crowsnest area and Banff – but received little to no support on tactical issues from the UFA government, despite their connectedness through the CCF during later years.[xx] On a number of separate occasions, the rank-and-file of the UFA entered into alliances with labour. For example, in 1932, a march to the legislature drew some 1,000 farmers and workers, while later on that year farmers and labourers again found similar political ground at the CCF inaugural meeting.
The Alberta Labour News, the Alberta Federation broadsheet edited by Elmer Roper (a future mayor of Edmonton and prominent member of the CCF), also tended to not over criticize the conservatism of Brownlee, and instead offered profile space to the more radical members of the UFA.[xxi] William Irvine, a UFA member elected to represent East Calgary for Labour in 1921, personified the cooperative relationship that could exist between farmers and labour.[xxii] Irvine and like-minded others were able to bridge both movements throughout a career in activism, while the leadership seemed unable or unwilling. President Wood, as well as Premier Robert Brownlee, instead retained the UFA’s focus on a class organization style, which did not reflect “a consciousness of the goals of organized labour”.[xxiii] A resolution calling for an official farmer-labour alliance in 1927 was in fact narrowly defeated on these grounds,[xxiv] and a “showdown” between Brownlee and Irvine was predicted by Irvine himself in 1932, although this never publicly transpired.[xxv]
Thus, Macpherson’s analysis may in part explain the consciousness of the farmer, but it ignores how the leadership could have molded agrarian consciousness into radical social change in Alberta. Macpherson attributes the failure to inherent differences of class, while understating the capacity of the farmer radical to understand the focal issues of labour. In actuality, only the leadership of the UFA did not possess this ability.
American Capital and the Oil Industry
The role of Alberta’s oil and gas industry in maintaining government adherence to the dictates of a free market economy has been an oft-cited charge in the CCF-NDP’s failure to consolidate as a viable political entity.
Gas was discovered in the Turner Valley in 1914 by an area farmer, which led to the establishment of Calgary’s first refinery in 1923, built by Imperial Oil.[xxvi] Still, it was not until the discovery of Leduc Number One in 1947 that the industry began to transform Albertan into a province of “blue-eyed Arabs”, changing Alberta, previously one of Canada’s poorest provinces, into one of its richest.[xxvii]
Up until 1941, farming retained the largest proportion of the provinces’ gainfully employed, and many of those farms remained quintessential family operations.[xxviii] Adding to this, from the beginnings of these refineries and drilling operations it was next to impossible for labour organizers to even approach the industry’s workers, in part because of the intervention of a young future Prime Minister.
Imperial Oil (ESSO) itself was formed as a result of the anti-trust breakup of the Rockefeller-controlled Standard Oil Company by the government of the United States from 1892-1911.[xxix] Following the defeat of the Laurier government in 1911, the former Minister of Labour (and future PM) William Lyon Mackenzie King was hired by the Rockefeller Foundation in New York (the Rockefellers maintained a controlling interest in nearly all of the new miniature Standard Oil companies).[xxx] King then set out to transform employer-employee relations in the energy industry with the support of the Rockefeller Board of Directors, by the creation of industrial councils with joint representation of workers and management. This led to the proliferation of the so-called “company unions” within oil refineries, a condition which lasted in the United States until 1937, when legislation was passed to prohibit them.[xxxi]
However, these company (or "donkey") councils still remained the standard in Canadian operations, “including all but one of Imperial Oil’s (refineries - ed: Strathcona Refinery)”.[xxxii] This obstacle to union organizers in Alberta had a two-pronged effect on the later CCF-NDP. One, organized labour in the burgeoning oil and gas industry was few and far between, and two, workers in these industries were subject to some of the most vehement anti-socialist/anti-CCF propaganda disseminated in Canada, helped along by Social Credit Premier Ernest Manning, who likened the CCF to Hitler’s National Socialism.[xxxiii]
In retrospect, certainly the transformation of the province’s economy may have contributed to the further decline of the CCF, but had the UFA/CCF not made its’ operational miscues in the early 1930s, they, perhaps, would have been the party in power reaping the rewards of resource revenues. The muscle of the American oil industry has certainly made itself felt since the discovery of oil in Alberta. Howard and Tamara Palmer, as cited in Harrison’s Of Passionate Intensity, note:
"The relatively few Americans who came to Alberta in the post-war era had a notable social and political impact. In the early years of the boom, a majority of the senior management of oil companies … were from California, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana. From 1955 to 1970, nine of the 15 presidents of Calgary’s exclusive Petroleum club were Americans… Like their counterparts in the United States, they often held strong right-wing views.”[xxxiv]
The oil and gas boom has subsequently acted as a buttress to every party in power since its discovery, as a government’s lack of skill in economic management can often be substituted by consistent royalties and an ample treasury. Still, the failures of the CCF pre-1935 must be attributed to factors other than the oil industry. The oil age in Alberta had simply not yet arrived.
