Monday, August 31, 2009

Gordon Campbell's Trickle-down on Minimum Wage Earners

As of today, BC has the lowest minimum wage in Canada - $8 per hour or $6 per hour for “entry-level jobs.”

The New Brunswick government boosted its minimum wage to $8.25 per hour, turning BC from, leader to laggard. NB Labour Minister Donald Arseneault called the province's previous $7.75 minimum wage, formerly the lowest in Canada, "embarrassing."

During the recent election, the governing Liberal Party said that raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour - the BC New Democrats' position - "could conservatively result in BC losing well over 50,000 jobs."

Weird. Only about 50,000 people earn minimum wage in BC, according to the latest stats.

Raising the wages of top BC government bureaucrats was an entirely different matter. Raising those wages (up to 43% increase in some cases) was needed to "attract the best the country has to offer."

Alberta raised its minimum wage last April to $8.40 because the province was "experiencing a time of great prosperity."

Now that the good times are over, what's going to help out the little guy toiling away for minimum wage on Canada's Left Coast? Trickle-down economics, that's what!

Gordo and the BC Liberals now swear that their Harmonized Sales Tax scheme - something that was not "contemplated in the BC Liberal platform" - will save the stinking BC economy.

Wow. A new tax on bikes, new houses, clothing, furniture and haircuts will create jobs. I must have missed that day in Economics 101.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Is Jesus in da House? He sure is in BC’s Legislature.


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.

Everyone come together as Jesus’ name, eh? Does that include non-Christians like Jagrup Brar and Raj Chouhan? We're not entirely convinced that Jesus is their homeboy.

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

The Most Nearly-Adequate President That Never Was

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.

(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 Presidential candidate

against incumbent Jimmy Carter, 1980).

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 Congress

can demand a justification from the president for such action before it appropriates the funds to carry it out.

(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.

(On health care reform, 1994)

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.

(“Truth and Tolerance in America” speech, 1983, Va. )

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

Alberta's Cooperative Commonwealth Failure: Part 2 of 12

Part 2 of a twelve-part series examining the rise of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation in Saskatchewan, and its counterpart's electoral failure in Alberta.

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.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Alberta's Cooperative Commonwealth Failure: Part 1 of 12

Part 1 of a twelve-part series examining the rise of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation in Saskatchewan, and its counterpart's electoral failure in Alberta.

Why Saskatchewan? Why British Columbia? Why Manitoba? And most importantly, Why Not Here?

In 1935, the electors of the province of Alberta overwhelmingly rejected the class government of the United Farmers, only to embark on a non-traditional political experiment of another kind, via the tenants of Social Credit[i].

To the east in Saskatchewan, a coalition of farmers, labourers and socialists also began the process of political re-organization, by the fruition of a dream with roots from the turn of the century in the western provinces[ii].

Ten years later, the fermentation of this movement would yield the first socialist experiment in North America, with a resounding provincial victory for Saskatchewan’s Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF).

Not much has changed 70 years later. The Progressive Conservatives, heir to the Social Credit throne in 1971, have maintained a ferocious grip on Alberta provincially through a succession of four premiers. The CCF, after undergoing a facelift in 1967 to become the New Democratic Party (NDP) (the federal section had changed in 1961), has held office in Saskatchewan for 47 years out of 65. Social Democracy in Saskatchewan has become an institution, while the NDP in Alberta holds a mere two seats (Alberta General Election of 2008).

Alberta has continued to be a breeding ground for populist movements – from Social Credit to the Reform Party, through to the folksy rhetoric of Ralph Klein - but anti-Ottawa neo-conservatism has displaced the left-wing in this version of reformist politics[iii].

The NDP has formed the government in every other western province and territory (except the Northwest Territories, which is without a formal party system), yet despite these successes, Alberta remains a wasteland for left-wing electoral success; a last bastion of Canadian neo-conservatism.

For many theorists and activists then, the striking anomaly inherent in these two provinces remains a difficult focus for examination. Many blame the fierce independence of the farmer or the financial sway of American oil capital for the repeated electoral disappointments of the CCF-NDP[iv].

Yet when examining the United Farmers and the rise of Social Credit, a pattern emerges that leaves the leadership and the grassroots socialists in the UFA far from exculpation. Thus, by this sequence of failed opportunity, misplaced activism, and the volatile consciousness of the impoverished farmers during the early 1930’s, socialism failed to institutionalize itself in the polity of Alberta; then, and subsequently, ever since.

