Girls Just Want to Have Fun…at the Calgary Stampede

“When the working day is done.  Oh girls, they wanna have fun.”—Cyndi Lauper

After a rough few weeks Ms Soapbox and her family dug out their cowboy hats, found some denim shirts and went stampeding.

Ms Soapbox decided to retrace the steps of the all-time Stampede champion, Premier Rachel Notley, who has been spotted stampeding all over town.

Where to start?  How about the Zipline?  Rachel climbed up a 14 story tower, strapped herself into a zipline harness and whizzed across the Stampede grounds at 50 kmp.  The line zinged like a lightsaber.  When she was back on terra firma she declared it was “kinda cool”.

Ummm…nopeMs Soapbox fell off a curb at the Stampede last year and sustained a hairline fracture to her patella.  Ziplining was out of the question.   Wandering around the grounds sounded good.

Maybe something involving animals?  Rachel officiated at the wiener dog races at MLA Brian Malkinson’s Stampede Breakfast.  Three little dogs charged out of the starting gate, two got distracted and ran back to the starting line while the winner hopped over and around hay bales to take first place.  It’s not clear from the video footage whether the other two dogs understood they were haring off in the wrong direction.  (I’m sure there’s a lesson for the UCP in there somewhere).

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Ms Soapbox and family are photobombed by mini donuts

Ms Soapbox and her family opted for the Dog Bowl.  We cheered until we were hoarse for rescue dogs who dazzled us with feats of speed, agility, and cuteness.  We wandered over to the Ag Barn to check out the Clydesdales (which get bigger every year) and the miniature horses (which were tiny, sturdy, and delightful).

There’s always foodRachel and her Notley Crew flipped pancakes for 4000 Calgarians at the Premier’s Stampede Breakfast at McDougall Centre.

Yes, pancakes are a Stampede tradition, but after three hours on the grounds the Soapbox crew needed “real” food not flapjacks so we picked up a food map and headed for the kiosks flogging chicken on a stick, pulled pork, macaroni and cheese and Ms Soapbox’s personal favourite, pyrogies.  Nothing says “stampede tradition” like pyrogies, sausage, onions and sour cream straight out of a soggy carton eaten in the shade of the Banks of the Bow bronze sculpture accompanied by the howls of a strange small child who stepped on Mr Soapbox’s hand…twice.

Entertainment!  Rachel packed a lot of entertainment venues into her Stampede week—the highlight (for me at least) was when she joined the Maritime Bhangra Group on stage for Bhangra lessons.

The Soapbox entourage chose something a little more sedate.  We purchased tickets for the 50th Anniversary of the Young Canadians Grandstand Show.  They danced on stage and we boogied in our seats until the fireworks pffted to a stop and we staggered out into the smoky dark trying to remember where we’d parked the car.

Rachel Notley says in Alberta we know where we’re headed and how to get there.  This week she demonstrated it’s okay to have a little fun along the way.

Ms Soapbox agrees.

Happy Stampede, Alberta!

Posted in Celebrations, Culture, Humour, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Overheard at Rachel’s Cocktail Party

It was packed, absolutely packed, at Rachel Notley’s cocktail party at Hotel Arts in Calgary last Wednesday.

The event was billed as an evening of cocktails and conversation with Rachel Notley and her caucus.   Tickets were available with a minimum $250 donation and the place was jammed.

Ms Notley gave a short speech highlighting the good things the NDP government is doing for Calgary, including building the long overdue Cancer Centre, finishing the Ring Road and funding the Green Line.   She talked about the collapse of oil prices, the Fort McMurray fire, tariffs, and opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.  She described what her government had done to stabilize the economy and strengthen the social safety net in anticipation of better times which by all accounts are returning.

She praised Albertans’ resilience and said we’re ready to face the future with confidence and optimism.

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But you don’t really care about all that do you, you want to hear the gossip…  

Overheard…

Wow, I didn’t expect to see you here!  Federal and provincial Liberals and long-time conservatives showed up in droves.  Had they abandoned their parties or simply realized that now is not the time for brand loyalty?  As one long time liberal put it, “A brand is something you wear on your backside.  I’m supporting Rachel because she’s accomplished a lot”.

