Saturday, December 02, 2006

Liberal Leadership

Well, I guess Michael Ignatieff has to start unpacking his things, that move to Stornoway isn't going to happen.

Stephane Dion (or as George W. Bush likes to call him, "Steve") has won the liberal leadership and he should be able to make the next election interesting, especially given the upsurge in polls for the Liberal party of late.

Now, we sit and wait to see who the next premier of Alberta will be. It's Leadership night in Canada!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Another Tough Decision

So, I decided not to vote in the first ballot of the PC Leadership election, but I can still choose to vote on December 2nd. What to do?

I know for sure that I do not want Ted Morton to run this province. I was pretty scared of the leadership of Ralph Klein in 1992 (although I eventually did cut my hair, right Pikey), yet the prospects of Premier Morton scare me even more. I don't know whether I would prefer a Dinning or Stelmach win as both have their upsides. Even still, I would have to hold my nose as they both a significant amount of downsides. I think I will spend some time researching the candidates and come to a conclusion by the end of the week, although the fear of a Morton win is a great motivator.

The other thing that I think needs to be said about Morton, involves his future in Dinning's Alberta. Can you possibly see Ted Morton as a minister in Dinning's cabinet? I didn't think so. So what is to be made of Dr. Ted after he realizes he has a large ground swelling of support after a Dinning win?

I don't think it is a far stretch to think that he would jump ship to the Alberta Alliance, after all many of his 26,000 votes last weekend came from Alliance members. So consider for a moment, Dinning wins the election and Morton crosses the floor to the Alliance. With him he brings a large number of dissidents who for a long time have bit their tongue and supported Klein in the Progressive Conservative Party. Suddenly, we have a 'credible' and popular leader for the Alliance party - might make for an interesting election in the spring of 2008. A weakened PC Party with a new controversial leader, a strengthened Alliance party with a new controversial leader, and perhaps a credible Liberal party with some relative strength. Rural ridings would fluctuate between PC and Alliance, Calgary would go mostly Conservative, and Edmonton would likely go mostly Liberal (with the incumbent ND's likely holding their seats) with a split right wing.

The scene in Alberta would change with a small majority PC government, and their security in question. The exact makeup would be dependent on the number of dissidents Morton could pull over with him. We may just be on the verge of the collapse of the PC stranglehold on this province. Unfortunately for us, when Alberta switches allegiances, it often switch to the right.

But perhaps, I'm getting ahead of myself and I need to look into the candidates in the election before us.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

November 26, 2006 - The Aftermath!

Hey there, how's it going? What's new? Good to hear. It's been so long since we've spoken. I'm such a bad friend.

Well, It's November 26, 2006 and we now know a little more where Alberta Progressive Conservatives and tens of thousands of other Albertans stand on who they want to be the next premier of this province.

In case you haven't heard, here are the results:
Jim Dinning 29,470
Ted Morton 25,614
Ed Stelmach 14,967
Lyle Oberg 11,638
Dave Hancock 7,595
Mark Norris 6,789
Victor Doerksen 873
Gary McPherson 744

Surprised? I'm not overly surprised, but there are surprises within the results. Ted Morton receives about 26% support. His second place finish is not a complete surprise, but to be under 4000 (4%) votes behind "sure thing" Dinning is a bit of a surprise. Morton is a wildcard and extreme in his views. He will have a tough time adding votes to his total, as most of his supporters are likely to be included in the 25,614; whereas, there is room in the Dinning and Stelmach umbrella to attract more voters - from the bottom five camp, and from the tens of thousands who will vote on December 2nd only.

Similarly surprising, maybe mostly to Lyle only, is that Oberg only garnered 12% of voter support. He likely shot himself in the foot throughout the campaign and conservatives smartly concluded that this wacko can't run our province.

So given the Oberg slide, and the lack of credibility from other candidates, am I surprised that Stelmach is firmly entrenched for the second ballot? Well, somewhat. I guess someone has to take that place, but I thought we would be more likely to see a Hancock, Norris, or Oberg to sit in with a distant third place.

The numbers look promising for Stelmach. He is over 10,000 votes away from Morton, but having Morton holding such strength, almost guarantess a third ballot. Dinning needs at least 25,000 more votes to gain a majority, Morton will need around 30,000. I don't see either of these camps, gaining those numbers for the second ballot. So, all Stelmach needs to do is place in second on that ballot.

There are three reasons Ed Stelmach will finish second on the second ballot:
1. The Morton Problem
2. The Anti-Dinning Factor
3. Momentum

The Morton problem. Ted Morton is an extremist. As an extremist, he has a large, solid, and vocal support group. He gained support from the Alberta Alliance and social conservatives - people who were motivated to see a change to what they saw as the immoral, chicken-shit, tax-and-spend leftist Tories under Klein. Very few of his supporters chose not to vote, or stayed home in the cold. He is not a big tent politician and his numbers are unlikely to grow significantly.