Prairie Populism and Alberta’s Quasi-Party System

There has been much made of the peculiarities of the Albertan polity. C.B. Macpherson’s analysis of the movements encompassing the United Farmers and Social Credit led to his depiction of a quasi-colonial, quasi-party system. Macpherson described Alberta as a colony, with the inevitable oedipal-type resentment, concurrent with the maintenance of a united front against the perceived oppressor; namely, Central Canada[v].

A popular bumper sticker from the 1980’s castigating the “evil east” represents the anti-Ottawa campaigning tradition that ruling governments have upheld as a successful pre and post-election strategy since the fall of the provincial Liberal Party in 1921.

Similarly, prairie populism remains an oft-studied phenomenon. Sociologist Trevor Harrison’s depiction of prairie political culture illuminates the “political lag” theory in action on the prairies, which furthers the crisis of the established parties’ de-legitimation in Alberta[vi].

Harrison’s theory of populism need not be entirely rehashed, nor should Macpherson’s examination of the Social Credit movement (although they remain relevant, and shall be revisited). A question of more relevance to the province’s browbeaten and demoralized left-wing is one less examined. Just as socialists in the United States concern themselves with their failure to consolidate or institutionalize a left-wing party in the American polity[vii], so too must Alberta’s left.

Consequently, the obligatory question remains: How did the agrarian radicalism of the prairies transform into thirty years of reactionary right-wing rule? Was a left-wing alternative possible? Lastly, and more succinctly, what went wrong?

NEXT WEEK: The Alberta & Saskatchewan Agrarian Experience: A Comparison and American Capital & the Rise of the Oil and Gas Industry

[i] Macpherson, C.B. Democracy in Alberta: Social Credit and the Party System. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962),

[ii] McCormack, A. Ross, Reformers, Rebels and Revolutionaries: The Western Canadian Radical Movement: 1899-1919. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1977), 118-164.

[iii] Harrison, Trevor. Of Passionate Intensity: Right-Wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995), 23.

[iv] McBride, Phyllis. Interview with Author. (March 27, 2005)

[v] Macpherson, Democracy in Alberta,

[vi] Harrison, Of Passionate Intensity, 26.

[vii] Lipset, Seymour Martin, and Marks, Garry, It Didn’t Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States, (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Greetings from the Surrey SPCA (totally a-political blog post)

A great moment in live television brought to you by Global TV BC. Ginger and unnamed companion from the Surrey SPCA get a little too exited...(safe for work)

Every once in a while, the Alberta Report receives ‘brown paper envelopes’ with newsworthy, though not necessarily political, tidbits such as the above link.

Update: Ginger has been adopted! No word on whether this TV appearance had anything to do with it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

By-election Called for Calgary Glenmore

Battle Royale of the Right

t's on!

The first test of the latest Stelmach regime has been set for September 14.

The biggest challenge facing contenders Dianne Colley-Urquhart (PC), Paul Hinman (WRAP), Avalon Roberts (LIB), and Eric Carpendale (NDP), will be simply generating interest in the back-to-school by-election.

That's not to say there isn't dissent in this upper middle-class holding - check out the comments section on the Calgary Herald story online.

However, the history of Alberta by-election voter turnout in Calgary & Central Alberta, even in the wake of waves of anti-government sentiment, is by any measure appalling - 35% in Calgary-Elbow, 2007 - 33% in Calgary Buffalo, 1992 - 20% in Red Deer North, 2000 - 28% in Calgary McCall, 1995. Turnouts in capital city by-elections are actually marginally better.

The trick is to identify as many supporters and possible supporters as possible - and push, pull and drag your vote out to the polls on election day or before, while convincing the possible supporters that a vote for your camp is their best possible bet for change, for benefit to their neighbourhood, or for the voter's pet issue. City by-elections, in theory, can be easier for smaller parties or protest candidates to win. For the Liberals and NDP, it means they can draw volunteers from the entire city rather than from the piddly constituency membership numbers they possess in southern Alberta.

Likewise for the Wildrose Alliance. Bussing supporters in from surrounding areas for weekend door-knocking blitzes becomes a worthwhile endeavor. The more vote identified, the more camping out on doorsteps and condo entrances to pull the vote on Election Day. Remember, strange things happen in Alberta by-elections, and Hinman is a bigger threat than Gordon Kesler ever was.

This member of the Alberta Report editorial collective has $20 on a Hinman victory, with Colley-Urquhart close behind.

