Thank You Alison Redford

Alison Redford did two things right during her short stint as Alberta’s 14th premier.  She jumped before she was pushed and she implemented an expense disclosure policy that, like ball bearings underfoot, created chaos by exposing the PC government’s culture of entitlement in painstaking and petty detail.

The PC party was completely unprepared for the fallout.

Alison Redford jumps

The spotlight on Ms Redford’s lavish spending enraged Albertans and contributed to her hasty departure…but not before she landed in the Star Chamber and was subjected to the arrogance and stupidity of the PC party machine.

Let’s review:

Mr McCormick & Alison Redford

On Saturday, Mar 15, Redford was called on the carpet by PC party president Jim McCormick, and 50 PC directors for a four hour dressing-down.  She emerged, head held high, having agreed to change her behavior in accordance with a “work plan”.  Her grace under pressure triggered a standing ovation.

On Monday morning she shared the “work plan” with her caucus and that afternoon they gave her a second standing ovation in the Legislature.

On Tuesday Mr McCormick informed party members that the work plan “…isn’t meant to be a written document or a single solution.  It is about an improved way of working together to insure the members and your concerns are being heard directly by the Leader…I am proud of the history of our Party but am even prouder of what we’ll achieve working together going forward as a team.  I know our Leader shares this desire.”…

…and on Wednesday “our Leader” resigned.

What happened…?

Mr McCormick, in typical “old boy” fashion, gravely misjudged the premier, the MLAs, the constituency associations and Albertans in general.

Yes, a party is allowed to give its leader feedback, but a four hour pile-on is not only unprofessional; it’s bullying.  Instead of persuading the premier to accept a slow roll out the door (a la Ed Stelmach) in return for a plum posting (perhaps Alberta’s representative for “opening markets” in Singapore or San Francisco) Mr McCormick issued a very public “work plan”.

It was a clear vote of non-confidence.  It humiliated the premier and unnerved everyone else.  All hell broke loose.

Dissident MLAs refused to accept the “old boys” solution and met in smoke-filled rooms (well maybe not smoke-filled) debating whether to jump ship or ride it out.  Constituency association presidents planned to table a resolution demanding the premier’s resignation.

Premier Redford resigns

Most importantly, the public didn’t buy it.  Support for the PC Party continued to plummet, sinking to 19% last Wednesday.

And Ms Redford, being no dummy, resigned; but not before Mr McCormick further aggravated the situation by issuing sanctimonious statements in the press.

The “old boy” speaks    

With respect to the Dissident MLAs, Mr McCormick said “I don’t think people should be disciplined for their thoughts or expressing them.”* 

This was too much for Christina Rontynen, the president of a Calgary PC constituency association and political blogger.  She found Mr McCormick’s statement offensive.

Last March Ms Rontynen received a “Letter of Censure” from Mr McCormick for posting a blog about being invited and then uninvited to the 2013 budget lockup. He said that in her role as CA president he expected “mature contemplation and second thought prior to any communication that may reflect negatively on either the Party or our Leader” and that her blog crossed a serious line.

And yet a year later Mr McCormick in his role as PC Party President issued a “work plan” that reflected so negatively on his Leader that she faced a caucus mutiny.  This is more than offensive; it’s hypocritical.

A morally corrupt party

The culture of entitlement runs deeps in the PC government and its agencies.  The line between party business and government business no longer exists.

Premier Hancock

Party loyalists are rewarded for good service.  Former MLAs Lorne Taylor and Denis Herard are the latest examples—Taylor is going to the environmental monitoring agency and Herard landed at the WCB.

Messrs Hancock and Horner strenuously defend the use of government planes to conduct party business.  Mr McCormick, party president, says the party can force the premier (government) to fire her staff.  And the “work plan” created by the party guaranteed its members a right not enjoyed by other Albertans—a direct line to the party leader (who happens to be the premier).

The PC party has operated in an echo chamber for decades.  It hears nothing but its own voice.  It senses danger on the horizon but expects to save itself from annihilation by resorting to “old boy” parlour tricks.

In the next few months Albertans can expect to see:  (1) changes to the leadership selection process to favour an acceptable “old boy”—Doug Horner and Bill Smith, past PC party president, perhaps, (2) Ms Redford appointed to an international post to smooth over the bad PR created by Mr McCormick’s abysmal mismanagement of “the Alison problem” and (3) the marginalization of the Dissident MLAs   (Somebody has to take the fall for this mess and it ain’t going to be Mr McCormick!)

New leader, same old party

As we speak some starry-eyed PCs are debating whether to run for the leadership of the party.  The poor dears fail to realize that while their party was calcifying, Alberta changed—and not for the better.

Ralph Klein’s austerity measures have come home to roost.  Our children are packed into schools like sardines, surgeries are cancelled for lack of beds, seniors die from mistreatment, labour unions and universities are gutted and our health and environment are degraded because the government won’t enforce the law.

The government says Alberta is having a banner year…and yet we’re billions of dollars in debt.

The old PC government, under the new leader, will do what it always does—slide the problem under the rug or hand it off to the private sector.

