Two Pipelines Approved: The Opposition Reacts (badly)

Do you have a headache?

Are you an Alberta conservative wondering how to react to Trudeau approving the Trans Mountain and Line 3 pipelines and, horrors, singling out Notley’s Climate Leadership Plan as being vital to getting to yes?

If so, your conservative leadership team has prepared a carefully considered, cogent response.

Here’s what it looks like so far:

Demand denunciations   

Brian Jean, the Leader of the Official Opposition, rose in the Legislature the day after Trudeau approved two pipelines Alberta desperately needs and demanded that Premier Notley denounce everyone—Trudeau for not approving Northern Gateway and for confirming the anti-tanker ban of the west coast, “special-interest groups” who intend to challenge the pipelines in court and “anti-Alberta activists” who are speaking against the pipelines.

That makes no sense.


Brian Jean, Leader of the Opposition

Asking Notley to denounce Trudeau for not approving Northern Gateway after he’s approved Trans Mountain and Line 3 is both churlish and politically naïve.

Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman summed it up nicely when she told Mr Jean to stop being a “barrel half-empty” kind of guy and focus on the barrel being “two-thirds full”.

Denouncing “special-interest groups” and “anti-Alberta activists” (who knew you could be “anti” an entire province) demonstrates Mr Jean does not understand the rule of law (Canadians have the legal right to challenge tribunals’ decisions) and the principles of civil disobedience which state a citizen does not have to “resign his conscience” in the face of government legislation.

The PCs picked up where Mr Jean left off.

Predict failure and chaos  

PC MLA Richard Gotfried said Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline would go down the same black hole as Enbridge’s Northern Gateway.

Energy Minister McCuaig-Boyd disagreed, pointing to a fundamental difference between the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipelines.  She said Enbridge had done everything it had been asked to do but the federal Conservative government failed to properly perform its due diligence which led to the Federal Court overturning the approval of Northern Gateway, whereas in the case of Trans Mountain both Kinder Morgan and the government had followed the process correctly.

Undeterred Mr Gotfried pointed to Mayor Robertson’s opposition to Trans Mountain and Elizabeth May’s vow to go to jail if necessary, saying this indicated the NDP’s “magical currency of social licence” failed to bring pipeline opponents on board.

Ms McCuaig-Boyd said while she “respectfully” disagreed with those who opposed the pipeline, she supported their right to do so “all the way to jail if that’s what it takes.”

Mr Gotfried snarked back:  “Always good to have the NDP world view”.

The NDP world view?   

There is no reasonable response to Mr Gotfried’s comment other than to remind him and his fellow conservatives that this is the “world view” of most political parties in the Western hemisphere.

Create a diversion  

The conservatives continue to demand that Notley revoke the Climate Leadership Plan.

Let me rephrase that.

The conservatives want Notley to repeal the very thing that led Trudeau to approve the two pipelines in the first place.

Trudeau was crystal clear that without the Climate Leadership Plan his government would not have approved Trans Mountain or Line 3.  He said the plan had the support of industry and the environmental community.

While some members of the environmental community may be frustrated that the plan being used to justify these pipeline applications, industry support remains solid.

CEOs from Cenovus, CNRL, Suncor, GE Canada, Shell, SNC-Lavalin, Rio Tinto, Tech Resources and the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (which includes Enbridge, Kinder Morgan and Trans Canada) all support the plan.

So the question becomes:  If the federal government and industry support the Climate Leadership Plan why are the conservatives opposed to it?

The answer became apparent this weekend.

The Rebel Media organized an anti-carbon tax rally at the Legislature.  Speakers included Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, Conservative MP Kerry Diotte and federal Conservative leadership candidates Andrew Saxton and Chris Alexander.

The crowd began to chant “lock her up, lock her up” when Mr Alexander was speaking…

…and the man who hopes to be prime minister one day did not say, “hey guys, I understand your pain, but we’re Canadians, we don’t lock her up.  We vote her out”.  Instead he smiled and gestured and nodded along with the chanters.


Chris Alexander, the wannabe PM

Mr Alexander wasn’t the only conservative leader to enjoy the moment.  None of the conservative leaders at the rally attempted to redirect the crowd’s fear and frustration away from Premier Notley let alone explain how they would force the Liberal government to approve pipeline applications in the absence of a coherent plant to address climate change.