Diane Colley-Urquhart, PC

For Colley-Urquhart, who does enjoy some name recognition (not all of it positive) as a City of Calgary Alderman (ahem - we prefer the term Councilor on this 21st century information apparatus), this will be the election of her life. Her team needs to somehow motivate a hostile & cynical small-c conservative into casting a ballot - presumably for her. Colley-Urquhart certainly has the political experience and local cred, having served as campaign chair for departing MLA Ron Stevens, President of the Calgary Glenmore PC Association, and interestingly enough, as co-chair of one of Kim Campbell's leadership booster clubs. That makes her a Canadian PC rather than Reformer.

Vital Stats:
First Elected: 2000, as Ward 13 Alderman, City of Calgary;
Bizarre Fact: Once served as one of Kim Campbell's field lieutenants;
Most Helpful Attribute: a member of the formidable Prime Minister's fundraising committee;
Facebook: 'Diane Colley-Urquhart for Calgary- Glenmore MLA' - 97 members, personal facebook page is private & no fan page, August 17.
Twitter: diane_glenmore 222 followers, 74 tweets.
Blog: None, but is taking a beating on this one:

UPDATE: Kudos to Bill Given, Grande Prairie City Council & social media guru, who dug out a blog for Diane here. Our apologies for the error.

Paul Hinman, Wild Rose Alliance Party

The right flank of the ballot is represented by one Mr. Paul Hinman, former leader of the Alberta Alliance/Wild Rose Alliance Party. Hinman has huge growth potential - both for oilfield cash and votes. He can win it on the ground war with hard work and door-knocking - and by looking (gulp) 'liberal' enough for the affluent and well-educated Glenmorians.

Vital Stats
First Elected: 2004 Alberta General Election, Cardston-Taber-Warner;
Bizarre Fact: Descendant of the bigamous Hinmans of early Cardston fame (photo to come). Also related to social-credit era finance minister who became embroiled in the infamous 'Hinman Affair.'
Most Helpful Attribute: Soft spoken and generally respected, Hinman shone in the 2008 leader's debate; was also raised in the Glenmore neighbourhood of Haysboro;
Facebook: 'Paul Hinman for Calgary Glenmore MLA' group: 126 members - Paul Hinman poltiical fan page: 57 supporters, August 17;
Twitter: Two accounts? Hinman 77 has 20 followers, 1 tweet: Paul Hinman has 13 followers, 1 tweet. Both seem to be him.
Blog: N/A

Eric Carpendale, NDP

The 29 year-old electrician and political neophyte is an organizer of some renown in Alberta Building Trades circles, and is employed as such with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Carpendale is straight-forward, photogenic, and sadly, without a hope in Glenmore - one of the worst constituencies for the NDP in the province. The absence of a Green and Carpendale's youth and good nature may lift the NDP tallies, but not enough to come close.

Vital Stats
First Elected: First ever campaign.
Bizarre Fact: Can be seen regularly on TV promoting 'World Skills International', an organization that promotes excellence in the trades, with its next global competition in Calgary, Sept. 1 to 7, 2009. Watch video.
Most Helpful Attribute: Easily the tallest and most attractive candidate.
Facebook: 'Eric Carpendale for NDP MLA in Calgary Glenmore' with 108 members, no fan page.
Twitter: eric_glenmore, 1 tweet, 10 followers.
Blog: N/A

Avalon Roberts, Alberta Liberal - There was some consternation in the Alberta Liberal camp over this choice - many wanted to see Corey Hogan, a young tech-savvy communications consultant, win the nomination. Hogan had all of the glitz at the nomination - buttons, swag, charisma - but none of the votes, as the constituency selected past candidate Avalon Roberts, a Newfoundlander psychiatrist. Roberts could come up the mushy middle if the right-wing turnout is too low - but the anti-Stelmach vote is more likely to go to Hinman than this also-ran.

Vital Stats:
First Elected: Past candidate in 2004, 2008, defeated in both campaigns. Did succeed in beating Liberal-up-and-comer Corey Hogan for the by-election nomination.
Bizarre Fact: Shares name with groovy Roxy Music single/album, Avalon. Also, appears to be bucking Alberta Liberal royalty policy (and understandably so), with her assertion that: "Our oil and gas royalty structure must be designed so that investment dollars start flowing again."
Most Helpful Attribute: Third time running; third time's a charm?
Facebook: 'Avalon Roberts for Calgary Glenmore' has 192 members, personal facebook page is private, no fan page as of August 17.
Twitter: 63 followers, 32 tweets

Sour Milk Containers = Plastic Tory Trojans

With some fanfare (More jobs! More trucking! More processing!), Alberta recently upped the deposit on milk containers to 10 cents for containers under 1 litre and 25 cents for everything larger.