[i] Macpherson, Democracy in Alberta,
[ii] Stewart, Murray. Energy Council of Canada. Presentation to Peak Oil Summit. (Red Deer College: March 31, 2005). [iii]
Young, Walter D. Democracy and Discontent. (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1978), 47.
[iv] Horowitz, Gad, “Conservatism, Liberalism, and Socialism in Canada: An Interpretation,” The Canadian Political Tradition: Basic Readings. Ed. Blair, R.S., and McLeod, J.T. (Scarborough: Nelson Canada, 1989), 172-195.
[v] Rennie, Bradford James. The Rise of Agrarian Democracy: The United Farmers and farm Women of Alberta: 1909-192. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000), 96.
[vi] Young, Democracy and Discontent,
[vii] Preistley, Norman F. and Swindlehurst, Edward B. Furrows, Faith and Fellowship: The History of the Farm Movement in Alberta, 1905 – 1966. (Edmonton: Co-op Press Limited, 1967), 111.
[viii] Preistley and Swindlehurst, Furrows, 108.
[ix] McBride, Phyllis. Interview with Author. (March 27, 2005)
[x] Macpherson, Democracy in Alberta, 221-222.
[xi] Macpherson, Democracy in Alberta, 222.
[xii] Macpherson, Democracy in Alberta, 224.
[xiii] Macpherson, Democracy in Alberta, 229.
[xiv] Lipset, Seymour Martin, Agrarian Socialism, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), 149.
[xv] Tire, Robert. Douglas in Saskatchewan: The Story of a Socialist Experiment, (Vancouver: Mitchell Press Ltd., 1962), 1.
[xvi] Whitehorn, Alan. Canadian Socialism: Essays on the CCF-NDP. (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1992), 148.
[xvii] Mardiros, Anthony. William Irvine: The Life of a Prairie Radical. (Toronto: James Lorimer and Company) 114.
[xviii] Young, Democracy and Discontent, 71.
[xix] Finkel, Alvin. Obscure Origins: The Confused Early History of the Alberta CCF,” Building the Cooperative Commonwealth. (Regina: University of Regina Duplicating Services, 1985), 107.
[xx] Mardiros, William Irvine, 189-190.
[xxi] Finkel, Obscure Origins, 104.
[xxii] Mardiros, William Irvine, 265.
[xxiii] Mardiros, William Irvine, 265.
[xxiv] Preistley and Swindlehurst, Furrows, 99.
[xxv] Mardiros, William Irvine, 190.
[xxvi] The Applied History Research Group, Calgary and Southern Alberta, (Calgary, University of Calgary 1997)
[xxvii] Young, Democracy and Discontent, 102.
[xxviii] Macpherson, Democracy in Alberta, 12.
[xxix] Freeman, J.M., “Economic Continentalism,” in Canada and Radical Social Change (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1973), 145.
[xxx] Freeman, “Economic Continentalism”, 146.
[xxxi] Freeman, “Economic Continentalism”, 146.
[xxxii] Freeman, “Economic Continentalism”, 146.
[xxxiii] Finkel, Alvin. (Finkel, 11).
[xxxiv] Palmer, H. and Palmer, T. As cited in Harrison, Of Passionate Intensity, 31.