Next up

Premier Notley is going to BC next week to explain her Climate Leadership Plan in greater detail.  She hopes BC-ers will be more receptive to the pipelines when they learn about the 30% carbon tax, the 100 megatonne/year cap on oilsands emissions, the 45% reduction in methane gas emissions by 2025 and the phase-out of coal-fired power plants by 2030.

She’s using quiet diplomacy to demonstrate that Alberta is doing its part to address climate change as Alberta transitions to decarbonized and renewable energy.

The conservatives on the other hand are inflaming the “lock her up” crowd in the hope it will carry them into power in 2019.


Sources: Alberta Hansard Nov 30, 2016, 2177 to 2181

Posted in Uncategorized, Energy & Natural Resources, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

It’s Electricity Week…and the Opposition Won’t Stand for it

After the events of this week it’s unclear who the Opposition is standing for.

The NDP government announced it was:

  1. settling the PPA dispute over the enforceability of the “Enron clause” with Capital Power, TransCanada and AltaGas, leaving Enmax the sole outlier,
  2. compensating Capital Power, TransAlta and ATCO for the early closure of six coal-fired power plants,
  3. capping electricity at 6.8 cents/kilowatt hour for four years for families and small businesses and
  4. shifting from the “energy-only” electricity market to a “capacity” market.

The Wildrose and PC Opposition are extremely critical of these moves, claiming to stand for everyone, the people, the industry, and investors, in opposition to them.

Do their objections make any sense?

Settling the PPA dispute

After months of debating whether power companies could terminate their power purchase arrangements (PPAs) under a clause the government said was unenforceable the parties decided to settle.

Apparently, the companies will accept responsibility for losses caused by plummeting electricity prices and the government will accept responsibility for losses resulting from its climate plan.  Capital Power agreed to pay $39 million.  The amounts TransCanada and AltaGas will pay are not yet available.

With only Enmax left in the dispute the Opposition’s attempt to stand for industry against a “banana republic” was weakened.

So now it’s standing for Calgarians, arguing that if the government doesn’t leave Enmax alone, Enmax (which is wholly-owned by the City of Calgary) won’t be able to pay a dividend to Calgary and property taxes will rise.


Ric McIver (PC) and Brian Jean (Wildrose) Leaders of the Opposition

The Opposition’s stand would have been more compelling if Enmax hadn’t undercut it in its 2015 Financial Report  (p 81) where it said the outcome of the PPA dispute would not have a “material adverse effect” on its financial position.

In other words, Enmax will issue a dividend to the City of Calgary and if property taxes rise, it won’t be solely because Enmax refuses to join Capital Power, TransCanada and AltaGas in settling this dispute.

Compensation for early closure of coal-fired power plants

The climate plan forces all 22 of Alberta’s coal-fired plants to close by 2030.  Six of these will close prematurely leaving their owners, Capital Power, TransAlta and ATCO, with stranded assets.

The Opposition stood with the unhappy plant owners and the people living in communities like Hanna who rely on the coal-fired plants for their livelihood.

The government responded by negotiating a deal with the plant owners whereby it would pay them $1.3 billion over 14 years from funds collected by the carbon levy imposed on industrial GHG emitters.  In return the plant owners agreed to support the communities impacted by the closures through to 2030.

PC MLA Rick Fraser said it’s  “disgraceful” the government is passing the buck for supporting communities like Hanna to the power companies.

Think about that for a moment.

Who is better positioned to transition the local workforce from coal-fired plants to natural gas fired plants and renewable energy plants than the power companies who will be investing in these plants over the next 14 years, especially when $1.3 billion from the government is riding on it?

Electricity price cap  

The NDP government announced a four-year 6.8 cent/kWh cap on electricity prices for residential and small business consumers.

The Opposition says the cap is too high and it’s unnecessary because prices are low anyway.

True, the 6.8 cents cap is higher than 3.8 cents consumers are paying today, but it’s much lower than the 14.81 cents Calgarians were paying three years ago.  Also it’s a cap not a floor.  If prices stay low Albertans will pay less.