Check out at all The Suits:  Business men and women in dapper suits came straight from work.  These were the same people who’d had a Defcon 1 meltdown when the NDP came to power in 2015, terrified about the loss of their long-standing relationships with PC politicians.  They’ve got new contacts now; the economy is improving and they’re not afraid to show their support for the NDP.

People ask me if I’m a socialist.  I’m a capitalist: A venture capitalist with significant holdings in Canada and the US explained why capitalists should support the NDP.  He said the focus should be on the size of the pie and how the pie is divided; he warned that a capitalist who fights to keep the last 10% of the pie (by opposing an increase in the minimum wage for example) risks losing the other 90%.  Look at the mess in the US, he said, not smart.

Trickle down economics doesn’t work:  If it did, both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan would have received a Noble prize for alleviating poverty.

The NDP message is divisive:  Really?  How?  It divides the rich from everyone else (said the superrich conservative).  If there’s a better way to describe the impact of Kenney’s 10% flat tax than saying it benefits those making more than $128,000/year while chopping the healthcare and education budgets by $700 million, we’d love to hear it.

Alberta needs a provincial sales tax:  Every other province in the country has a PST.  It’s a reliable and sustainable source of income.  Agreed, but it’s political suicide;  or to put it another way, Albertans are big babies and won’t stand for it.  Pity.

Some people will vote UCP no matter what:  True, but we don’t need all the votes, we just need enough to tip the balance in our favour.  What about the Alberta Party?  What about them, or the Liberals or the Greens?  It’s a two-party contest:  Rachel vs Kenney.  (Refer to the “Wow, I didn’t expect to see you here” comments).

Can the NDP can win in 2019?  You bet they can.  Forget the polls which are unreliable and premature.  Look at the energy and commitment in this room.  These people want Rachel to win and they’ll devote their money, time, and talent to make it happen.

It’s a wrap

The cocktail party was still going strong when Mr and Ms Soapbox called it a night. We’d stuffed ourselves with canapes, we’d chatted with Rachel and her MLAs and connected with more NDP supporters than we dreamed possible at an NDP fundraiser in downtown Calgary.

We were struck by one thing.  If Rachel’s cocktail party is an indication of things to come, we’d witnessed the start of a phenomenon.

It’s called the Orange Wave.

Posted in Celebrations, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , | 43 Comments

My Mom and Canada Day

I’ve always had a tough time remembering my mom’s birthday.

Mom was born a couple of days after Canada Day and I was usually off in La La Land celebrating the end of school, moving, or doing lord knows what before I remembered that her birthday was just around the corner.

All that changed this year when Mom passed away suddenly the day before Canada Day.  While my friends were exchanging Happy Canada Day texts, my family was sorting through funeral arrangements.  From this point onward Canada Day will be bookended by the day Mom was born and the day she died.

There’s a harmonic logic to this.  Mom immigrated to Canada after WW2.  She was young and intelligent.  She knew her future lay in Canada, not Europe.  She got married, had children and devoted her life to ensuring her girls had the support they needed to succeed.

She was proud to be a Canadian citizen.  She was never “too busy” for politics and voted in every election because she knew from personal experience that our rights and freedoms could go up in smoke if we didn’t pay attention.

flag-heart-3d-250From now on when I think of Canada Day I will think of the generous country that gave my mom a chance to live a rich and beautiful life.

Thank you Canada.  Thank you Mom.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 57 Comments

Attack Ad: Yes or No?

Just for the record progressive voters really don’t care where Jason Kenney lived when he served in Harper’s government or whether he visited Alberta often enough or whether he’s using Alberta as a stepping stone in his quest for the Prime Minister’s office.

What progressives care about is Kenney’s track record in Ottawa and in Alberta.

Why is Ms Soapbox telling you this?

Because for a minute there she was worried that Alberta’s NDP might succumb to the lure of attack ads in the runup to the 2019 election.  It’s understandable that they’d consider it given who they’re up against.  Jason Kenney and the UCP have perfected the art of spinning a populist narrative loosely tethered to the facts.