“This is an exciting move for Alberta,” said Ross Risvold, Chair of the Beverage Container Management Board in an Alberta government news release.

Diana McQueen, MLA for Drayton Valley-Calmar and former member of the Premier’s Task Force on Crystal Meth, breathlessly chimed in on the same release, “We’re always looking for ways to protect our environment by reducing waste.”

Too good to be true, thinks the Alberta Report. There’s gotta be a downside, right?

Well, here it is: a tiny fraction of your milk carton deposits go to fuel the Tory war machine. Yup. Some of your hard earned dough spent on milk for the kids may go to help Stelmach and Co. get reelected.

Deposits for recyclables are collected by the Alberta Beverage Container Recycling Corporation (ABCRC), a provincially incorporated not-for-profit. This body collects the fees and pays out the depots, who in turn pay you, dear consumer.

ABCRC has donated some $5,275 of your money to the Alberta Conservatives since 2005. Go ahead, check it out - $750 in 2005, $2,125 in 2006, $2,400 in 2007 – nothing to the other parties.

So, why has the ABCRA donated over $5,000 of your deposits to the Alberta Tories since 2005?

Well, it’s good for business, that’s why. Not everything gets recycled. About 30% of everything you pay a deposit on ends up in the landfill.

The difference between the deposits collected and what’s paid out is in the millions, and likely to get bigger with the milk container deposit.

There are supposed to checks and balances in the system, right?

We’re still scratching our heads on that one here in the Alberta Report bunker. Under federal tax law, ABCRC ain’t allowed to “support a particular political party.”

Maybe it’s because ABCRC’s oversight body, the Beverage Container Management Board, is headed by the President of the West Yellowhead Progressive Conservative Association, one Mr. Ross Risvold?

Na, couldn’t be that. There couldn’t be partisan appointees in a body set up to do some good. Not in Alberta, for the love of Pete!

Remember, it’s all about recycling, y’know. Doin’ some good, savin’ the planet.

Friday, August 14, 2009

An Early Saturday Spread: Banana Splits & A Fantasy Story

Banana Splits & Alberta Labour Law: Fact or Fantasy?

The Edmonton Sun has been holding out on you.

Inside a brown-bagged package received by The Alberta Report early this morning, we received... a newspaper. But not just any ol' daily scandal sheet... this one comes complete with pro-labour musings from Kerry Diotte, Swann-bashing courtesy of Jeremy Loome, and a tittilating trinket of info from the latest look at the Klein years, from Tory insider and former Insight into Government publisher Rich Vivone.

Hot Damn! Secretly, everybody over at the Sun are a bunch of crazed Tiny Perfect Bloggers, further to the left than Hugo Chavez on a bad day (or a good day?)!

How dya like them apples Will?

This week's early Saturday spread will dissect the arguments, piece by tabloid piece.

Banana Splits

"On a day when it could have found dozens of legitimate reasons to criticize Premier Ed Stelmach's debacle government, the Alberta Liberals instead put out a press release to capitalize on Dairy Queen's support for sick kids through Blizzard sales."

- Jeremy Loome, The Edmonton Sun

Damn. A shrill blogger like me has trouble adding more to that. So here's the scoop (har har): Swann took a shot at the Tory's health care policy by comparing them to Dairy Queen. You can't beat that. According to Loome's account (I can't find a link to the actual press release, unfortunately) Swann put out a release this week in response to a charitable Dairy Queen promotion that donates the profits from Blizzard sales to the sickkids foundation. The fact that a lot of this money doesn't ever make it to Alberta doesn't get in the way of the Liberals' strategy of... oh yeah, they don't have a strategy.

Loome has some more sweet quotes from the Liberal leader:

"I think all Albertans can enjoy a Blizzard today in good conscience, but I think it is a sad day when our health-care system gets more moral support from the corporate sector than Ed Stelmach."

Really David? I mean, when you look at last year's grant recipients, not a lot of money or moral support made it to Alberta - right? Well, here's the breakdown:

Master Awards in Complementary and Alternative Health Care
Larissa Shamseer Masters of Science, University of Alberta Approved funding: $5,000 over 1 year.