T – Rex

But that doesn’t cut it anymore.

Remember that scene in Jurassic Park where the T-Rex is chasing our hero in an open jeep and he looks in the rear view mirror and sees this: “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear”.

In 2016 the PC party will discover a T-Rex in the back seat…and Alison Redford put it there.

Thank you Alison Redford!

*Calgary Herald, Mar 19, 2014, A4 

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56 Responses to Thank You Alison Redford

  1. Tom McPherson says:

    And I thought it was dirty pool years ago when some yahoo suggested that Mr. Harradence was going to nationalize the oil industry. Result (end of his pursuit to be premier). Now in this latest scenerio at least the mla folks aren’t ending up in prison like our neighbors to the east had there politicians doing a few years back.The sad part of all is that Albertans are going to inherit many bad policys etc. and no end is in sight yet. God bless us all, especially our children and there children. More later as I have to run now .

    • Tom, I don’t know if Redford realized what she was doing when she implemented the expense disclosure policy but it proved that she, her party and the PC agencies (remember Allaudin Merali’s expense claims for butlers and beer) are out of control. Add this to the appalling way Mr McCormick and 50 of his cronies treated Redford last Saturday (and remember I’m not a fan by any stretch of the imagination)…well, there’s so much to talk about. We’ll continue the conversation when you come back.

  2. Rose Marie MacKenzie-Kirkwood says:

    I wish I understood politics, but to me it just looks like Russian nesting dolls, with each layer it gets more complicated. Thank you to those of you that continue to attempt to arrange the dolls in a reasonable, working order that I can understand.

    • Thanks Rose! The Russian nesting dolls analogy is a perfect–and that’s why it’s so hard for us to understand. The unelected power brokers are buried way down deep in the belly of the party. And here I thought the MLAs we elected were in charge, silly me!

  3. A brilliant summary of the moral rot which has infected the PC party of perpetual entitlement.

  4. Pete Whitehead says:

    Love your blogs. Well researched, well written and so far I agree with you.
    Please keep up the good work.

  5. Pat Cooper says:

    I agree with all you say except I think Premier Redford did many things right. I think we will find ourselves very sorry that this classy smart lady is gone. And we will get to watch some old white guy run things , probably not as well as she did. I hope they chose well but who would want that job???

    • Pat, you’re right to point out that the Redford made good on some of her pre-election promises. She came through with the $107 million for teachers and increased AISH payments to $1,588 (up $400). Other promises fell by the wayside. I agree with your comment that she’ll be replaced by an old white guy or maybe even a young white guy provided he demonstrates his loyalty to party president Jim McCormick. Unbelievable.
      PS. Welcome to the Soapbox!

      • Mary Thygesen says:

        Susan, I have just one small quibble with Redford’s government coming through for teachers. There was talk of imposing contracts and the ATA recommended the contract with reservation. In any event, teachers continue to face increasing class sizes without adequate support.
        Thanks for another excellent blog.

      • Mary, great point. The “gift” of the $107 million simply re-instated the amount originally budgeted. The new contracts were forced down the teachers’ throats and the 50 new schools and 70 modernized schools will not be nothing more than “Building Alberta” signs for years to come (if ever). Alberta has no future without education…it’s appalling that the richest province in the land doesn’t understand that, and I’m not just talking about the government, many Albertans go ballistic about more tax dollars going to education as well. Pathetic.

  6. Ted Woynillowicz says:

    The PC Party is so deeply mired in the service of its own interests that it is highly unlikely that they can ever come to terms witht the notion that serving the province comes ahead of serving the party and their own self interests. Of course if serving the province, or for that matter the country’ was a reality we’d actually have a functioning rather than a managed democracy. Susan, another thoughtful and refreshing blog.

    • “Mired” is right Ted. Today’s Herald says that the Tory board is meeting today (Mar 24) to discuss timing for the leadership race and whether they should raise the entry fee because a high price tag could dissuade long-shot contenders. (read: only “old boys” need apply). Having said that, they devour the “new boys/girls” so maybe it’s best for all concerned.

  7. If spending scandal is largest concern of Albertans – not the hidden deaths of 741 dead children – we have much bigger societal woes.

    Premier Redford out, Hancock Human Services (aka: Child Welfare Minister) in. Wake up people and SEE the distraction!

    • Velvet, I agree 100%. I watched Mr Hancock’s swearing-in ceremony. First thing I noticed was he was wearing a Children First pin. He gave an eloquent speech that ended with him giving credit to his children, his wife and their parents. He said that with their love and support he knows he can bring his best every day and he and his colleagues will work to make Alberta stronger and build a future for our children and grandchildren. I wish we had a video of his meeting with the United Church ladies who demonstrated outside the Legislature in the freezing cold to bring attention to his failure to address child poverty (he was rude and dismissive of them and child poverty is still a major problem) and his callous comments when the news broke about the 741 children who died in government care, and so on.

      It’s not enough to push ahead with the prosperity (big business) agenda, the government needs a strong social agenda too.