Why this is a problem for the Opposition who is standing for the people is a mystery.

Capacity market

The NDP’s most significant announcement was the shift from the “energy-only” electricity market to a “capacity” market to attract investment and transition to renewable energy.  The government expects 30% of our electricity to come from renewables and 70% to come from natural gas fired plants by 2030.

The Opposition says this is a hare-brained ideologically driven plan to re-regulate the electricity market, it’s flawed because the government didn’t consult industry or the investment community, and it will create investment uncertainty.

It’s standing with everyone–the people, the industry and the investors–on everything.

Let’s take a look at their objections.   

The government accepted the recommendation by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), a non-profit statutory body created by the Progressive Conservative government, to transition to a capacity market.  

It is NOT an “ideologically driven” plan. 

Alberta is one of two jurisdictions (the other is Texas) that has an “energy-only” market.  Most American Republican and Democratic states plus the UK (Tories) have a “capacity” market for electricity.  If it’s good enough for the Republicans and Tories surely it’s good enough for the Wildrose and PCs.

It does NOT “re-regulate” the free market. 

Blake Shaffer, writing for the C.D. Howe Institute, says the government had a choice between four kinds of electricity structures, two are market-based structures (“energy-only” and “capacity markets”) and two are non-market or centrally-planned structures (“long term contracts” and “cost of service regulated rate” models).

Shaffer says Alberta was right to reject the centrally planned model and stick with a marketbased system, namely the capacity market.

Incidentally, the Saskatchewan government run by Brad Wall (the Opposition’s role model) oversees a fully regulated cost of service electricity market; somehow this isn’t an ideological problem for the Opposition.

The government DID consult with the industry and investors.

AESO consulted with experts from The Brattle Group (economic, financial and regulatory), KPMG (tax/audit), Morrison Park (banking) and JCRA (risk management).

It learned that investment in energy-only markets was declining across North America and Alberta had to shift to another market structure in order to bring investment back.

It’s true AESO relied on internal experts to assess the impact of the four types of markets on stakeholders, however TransAlta CEO, Dawn Farrell, hailed the AESO report as “first class” and said from her perspective stakeholders had been listened to.

It will NOT create market uncertainty

Two of the biggest players in the industry, Capital Power and TransAlta confirmed they’d  be very significant investors in Alberta’s electricity industry going forward.

Share prices for TransAlta, ATCO and Capital Power jumped following the announcement.

This is a sign of improving investor confidence, not investor uncertainty.

Bottom line

Albertans will benefit from stable prices, the industry is going to invest in new and re-purposed facilities and investors prefer the capacity market to the energy-only market so who is the Opposition standing for?

The NDP government is standing for Albertans as it works with industry and investors to ensure the future of Alberta’s electricity industry.

The Opposition is standing for no one but themselves.

Posted in Energy, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Running on Half a Platform

Can we stop campaigning on half a platform?    

Brian Jean and Jason Kenney are united in one thing—the conviction that they must free Alberta from the “socialists” and return it to its position of unparalleled greatness where it will once again become “the shining beacon of hope” to Canada if not the entire world.

Their plan to “Make Alberta Great Again” consists of ripping up all the government’s policies.

Their vision for the future is neoliberalism…or their half-baked version of Fredrick Hayek’s philosophy that entrepreneurs, free of government oversight, will create wealth that will trickle down to everyone.

Like Margaret Thatcher they believe social issues are irrelevant.

Social issues

A political leader cannot claim he’ll make Alberta the “shining beacon of hope” if he’s not willing to set out the social side of his political agenda or worse, allows his supporters to do it for him so he can disavow it later if the public doesn’t like what it’s heard.


Brian Jean Wildrose Party Leader

Based on comments from the Wildrose, notably Derek Fildebrant, Albertans understand that the Wildrose considers social issues “stale” and not worthy of falling within the top 100 things the party needs to worry about.

The leader of the Free Enterprise Party is less forthright but NDP MLA Marie Renaud and blogger Mike Morrison (among others) are pressing Kenney to express his position on social issues.