The Rotman Award for Innovation in Paediatric Home Care
Capital Health Home Care Children's Services of Edmonton Approved Funding $100,000 over 1 year.

New Investigator Research Grants Short Bowel Syndrome Neonatal Piglet Models
Dr. Justine Turner, University of Alberta, Dr. Justine Turner, University of Alberta Approved funding: $125,380 over 2 years.

So what is Swann saying? That the government should chip in another $125,000 for further research on "Short Bowel Syndrome Neonatal Piglet Models"?

This is obviously a case of a politician demanding a press release and an communications staffer not having the balls or brains to tell him its a bad idea, or vice versa. Either way, I'm glad Swann is the Liberals' ice cream headache and not mine. Furthermore, in the interest of public health, I'm also asking the Liberals to please put a warning at the bottom of all future press releases advising: "this caucus may contain nuts."

An Alberta Labour Law Fantasy... or is it?

Once upon a time, in a magical place in a faraway land, a provincial election was called.

Many of the province's citizens were dissatisfied with the king's rule. Taxes were low for some, but the cost of bread was soaring. The Kingdom was out of debt, but the roads were rutted and wait times at the local chiurgeon's office were dreadful.

Thus, the local guilds were determined to end the rule of the King's advisers (who called themselves the Progressive Christians), by hiring town criers for every street corner in every market in every corner of the Kingdom, to bellow as mightily as they possibly could just how awful the King's decisions had been.

Worse, the criers put to the townsfolk that the King's advisers had no plan to deal with the threat of acid rain & strange harvest weather from the Northern Sorcerer's Village weather spells, no idea how to train enough chiurgeons and midwives to keep the people in good health, and no blueprint to repair important inter-city trade routes and aging academies.

Well the townsfolk listened. But instead of changing the Progressive Christians for the Liberal Christians or the New Christian Party, more than half of them fell ill to the 24-hour plague on Election Day.

But the King's advisers were none too happy with the guilds who had undertaken such a campaign...

And so on and so forth.

So immediately following the election, Stelmach did this:

Now, most organizers believe that salting can and will continue to be done, regardless of the law. How do ya prove that anyway?

And there may still be semi-legal ways of MERFing - that is, assisting closed shops (union companies and contractors) to bid on contracts against the big CLAC and Meritt Contractor contractors.

But that doesn't make this bizarre piece of legislation any nicer or fairer for Alberta's labour organizations. In fact, AUPE did a stunning job developing activists and public support for wholesale changes to the Alberta Labour Code prior to this - before the new changes making them worse were even implemented!

Enter the current first contract dispute between Dynalife and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta.

First, the governing Tories can't decide whether or not the looming strike of lab workers was an essential service or not.

Then, a 75% strike vote and a 72-hour notice of strike action served to the company by the workers forced some action.

Now, the non-binding provincial mediator is no closer to reaching a solution between the two sides.

This group of employees, just like those at Lakeside in Brooks way back when, democratically voted to join a union. All they want is a first contract. They organized. They deserve it.

Kerry Diotte points to that packing plant dispute as the source of the First Contract musing on the part of than Labour Minister Mike Cardinal.

He doesn't come right out and say that Alberta needs first-contract legislation. All he points out in today's editorial column of the Sun is that "band-aid solutions won't stop the mess that will result from a disruption of lab services."

We'll add to that. The echoes of Stelmach's wrath notwithstanding, Alberta needs first-contract legislation out of fairness. Not just to the workers, but to the public.

Notes on The Report: What we are and what we aren't

An Alberta Report Primer

The Alberta Report hasn't been back for 24 hours and already the humour police are posting comments that they don't think a Barry Goldwater quote is a good choice for a left-wing blog.

So, in light of this, we apparently have to explain what we are and what we aren't.

1. We aren't Tiny Perfect Blog. Not even close. First of all, we're going to reveal our identities just as soon as we figure out how to add a page on this fancy new template. Second, we're not what one would call NDP insiders, though we've all worked in what one would call "The Left." However, more importantly, we share a healthy disrespect for authority. We also don't always agree with each other or the NDP: we've been known to yell at each other in bars and at least one of us once quit the party in disgust. This is a healthy part of democracy and we think it's good for the progressive movement, too. Especially the yelling in bars.