Nevertheless, it would be a terrible mistake for Rachel Notley and the NDP to adopt a negative campaign strategy because progressive voters will not support a party that resorts to nasty attack ads complete with ugly photos, out of context quotes and ominous voice overs.  They expect this from the UCP, but not from the NDP who they hold to a higher standard.

This puts the NDP in a tricky position.  They need to walk a fine line between holding Kenney accountable for every blatant falsehood (also known as a lie) and misrepresentation he makes without crossing the line into vicious attack ads.

Attack Ads

Attack ads have been around for a long time in Canadian politics.  Pierre Elliot Trudeau attacked Joe Clark’s bumbling appearance and lack of experience, Kim Campbell attacked the way Jean Chretien talked in the “face ad” and Harper attacked Justin Trudeau’s experience and judgment win the “strip for charity” and “nice hair” ads.

attack

The Kenney Playbook Ad

Which brings us to the NDP’s Kenney’s Playbook ad.  It’s a 36 second cartoon set in a locker room where the coach tells Kenney he’ll win if he keeps quiet about paying for the $700 million tax giveaway to the rich by cutting healthcare and education and about his position on a woman’s right to choose.  The UCP characterized the ad as a heinous slur and an act of desperation, however everything in the ad said about Kenney was accurate.

Kenney says he’ll bring back the 10% flat tax, this creates a $700 million shortfall in revenue that can only be made up through cuts to public services.  Kenney’s anti-abortion stance has been crystal clear since his university days when he declared himself to be an anti-abortion activist.

The Kenney Playbook ad is not an attack ad, it’s an ad holding Kenney accountable in a humourous way.

However, there is one thing the ad got wrong, not about Kenney but about Albertans.  It said Kenney was new here and created the impression Albertans don’t know him.

This is incorrect.

Albertans know Kenney based on his track record as a politician with the federal and political governments.  They know:

  • He’s hypocritical. He is attacking the extension of “unfair equalization rules” which were designed by his own Conservative government and which he supported as a federal MP.
  • He lacks compassion. He cut health benefits to refugees and detained children of asylum seekers behind razor-wire fences, guards, surveillance cameras and rooms with barred windows.
  • He’s critical of experts who disagree with him, attacking them as “academic elites”.   Kenney says Alberta’s economy suffered from the implementation of the carbon tax, but the economist Andrew Leach says since Alberta expanded carbon pricing it’s had the fastest growing economy in Canada (Leach also said Kenney “made stuff up about the regressive impacts [of carbon pricing] on low income Albertans” when Kenney testified at the federal Finance committee).
  • He doesn’t care about social issues, characterizing policies like $25/day daycare and a $15/hour minimum wage as fiscal extravagance.
  • He’s inconsistent. He said he’s tough on crime but refused to vote in favour of more funding for rural policing.
  • He opposes a woman’s right to choose and gay-straight alliances in schools, treating them as snowflake social policies that violate…what…God’s will?
  • He’s dishonest, suggesting his top priority is to balance the budget without admitting he voted for six deficit budgets between 2008 and 2013 when he was a federal MP.

The NDP don’t need to resort to attack ads.  They can create a balanced ad campaign with ads that hold Kenney to account and ads setting out the NDP’s achievements and forward-looking vision.  If they include some humourous ads like Notley dancing at Pride while Kenney promises to end the “War on Fun” (?) their ad campaign will be head and shoulders above anything the UCP will come up with.

And the progressives will reward them with a second term in office.

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

Paris!

Ms Soapbox and her daughter have gone to Paris for a week.  Take good care of the province and the country until we get back.  🙂

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What pops into your mind when you see this: Louvre or Da Vinci Code?

Posted in Humour, Vacation | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Ontario Elects Doug Ford; Alberta Unleashes the Valkyries

Valkyrie: from Norse mythology, meaning “chooser of the slain”;  female figures who choose who will die in battle and who will live.   

Ms Soapbox has a message for all the politicians who “know” what their female constituents need but can’t be bothered to ask them; who condescendingly brush aside social issues because politics is only about the economy, and who in their heart of hearts believe politics would be a whole lot easier if women would stop bugging them about access to abortion and the cost of child care and just let the men get on with it.