When Renaud asked Kenney to state his position on abortion he said two things: (1) such questions were simply an NDP effort to distract people with “hot-button social issues” (ie. irrelevant) and (2) he valued human life.  Interestingly Kenney failed to mention that as a federal MP he supported a motion to set up a parliamentary committee to study when human life begins and thus re-open the debate on abortion.

Kenney didn’t respond to Morrison’s invitation to join him at the Pride Parade and answer questions about students’ rights to access gay-straight alliances and all-gender washrooms but Kenney’s position on LBGTQ issues is crystal clear.


Jason Kenney Free Enterprise Party Leader

In June 2005 Kenney presented a passionate argument against the Liberal government’s bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

He said “through all recorded human history, in every civilization, in every culture, in every religious tradition, in every secular tradition, in every legal and political tradition, marriage has been understood universally and without exception to mean a committed lifetime sanctified relationship between a man and a woman.”

He took a moment to add that “the ontological meaning of marriage as a heterosexual union, which is by its nature therefore open to the transmission of life and culture” did not unjustly discriminate against those who seek “recognition for unions in non-traditional relationships”.  (Presumably those who sought such “recognition” should simply disregard the fact he was voting against their right to do so).

The proxy question

The questions asked by Marie Renaud and Mike Morrison matter because in addition to eliciting a politician’s position on a specific issue (a woman’s right to choose or LBGTQ rights), they’re proxy questions for social issues in general.

A politician’s response to such questions is a good indicator of how he will prioritize issues and allocate scarce resources with respect to income inequality, homelessness, poverty reduction, domestic violence and support for the vulnerable and less fortunate.

A politician who refuses to answer such questions or dismisses them as “stale” or “irrelevant” is campaigning on half a platform and lacks the humanity and the humility to govern.

Posted in Politics and Government | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments

Who Let the Monsters Out?

To paraphrase Mayor Nenshi, we must never forget how easy it is for a narcissist with a microphone to open the closet door and let the monsters out.

Donald Trump, a woefully inexperienced blowhard, defeated Hillary Clinton by legitimizing attacks against women, minorities and immigrants.


Donald Trump President-Elect

Jason Kenney, unlike Trump, isn’t openly hostile to his socially progressive competitors.  Instead he allowed misogynist homophobes to hound PC leadership candidate Sandra Jansen out of the PC leadership race.

This was slick.  Not only did they succeed, they justified their success by creating the narrative that Jansen’s withdrawal from the race is proof she’s not a worthy candidate for leadership.  This is also known as blaming the victim.        

Jansen’s withdrawal from the race elicited some bizarre reactions.

“If you can’t take the heat stay out of the kitchen” 

Some pundits argue that Jansen didn’t have the guts to be a political leader.  This is ridiculous.

She’s been an MLA since 2012 and is the most progressive PC in the Legislature.  She supported legislation to allow students to request gay-straight alliances in schools even when it meant voting against her own party.

She’s a tireless champion for the LBGTQ community and women’s issues despite relentless online intimidation and bullying.

This online and face to face harassment reached fever pitch when she entered the PC leadership race and continues full tilt even after she dropped out.

Lesson:  female politicians who support progressive causes will be punished for challenging white male privilege.

“Boo hoo, I get nasty emails too”  

Old white guys writing for the tabloid press seem to think the snotty comments they receive after publishing a controversial column are the same as the filth flooding Jansen’s social media feed where every second word is c**t.

They forget that Jansen is an easy target.  She’s a highly recognizable public figure and a single mom.  These guys are practically anonymous.

Lesson: old white guys who aren’t politicians think they’re better qualified to advise female politicians on how to deal with hate mail than the female politicians who receive it, because…well, just because.

“Politics is a nasty business, get used to it” 

True, politics is a nasty business but it’s even nastier if you’re female.

Consider for a moment Stephen Kahn.  In the leadership debate Kahn said the PCs and Wildrose vote together 95% of the time, but it’s the 5% difference that’s significant because it reflects the PC’s socially progressive beliefs:  it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from or who you love.

Notwithstanding Kahn’s support for ethnic diversity and LBGTQ rights, and his tweets about a woman’s right to choose and Caitlyn Jenner being Barbara Walters’ most fascinating person of 2015 Kahn’s social media feed did not erupt in a socially regressive maelstrom.