The Anti-Dinning Factor. It seems many of the politically astute in this province either love Dinning or hate him. There is a significant camp of people who really do not want Jim to run the province. Most of them also do not see Morton as a camp to pop their tent in - their only choice left is Ed Stelmach. This is why Lyle Oberg has gotten behind Steady Eddy, and that brings us to...

Momentum. Already, finishers four and five have thrown their support behind Stelmach (bringing potentially 15,000 plus voters with them). Victim number six is expected to throw his support Ed's way early in the week. Non-voters (too cold, or didn't care enough) are also likely to see Ed as a good compromise candidate. There was a little bit of a surprise with his finish, and everyone loves an underdog. For all these reasons, Ed has momentum on his side.

So here is the Stelmach plan; convince voters that he has a shot at the final two. Keep people from voting for Dinning because they are scared of Morton. Show yourself as the reliable, responsible, reasonable conservative - separate from the leftist old-school Dinning, and the extremist scary Morton. Finish second on the second ballot.

When everyone votes on the second ballot, the Dinning supporters will put Stelmach down as 2nd choice because he's not Morton, and Morton supporters will put Stelmach down as two because he's not Dinning. Waltz with the rejected to the finish line!

His only major challenge is to keep Morton's support strong enough to force a second ballot, but not so strong that Ted finishes second. Keep the left from flocking to Dinning because they are so scared of Morton. Do this Eddy and you have a real chance of winning.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

College Shooting Not Preventable

The events of September 13 at Dawson College in Montreal are awful, upsetting, and tragic. Throughout the debate that follows, let's agree to this and not forget it.

It is so easy to point out that Kimveer Gill obtained his long guns legally and in compliance with the gun registry and conclude that the registry is useless. But there is no way that this one instance of the registry's failure should overshadow the millions of times that the registry has prevented violent and deadly crimes.

What's that... preposterous you say... a million deaths have not been prevented by the registry?

But how do you know? How do you know it hasn't been a million crimes prevented? How do you know it hasn't been a thousand?

The trick with preventative or proactive measures is there is no way of verifying their success, yet the one time they do not prevent what they are supposed to, critics will jump on the "I told you so" train and ride it into the town square, shouting the whole trip through. Such is so with the gun registry and its critics (read Stephen Harper and the Conservatives).

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a supporter of the Liberals gun registry and its ridiculous cost overruns. However, I believe it is narrow sighted and ignorant to conclude that one violation of the registry's purpose defines the entire project as ineffective.

Stephen Harper's reaction ( to the tragedy has been particularly misguided.

"The events at Dawson college tell us precisely that today's laws did not protect us," Harper responded.

"This government is determined to have more effective laws that would prevent such a tragedy in the future."

The PM pointed out his government has already introduced legislation that would mean stiffer penalties for violent crime, including mandatory minimum sentences.

If Mr. Harper believes that any law could have prevented this violent and unnecessary attack, then I have given him more intellectual credit in the past than he deserves, and I have given him very little credit. By including the point that the Conservatives are increasing penalties for violent crime, Harper is implying that a long jail sentence would have dissuaded Gill from committing this senseless act. I am unequivocally positive that Gill did not consider the jail time he would face at the end of the day, before he left home on September 13th. Furthermore, research shows that many acts of violence are done without care for the possible sentences that the criminal may face and it makes sense. Gill was planning to kill himself from the beginning, he fantasized about dying in a hail of bullets. Similarly, many domestic violence killers will not be dissuaded, as they see murder as their only way out of an unlivable situation.

The only way that we can reduce unwanted gun killings is to reduce access to guns. Don't worry, I've heard it all before:
  • Guns don't kill people, people kill people
  • If guns are outlawed, then only outlaws will have guns
These arguments/slogans are catchy but thoughtless. Guns have only one purpose and that is to kill, their access needs to be controlled. I understand that some guns are needed in society and their are many responsible gun owners who do not deserve to have their private property controlled by the government. But even responsible gun owners want to see illegal guns removed from society.

The first step in getting rid of illegal and illegally obtained guns is to identify them as such, as opposed to legally owned firearms. How can we possibly tell the difference between a legal gun and an illegal gun? You keep track of the legal guns, identify them and compile the list in some sort of, ...ah, ...catalogue of guns. I don't know if this was the purpose or intent of the Liberal gun registry, and that is why I cannot support it - but I see no way to get rid of illegal firearms that are already in Canada without it.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Who Shall Follow? or What Say Do I Have?

