The Fort McMurray Wildfire: Another Wasted Opportunity for the Wildrose

On May 10, Danielle Larivee, minister of Municipal Affairs, welcomed Wildrose MLAs Brian Jean and Tany Yao back to the Legislature.  They’d been in Fort McMurray surveying the damage from the wildfire.

Mr Jean received a standing ovation.

He personally thanked the RCMP, emergency officials, first responders, and the families, towns, municipalities, villages, neighbourhoods and faith communities who accepted evacuees.

But he couldn’t bring himself to acknowledge (let alone thank) Rachel Notley and her government for successfully evacuating 80,000 residents and having the right resources in place to help them recover from the worst disaster Alberta’s history.

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A peevish Brian Jean

Mr Jean’s peevishness and lack of common sense coloured his performance and that of his party throughout Question Period.*

Here’s a sampling of the Wildrose’s questions and the government’s answers, plus a running commentary from Ms Soapbox.     

Questions

Q:  What’s the time line to get people back to work?   When can residents expect “to get the call to restart their lives”?

A:  We’re assisting industry in resuming operations as quickly as possible.

Get the call from whom? The government won’t be calling anyone back to work because it doesn’t own the local businesses or oilsands companies.  We live in a capitalist society.  The businesses and oilsands companies will call people back to work if and when they’re needed.

Q:  With 85 to 90% of Fort McMurray still standing why do the residents have to wait two weeks before you’ll tell them when you think they can go back?

A:  We need to make Fort McMurray safe.  Damage assessment is on-going, critical infrastructure is being repaired, the area is being secured.

Just because a house is standing doesn’t mean the air is safe to breathe, the water is drinkable, the power is on, the gas line isn’t leaking and the sewer line isn’t clogged.  It doesn’t mean schools are open, grocery shelves are stocked, gas stations have gas, the hospital is clean and fully functional or the urgent-care facility is ready to take care of you when you trip over a fence post and fall into a basement filled with toxic ash.

Q:  What discussions have you had with the energy companies to survey the damaged infrastructure and what will be done to get them operating at full capacity?

A: There was no major damage to the facilities.  Industry stood by us and we’ll stand by them as we rebuild.  Our first priority is to make the city safe.

Obviously you missed the memo.  Industry came through the wildfire virtually unscathed.  But now that you’ve raised it, are you suggesting that it’s the government’s responsibility to pay for repairs to the industry’s facilities?  

Q:  What “specific infrastructure criteria” must be met before the residents will be allowed to return home?

A: We need to keep working on restoring power, water, sewer and a transition plan so everything will be safe for the residents return.

Specific infrastructure criteria?  How about making sure the physical infrastructure is up to code and the hospital, schools and grocery stores comply with current health, safety and environmental regulations?

Q:  People want to know if their houses are still standing.  Why don’t you make a list of what’s still there as you’re going from door to door?

A:  We’re working on satellite imagery to do that.

Because 85 to 90% of the houses are okay and the damage assessment team, the fire fighters, the first responders and the re-entry team have better things to do…like restarting the power grid, purifying the water supply and checking the integrity of gas and sewer lines.     

Q:  After the June 2013 flood and the Slave Lake wildfire officials arranged bus tours to let residents see their houses.  Is the government going to do the same for the residents of Fort McMurray?

A: No.  The logistics of having 80,000 people return to Fort McMurray are not the same as the flood and Slave Lake examples.  We are working with Google Maps to see if we can set up a video tour.

You want to pick up 80,000 people who’re scattered across the province, pack them into buses for an 8 to 10 hour round-trip journey so they can see whether their houses are among the 85 to 90% still standing?  Seriously?

Better questions

After the Slave Lake wildfire even the crusty Brian Mason gave the PC government credit for doing “a good job”—and Lord knows there was no love lost between Mr Mason and Stelmach’s PCs—then he asked a serious question:  is the government going to work with the municipalities to provide a higher degree of protection from wildfires than currently exists?**

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The “crusty” Brian Mason

Mr Jean would be wise to take his cue from Mr Mason.

There are many legitimate questions he could ask, for example:

  • Did the government implement all the recommendations in the Flat Top Complex report which was commissioned after the Slave Lake wildfire to reduce the likelihood of catastrophic wildfires in the future?
  • Given fire chief Darby Allen’s assessment that this wildfire rewrote the book on firefighting will the government update its wildfire strategy?
  • What are the immediate and long-term social and financial implications of the wildfire and how will the government address them?

If Mr Jean hopes to become Alberta’s next premier he should start asking thoughtful questions in Question Period instead of squandering the opportunity by being churlish.

*Hansard, May 10, 11 and 12, 2016

**Hansard, Nov 22, 2011, p 1258  

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45 Responses to The Fort McMurray Wildfire: Another Wasted Opportunity for the Wildrose

  1. anonymous says:

    It has been said many times before, but I will say it once again.

  2. Val Jobson says:

    All the refrigerators will have to be thrown out, won’t they?