Lesson: conservatives are kinder to progressive men than progressive women who dare to seek positions of power.

“When they go low, we go high”

As Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama recently discovered “when they go low, we go high” doesn’t solve anything because they simply go lower.

Marie Henein, the woman who defended Jian Ghomeshi on rape charges, says if we go high when they go low we’re going to get hurt or lose.  Instead, we need to go wherever they go, high or low, because suffering fools quietly means they can become president, or prime minister….or premier.

Let’s go to where Jason Kenney went when he learned Jansen was leaving the PC leadership race.


Jason Kenney PC Leadership Candidate

Kenney said he was “sad” Jansen (and Donna Kennedy-Glans) withdrew from the race…then in the very next breath he expressed the “hope” that the requirement of a $50,000 deposit and 500 nomination signatures didn’t stop people from entering the race.

Kenney’s “hope” is an innuendo suggesting Jansen and Kennedy-Glans bailed because they didn’t have the financial resources or the support to continue.  Jansen and Kennedy-Glans denied Kenney’s allegation but the insinuation stuck.

Let’s go to where Kenney went when discussing the allegation of bullying and intimidation.

He said if one of his supporters bullied or intimidated a female candidate they should apologize.  This is nowhere near good enough.

Kenney is responsible for the tone of his campaign.  His campaign team selects the people who volunteer on his behalf.  They represent him.  Whatever they do, they do it in his name.

As such Kenney must do more than say if someone somewhere did something they (not he) should apologize.

He needs to make it crystal clear that he will not tolerate any form of intimidation, harassment, bullying or abuse from his team and anyone engaged in such behavior will be tossed off the campaign.  Then he’s got to do it and tell us he’s done it.

Until he meets this threshold we’ll “go as low” as Jason Kenney goes and if we have to push the monsters of misogyny, racism and homophobia back in the closet, we’ll do it.

Because our Alberta is not Jason Kenney’s Alberta and it never will be.

Posted in Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Jason Kenney Takes a Page from the Donald Trump Playbook

Last night the Progressive Conservatives kicked off their leadership race in earnest.

As expected Jason Kenney urged party members to “unite Alberta” (ie destroy the PCs by merging them with the rebranded Wildrose party) while the other five candidates reassured attendees that the PC party could rise from the ashes.

It was a relief to hear PC MLAs Sandra Jansen and Richard Starke, former PC MLAs Stephen Khan and Donna Kennedy-Glans and Calgary lawyer Bryon Nelson reaffirm their support for the socially progressive platform originally espoused by Peter Lougheed.

Kenney was noticeably silent about social issues with the exception of a reference to the NDP’s pedagogic intrusion into the education of our children (more on that below).

Over the next four months Kenney will roll out a campaign that comes straight out of the Trump playbook; but because Kenney is smarter, smoother and more experienced than the airhorn down south, some progressive conservatives may be hoodwinked by Kenney’s rhetoric, not realizing they’ve been had until it’s too late.

The Trump Playbook 

Step One:  Find a way to get into the race 

Unlike Trump who entered the Republican party nomination race on the pretext he was a Republican, Kenney made no bones about the fact that he was not a Progressive Conservative and the first thing he’d do if he won was destroy the Progressive Conservative party.  The PCs let him run anyway.  That was sheer lunacy and now the PCs are fighting for their lives.

Step Two: Create a disaster   

Trump says America is a “disaster”:  crime is up, poverty is up, the economy is a mess.  It’s all bad, bad, bad.  This plays to the fears of two kinds of supporters:  those who’ve been hit hard by economic setbacks and those who haven’t but are afraid they will be.


Jason Kenney PC Party Leadership Contender

Kenney’s sole focus is the economy.  It’s an easy target given that energy is Alberta’s economic driver and world oil prices have crashed.  The unemployment rate is higher than its ever been, young people are leaving the province for jobs elsewhere, the whole thing is very discouraging, and while it shows signs of improvement Kenney won’t acknowledge them.

Step Three:  Create a scapegoat

Trump blames everyone for the “disaster”.  It’s the fault of the elites, the immigrants, the Muslims, the Mexicans, the Blacks who are shooting each other in the streets and those nasty women.  Did I forget anybody?