      • People have been asking my opinion whether I am hopeful for the Province upon resignation of Premier Redford since this led to Deputy Minister taking on the role. I will confine sentiments which would be far too frank. Simplistically, focus was shifted in an attempt to garner sympathy for the System rather than the Children and the speaker is now our Premier. Instead, I will respond as a query: Does anyone believe that leadership will improve where the person who was Minister of Human Services revealed 741 fatalities occurred, yet minimized lost lives?

      • Velvet I’ve seen a few surveys asking whether we think things will change now that Redford is gone. Bottom line for most respondents, there’s not much point in changing out the leadership when the party remains the same, better to just get rid of the party once and for all.

  8. Carlos Beca says:

    Although I agree with you that the PC party is an old boy’s school type organization I think that Alison Redford can only blame herself for what happened. She has been a flip flop from day 1. She has been arrogant and condescending all along. Even when the party boss came up with that sad ‘work plan’ idea, it was up to her as the leader to just say no and either resign or confront them. She did neither. She made up her own death bed and I for one have no sympathy at all for what happened and I am more than happy to see her go. Even If the PC party goes down in flames it will be one more in my opinion. It is a party full of bad habits, totally out of reality and in my opinion bad management for this province since Peter Lougheed left. Even Ralph Klein who is considered a great premier, to me was not at all good for the province. The results are now visible. All the changes he made in the 90s are now coming to fruition and the results are to say the least a disaster especially in the energy sector and the deregulation. Ralph Klein’s policy in Health Care was to kill the public system. He was never allowed to do it but the consequences of that constant battle is a system in a state of confusion.

    By the way Velvet I totally agree with you. Hancock is as bad or worse than Alison Redford, that is why he was her deputy minister. The PCs are on the ropes and I do not believe they will survive. There are many trying to move to the perch. The cock fight is going to be interesting and probably fatal. The only reason I want them to survive is to split the right wing vote.

    • Carlos: Agreed. Redford was as much at fault as the “old boys” and certainly could have (and should have) rejected the “work plan.” That raises an interesting gender question: Would McCormick have subjected someone like Hancock to a four hour grilling and given him a work plan? If so, would Hancock have stood for it? Somehow I doubt it. In any event, the whole thing is strange and will get even stranger as the leadership race gains momentum. We’re going to witness a leadership race where the contenders can’t draw blood because they’re afraid they’ll bring the house down. Bizarre.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Well Susan sometimes there is only one solution against bullies – it is to confront them. Alison Redford should have never acepted what McCormick did. McCormick would have never done the same to Hancock because I am sure Hancock would have left the room way before the 4 hours. Somehow I cannot see Alison Redford intimidated by this situation. It sounds to me more plausible that she was willing to do anything to save her political skin. That was way more important to her at that moment than anything else.

  9. Ken says:

    Hello Susan, I just recently stumbled across your blog and wanted to let you know how much I like it. Keep up the good work.
    Regarding Dave Hancock being sworn in as Premier, I had to laugh at the contradiction between these two quotes:
    – We know we made mistakes and we will learn from those.
    – We will continue the agenda for change that people voted for.
    The PCs don’t get it. Albertans don’t want to pay for lawyers fees to fight a law that violates our own labour code. Albertans never voted for pension reform that was never mentioned during the last election. They’re just not getting it.

    • Thanks Ken! Hancock is indeed the master of contradictions. He’ll soon be joined by the PC leadership candidates, Lucaszuk who single-handedly destroyed university funding, Denis who as Justice minister must have approved Bills 45 and 46, Horner who is pushing pension “reform” and goofy new accounting rules and Hughes who “streamlined” our energy legislation by wiping out the public interest test. Can’t wait to hear how they distance themselves from Alison’s bad decisions when they as cabinet ministers were instrumental in getting them approved.

      • Ken says:

        Graham Thomson has an interesting article on this in today’s Edmonton Journal:

      • Great article Ken, which hones in on the very point you made…the inconsistency of Hancock’s acknowledgment that “we” made mistakes while at the same time staying the course with Building Alberta, Bills 45 and 46, etc. If they’re blind to what they did wrong, they’ll never be able to fix it.

  10. berryfarmer says:

    As usual, Susan, a wonderful read. I’m wondering whether an outsider (well… at least outside the current caucus) such as Stephen Mandel might try to lead the PCs. He’d sell it as trying to break out of the Big Tent and actually build a party that was progressive and let the father to the traditional right folks go WRP. He’ll sell it as building a new start for the fresh young progressives of Alberta… such as Nenshi and the Nenshi crowd. I don’t think it will work… but it will set progressives back in building something truly new for another election or two. I’m waiting to see who enters the race, which cards they play, whether they can “fool us twice” and just what is in store for us by fall.

    • Will, now there’s a scenario I hadn’t considered…Mandel building a “progressive” PC party and letting the “blue” PCs continue their defection to the WR. Sounds risky unless Mandell has a good idea of how many PCs will bail and who he’s got left. But you’re right, that would likely scoop up the progressives who are looking for a different solution in Alberta. One think I’m sure of–the PCs won’t be able to “fool us twice”. Our experience under the Redford government was such a disaster I don’t care what the next Bozo eruption looks like, this time we’ll vote for a political party not against one.

