The Emotional Mr Kenney

“When it comes to politics, all I can offer is emotion.”  — David Sedaris, author of numerous books including “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls”

If we didn’t know any better we’d think David Sedaris was talking about Jason Kenney.

Mr Kenney is campaigning hard to become Alberta’s next premier.  His stump speeches hit all the right buttons (in every sense of the word).

Take for example his Grande Prairie speech.

“Accidental government” 

Mr Kenney tells his supporters that the NDP is an “accidental government” which tripped into power by mistake, rather like the time Ms Soapbox boarded a plane to Sarnia and ended up in Sudbury (long story).

Mr Kenney says the NDP’s accidental victory was the result of two things:  Albertans didn’t bother to show up at the last election and those who did split the vote between the Wildrose and the PCs.

He’s wrong on both counts.


Mr Kenney

Voter turnout in the 2015 election was 57%, the highest in 22 years.  The NDP won 54 seats, the Wildrose took 21 and the PCs took nine.  Even combined, the WR/PC total seat count would have left the conservatives 14 seats short of a majority.

The fact is there was nothing accidental about Albertans giving the NDP a majority in 2015;  and if Mr Kenney continues with his nasty polarizing campaign Albertans may be inclined to re-elect the NDP for a second term.

The NDP is repeating the PC government’s mistakes

Mr Kenney castigates the NDP for raising taxes like Don Getty instead of reducing services like Ralph Klein.

Implicit in this statement is the promise that Mr Kenney will bring back Klein’s 10% flat tax and slash the public sector to ribbons if he wins in 2019.

This promise obscures the fact that while a 10% flat tax sounds enticing, only 7% of Albertans will get a tax cut.  The remaining 93% will continue to pay the same taxes they pay now.

Mr Kenney is spinning the same hocus pocus we heard from Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher—cut taxes for the rich and jobs will magically create themselves.  It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.  Cutting taxes for the rich simply dumps the pain of service cuts onto middle and lower income earners.

Alberta’s damaged economy  

Mr Kenney trots out the gloom and doom statistics—200,000 Albertans out of work, Albertans losing their homes and businesses, and god help us, we’re in a recession!—but he never puts them into context.

The impact of this recession on labour markets is milder than in past recessions (Alberta’s unemployment rate was 10% until almost 1990) and Alberta’s GDP per capita will be much higher than that of any other province ($77,000 versus $53,000).

Finally, the NDP government did not create the oil crisis, but they’re working very hard to keep the wheels on because past conservative governments failed to create an economic/fiscal structure that would carry the province through the downturns.

Alberta families are under siege

Mr Kenney implies the NDP are targeting hearth and home.  He characterizes the NDP’s education policies, particularly its support for gay-straight alliances, as undermining parental authority, and hints that the NDP will make “fundamental changes to who we are and what we value” if they’re re-elected.

Oh oh.

After raising the spectre of a socialist Big Brother he doesn’t pursue the point because, well, what more could he say without sounding like a tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist?

The Alberta Dream

Mr Kenney says “Alberta is an idea.”  An idea?   Yes, if you work hard in the spirit of economic freedom, you will prosper.

You won’t need a socialist safety net to catch up you if you fall on hard times because your family, your faith community and volunteer organizations will lift you up.  Presumably if you have no family, faith community or volunteer organizations near by,  you’re toast.

Mr Kenney says “we want our province back” leaving Ms Soapbox to wonder what he intends to do if Team Orange refuses to give it back in 2019.  Will he whip up his supporters, urging them to storm the ramparts?

Of course not.

Instead of engaging in polarizing rhetoric Mr Kenney should dial back the emotion and outline exactly how he intends to eliminate the debt and bring budgets into balance while at the same time ensuring that all Albertans, not just the top 7%, are living the Alberta dream.


Posted in Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 25 Comments

Unsolicited Advice from A Conservative Pundit

This week Preston Manning, former leader of the Reform Party, offered some advice to the yet to be formed United Conservative Party (or whatever it’s going to call itself after the Wildrose and the Progressive Conservatives merge).

A vision of sorts  

Since neither Brian Jean nor Jason Kenney have offered a vision for the UCP Mr Manning created one for them.   (For the record, “Beat the NDP” is not a vision it’s a mission statement like Pepsi’s “Beat Coke” and Nike’s “Crush Reebok”, catchy but not enough to bet the farm for anyone but their base).


Preston Manning

Mr Manning says the old paradigm of left-centre-right political parties is outdated and should be replaced by a vision of a Sustainable Alberta.  This vision is founded on four sustainability “dimensions” (stop me if you’ve heard this one before).

  1. Financial and economic – cut costs, improve productivity, implement measures to ease budget balancing and develop an economic strategy to constrain spending in good times in order to save for the bad times. Ah yes, Ralph Klein with a dash of Peter Lougheed thrown in at the end.
  2. Environmental – create a market-based approach to environmental sustainability by identifying the negative environmental impacts of economic activity and devising measures to avoid or ameliorate them. Incorporate the costs of these measures into the price of the goods and services produced.  Economists say putting a price on carbon is the most effective market mechanism to reduce negative environmental impacts but given Mr Kenney’s views on climate change and Mr Kenney and Mr Jean’s promise to repeal the carbon levy, a market-based approach to environmental protection (in the true economic sense) is a non-starter.     
  3. Social services – the government’s rate of spending is growing faster than the economy. Implement measures to make social services financially sustainable.  This is a fancy way of saying increase the privatization of public services.  Mr Kenney and Mr Jean will love it.   
  4. Employment – create a job sustainability plan using job-focused education, training for future jobs, job sharing and improve labour force mobility. Good idea, that’s why the NDP is doing it;  Mr Jean and Mr Kenney just don’t like to admit it.