  3. Einar Davison says:

    It appears that most governments hold their breath and cross their fingers in regards to future disasters. So I won’t point fingers. I think Slave Lake was when disaster planning began to be talked about. The floods in Calgary was the next big test and some preparedness helped lower the impact (believe it or not). If Calgary hadn’t spent $30+ million for their emergency operation centre I truly believe Calgary would have been sunk. It ensured that the city still operated even though most of the city departments were under water or not accessible. Yet until it proved its value everyone complained about the cost. High River councils knew their river flooded quite frequently but really did nothing and I think High River is still in recovery because of that. A couple of years back Fort McMurray was at risk for forest fire and some of the oil sands plants were at risk. Were any lessons learned?

    The problem is we always plan for the last disaster and not try to see what may happen. Also disaster preparations cost money and until someone’s house is burning or blowing down or flooding, people don’t want to spend the money or call the government wasteful for spending the money. In Fort McMurray’s case, how would people feel about cutting the forest back a couple of kilometres from the town site. That’s what would have been needed to keep the fire from going urban. Would people object because it ruins the view or it cost too much? Well there are a billion dollars plus worth of peoples lives that now have to be replaced.

    What happened in Fort McMurray was a fire storm and the fact that the town is still virtually intact is solely by the efforts of the first responders, for two or three days, who were basically encircled and what they have did to save as much as they did. It takes time to ramp up resources. That shouldn’t be a political discussion.

    I agree with the government about returning. Houses today are built with plastics, glues, laminates and when they burn they off gas. Let alone just the smoke from the burning trees. So lets send 90,000 people back into a toxic area with no food, water, heat or when they succumb to not having and food, water, heat or living in a toxic smoke cloud, no doctors, nurses or hospital. Maybe the Wildrose should demonstrate leadership and go live there first and if they don’t get sick or starve to death then we’ll know it’s safe to let people return.

    Everyone else did what they were suppose to and are still doing so and that makes me proud to be an Albertan, that regardless to political beliefs we can still do the right thing at the right time. (no comments on right wingers there) There is a program called Fire Smart Communities http://www.firesmart.alberta.ca/ and http://www.firesmartcanada.ca/ . If you live anywhere where trees are adjacent to your home or community it’s worth a look.

    In regards to the Wildrose party they are proving they are saving Albertans money, because the scribes in the Legislature only need to write “duh” when the Wildrose stands up to whine! Funny how right wingers hate “whiners” until its them who are whining. I keep telling right wingers that I had to live through 20 years of right wing crap and survived. If they can’t handle a democratically elected government they could always move to North Korea or become a prepper and live in Nowhere Alaska with no one to bother them.

    • Einar, I agree with you on all counts. Right-wing ideology runs into problems in times of crisis because helping people deal with the aftermath requires doling out money from the public purse. In Question Period (May 10, p862) Brian Jean asked a question about financial assistance. He said: “Many of these residents don’t want to rely on financial assistance for long. They do want it, but they don’t want to rely on it.” I wondered why he was making such a big deal about “relying” on assistance and then I remembered right-wing ideologues distinguish between “handouts” (bad) and “hand ups” (good). Frankly I don’t see the difference, but it allows them to characterize some recipients as good people and others as freeloaders.

      • Einar B. Davison says:

        Isn’t that the truth Susan, I guess they want roads, schools, hospitals, and all the other benefits a government provides…they just don’t want to rely on them! As I said “duh”. Here is a new slogan for the Wildrose “The Wildrose Party, the party of duh”. They want the help, they just don’t want to be categorize as being like a poor person, or a homeless person or any other group they disparage. It’s all right when they get something from the government (“we have to pay taxes so we deserve this”) but for the previous mentioned people (“why do our tax dollars need to go for people who do nothing and for stuff we don’t use” such as schools and hospitals {until they do of course})

  4. Marge says:

    Minister Mason is witty, at times acerbic, but not crusty. Otherwise, spot on!

    • Marge, yes, Brian is all those things. His twitter feed reflects his personality. It’s informative, blunt and entertaining. He described the Competition Bureau’s decision to allow the PostMedia takeover of Sun Media as “garbage” (I agree) and in another twitter exchange confirmed the the soap dispensers in the federal building are very slow. Most importantly he knows how to reach across the aisle and work with the Opposition to get things done.

  5. Carlos Beca says:

    Brian Jean is a waste of time. This man does not believe in government, so why is he asking questions about what the government is doing? Imagine if we had him as a Premier right now. There would be no government helping. A repeat of New Orleans with Katrina. Until people start shooting each other there was no reaction. George Bush expected people to fend for themselves. People that believe in that garbage have never seen what happens when human beings panic and become vulnerable. The results are always the same no matter where it happens. We think we are very civilized until the moment there is no rule. Then comes the looting and the rapes and the abductions and the shootings. It is possible Brian Jean believes that is a better process. I never know with this guy. Yugoslavia was a pretty good example of an European disaster.
    By the way, just coming to work in the legislature is reason for a standing ovation