2. Disagreement is important for democracy, but humour is perhaps more crucial. So yes, we find Barry Goldwater quotes somewhat amusing, and we love Reginald Maudling. We think politics are funny, because the egos are so ridiculous, the perspectives so myopic, and the errors so egregious. We think it's too bad that nobody can make a joke anymore, and we don't like the way everyone has to parse their words lest they get eviscerated by the owners/editors of mainstream "out of context quotes make for easy stories so we don't have to pay journalists real money to do real investigative work" media. We don't allow sexism, racism, homophobia, or other idiocies to masquerade as humour. But we like to make jokes. And we will make jokes. If you can't tell the difference between our 'real' posts and the satirical ones, the problem is not ours.

3. From time to time, we will post 'real' news. It will be serious. It will be well-researched and fact-based. That's because politics in this province needs to be at once taken more lightly and at the same time more seriously. The stakes (economic, social, environmental) are high, and Albertans deserve a more interesting news climate. And if we make a mistake, we won't act like a 'real newspaper' and bury the correction in 2-pt font someplace you'll never see it.

4. From time to time, we will entertain gossip, idle banter, the mundane, rumour, hearsay, banal reflections on the meaning of Lego, and things that turn out to be just plain wrong. But if we're wrong, we'll say it. Oh, and we won't pretend to our readers that it's actual news.

5. The only flaming we'll tolerate is the kind that upsets traditional gender roles. So if you're an NDP or Liberal caucus staffer with an axe to grind, viciously attack your enemies elsewhere; we hear the comments section of is a popular place to anonymously air dirty laundry. If we don't like the tone of your comments, we'll delete them. It's just that simple.

6. Following point #5, we prefer people assign their names to things they say. Being anonymous allows you to be more of a bully or a jerk than you would be in real life. In politics, there are sometimes good reasons for anonymity: your point of view will make you unpopular, might cost you your job, your views clash with the party establishment and might get you blackballed, or you have information whose release will result in the above. We ask that you reflect upon your reasons for anonymity and use judgement that's at least the level of an average 13-year-old.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tiny Perfect Echo


"Extremism in the defense of Liberty is no vice."

Barry Goldwater, Nomination Acceptance Speech, 1964 Republican Convention.

She came, she spat, she bailed. Disappeared quicker than a manic-depressive Vice-Presidential nominee after revealing a history of electro-shock therapy to a braying herd of newspapermen.

But dawm. Alberta was a better place for ‘er, eh?

Tiny Perfect Blog (TPB) has been sucked into the annals of history – but not before receiving a few very well-placed kicks to the rear on the way out, by the flatulent sounds of the old guard free press, as well as the whiz-kid-aw-shucks-post-partisan-drivel of the social media revolution.

TPB made Tories scowl, Liberals cringe, and Greens go back to witchcraft. It often made Dippers titter nervously, like one is wont to do back home after the family wake when creepy Uncle Dennis has one of the nieces on his lap. But most of all, it got people talking – and perhaps even thinking. It broke stories, slung rumour and innuendo, and made these Alberta Report writers… jealous. Very jealous.

Sure, the random potshots at the building trades unions and AUPE were out of line and uncalled for. Sure, TPB may have even gone overboard in its characterization of Alberta Liberals as the stunned-into-submission-passers-by-on-a-gruesome-highway-63-accident-scene.

But hot damn. People read that tripe.

Those of us at the Alberta Report are betting on heavy personal gain from that, and hoping for a complete and utter electro-political coup, by re-launching this scrapheap of satire and dragging her off to the political races. We're making it harder, leaner, and meaner - as a tribute of sorts to the anonymous ink-stained wretch who, for a few short months, made the Alberta political scene worth blogging about again.

Call it the Tiny Perfect Echo. The vengeful second sons and daughters of the nuclear family are back to spread the good word from here to High Level, and we’re not happy with the allotted 2.5 children of the Alberta political blogosphere. We won’t parrot the party line (NDP or DP or Do-Re-Mi), but we’re going to spread it where it suits us. Sarcasm included.

We’ll be doing it editorial board style, a la A Real Newspaper. Our names and profiles are real (bios coming soon), and we are always available for comment, of the poignant and hilarious kind. Posts will not be signed individually, but will usually be agreed upon by our collective heads.

Thanks for the memories TPB. We’ll do our best to grab that faltering torch. Goldwater was right, though he had the politics and medium mixed up. Amend that to “extremism in the defense of Liberty is no vice – when blogging.”

RIP, Tiny Perfect Blog. You went gently into that good night, but your cyber-death will be avenged.

- Alberta Report Editorial Collective

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