I heard an unconfirmed piece of data that was intriguing and believable nonetheless. Alberta is the world's third longest currently ruling one-party state. This makes some sense. The PC's have ruled since 1971 and I can only think of the communists in Cuba and China that have been in power longer. Perhaps it is right, perhaps it is wrong. What I do know though, is that long rules by one party are not good for democracy no matter who you are.

So here I sit at a cross roads. For $5 I can have more of a say in who will be our next premier than I have had in the last 14 years, and perhaps than I will for the next fourteen years to come. My professional association has encouraged me to get a memborship, pointing out that Ralph Klein needed around 50,000 votes to win the leadership last time, and our membership has 30,000 people. When presented with these facts and thoughts I sat, listened, and thought very uncomfortably.

I can not bring myself to think that I am supporting this oligarchy in anyway. I do not want to put any more money into the juggernauts pockets. I could not face seeing my name on the blue and orange membership card. I would dread opening my mailbox for the next year to see fundraising pamphlets and political appeals. I could not face myself.

And yet...

Here I stand with the greatest opportunity to influence the future of Alberta that I might get to have in the next decade and a half. I don't even know who I would vote for. Although I know who I definitely would not vote for (Mr. Oberg, I'm looking in your direction). I suppose I could do my research. I suppose I could hold my nose and put a mark by the least objectionable name on the ballot. I suppose I could burn my membership the day after the last vote. I suppose I could allow a little piece of me to die within myself for the sake of a tiny piece of the future.

And yet...

I still don't know what I'll do. I'll keep you up to date.

Goodbye Ralph.

Let the countdown begin!!! At least we would if we had an actual clue as to when King Ralph would let his deathgrip on power loose.

After 14 years under dictatorial rule, it is enevitable that you face moments of confusion as the end draws near (I will spare you from any comparisons to Cuba). There were moments over the past few months when I actually thought I might miss poor Ralph. Moments where I considered that his time in office might not have been as bad as I made it out to be in my own mind. Moments when I thought he had some redeemable qualities.

Any such thoughts quickly dissolved today as i listened to Ralph speak on the opening day of his last session of the legislature (at least I hope so, this time.) There were three moments which were indicative Ralph.

(I type this before the hansard has been posted to the web, so I apologize for not having direct quotes.)

The first moment which raised my eyebrow as I watched question period was in Ralph's response to the first question directed at him. It even seemed that the opposition didn't care to direct questions at King Klein because they knew he was a lame duck, but nonetheless Liberal Opposition leader Kevin Taft could not refuse the opportunity to get in a few last jabs. In response to Taft's question regarding Education spending Klein replied by saying 'The leader of the opposition might be happy to be back here, but I sure am not.' This comment is indicative of the contempt for the legislature which Mr. Klein has had since his entry into the Premier's office. I would think that someone who wants to provide their public service to the province would enjoy their work and enjoy being there. I know I enjoy my job and enjoy being at it. I would never say after a long break away from it that I am certainly not happy to be there. Klein has always resented his legislature roles and responsibilities. He would rather rule by iron fist than have to answer to a body of his peers.

The second moment of contempt and disguist came actually before the first moment. Rose Lundy experienced a miscarriage in the hallways of Peter Lougheed hospital in Calgary in front of over 30 other patients. <> She came to the legislature today to get answers and to ask questions of the government that was ultimately responsible. The Liberal party spoke to her and her husband Rick, even the health minister spoke to the Lundy's. But when they approached his highness, Mr. Klein quickly ducked into the elevator and yelled something to the equivalent of I have no time for you over the backs of the people in the elevator in front of him. Could he not have at least walked over, shook hands, and whispered in Rick's ear that he had no time for them. No, he had to treat thim with a similar lack of dignity that they received in the Peter Lougheed hospital. This once again showed his inability to listen to the concerns of his critics, and of the victims of his policies. He is not alone amongst politicians in this but it is a irreprehensible practice.

Finally Ralph Klein capped the day off by proving his appeal to the lowest common denominator. When confronted about having the lowest welfare rates in the country, he responded by touting the line that the employable have been encouraged to work, and he reminded us that the employable who refused to work were given a bus ticket. Ralph Klein dispises the poor. He did nothing to acknowledge the many who are unemployable and still trying to raise families on $12,000 per year in this wealthy and expensive province. He simply kept on the LCD argument that those bums on welfares should go out and get jobs or leave.

I am so happy to see Ralph Klein go. Happier today than I was on the day I first heard the news (and I remember vividly reading the newspaper on the airplane.) He is full of arrogance and ignorance, combined with contempt and disgust for anyone except his voters and the social elite whom he serves in this province. He has always been controlled by special interests and unexamined ideology.