  11. Pam Barrett says:

    I think we need to look at how government conducts itself and push for a fundamental change in the system. It is antiquated and much too expensive. There needs to be cuts but not at the grassroots level.

    • Agreed. You don’t chop staff at the bottom before you’ve sorted out the organization at the top. One thing is for certain, the government is not just a $40 billion corporation in disguise, public service is not the same as creating value for your shareholders. For one thing the government should be looking out for the interests of all Albertans, whereas a corporation is focused on what’s best for its shareholders.

  12. I sense Albertans are continually looking for the mythological messiah. The espoused theory and rhetoric as to what they claim to be about is totally opposite to the lived actual practice. Now that CAPP has the AER in place as lawmaker – enforcer – licensing agency for water and oil and gas, with corresponding validation legislation that most Albertans do not understand. Corporate Alberta no longer need political parties to do their bidding. Politics in Alberta will continue to be the circus of distraction – and the money and roses will not be shared with the peasants. Putin in Russia is taking his cues from past forty years of the revolution in Alberta where take-over occurred without firing a shot. Albertans truly are world – class leaders.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      Reality is always so cruel in our extreme world of human predators. We will be lucky if we can survive ourselves. Politicians are the ultimate representatives of this class.

      • Carlos, we’re in for quite a show over the next six months as the PC leadership contenders try to take down their competition without taking down the party as well. Let the games begin!

    • Bruce, the news in yesterday’s Daily Oil Bulletin confirms your point. Oilsands producers will invest $25 billion in capital in 2014 despite the lack of pipeline takeaway capacity. That tells me their work in Alberta is done–the AER is in place and the “right” people have been appointed to run it and its sister regulators like the environmental monitoring agency. Time to shift their focus back to Washington DC. And it all went off like clockwork. Amazing isn’t it?

  13. David Grant says:

    Actually the last premier who had any competence was the late Peter Lougheed and that is a sentiment that most AUPE members would agree with. In terms of Premier Redford, Bills 45 and 46 really angered me a union member and fortunately a judge agreed and put an injunction on the bill. The corruption is bad, but the thing is, many Albertans still think of corruption as something that happens in other places like in Quebec with the revelations that the Charbonneau Commission uncovered. They don’t know one of the big funders of the PC campaign was the owner of the Monterey Care facility in Calgary, who exploited his workers which ended up in a lockout that went on for many months until it was resolved. My question is just how many other slime like this owner are out there? With our lazy, lazy, corrupt media, we can never know(the CBC, VUE Weekly,Fast Forward and other publications are the exception). People have to wake up to the fact that corruption is a human condition. This isn’t God’s country, even though we think it is. Alberta isn’t the most ideal place in the world and far from the worst, but it isn’t living up to its potential. We could and should be doing so much better and we should expect nothing less.

    • David you make a very interesting point about our naivety when it comes to the relationship between government and big business. I’m reading a book about Teddy Roosevelt. He was very aware of Tammany Hall from his early experiences in the state legislature, but it wasn’t until he became the governor of New York and found himself beholden to the head of the Republican party that he finally started to understand what he called “the invisible empire”—the thing that’s created by the web of relationships and favours that flow between a political party and the corporate world. It was extremely well established in Roosevelt’s time, we have absolutely no reason to believe that it’s not even better established today. You put it well in your last sentence “We could and should be doing so much better and we should expect nothing less”. My hat goes off to the Monterey Care workers who fought for their rights. They’re an example to us all!

      • David Grant says:

        The Monterey workers are an inspiration to us all. Your observation about Tammany Hall and that period is quite a good one as it presents a clear understanding of the Gilded Age which ushered in a lot of progressive policies which have benefited us all–even for those who scorn those changes!!!!

      • What’s interesting about the US example of Tammany Hall is that the Republican machine actually nominated Teddy Roosevelt to be the Vice President in order to sideline him and his progressive ideas. The VP then was nothing more than a ceremonial position. It was only the assassination of McKinley that thrust Roosevelt into the presidency and gave him the power to move forward with his progressive agenda on a national scale. I wonder whether the history books will record Redford’s selection as PC leader as the trigger that unleashed the revelations of entitlement by her and by the party itself (for example the secret but legal trust fund the PCs set up) which marked the demise of the PC party forever. Here’s hoping!

    • Sam Gunsch says:

      re: “Actually the last premier who had any competence was the late Peter Lougheed “.
      Pretty much. Although Stelmach does deserve credit for the common sense to attempt the royalty review to get something close an owner’s fair share of AB’s one time black gold jackpot.

      excerpt: “Let us not forget Alberta produced such a remarkable leader — Peter Lougheed, who ruled over the province from 1971 to 1985. He advised Albertans years ago to not be doormats to the oil industry and to remember to squirrel away for the future.”

      excerpt: It is clear Alberta needs to pick a new leader in the race expected later this year who can grasp what is at risk and deal with the changes sweeping the globe. Let us not forget Alberta produced such a remarkable leader — Peter Lougheed, who ruled over the province from 1971 to 1985. He advised Albertans years ago to not be doormats to the oil industry and to remember to squirrel away for the future.