    • Carlos, you mentioned the standing ovation for Brian Jean, it’s interesting to watch the WR caucus paint him out to be a hero. Last week Mr Panda (WR) showered Mr Jean in praise for his great leadership throughout the wildfire crisis but he and his party refuse to recognize Rachel Notley’s leadership in bringing the province through this crisis. Today Ms Aheer (WR) said Mr Jean received a “hero’s welcome” at a fund raiser for Fort McMurray evacuees. Now don’t get me wrong, I have great sympathy for Mr Jean who lost his home in the wildfire, but I don’t see why that makes him a hero, especially when you hear the stories about others who truly put the interests of others ahead of their own–people like the elementary school principle who got her students out of Fort Mac to safety or the firefighters who fought the wildfire for days on end without respite or the tanker plane pilots who went out in horrific conditions to slow the fire down. Those people deserve to be called heroes.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Well Susan the Wildrose is preparing the minds of Albertans for a Wildrose government in the next elections. They know well the propaganda machine and spin and that is clearly what they are doing. Brian Jean is being painted as an hero at all opportunities. I think they may very well win the battle because I do not see a resilient NDP in power. If they do Albertans will learn a great lesson for life, but I for one will not be sorry because I do think that we are asking for it. The possible election of Donald Trump in the US could very well get us all in a tumultuous era that could be catastrophic. I blame all politicians for what is happening.

      • Einar B. Davison says:

        Carlos call me an optimist but I don’t think there are a lot of die hard right wingers in Alberta any more. They are just the loudest and the flashiest (hence all the Wildrose visual aids during the election…really pretty, but not much on truth)and get all the attention. Yes, they see an advantage right now in telling lies, bait and switching and hijacking the legislature with stuff and nonsense. However I’m going to make a prediction that when the Alberta economy starts turning around and I think this might happen within a year and a half, that the NDP numbers will go up. The Wildrose attempt to make everyone angry will only really work with the nutbars of this province.

        I have never voted NDP and unless we had a really great local NDP candidate I probably never will. However I like Rachel Notley, I believe for having an economic downturn and one crisis after another to contend with she’s doing a great job of leading. If the Wildrose tries to make Fort McMurray their issue then they will lose because you don’t try to gain points on peoples misery. Sorry the first responders who spent days at risk in a toxic environment (the local departments basically fought the fire alone for three days until other help could arrive) are the real heroes, not the governments or the opposition. Rachel and Justin and everyone with more than a single digit IQ has said that. The firefighters, the police and the emergency medical people and the people running evacuation centres and the average every day person doing what they can are the real heroes.. It just makes the Wildrose look cynical and evil. How we defeat them is fight their lies and yelling with the truth. When we challenge everything they say with the truth then pretty soon they will have no legs to stand on and they will become a fringe again. They are no different from the Nazis, but instead of beating people in to submission with Brownshirted thugs, they use social media to spread their lies, assault people verbally with social media and spectacle. They are word thugs and we need to ensure that the only people they appeal to is their fringe.

        Their strength is their weakness, they feel they have the rural areas sewn up, because the PC’s are on the ropes. It might be hard to understand this but rural Alberta for the longest time really only voted PC, it was their “only” choice. However as people began to be frustrated by the things the PC’s were doing they started to look for an alternative and this turned out to be the Wildrose. Then rural Alberta in their minds had two choices. Well during the last election they were so angry with the PC’s a lot of people who would never vote Wildrose did. They did because they “had no other choice”. Well unless Ric McIver is the next PC leader I think there will be a resurgence of PC’s in rural areas so I see the Wildrose losing “their base” . Yes they will still be around, but especially in areas nearer cities I see either the PC’s coming back, or the potential for other center parties to make inroads (that depends if they can get any traction). On the other hand those constituencies could do what rural Alberta did in elections after 1971, vote for the governing power. If the economy turns around and the NDP successfully get most of their economic policies working to a point where Albertans see them as an opportunity and not a threat. Then that might just be the New Democrats!

        Over the next three years this is what each of the parties need to do…in my humble opinion…
        1. The NDP need to consolidate their government and prove their policies. A better economy and people going back to work will help this.
        2. The PC’s need to reinvent themselves and rebuild the “Lougheed coalition” (center, center right and center left), because that will appeal to the more “educated and enlightened” Albertans. Find a leader who is not from the “old guard”.
        3.The Wildrose needs to move closer to the center (but that will never happen, because the center will never trust them and they just can’t pull it off).
        4. The Alberta Liberal need to re-energize their base with a dynamic leader and then begin to build the party back up.
        5. The Alberta Party, needs to build a base, and own the center.
        6. The Alberta Green Party….hmmmm they are the black horse, but when a party starts praising Ralph Klein as some of their candidates did during the last election (the man who single handedly set the environment of this province back). One wonders!

        The next three years will be the most interesting in Alberta history, but I don’t see a bigger role for the Wildrose they have gone as far as they can. We’ll never change the mind of their base, but we need to ensure they don’t win over more sensible people.