Kenney blames the “accidental socialist” government that hates the free market and is indoctrinating our children in some perverse way by demanding schools provide gay-straight alliances and gender neutral bathrooms.

What Kenney doesn’t say out but what’s implicit in his mission to destroy the Progressive Conservative party is that progressives are just as bad as socialists.  Why else would he be on a mission to eliminate the party when he could just as easily run on a platform to renew it?

Step Four:  Promise a quick solution

Trump’s solution for all that ails America is Donald Trump.  He’s the smartest man on the planet and the best negotiator so just leave it with him and he’ll make America great again.  Believe me!

Kenney’s solution is almost as simplistic.  He will bring back the Alberta Advantage—making Alberta the place for hope and prosperity where dreams come true (his words, not mine)—by eliminating the provincial carbon tax, fighting the federal carbon tax, reducing personal and corporate taxes and eliminating “job-killing” regulations.

Kenney’s solution will take Alberta back to the Klein era…which wasn’t entirely successful when oil prices were high and an absolute disaster when oil prices fell.

Unless Kenney has a plan to diversify the economy Albertans will be no more economically secure under a Kenney government than they were under the Klein, Stelmach, Redford and Prentice governments.

But Kenney isn’t concerned about changing the economic structure of Alberta.  He’s focused on re-establishing conservatism across the province.

His argument goes like this:  after 44 years in government the Progressive Conservatives drifted too far to the left.  This forced true conservatives to abandon the party and join the Wildrose.  The creation of two conservative parties allowed the NDP to sneak into power.  The only way to set the world right is for the two conservative parties to merge and they can’t merge unless the conservatives throw out the progressives who have no business being in the party in the first place.

The Fallout

Trump’s attack on everyone but the alt-white legitimized the voices of bigots, racists, sexists, xenophobes and homophobes.  The party of Abe Lincoln deserves better.

Donald Trump announces his Candidacy for President

Donald Trump

Kenney’s supporters are following in Trump’s footsteps.  They despair at the “liberal stench” emanating from the other leadership candidates.  They bemoan the fact that the LBGTQ community has more rights than they do.  They attack Sandra Jansen, the PC MLA who says she’s fiscally conservative and socially progressive in the most vulgar misogynistic terms imaginable.

Surely the party of Peter Lougheed and the people of Alberta deserve better than Jason Kenney—a fly-in candidate from Ottawa whose idea of leadership is mouthing platitudes, attacking progressives and handing out camouflage ball caps emblazoned Unite Alberta.

Posted in Education, Energy & Natural Resources, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , | 25 Comments

The Calgary Police Service: Allegations of Harassment and Intimidation

If you’ve ever wondered why women are reluctant to bring forward allegations of sexual harassment, look no further than the furor unleashed when 15 female police officers contacted city councillor and police commissioner Diane Colley-Urquhart to discuss sexual harassment and the culture of intimidation and retaliation they’d experienced at the Calgary Police Service.

Ms Colley-Urquhart took the matter to police chief Roger Chaffin.  Nothing happened until the story hit the press.

Then Chief Chaffin posted a statement on Facebook saying his door is always open to anyone whose been mistreated, implying that people (Ms Colley-Urquhart perhaps?) were politicising the matter and former police officers who confirmed the women’s allegations were spreading inaccurate information.

Ward Sutherland, a fellow city councillor and police commissioner, weighed in saying if this was a real problem Colley-Urquhart should have acted sooner, she should have brought the matter to the Police Commission and she was wrong on the facts.

Whoa, what’s going on here? 

The facts

In 2009 a workplace audit warned that a culture of bullying and retaliation existed in the Calgary Police Service.  Then-police chief Rick Hansen implemented a program called Respect Matters to “foster and maintain a culture of respect.”

The audit report and Respect Matters were of such little significance that they didn’t rate a mention in the 2009 Police Commission Annual Report (the Police Commission, like the board of directors of a corporation, provides governance and oversight to the Calgary Police Service).