      “Lougheed advised Albertans to behave like an owner, collect their fair share, save for the rainy day, go slow, add value and govern wisely,” Andrew Nikiforuk, one of the country’s sharpest tar sands critics wrote in the Tyee [5] recently. “This remains a radical agenda for an ailing province.”

      Alberta needs new direction, even radical change — for its own sake and for the sake of the rest of the country, if not for the world.”

      excerpt: “After being pestered for years by shareholder activists, Exxon has agreed to produce a public document on its “carbon asset risk.” This means it is willing to admit that some of its fossil fuel assets — possibly including the spanking $13 billion Kearl tar sands project in Northern Alberta — could be wiped off its books if governments start taking action on climate change.”

      I think that’s some nicely put current comment re Lougheed’s governance in a blog post that connects the leadership issue and the future of AB’s petro reserves as possible stranded assets, i.e. the potential consequences to AB economy.

      The Klein-launched industry-government joint-venture going all in on petro may turn us into a vacated mining town economy for our grandkids. Maybe sooner subject to technological breakthroughs.

      Sam Gunsch

  14. Sam Gunsch says:

    foundation of AB’s problems?
    Rule by vested interests: corporatism.

    Political system transformation:
    Klein’s era saw AB transformed into a corporatist governance system.
    Interest groups govern in joint-venture with elected reps.
    History: See Mark Lisac’s Chapter 9 The Corporate Province in his book: The Klein Revolution

    Royalties. see Big Oil.
    Flat Tax. see Market fundamentalism for and by the wealthy. i.e. Shrink gov’t until you can drown it in the bathtub… by cutting it’s revenues.
    Deregulated electricity system – see ATCO, TransAlta, Capital Power, SNC Lavalin, how many B$ paid for DC powerlines by ratepayers to export coal power?

    Corporatist governance sidelines citizens and common good marginalized.
    Democratic shell left intact. Public policy no longer deliberated in legislature. PC’s and interest groups negotiate what’s possible. Interest groups, like Big Oil, fund propaganda as required.

    Additional sources re various takes on corporatist governance of AB:

    AB’s a Banana republic according to Allan Warrack:
    PM’s favourite province squandered its petro profits like a ‘banana republic.’ Is this any way to run an economy?

    or Frank Dabbs on AB’s post-democracy:
    “So what is Ralph Klein’s legacy? Nothing less than a total transformation of how Albertans are governed.”

    See any of Andrew Nikorfuk’s petro-state work:
    (Nikiforuk’s thesis is too narrow: ignores industrial sectors like logging, irrigators,Calgary financial sector that jointly govern AB for private interest)

    For analysis of AB revenues: Kevin Taft’s “Follow the Money”:

    see also Mitchell Anderson

    The clearest example of corporatist governance, IMO, is the royalty review:
    PC party and Wildrose are interest groups that negotiate with AB’s other power groups, e.g. Big Oil, over their respective interests, rather than gov’t considering what’s good for the province as a whole.
    Hence, e.g. Stelmach’s royalty review, which was consulted widely for the first round, not just privately with Big Oil, led to his ouster. Big Oil dropped funding to PC’s, funded Wildrose in retaliation to punish PC’s for threatening the PC’s key joint-venture partner with too tough of a deal.

    PC’s got the message. Rates did not go up. AB cannot fund public goods: education, infrastructure, senior’s care, etc.

    Also: We’re still stuck with the flat tax via the ideology of the movement with leaders Thatcher/Reagan/Friedman/Ayn Rand legacy that took hold in AB.

    Explanation: See Donald Gutstein, Civitas, Calgary Herald, Sun News, Fraser Institute et al
    Not a Conspiracy Theory: How Business Propaganda Hijacks Democracy

    Sam Gunsch

    • Sam, excellent comments and great references. I’ve read Kevin Taft’s book and just recently signed up for the Tyee but had not seen the Allan Warrack and Frank Dabbs articles. I note the Dabbs article was written in 2006. He thought the EUB was offensive; he must be appalled by its shiny new replacement the AER which is run by Chairman Gerry Protti (formerly of CAPP) and CEO Jim Ellis (deputy minister of Environment when it banned Pembina from participating in project reviews). The opposition parties fought this legislation tooth and nail but the “post-democratic” structure described by Dabbs ensured that it passed effortlessly.

      • Sam gunsch says:

        Supplement re AB species and history of corporatism…
        relevant Mark Lisac excerpts:

        In 1993-1995, Mark Lisac documented a manifestation of corporatism in the numerous public policy consultation processes. That is, *managed* processes, in making his argument that Klein and Alberta’s corporate class thus transformed AB into a modern form of a corporatist state.

        excerpts below taken from “The Corporate Province, Chapter 9 in The Klein Revolution (1995) Mark Lisac’s political analysis and from his seminal 1993 Edm Jnl column that he uses to open the chapter.

        p. 141 “When I look at the way things are going and write about a drift toward a corporate state I mean a different method of government, not just a government influenced by business.”