      • Einer: I’m in general agreement with your 6 point analysis of what each party needs to do to win in 2019. The only two points I’d make is (1) while the Alberta Party interests a segment of the urban electorate, at least here in Calgary, I don’t think it has the oomph to grow province wide, or even in Edmonton for that matter and (2) I had no idea the Green Party had anything good to say about King Klein (!). Wow.

        The PC’s might be able to reinvent themselves. Today in Question Period, a PC MLA (I’ve forgotten which one) said that his party supported what the Premier and her government was doing with respect to the Fort Mac wildfire. This was impressive, particularly coming after Brian Jean’s petty jabs.

        Carlos: politicians like Brian Jean and Donald Trump have a lot to answer for. I was talking with a friend about the Republican party brass getting behind Donald Trump. My friend said, yeah, they’re behind him all right…with knives drawn. This is true. The Republicans set up their process to nominate a candidate for President. They allowed Trump to stay in the race notwithstanding all the racist, sexist things he said, now they find themselves in a situation where it’s too late to kick him out of the race without ripping the party apart. These people don’t deserve to run a PTA bake sale let alone a major political party.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        I am trying to make a comment to Einar but sometimes I have some issue with these threads 🙂
        Einar it does not take much to be more optimist than myself but I am old enough to have graduated to a realist which to me is much better than being one of these trained optimists that end up not even understanding the issues at all because there is always a glass half full. The reality is that life is not always roses and looking at every issue with some optimism is obviously the way to go. You seem to do that and I can only say good for you. I personally have lost a lot of trust on human beings and I am very cautious about any issue especially now when spin is king. We have reached levels of spin that are beyond comprehension. The Wildrose party and Brian Jean are just the ultimate representation of it and that makes me sick. To me it is worse than those dictators that say exactly what they mean. Brian Jean seems incapable of saying anything that is not destructive or ridiculous. Politicians are the only citizens that can say anything they want without much consequence.

      • carlosbeca says:

        Einar I agree with what you said in the very first paragraph and I have posted half reply and this is the rest of it 🙂 Gosh only idiots like me can have so much to say 🙂
        I do not share your optimism that the economy will be recovering in 2 years. Yes it will probably be better than after this fire but in general terms, if anything it is very possible that the North America economy will drop again. The reason I say this is because the reach of all the free trade deals we have signed blindly in the last decade are now starting to come to fruition. This to me means more infiltration of products produced by slaves in the countries we have no problem signing any deals with. Everyone seems to be horrified with Cuba and Castro but the rest of the world including pseudo democratic countries seems to be fair game. Castro does not respect human rights but the Chinese do 🙂 so trade with them is fine.
        So we will not go back to the oil economy like it was before the crash and Canada in general will not be able to compete industrially with the countries that have now basically controlled the world economy based on very low salaries and in many cases slavery. Our leaders may not want to see this but again that is the reality. Our leaders are only concerned with short term results and having inflation is not something they want to fight and so getting cheaper and cheaper products helps keep our inflation very low and our 30 year stagnated income better than most of the rest of the world. This is usually the attitude because they do not want to confront the fact that we cannot continue hiding in this game for too long. A clear example is housing costs. In Vancouver we know that the reason why young people cannot afford a garage, never mind a house is because foreigners are buying whatever is available and either renting them for astronomical costs to locals or reselling them to other very rich foreigners. This is now an established industry. So Christy Clark has 2 alternatives. Either she changes the law to stop foreigners from owning us or she lets it continue. Of course she lets it continue because now BC is dependent on the construction jobs as much as we are dependent on oil. Do you think she cares about Canadians that want to be able to own a home? Naahhh she is way more concerned about business and the donations she gets from these companies. Decisions like this are always on the side of the rich and powerful and so life goes on until it collapses and everyone cries and talks about how we are so united and care for each other – the usual – a show to keep us in check.
        So I do not share your optimism as far as our economy. It is going to take way longer than 2 years to make our economy more viable and bring some sanity to politics. In the meantime if the Wildrose gets the next election, that process will be out the window because as far as they are concerned the problem is the taxes and less regulation so we will reverse to old style economic thought and go down the ladder a bit more . Is this not the process dictatorships have been able to catch on with our economies? They wait until we make the next mistake and sign the next trade deal. One just has to live in one of these countries for a couple of years to realize how they operate. Unfortunately most of our politicians just know them by the all inclusive tourist packages in their tourist resorts. We are very naive and we apologize while they look for an opportunity to grab a little more..

  6. Julia Necheff says:

    Susan, I usually find myself nodding in agreement when I read your columns, and today was no exception. You are so on point. By not acknowledging this disaster is being handled with compassion and competence by the government, the churlish Wild Rose reveals itself to be so last century with its old-school opposition politics. This display of tiresome negativity in QP is why so many people are cynical about the political process and react by tuning out the noise. Good ideas should be applauded no matter where they come from, and the same goes in the legislature. Brian Jean indeed lost an opportunity – it appears he’s a decent sort of guy and I would have respected him more if he had shown himself to be a human being and Albertan first, Wild Roser second, by giving credit where credit is due. In times of trouble, Albertans have shown time and again that they can pull together. Sometimes that includes setting aside partisanship and supporting a government when it’s doing the right thing. Too bad the Official Opposition couldn’t bring itself to do so as well.