Guess what.  The women have had it up to here.

The Doug Ford factor  

The election of Doug Ford, surely the stupidest conservative leadership candidate to emerge in a very long time, was the last straw.

valkyriesride

Valkyries

 

Sure, Alberta’s UCP consider Ford’s election as proof that the populist playbook guarantees success (Jason Kenney is lauding Ford’s election as “a great day for Albertans”) and yes, the UCP will unleash a tsunami of empty slogans (Alberta Advantage, rah, rah), dog whistles, and failed economic ideologies, topped with a dose of victimhood every day until election day but it won’t be enough.

Here’s why.

The women are engaged    

Ms Soapbox participated in four women-only political events over the last two weeks.  They were hosted by women who are horrified at the prospect of a UCP government in 2019.  Here’s what she’s learned:

  • Politicians who say politics is just about the economy really mean there’s no room for that “what-do-women-want-crap” in their party.
  • Politicians who say there’s no such thing as women’s issues haven’t the foggiest clue about the challenges Alberta women face 24/7.
  • Politicians, wannabe politicians and backroom players who shred party institutions in their quest for power don’t deserve anyone’s support.
  • Politicians who boast about holding the government to account while boycotting the debate on Bill 9 (the abortion clinic bubble zone bill) because it’s “divisive” are widely recognized as hypocrites pandering to their evangelical, pro-life base.
  • Vitriolic and veiled attacks on female politicians (of any stripe) say more about the attacker than the woman being attacked.
  • Politicians who label “feminism” an “f-word” are oblivious to the fact feminists come from all parts of the political spectrum.
  • Politicians who have a field day when a female politician stumbles are hypocrites if they continue to sing the praises of Doug Ford.

We could go on, but you get the drift.

Politicians who hold such beliefs are viewed with contempt and concern given they’ve been around for decades and are apparently unaware of the feminist waves which started in the 1830s with the fight for the right to vote, returned in the 1960s with a focus on the workplace, sexuality and reproductive rights, and morphed in the 2000s into a broad demand for political, social and sexual equality.

The Valkyries

Alberta is grappling with complex challenges. It is transitioning from a resource-based economy to one that’s more sustainable.  It’s trying to address the lingering effects of underspending in health, education and infrastructure while continuing to meet the demands caused by demographic changes in the population.

Populist politicians offer simplistic solutions to these problems:  inane slogans and quick-fix policies like returning to the flat tax and cutting “government waste” juiced up with dog-whistle appeals to cause Albertans to lose focus.

The women recognize that populist politicians pandering to their right-wing base will roll back the advances the NDP government has made on social issues like protecting gay kids in schools, protecting women exercising their abortion rights, improving the delivery of education and healthcare, increasing access to affordable child care and heightening awareness of climate change so we can transition to a more sustainable economy.

And they’re fighting back. 

They’re joining constituency associations, identifying potential candidates and encouraging women to run for office.  They’re busy fund-raising and volunteering for their  MLAs.  They’re speaking up and amplifying their voices on social media and in the main stream press (a slew of letters, even if they’re not published, will focus an editor’s mind).

They’ve become more visible.  They’re marching in festival parades to show support for the political party that supports them.  They’re telling their friends Rachel is doing a good job.  They’re reaching out to their networks and encouraging their friends to get engaged.

They’re brave.  They’re doing everything they can to ensure the next government won’t hurt their children, their partners, their parents or themselves.

They’re Valkyries soaring over the battlefield looking for political leaders who know that women’s issues are everyone’s issues.

[And for those of you looking for a little inspiration, here’s Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries]

Posted in Economy, Feminism, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , | 36 Comments

What do Jason Kenney, John Horgan and Elizabeth May have in Common?

This just in from the “strange-bedfellows” department:    

When it comes to the Trans Mountain pipeline, Jason Kenney, BC premier John Horgan and Green Party leader Elizabeth May are singing from the same song sheet.

They all agree that the federal government’s decision to buy Trans Mountain changes nothing.

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Elizabeth May & Jason Kenney

Who knew that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project would create such strange bedfellows.