        [ BTW: this “method” issue is exactly the distinction that is the key essential clarification to keep in mind about corporatism… which John Ralston Saul also pointed up in the preface to the 2005 version of his Unconscious Civilization (1995 Massey Lecture). Basically Unc. Civ. is IMO, *the* essential foundational treatment of modern corporatism throughout the West. AB’s species one of the most extreme.]

        p. 152 “…he clearly ran a government in partnership with business ¬¬– government as joint venture.”
        p. 159 “…an “opaque and mystified form of oligarchy.” ” ( this is re Alberta’s particular form of corporatism. S.G.)
        p. 141 “…make it easier for part of society to impose its will on another part.”
        p. 142 “…Klein and his government were changing democracy in Alberta. They were building new structures to drape a velvet cloak over dissent.”
        p. 144 “Officials and cabinet ministers controlled invitation lists. The controlled the agenda. The controlled the information booklets…”
        p. 144 “… the organizers always picked the people who reported on the small workshop sessions. Control was built in at every level.”
        p. 146 “… a corporate directorship acting behind the facade of the government.”
        p. 157 “There was a progressive blurring of the lines between government administration, private groups or businesses, and the Progressive Conservative Party. The blurring had been a feature of Alberta politics for many years. But it was spreading.”
        p. 157 “More and more, when I had call to write about “the Conservative Party,” it felt instead that I should be writing about “the Party.”
        p. 158 “It was tough trying to create a partnership while making sure that some of the partners had a controlling vote.”

        Lisac makes it clear that corporatism in the sense he is applying to AB, is that of a state where groups rule the province in joint venture with the government when he writes ” a different method of government, not just a government influenced by business.” p. 141

        So, following Saul, in a strongly corporatist polity like AB, the source of legitimacy for government/governance has been substantively transferred from the citizenry as a whole to unelected groups. Elected representatives corrupted themselves and substantively hollowed out parliamentary democracy by acting as agents of vested interests and negotiated with them all substantive public policy.

        And as evidence in AB’s history of tax policy, royalty rates, regulation of oil/gas/tar, drilling and logging of habitat so AB’s losing wildlife to extinction, fisheries in decline, tailings leaking, fracking Lethbridge, etc… it’s clear that the most powerful groups have been getting what they want from GoA. Of course, as Google would reveal, I would be expected to cite these sorts of examples due to my F/T work from 1987 – 2001 as a volunteer and paid enviro. And I’ve monitored and dabbled since then.

        Given all these sources I’ve read about AB politics and corporatism, I’ve come the view that AB needs a democracy movement. As much or more than most of the West.

        The corporatist approach of including public interest groups on environmental policy has been co-optation at best within parameters pre-set by industry and GoA, and/or symbolic at worst. ENGO’s by our participation have actually legitimized, including myself, much of the current domination and control of regulatory regimes. Plenty of poli sci literature on this result in EU and USA.

        re futility of corporatist politics of “collaboration”
        The health of Athabasca River was at issue in the late 1980’s due to pulp mill expansion.
        Klein promised it would all be fixed. Then in the 1990’s…got the ENGO’s into 5 years of Northern River Basin Study consultation and promises. Water policy consultations in the 2000’s. Now JOSM process.

        And still AB’s GoA and industry sectors deliver this sort of result:

        In the late 80’s early 90’s, Schindler was there explaining the science/ecological issues around Al-Pac for example. He’s since exposed the tarsands B.S. But AB still gets this pathetic protection plan.

        And AB’s brand is supposedly “responsible development”.

        Sorry. Sham B.S. It’s really: Corporatist development.

        So…AB is in it’s third decade of corporatist governance.

        And as we are seeing, a democracy movement is nascent in Canada… Canadians have found out under Harper what a corporatist governance system does…
        When he got power, a long time AB political observer said: “now Canadians are going to find out what it’s been like living in AB.”

        And wow! was that accurate or what?!

        BTW From my understanding of corporatism and fascism, Harper’s approach is not fascist. Nor was Klein’s. Their politics are corporatist.

        But unfortunately, many, as the blogosphere reveals, are using the fascist label, and I believe it’s obviously because some features/elements of their politics/governance methods are shared with corporatism. And fascism jumps up at people because corporatism was the political theory that provided the intellectual foundation for Mussolini and Nazi Germany’s political system.

        I think it’s very unhelpful to efforts to reclaim democratic politics that the term is used so quickly. Alienates and distracts unnecessarily.

        Again, AB needs a democracy movement.
        The citizenry has to practice democracy and evict corporatism, the rival power system to citizen-based democracy.

        PC Party operations, culture and machinations are not the core dysfunction.
        The system of governance they’ve delivered us into is the problem.

        one last bit of recent rant-worthy evidence:
        Deregulation of electricity – J. Dinning – TransAlta…Enron. How many millions? For the 2nd time!

        Good grief.

        Sam Gunsch

      • Sam Gunsch says:

        In Alberta Views, Laurie Adkins provides another account of our province’s corporatist politics.
        Worth a full read.