    • Julia I agree with you 100%. Interestingly, even in the face of Mr Jean’s aggressive and silly questions the Premier takes a moment to acknowledge that Mr Jean and the residents of Fort Mac are under a great deal of stress as a result of losing everything to the wildfire.
      The way these two leaders have conducted themselves in the House and in the media tells me a lot about their characters.

  7. ronmac says:

    This fire is still kicking around. Now work camps north of Fort Mac are being evacuated as we speak. I’ve read that it is getting dangerously close to a tailings pond.

    In the words of that great Greek philosipher Thylyssus, “It aint over till it’s over.”

    • Einar B. Davison says:

      I thought that was the great American Philosopher Yogi Bera 🙂

      • Ronmac and Einar: today in Question Period Mr Jean said officials characterized the situation in Fort McMurray as “volatile” and that there had been two explosions in the city. Without conceding that this volatility is why Ms Notley’s can’t pin point exactly when the residents will be allowed to return, he jumped into his question–he demanded an explanation from Ms Notley. She said the explosion (there was only one not two) was under investigation. That didn’t satisfy Mr Jean who continued to press for an explanation. Seems to me in situations like this the government is wise to let the investigators determine the cause of the explosion instead of engaging in idle speculation.
        There’s only one reason for Mr Jean to ask this question. He wants to create the impression that the government doesn’t have a handle on the emergency. So far it’s backfiring.

  8. Einar B. Davison says:

    Hi Susan,
    On your points about the Alberta Party and The Alberta Green Party. As I said it is really important for the Alberta Party to build a base and it isn’t there yet. If the PC’s go more right wing I think there is potential for the Alberta Party to build a base from moderate progressives who don’t want to be in a right wing party. However a lot of things need to be done before that happens and the window is closing.
    I too was shocked by the Alberta Green Party praising Ralph Klein…granted they were in rural constituencies. However it still astounds me that they would bring up Klein’s name in anything other than loath and vitriol. However I found lots to be shocked about in last election and a lot of it was bad.
    Final note is that the wildfire at Fort Mac is still a threat to Fort Mac, is still destroying structures, but the Wildrose wants to get everybody back in now…so they can all be evacuated again. The Wildrose is their own worst enemy, we just need to do a better job of advertising when they put their feet in their mouths. Thank you for your part in showing them for what they are. Next election “Anyone but Wildrose”.

    • Einar, to pick up on your point of the WR being their own worst enemy. A story in today’s Calgary Herald makes it appear that Brian Jean is toning down his pitch that Notley’s government isn’t doing enough to fight the fire. He admits that it’s too dangerous to bring the residents back and says she’s done “a good job” of keeping Albertans up to date. Be that as it may, he still refuses to accept that Notley is doing enough to fight the fire. Yesterday in Question Period he asked the following questions: (1) why did the premier reject international offers of help (because she relies on firefighting experts who say that don’t need them), (2) is the current level of firefighting support enough (yes, see last answer about relying on the advice of firefighting experts) and (3) some residents thought their houses were safe only to learn that their houses were consumed by the recent fires and explosions (he said there were 2, she said there was one). He said “Residents and business owners deserve to have the assurance that everything is being done to fight the fire and protect our city and property” and asked: “Can the Premier please provide even that small amount of certainty?” She responded “There is absolutely nothing that should be done that is not being done. There is no resource that is not being dedicated to this. There is no ask that is not being made that will contribute to fighting this fire. Everything possible is being done,.”
      It looks to me like he’s still politicizing this disaster and no matter how much Ms Notley tries to work with him, there’s nothing that she can do that will satisfy him.

  9. Einar B. Davison says:

    Susan, how can you possibly ever hope to satisfy these people. People who either are stuck on the fact that anybody who is democratically elected, but not their choice should not be in government. Or that others, other than themselves can do a good job, can come up with a better idea, and can be better than them is beyond their comprehension. Premier Notley would have better luck talking to a brick wall. Right wingers cannot accept that there may be another option other than their own. Compromise is surrender and it’s their way or the highway. What is going on right now is like drinking too much at a party, yep it’s fun right now, but there always is a tomorrow! Sensible people will eventually tune them out. Hopefully Canada is getting over the right wing and “American Style” politics. The recent elections seem to show that we are moving in that direction. I’m an optimist!

    • Einar, I too am an optimist, but then I hear interviews like the one Anna Maria Tremonti had with professor Kamal Al-Solaylee, a journalism prof from Ryerson. Al-Solaylee studied “being brown” globally and here in Canada. He said things were getting worse not better. I’m thankful that Canadians rejected Stephen Harper who made race an issue at the end of his campaign with the niqab debate and the barbaric practices tip line, however Al-Solaylee has a point when he says that “education and class will shield you to some extent, but walking down the street late at night, I would not be an author or university professor, I’d be just a middle-aged brown, suspicious looking man. Period.”
      Support for the far right will continue until we get past our racial, ethnic and sexual identity/preference prejudices.