In 2013 Chief Hanson commissioned a second workplace investigation, this one focusing on the human resources department.  The investigation revealed that while the Respect Matters program was good in principle it wasn’t being used properly to investigate, track and manage complaints.  The investigator offered recommendations to strengthen the HR department to address discrimination, harassment and bullying and to redress a lack of accountability where “bad” actors with the right connections are rewarded by preferred placements and promotions.

Once again investigation’s findings failed to make it into the 2013 Police Commission Annual Report.

I repeat:  the Police Commission is like a board of directors.  It receives monthly, quarterly and annual reports from the Calgary Police Service and meets with the chief of police on a regular basis and yet it was unaware of the 2009 and 2013 reports which painted a frightening picture of a toxic workplace culture at the Calgary Police Service.

But wait, maybe we’re overreacting.

Chief Chaffin’s response

Chief Chaffin says notwithstanding what some may think the human resources practices at the Calgary Police Service “…are as modern and evolved as any professional and progressive organization.”

This is not correct.


Calgary Police Chief Roger Chaffin

The HR departments in private sector companies understand that sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying happen in every workplace.  They develop policies that clearly state that employees (and contractors) who engage in harassment, discrimination and bullying will be disciplined.  They set up an independent complaints investigation process.  They track the number of complaints to ensure their policies are effective and they report to their boards of directors annually on the number of complaints and how they were resolved.

By doing so these HR departments protect corporations from legal liability and improve their ability to attract top talent.

What does Chief Chaffin suggest?

He asks anyone who feels they’ve been mistreated to reach out to him (this is the equivalent of reaching out to the CEO of a 3000 person organization) or use the “resources in our service” (the police officers serving a stint in HR until their next assignment comes along and who were roundly criticized in the 2013 report).

Chief Chaffin says the HR department has gotten better at doing its job.  He says “the recommendations from the 2013 workplace review have been implemented to a great extent”.

If this is the case workplace morale in general should have improved since 2013, right?

The 2012-2014 Business Plan and Budget says “promoting a respectful workplace” is a strategic objective.  The person responsible for achieving this objective is the HR Operations Inspector.  The HR Operations Inspector needs to meet certain performance measures to satisfy this objective.  The only relevant performance measurement I could find in the Plan was the response to the question “Overall, I’m generally satisfied with my current job”.  In 2010 85% of the respondents said yes.  In 2011 the percentage of generally satisfied respondents dropped to 78%.

These are very good numbers, unfortunately they’ve slipped.

By 2012 the percentage of employees who strongly agree with the statement “Overall, I am generally satisfied with my workplace environmentfell to 28%.  In 2013 it popped up a bit to 32%.  More recent numbers are not available.

While the rephrasing of the question from “current job” to “workplace environment” could impact the result, the general lack of employee satisfaction is confirmed by the Employee Engagement Index Score which placed employee engagement at 27% for 2012 and 31% for 2013.

So there’s probably a good reason why the 15 female police officers chose to reach out to Ms Colley-Urquhart instead of circling back to the HR department.

Collateral damage

Ms Colley-Urquhart has come under fire for weighing in on this issue.

Chief Chaffin said instead of “politicizing the challenging times an officer has experienced” it would be better to “expend that energy towards putting them in touch with the services we have to provide assistance.”  Given the problems with the HR department that were identified in the 2013 report (which don’t appear to have improved) it made sense for Ms Colley-Urquhart to take the matter straight to Chief Chaffin who appears to have done nothing.

Councillor and police commissioner Sutherland has a whole host of criticisms:  why didn’t Ms Colley-Urquhart raise this issue with the Police Commission (perhaps she wanted to give Chief Chaffin a chance to rectify the situation first).  Why didn’t she act sooner (the Police Commission was not told about the problem) and why is she playing this for political advantage (is she?).

All of which makes me wonder:  If 15 male police officers approached a male police commissioner to report a systemic problem at the Calgary Police Service would they have been hit with the same degree of skepticism and censure?

Sources :

Posted in Crime and Justice, Culture, Law | Tagged , , , , , | 39 Comments

Ten Things We Learned from Trump’s Presidential Campaign

Barring a catastrophe Donald Trump will not become the 45th president of the United States.

At the risk of tempting fate Ms Soapbox would like to present a top 10 list of things we learned from Trump’s doomed presidential campaign.