        Excerpts below focus on Alison Redford’s relationship with oil/tar/gas industry.

        excerpt: “Redford’s first budget in February 2012 did not touch royalty or tax rates, and predicted an $886-million deficit, to be covered by drawing down Alberta’s Sustainability Fund. In her February 2012 speech to the oil and gas industry’s Small Explorers & Producers Association of Canada (SEPAC), Redford used a phrase that she was to repeat over the next two years: “Energy is Alberta’s lifeblood and we are committed to doing everything we can to keep oil companies of all sizes healthy and viable. You will always be my highest economic priority.””

        excerpt: Former premier Ed Stelmach had initiated a royalty review, whose panel recommended a significant (if moderate) increase in royalty rates. Stelmach’s initial acceptance of the 2007 recommendations triggered a powerful backlash from corporations in the sector, which included a transfer of political donations to the upstart Wildrose party. This move helped Wildrose to gain momentum and, eventually, to win 17 seats in the hotly contested (by Alberta standards) April 2012 provincial election.

        excerpt: “By the time the election campaign of 2012 began in the following month, Redford had apparently repudiated any thought of increasing royalty rates. The PC election platform clearly stated there would be “no tax increases and no new taxes of any kind within the next three years.” Competing with the Wildrose party for industry support, Redford made no promises to increase royalties. ”

        excerpt: “From an oil and gas perspective, two pro-energy industry parties would be a good thing for Alberta,” said Gary Leach, executive director of SEPAC. “I think that if a governing party realizes even the largest opposition party—assuming the Wildrose ends up in that position—is standing for a strong, robust, profitable energy sector, it minimizes the temptation to pull the government in another direction. And that is why a number of people in the energy sector understand that and wish both parties good luck.”

        Adkin’s got a book coming out: Laurie Adkin is an associate professor of comparative politics at the University of Alberta and a pioneer of political ecology studies in Canada. Her forthcoming book is First World Petro-Politics: The Political Ecology and Governance of Alberta (UTP).

        Corporatism: a society made up of negotiations over interests between groups.
        John Ralston Saul
        etc., etc.,

        AB politics and form:

        Vested interests rule.
        Democratic veneer.
        In substance: The public good and citizens marginalized and subordinated to vested interest negotiations (or bargaining) among Alberta’s political and petro-elites on the terms of the joint-venture.

        Sam Gunsch

      • Great references Sam. You may have seen the news reports that Harper, TCPL and several oil producers are considering suing the US under NAFTA because of Obama’s repeated delays in approving Keystone XL. Former PM Mulroney says the delay amounts to a restriction on the export of Canadian energy to the US, and that under NAFTA, the U.S. gets unfettered access to Canadian energy, and Canada gets full access to U.S. energy markets. That got me thinking, if Canada is successful in arguing that Obama’s delay violates NAFTA, what Canada is really saying is that the President (1) must approve the pipeline and (2) must approve it post haste. In other words, there’s no point in having laws that purport to give the President the power to refuse a pipeline because that would be a violation of NAFTA.
        And that’s why everyone is up in arms about cross border “trade” agreements like the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership)–they give corporations more power than governments. A real life example of what corporatism looks like.
        Here’s the link:

  15. Pingback: Hate Speech and Human Rights in Alberta | ABlawg

  16. Sam gunsch says:

    Fresh off today’s internet thingy…
    It just gets worse…GoA and industry move to tighten their control further:


    excerpt: “Since 1997, the association has been run by representatives from local organizations, including oilsands companies, First Nations and environmental agencies, who have equal input into the monitoring decisions.

    “Do we remain independent or do we take the contract and the stakeholders are irrelevant?” asked Dan Stuckless, environment manager for the Fort McKay First Nation.”

    Industry is basically moving to neutralize or kill off any semi-agencies, public participation, stakeholder bodies where they don’t have veto.

    “equal input into the monitoring decisions” is the problem.

    CAPP has been attempting to do the same thing to CEMA.
    Plenty of coverage of that in the Edmonton Journal as well.
    excerpt: “Bill Loutitt of the Métis Nation of Alberta and a CEMA board member, said the industry cutbacks will undermine CEMA’s work. “It’s our only mechanism to ensure there will be land here that people can live on. We aren’t opposed to development, but it has to be sustainable.” ”

    Industry and GoA obviously think they can best deal with international scrutiny of tarsands if they minimize how many independent monitoring decisions can be made. They know that coverage of process stuff like this will disappear. Doesn’t make good photos.

    And if necessary ENGO’s and First Nations can be described as special interests with foreign radical funding.

    Hardball politics has arrived big time. The Borg is eliminating any pockets of resistance that isn’t sufficiently under its thumb.

    I’ll go home now.

    Sam Gunsch

    • Sam, the PC’s latest stunt–appointing former PC MLA Lorne Taylor to be the chairman of the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting Agency takes the cake. The Agency was set up in response to criticisms that provincial monitoring system under Lorne Taylor (and others) was scientifically indefensible. Rachel Notley put it best: “Only in Alberta would the government not get the irony of that,” Then to make it even more ridiculous, Taylor said the public people should give him a year’s grace before judging the effectiveness of the new Agency. I went to the Agency’s website, it says the “Agency will deliver greater focus, coordination and integration of monitoring activities throughout the province.” In other words, the Agency run by Mr Taylor will deliver greater focus, coordination, blah blah blah than the department run by Mr Taylor and his PC colleagues. Uh huh.