      • Einar Davison says:

        Carlos I won’t disagree with you, but I have seen a lot in the last 52 years and the more bad stuff I see the more good stuff I notice. Yes people get caught up in the right wingers promises. Such as business can do things better than government, lower taxes are better for the economy and will put poor people to work and make everyone rich. Then most people find it really only helps the few. Then people go back to the something that works better. Sometimes you have to wait for awhile but things do get better. About Vancouver I think that has a lot to do with geography land is at a premium, where as there is always more land near Calgary and Edmonton for more “ticky tack” houses, but that is my opinion, I don’t live there and don’t know the situation, but it strikes me that if a city doesn’t have affordable housing it will lose the people it need the most who can’t afford the expensive housing. I may be “Pollyanna” on my estimates for economic recovery in Alberta, but recovery starts slow, it’s a bit bleak, then people find ways to keep going and then momentum gets rolling and before you know it things are better or people are handling the new reality better. I don’t want to see us return to a boom economy, yes people get rich, but it puts too much strain on everything and then when the boom ends as it always does then there are lots of casualties. Take the case of Sanjel, everyone believes that the good times will keep rolling along and then they get caught when it stops. Good strong incremental growth is better than booms. Finally my optimism is buoyed by the fact that the carbon tax and consideration for the environment will open up many new opportunities. In fact more opportunity for people who could never afford to break into the oil and gas field. If everything works out Alberta should be a lot better place to be in. I still believe I live in the best province regardless of the people. Alberta has survived some pretty crazy people over its life and it will survive this bunch too. If nothing else working to get the Wildrose de-elected will be interesting work.

        By the way your point on Cuba well taken. The United States punished poor little Cuba for over 50 years and what did it accomplish…nothing. It just made Fidel Castro more determined to keep fighting on. If they would have tried to work with Cuba, chances are that things for both the US and Cuba would have turned out so much better. A friend of mine has this great saying “you bang your head against the wall until it feels really good to stop”…US foreign policy is a lot like this.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Einar I agree with basically all on this post, but it will take a while.
        Like you I am more than done with booms. Steady slow growth is much better for everyone.
        I have no doubts that Alberta will be a much better place but it will take a while longer than 2 years. That is my concern because Albertans are used to everything fast and furious and they may very well pass the torch to lunatics before the economy shows really good signs of robustness. I hope I am wrong.
        We can create a much better province without a doubt. Alberta citizens are more than skilled to do much better than we have done so far.

  10. Val Jobson says:

    Jean was included in Notley’s press update today & thanked her graciously. Maybe he thinks he has to be adversarial in the Legislature? It was a good presser, about the re-entry plans.

    Someone asked Notley about fridges and she sad they have a plan for white waste. Someone tweeted that they threw out 5000 fridges after the Slave Lake fire.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/fort-mcmurray-recovery-lessons-from-the-slave-lake-rebuild-1.3582497

    http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/re-entry-day-what-fort-mcmurray-will-look-like-on-june-1/

    • Val, I’m glad Jean is going to tone down the adversarial rhetoric.
      I agree that he must advocate for the residents of Fort Mac, both in his role as MLA and as the leader of the Official Opposition. I note the comment from the Slave Lake town administrator (in one of your links) who said “The main piece of advice is to plan a lot and keep people informed. Be patient. It is going to take a long time to rebuild and you want to do it right.” Yesterday in the Leg Nathan Cooper, who speaks on behalf of Brian Jean when he’s not in the House, asked 3 wildfire related questions: (1) local businesses need “capital” to survive, when will the government announce a strategy to support local businesses and (2) will the government commit to providing businesses with emergency bridge financing and government-backed loans. The answer to both of these questions was: right now we’re focusing on the safe re-entry of residents, we’ll be saying more about these things in due course. Cooper’s third question was pertinent. He wanted the government’s commitment that residents would be allowed to return to their properties and recover personal items before the bulldozers showed up. This commitment was given. Rachel Notley is handling this disaster exactly right, she listens to the experts and refuses to be stampeded into making an emotional but misguided decision.
      Exactly the right leader for this crisis.

      • Val Jobson says:

        I agree, she is. Danielle Smith has said it’s an improvement, as the province did not inform people about much during & after the flood. Nenshi was good, though, and often referred to his colleagues, the City employees. I think rightwing politicians who hate the idea of government would find it more difficult to work as a team with public employees.

        One thing I found amusing was that Jean kept talking about “my people” and sounding a bit like an Old Testament prophet.

      • Einar Davison says:

        Like “let my people go “. Moses he ain’t!!! I actually wish all the rabid, “I just want the government to leave me alone” would move to some place where the government would leave them alone like Nowhere Alaska, but they like all the stuff government gives them and as Susan mentioned Brian Jean said… “they just don’t want to rely on it”. Somewhere in their minds there is a difference, even though to the rest of us it’s just semantics.

      • Julie Ali says:

        I have noted that the folks who do not like the Wildrose Party tend to have preconceived views of them. These views may not be true.

        I admit that originally I had these biased views but I have read about the work done by the Wildrose MLAs and they are actually representing their people.