Some facts   

Trans Mountain has carried crude oil and other products from Edmonton to Burnaby since 1953.  It’s been transporting diluted bitumen since 2004.  Kinder Morgan brought an application to expand the pipeline in 2013.  The NEB and federal government approved the expansion in 2016.  The expansion will triple capacity and increase Kinder Morgan’s tanker traffic off the BC coast sevenfold.  (Note: this increased vessel traffic will amount to 4.6% of all Port Metro Vancouver traffic by 2026).

Numerous court challenges have been filed to stop the expansion.  Kinder Morgan won 16 legal challenges to date, leading one to assume that at least as far as the courts are concerned Kinder Morgan, the NEB and the federal government followed all the rules.

However, on Apr 7, Kinder Morgan advised the federal and Alberta governments that it would walk away from the Trans Mountain expansion unless it received greater certainty that the project would not be inordinately delayed by court challenges.  The two levels of government had 50 days to come up with an acceptable solution before the May 31 deadline.

After reviewing a number of scenarios Kinder Morgan decided to sell Trans Mountain (the existing pipeline and the expansion project) to the feds for $4.5 billion.

Political rhetoric  

After months of demanding the Notley and Trudeau governments do something, Kenney was caught off guard when they did something.

Kenney needed to respond to a solution that would see the feds bearing the political risk of buying the pipeline and the Notley government getting the credit for pushing the feds into asserting their jurisdiction, getting construction back on schedule and putting 15,000 Albertans and Canadians back to work.

Kenney had a choice.  He could say, “good job, Rachel” and move on, or he could denigrate Notley’s success by parroting criticisms made by John Horgan and Elizabeth May who wanted to see Notley and Trudeau fail.

He chose to parrot Horgan and May.  Consequently, his criticisms are all over the map.  Kenney says:

  • Kinder Morgan simply transferred the “risk” to Canadian and Alberta taxpayers.   Kinder Morgan’s “risk” was that a delay in construction would make Trans Mountain less profitable.  The federal government’s “risk” was that a delay would (1) undermine its jurisdiction, (2) imperil its carbon tax policy, and (3) damage Canada’s reputation as a safe place for investment.  The feds reduced these risks by transferring Trans Mountain to a federal crown corporation that would proceed with construction notwithstanding ongoing litigation (which the feds are comfortable will be resolved in their favour). 
  • The purchase is a “huge taxpayer bailout”. Unlike Harper and Kenney’s $9 billion bailout of the Ontario auto industry, an equity injection of zero to $2 billion in a pipeline project supported by large-scale energy producers who’ve agreed to pay a regulated rate of return is not a “bailout”, it’s a smart “investment.”    
  • Notley should have kept the pressure on BC by continuing the wine embargo and implementing the “turnoff the taps” legislation. Why?  This would undermine BC residents’ support for Alberta and the pipeline and have no impact on the real issue which is federal jurisdiction over interprovincial pipelines.
  • Things should never have gotten this far and it’s all Notley and Trudeau’s fault because they ignored the threat posed by the BC NDP.  This is a reiteration of the wine embargo/turn off the taps argument and is supported by no specific suggestions other than Kenney saying Trudeau should pass Senate Bill S-245 which would declare Trans Mountain to be “a work for the general advantage of Canada”–a suggestion that’s garnered little support from legal scholars and does nothing to knock BC’s court challenges out of the docket. 
  • Notley is “celebrating” Kinder Morgan’s decision to pull out. This is ridiculous coming from the man who failed to offer one concrete suggestion that would have given Kinder Morgan greater certainty.  The best response to Kenney’s spurious allegation comes from Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman who said, “Every party needs a pooper”.    

One can’t fault Elizabeth May for making her arguments;  her position is based on her conviction that climate change is endangering the planet and any expansion of the oils sands (however insignificant on the global scale) must be stopped.

One has less sympathy for John Horgan who maintains his hold on power by bucking the rule of law and mounting spurious legal challenges.

But one really has to question the judgment of Jason Kenney, an Alberta politician who is so busy trying to score political points that he’s become utterly incoherent and now finds himself aligned with John Horgan’s NDP and the Greens.

Posted in Energy & Natural Resources, Environment, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 43 Comments