      • Sam Gunsch says:

        Seems to me this Taylor appointment fits with Lisac’s comment about The Party.
        And Nikiforuk likened AB politics from late Getty thru the early Klein years as Soviet-style planning. Everybody is on the same page everywhere in the regime. It was so advanced that by the late 1990’s this thin little Natural Area Volunteer Stewards newsletter put out by Parks AB had to vetted by the public affairs dept. staff. Vetted as in censored, of course. People think Harper’s a control freak…ha.

        Taylor: I’ve said elsewhere it appears IMO the strategy is to ensure control of *all* sources of information about anything enviro or petro industry… which is sensible and predictable I suppose when you’re a joint-venture GoA-industry partnership going all in on investing in and on defending a petro economy.

        And bonus: as Taylor was known to be quite a pale shade of green on occasion, he doesn’t present the Wildrose an easy ‘progressive science-loving Ivory Tower egghead” target heading up an environmental Big Edmonton Government agency. Taylor’s CV would obviously be a fit as a Wildrose cabinet minister. Plays hardball just like them… didn’t he threaten once to reveal where the bodies were buried?

      • Sam, Kevin Taft wrote a number of books on this failed government. In one he talked about Klein’s brilliant use of the PR group to tighten his grip on all government departments. First he assigned a PR type to each department to ensure that everyone’s stories “aligned” (with what?), and second, he made everyone of those PR types accountable to him and him alone. Taft recalled being in meetings with people and wondering who that guy/gal in the corner was, only to discover that the guy/gal was the most powerful person in the room. Bizarre.
        I recall the Taft charts that demonstrated how Klein/Love played with stats. The fact that none of the other MLAs, DMs or their staff called them on it demonstrates just how powerful those two were. Unfortunately.

  17. Carlos Beca says:

    Sam good post. Harper and Klein are in fact corporate fascists. Fascism is a form of radical authoritarianism. Harper is not done yet but the objective is clear – give the corporate elites the full control of the country because only them know how to run businesses. We all know how they consider that government should be run like a business. So they are definitely corporate nationalists and so the definition fits them really well. Klein despised the Legislature and considered it a waste of time. Harper is the same except he is not allowed to do what Klein did because public opinion is only 39% in his favour.
    Marc Lisac wrote some great stuff many years ago. Whatever happened to him? He was not very loved by most Albertans as at the time a lot of people were fully enthralled with the new neo-conservatism just building up in the political system.
    Interesting that you mentioned that there is a democracy movement in Canada and yet we cannot even change the voting system to Proportional Representation. I think that there is a very small democratic movement but for the most part Canadians are just fed up with politics period. There is this sense that Democracy is in crisis. The issue is that we do not have a democracy in the first place.

    • Carlos, you and Sam have gotten me interested in Mark Lisac.
      Did you see Rod Love’s spirited defense of Klein in the Herald this morning. He talks about Klein’s $1.3 billion reduction in infrastructure spending from 1994 to 1997 and his $18.9 billion spending on infrastructure from 1998 to 2006 without any reference to the need for even more infrastructure because (1) Klein failed to maintain schools, roads and hospitals (in fact he blew the hospitals up) and (2) Alberta’s population ballooned by 500,000 during that period. Presenting half the picture just doesn’t cut it anymore.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        I thought you knew Mark Lisac. He was quite a good writer and in a way a voice of reason in Alberta for quite a while. Although I did not always agree with him and sometimes found his articles dense and semi encripted I really liked most them. He was in a way corageous with his pen.

      • “semi encripted” Lisac sounds like quite a character. 🙂

      • Sam Gunsch says:

        re: “(2) Alberta’s population ballooned by 500,000 during that period. Presenting half the picture just doesn’t cut it anymore.”

        Rod Love was always brazen in his use of misleading data.
        As you point out, leaving out the population growth is significant.

        Partial stories, misinformation, skewed framing… Love’s stock in trade.
        …not for nothing that people would mutter: Ralph’s brain.

        History: Maybe the biggest lying with stat’s…You may recall the Love/Klein success in defending cuts to healthcare by using spending data showing ‘out of control’ growth, but with data not adjusted for inflation. Taft’s slide show for Follow the Money has graphs that show AB was never significantly out of line back then with other province per capita spending on health and social spending.

        I hope some economist exposes the various ways Love is no doubt being misleading in that column, but I think this stuff has been going on so long in AB that most have given up on generating much concern among the citizenry by doing the work to share counter-analysis. I know that this sort of work weighs on people after years of trying to get it out there with not much success.


      • Carlos Beca says:

        Alberta produces great characters that is for sure. Alison is just one of the types we produce the most for some reason. Oil fumes maybe!! We can now call them the Penthouse lovers.

  18. Lana says:

    Love, love, love this little saop box of yours! Keep it up.

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