        I would only wish that the NDP MLAs did the same for their own constituents. In Riverbend, Bob Turner has told my family he can’t advocate for us as Sarah Hoffman has told him that Team Alberta Health is in charge. This is nonsense. He is my MLA and should do his job. In contrast, the Wildrose MLAs are doing their job.

        The negative characterization of another party is not limited to NDP supporters.
        The comments on the Wildrose blogs and Facebook pages are also negative about the NDP. I wonder if there is a possibility for all citizens to be a bit more respectful about each others political views.

        I don’t agree with everything that the Wildrose Party folks say nor do I agree with everything the Liberals or NDP have to say. But all of them have good ideas and stigmatizing a particular party for their particular views is not very productive in my opinion. It ends up in a toxic political environment and dysfunctional government.

        Brian Jean may not want big government but nor do a great many other citizens. We know we can’t do without government but the costs of employees of government and the ABCs (agencies, boards and commissions) represent great chunks of our yearly provincial budget.

        I agree with Mr. Jean that this massive bureaucracy costs too much for too few deliverables. There needs to be changes. Just the pension plans for government at all levels seem to be too rich and represent a future liability that I am not sure we can pay for.

      • Einar Davison says:

        Julie, I don’t believe we misjudge the Wildrose any more than they judge the rest of us. The Wildrose loves to stir up stuff, but when it starts to comeback at them they tend to cut and run. I have been watching politics for years and since the Wildrose has been in the legislature, the quality of debate has dropped to becoming more yelling, more rhetoric and less fact. Quite frankly some really stupid and moronic things. I invite you to read Hansards. The only time the Wildrose is happy is if we all do what they want, except when it doesn’t work then it’s the governments fault. I will agree that not all Wildroser’s are bad or as I have portrayed them but it is the bad ones that make all of them look like lunatics and I deal with them daily. There are bad NDP’s, PC’s, Alberta Liberals, Alberta Partiers, Greens as there are very good ones too, as there are very good Wildrosers. However the Wildrose just seems to revel in the badness as if it were a God given right and a badge of honour. If they try to find common ground with me then they will find I cooperate readily, if they call me an idiot for my beliefs, or deride me as a socialist or a communist because I don’t follow their idealogy completely and don’t think for one moment I won’t call them on it.
        In regards to the failings of the current government, yes health care is still a mess, but who broke it in the first place and yet it still provides better care outcomes than the US with private health care and user paid insurance. Also the worst nightmare for any party that takes over government is to learn that they can’t change things overnight, and now they own the system that they once debated against. Governments change directions slowly. I will continue to protest to Ms. Hoffman, but one thing is different from the previous government, she actually answered me back , even if only to say “No we are staying the course”, but she answered. The government doesn’t always give us the answer we want but I’ll take a government that explains why over one that just spouts their ideology. Thank you for keeping me honest, you are right we just can’t say things without backing them up, otherwise we are no better.

      • Julie Ali says:

        I admit I haven’t recently looked at the Hansard. But if you look at the federal scene all political parties are degenerating into poor behaviour. In my opinion, the Wildrose folks seem to be doing better than before. It does seem-at least to me– that the Wildrose Party is trying to become more mature and we have to understand that they are a young party. It will take them time.

        The NDP folks are just as abrupt as the Wildrose folks are in their comments –and the poor communicators in each camp does make it difficult to find a common ground. There seems to be quite a few people who don’t like to hear views that are not their own.

        You are lucky to hear back from Ms. Hoffman. I am still waiting for my answers to questions I posed to Alberta Connects that were routed to her team for answers. Government doesn’t like to answer questions that they don’t want to answer that may reflect badly on this but this isn’t acceptable practice.

        I actually like some of the Wildrose MLAs and their supporters. They are salt of the Earth people. I like the NDP folks as well except I feel that I would like them more if they did their jobs and represented us.

        The Wildrose folks also let me comment without blocking me as the folks on Albertans for an NDP Government did. Premier Notley also blocked me from her Facebook page. This is not the sort of action that is very nice or responsive and should not occur. It is anti-democratic. I ask the Premier’s Office why they blocked me; I sent them copies of my comments which I keep and they did not tell me which of my comments got them riled. If my comments can be provided to Ms. Notley by e-mail I guess it is just the public chatter they want to avoid.

        Governments change directions slowly as you have said but for decades, the abuses have gone on in continuing care; Ruth Adria has witnessed it as an outsider and as a marginalized advocate. She has been all alone in her struggle. It’s very sad. How much longer must the seniors and handicapped folks in continuing care wait for change when there is no need for this wait?
        http://elderadvocates.ca/

      • Einar Davison says:

        I have been blocked by Derek Fildebrandt and he is my MLA. Sorry they are not any better. Mr. Fildebrandt has also stated that social issues are “stale” and not part of what made him run. Yes Mr. Fildebrandt has also said Long Term Care/Continuing care in Strathmore-Brooks is important to him. However he speaks much and delivers little. The changes that did occur were from the work of Jason Hale our former MLA and the local municipal governments (Mayor/Reeves and Council) not from one of his inaugural speeches. Sorry Julie, I don’t buy it. I am not, never have been and probably will never be a New Democrat but this government cares more about people than the Wildrose. Many Wildrose MLA’s got elected just by telling people what they wanted to hear, knowing they would not need to back it up, as they wouldn’t be government. I think all Albertans are the salt of the earth in our own way.