The only thing that scares me is who shall follow.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Israel, Lebanon, and the Third World War

I have so many thoughts on this topic, I'm not quite sure where to start. I guess I have to start with values.

I value Peace. Wow, way to go out on a limb, 'eh. War is bad. Yay, two for two on the controversy meter. We have an obligation as the rest of the world, to not allow this conflict to continue with the intensity that it is. The only way to stop a cycle of violence is to intervene and slow the cycle. Unfortunately, this conflict will not be solved, or stopped, by the parties involved. Even if Israel achieves its goals of wiping out Hesbellah (not likely) they will only do so through the obliteration of a large portion of Lebanon, or the middle east as a whole. Doing so will only serve to strengthen the conviction of the militants and drive the moderates closer to the extremes. Peace, must be the goal. Lasting peace can only be achieved be beginning with a temporary peace. The Bush/Harper/Israeli view that lasting peace can only be achieved through the obliteration of hesbellah is dangerous in that it only empowers Israel to continue to use force and violence to solve its problems and does nothing to address the root causes of the violence. I won't even begin to acknowledge that I have any idea as to what the root causes of the violence are, and that is part of the problem (I'll explain this in more detail later.) I know that I don't completely understand all of the issues involved, but I am trying.

To help myself try to understand the situation, I came up with a hypothetical parallel situation (which I am sure will get my phone tapped.) Hesbellah is an opposition political party in Lebanon with a military wing. Lebanon as a nation does not directly endorse its actions. This most recent conflict began with Hesbellah directing missile attacks at Israel from cities in Lebanon. To model this conflict I created the following hypothetical and asked myself what reaction I hope would come from it. Let's say that the NDP militarized and created a store of long range missiles in, oh, let's say Winnipeg. They then launched missiles from Winnipeg at the Pentagon. The problem for the United States in this situation is that the country of Canada has not attacked the US, just a group within Canada has. Israel's response would be akin to the US, in my simulation, explaining to the citizens of Winnipeg (some of whom are NDP supporters and some of whom are not) that they must leave their homes within the next few days before the Americans attack the city. This would inevitably be followed by attacks on Winnipeg, followed by attacks on other american targets by NDP forces in other Canadian cities. The cycle of violence propogates itself ad infinitum.

My question now is, how would I want the Americans to react reasonably. It is unreasonable to expect that the Americans not react, and to not use force in their reaction. However, I would hope that the Americans begin by approaching the Canadian government with a direct message. "You must stop these attacks immediately and deal with this rogue group, we will help you in any way that you request, but you must deal with this problem immediately. If you fail to do so in a timely manner, we have no choice but to invade." A message like this forces the Lebanese people to make a clear and conscious choice as a country to either support this group and enter war as a nation with Israel (the terms of combat are much more clearly defined in nation vs. nation conflict) or to reject this group and become an ally with their neighbours (perhaps starting a civil war, but with much more clearer lines). As it stands the conflict is muddy and the Lebanese civilians are caught in a state of disarray with multiple masters. The violence brought on by the Israelis only strengthens the resolve of the militants and drives the moderates closer to their defenders.

Which brings me to the bigger picture here. In Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan there are groups of militant armed extremists that are holding their respective countries hostage by engaging in battles with Judeo-Christian nations and coalitions. They have declared a Jihad, which is mobilizing a great many people to their cause, people who are willing to kill themselves in search of martyrdom. By responding with force we only strengthen their argument that they are engaged in a Jihad which only strengthens their force. The extremists become more motivated and many moderates become more incensed. This is a battle that cannot be won. The key to this conflict is to promote leaders in the moderate muslim community. The people of these countries (and let's include Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia in the argument) need to have their faith strengthened by home grown non-violent muslim leaders. The majority need to be encouraged that strength in their religion will only come by rejecting these extremists instead of supporting them. The citizens in their own countries must turn against groups like Al Queda, Hesbellah, and Hammas, for the good of their countries and for the good of their religion. Islam is not the problem, it is the solution.

I cannot pretend to know enough about the history and religion in this region, but this is my humble opinion based on what I do know now. Let me know what you know and think so that I can adjust my thoughts and/or support my beliefs with more knowledge.

In the future I will discuss the question "Why did muslims fly planes into buildings in New York City?" It is a very important question, that we need to be continually asking ourselves.


Well, I am finally ready to make my first blog post. Hopefully, there will be many more to come. I have thought in the past that I need to get my thoughts and beliefs down; to create a collection of my ideas and ideologies. When I first became aware of blogs, I thought it was the perfect medium to do this. I just can't believe it took me so long to get it going.

I hope you find my points of view unique and interesting. I also hope you find them somewhat controversial. I like to think of myself as open minded above all else. So please respond to what you read so that I may further develop my thoughts and ideas.