The Top 10 List

TEN:  The Republican Party is in desperate need of an overhaul: In 1860 the GOP selected Abraham Lincoln to be its first presidential candidate. Mr Lincoln was a thoughtful man who worked hard to create consensus across party lines.

By 2016 the GOP had drifted so far from its principles that it selected a craven businessman to be its presidential candidate.  Not surprisingly Donald Trump was so ill-suited to the task that he eventually abandoned the GOP in all but name, opting to run as the candidate for the alt-right movement.

NINE:  Running a country is not the same a running a business: It turns out free market entrepreneurs are not the best candidates for public office. This isn’t surprising because businessmen use the system—tax loopholes, bankruptcy laws, Chinese steel illegally dumped in the country—to pump up the bottom line while good political leaders improve the system to better serve the public good.  This requires a change in focus from me, me, me to us.

EIGHT: Being glib and obnoxious might work in business but it’s no substitute for coherent policy: It’s not enough to say the economy, the military, Obamacare, Iraq, NAFTA, safety, immigration, is a disaster and only I can fix it.  A candidate needs to articulate how and why his policies will work.  Oh and saying the US would have defeated ISIS if it had simply “taken the oil” when it left Iraq is not what we mean by a well articulated policy.


SEVEN:  Having contempt for minorities is dangerous; having contempt for women is suicidal. Trump divided the country into “us” and “them” by attacking immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, and Latinos; he threw in people with disabilities and prisoners of war for good measure. And then he went after the women.  Soon there wasn’t anyone left in the “us” category except Trump and the alt-right.  This is hardly a winning strategy when a candidate needs more than the wing-nut vote to win.  On the upside, we can thank him for the “nasty woman” label…it’s emblazoned on everything from T-shirts to coffee cups.   

SIX:  Being inarticulate will sink you: The pundits say televised debates don’t influence voters.  They’re wrong.  It’s one of the few times we get to assess the candidate under pressure.

Trump’s pathetic grasp of the English language rolled through all three debates.  He responded to the assertion that he painted “a dire negative picture of black communities” with “ugh” and said “stop and frisk” was ruled unconstitutional because it came before a “very against police judge”.

We’ve been down the sloppy-speech-equals-a-sloppy-mind path with George W Bush, we don’t need to do it again

FIVE:  There’s only so much you can blame on a global conspiracy or demons: Trump says if he loses it will be because the election is rigged but this doesn’t square with the Russians hacking the Democrats emails to influence the outcome in his favour.

He says Bernie Sanders made a deal with the devil when he threw his support behind Hillary–an allusion to the allegation that Hillary is a demon.  Apparently her security team can smell sulphur wafting off her body and everyone knows demons have poor personal hygiene. *Head shake* 

FOUR:  When one’s temperament is at issue it doesn’t pay to be vicious and vengeful. In 2006 Rosie O’Donnell criticized Trump for not stripping a beauty contestant of her title for underage drinking (and mimicked his comb-over on TV).  Trump responded with a barrage of hateful comments.  In the first debate he said Rosie deserved his abuse and no one feels sorry for her.  Geez Donald, get over it already.  To paraphrase Hillary: a man who can’t back away from snarky comments made 10 years ago should not be allowed anywhere near the nuclear codes.

THREE:  When mainstream media screws up, it screws up big time. The mainstream media succumbed to the temptation to headline Trump at the expense of the other Republican candidates, this allowed Trump to build up a head of steam. By the time the media realized Trump might actually win the nomination other credible contenders like John Kasich were sidelined.

TWO:  Political satire can take anyone down…but it takes creative genius to parody Donald Trump. What can I say?  Alec Baldwin, Kate McKinnon and the entire SNL team deserve Emmys for their brilliant portrayal of the presidential candidates.  And Donald, please note, Kate was just as hard on Hillary as Alec was on you.

ONE:  Democracy, clunky though it may be, still works: Despite the fact that the GOP saddled the public with an egomaniac as the Republican presidential nominee, Americans found a way to look beyond party loyalty and reject him.

Given the expected outcome of this election the GOP will be forced to conduct a deep post-mortem.  One can only hope that they’ll review their history, starting with Abe Lincoln, and figure out how to do it right next time.

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