      • Julie Ali says:

        Sorry, I did not mean to imply that some of us aren’t salt of the Earth.

        Derek Fildebrandt should not have blocked you; that is anti-democratic. All of us should be allowed to speak in public spaces if we are polite.

        I don’t think I am as comfortable with the Wildrose as I could be because of MLAs like Derek Fildebrandt. But he may learn to modulate his views. All politicians seem to be politically expedient when necessary to get into office and all of them make promises.

        I don’t get the feeling this NDP government cares about the ordinary people of Alberta. Certainly the PCs were not much better.

        It may be we will have to elect a Liberal government in Alberta to get some middle of the road politics in Alberta. Mr. Trudeau -despite Elbowgate –is doing a good job.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Val I hate to inform you but people like Brian Jean do believe they are prophets 🙂 🙂 🙂
        Yes ‘my people’ – sounds like Nazi Germany 🙂 🙂

  11. Good point Julie and Einar, not every WR politician is a raving maniac and not every NDP or Liberal politician is a wise progressive who gets the job done. This was brought home to me a while ago when I learned that Brad Wall gave the nurses a 35% four year wage increase in 2008. He also borrowed $700 million for infrastructure spending. Both of which sound like something the NDP would do.

    The former Saskatchewan NDP finance minister, Janice MacKinnon said the national press characterizes Brad Wall as an ultra-conservative but he’s more likely a centrist.

    http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/canadian-politics/how-good-is-saskatchewans-brad-wall-really

    As Carlos said, we Albertans are used to getting things “fast and furious”. This means we don’t take the time to analyze a situation and critically examine a proposed solution to determine whether it will work or whether it’s just another catchy slogan with nothing of substance to back it up.

    • Julie Ali says:

      You always have such a nice way of putting things Susan. Much nicer than the grumpy folks on Alberta Politics who have hurt my feelings about my exhausting comments. I will keep it brief here as I don’t want to be painful. Love and hugs, Julie

      • That was a lovely thing to say Julie. Thank you. And I welcome your comments but like I said the WP application can be skittish sometimes with the longer ones. 🙂

  12. Einar says:

    Hi Susan, I guess the Wildrose has once again proven the point for us. Alberta was once known for good manners and hospitality, now it is just the province of mean thanks to the Wildrose antics. I was ashamed once again to have Derek Fildebrandt as my MLA, represent our constituency. Are things so bad in the legislature that they need to start attacking visiting dignitaries who don’t even hold a seat in our legislature. I wondered for a second when I saw what occurred if Mr. Fildebrandt forgot he was the MLA for Strathmore-Brooks and is actually the MPP for Ottawa Carelton. Yes I’m grumpy, but I have to live with this person as my MLA and he is more interested in flogging his ideology rather than doing anything to help his constituency. The nutbars have the Official Opposition and no good will come from it!

    • Julie Ali says:

      Hi Einar,

      Mr. Fildebrandt is not a very amenable MLA but he does raise important issues about expenditures. He is good at holding government accountable for money spent.

      I am not exactly sure what the ideology of the Wildrose Party is but not all the MLAs are flame throwers like him. There is Jason Nixon who I like and who does work on behalf of his constituents. The Wildrose party is not full of “nutbars” but has other ordinary citizens like Drew Barnes who I have met and appreciated.

      Not working for your constituents is not limited to the Wildrose Party. I have Dr. Bob Turner for my MLA and he has not helped my family because Sarah Hoffman told him Alberta Health will take care of us.

      In my opinion, when you are elected to government, your job is to represent your constituents first. Both Mr. Fildebrandt and Dr. Bob need to do their jobs. Its not right to stand for office and then walk away from your duties to the constituents. I have to admit though, that Dr. Bob is far easier to accept as a non-performing MLA than Mr. Fildebrandt would be. Citizens should not accept MLAs who don’t do their jobs. We should be grumpy and we should complain; if they don’t shape up we should vote them out.

      • Einar says:

        Julie,
        I’m glad your experience with the Wildrose has been so good, mine hasn’t so let us agree to disagree. We can disagree without being disagreeable.
        Einar

  13. Einer and Julie: I think we can probably agree that (1) the role of an MLA is to represent ALL his/her constituents on ALL the issues. Some of our MLAs are not very good at doing that which is shameful given the promises they made on our doorsteps when they were seeking our support and (2) it behooves all of the Opposition parties to raise issues and hold the government to account in a non-inflammatory way. For example, telling people that the government is going to march into their homes and confiscate their computers without a warrant to make sure they’re paying the carbon levy is WAY over the top and (3) if they fail us in (1) and (2) we have a right to be grumpy and to vote them out.

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