Sadly for Mr Jean and Mr Kenney, Mr Manning’s Sustainable Alberta vision is hardly a bold new vision that will drive voters (other than their base) into the arms of the UCP.

But wait, there’s more.

A new political paradigm?

Mr Manning says the “right wing’, “centrist”, “left wing” political paradigm is passé and a new political party that hopes to present a principled and competent alternative to the NDP could attract voters by helping them identify where they fall on eight political “axes” (the plural of “axis” but they read like nasty hatchet things).

None of these axes are new, they ask the voter to position himself/herself on a spectrum with individual choice and the free market at one end and big government at the other.  However, the language used to describe the axes dealing with social issues is deeply disturbing.

Abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia are lumped into a “lifestyle choice” axis.  The voter can position himself along a spectrum that ranges from “unrestricted freedom of choice at one end and freedom of choice limited by traditions, religious principles and cultural norms at the other”.

Access to the social safety net is buried in an axis called “responsibility for personal choices”.  This axis concerns people “whose lifestyle choices prove to be personally destructive” (presumably addicts, alcoholics, the homeless, and others on the fringes of society).  The voter is asked who should be responsible for these people, themselves and their families or the government and taxpayers.

Characterizing social issues as “choices” indicates a profound lack of understanding and empathy.  Suggesting that these axes are preferable to the admittedly broad brush but fairly accurate right-centre-left political paradigm perpetuates misconceptions and is not worthy of any political party let alone one that addresses social issues by ignoring them.

Over to you UCP

This week Mr Jean told Wildrose party members the party would not tolerate homophobia.

Next week Mr Jean and Mr Kenney should take a moment to distance themselves from everything Mr Manning has said about the merged Wildrose/Progressive Conservative party and its place in the political spectrum.

Failure to do will confirm what many Albertans fear–that Mr Manning got it right and Mr Jean and Kenney are simply saying what they need to say to broaden their base and get elected in 2019.

Over to you Brian and Jason…

Sources:  and


Posted in Economy, Employment, Energy & Natural Resources, General Health Care, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , | 30 Comments

The Wildfire Reports: A political firestorm

Wildrose leader Brian Jean is furious with the NDP government’s response to two reports on the Fort McMurray wildfire.

He says the government is attempting to whitewash the reports’ findings and delayed releasing them in a shocking display of arrogance which is “totally unacceptable in any democracy.”  He wants a judge-led independent public inquiry into the matter.

Right.  Let’s give Brian a moment to catch his breath while we consider the points he’s raised.  


Governments and businesses are as different as chalk and cheese however when they conduct an audit they apply the same audit processes.


Fort McMurray Wildfire

After a serious incident both will retain an independent third-party auditor to determine what went right, what went wrong, and what can be done to improve performance in the future.

In this case the NDP government hired KPMG and MNP, two highly reputable chartered accounting and audit firms, to review the government’s response to the Fort McMurray wildfire and provide recommendations for improvement.

The government received the final versions of the audit reports in May 2017.  The government intended to release both reports on June 13, 2017 but they were leaked by the media on June 9, four days before the government’s release date.

The leak gave Mr Jean a chance to grab the spot light and accuse the government of disgracefully attempting to mislead the public by whitewashing the reports and delaying their release.

Had Mr Jean worked for a publicly traded corporation in the private sector at any point in his career he would have understood that the KPMG and MNP reports are part of an audit process.  The audit process is comprised of four parts: (1) the auditor gathers the facts, (2) he analyses them, (3) he makes a number of recommendations and (4) the client (government or corporation) develops an implementation plan that responds to each recommendation.

It is irresponsible for a client (government or corporation) to release an auditor’s report to the public that is not in its final form and without an implementation plan.

It takes time to develop a robust implementation plan to address a complex situation.

In this case the government engaged with federal, extra-provincial, and local governments, NGOs and First Nations as well as key government departments including emergency management, public health, environment, agriculture and forestry, and OH&S.

The government started this work well before it received the audit reports, but couldn’t finish until it received the final draft of the second audit report on May 20, 2017.

A three-week delay from the day the government received the final versions of the auditors’ reports and its release of the reports plus its implementation plans is not a shocking display of arrogance or a blow to democracy;  it’s a prompt professional response by a government that wants to get the job done right (and a much faster turnaround than anything Ms Soapbox has witnessed in the private sector).

“Lives at risk”

Mr Jean says the government failed to respond to the wildfire in a timely manner and thousands of lives were at risk.

Mr Jean may believe this to be true but the audit reports do not confirm his allegation.


Wildrose leader Brian Jean

The KPMG report said the government successfully handled a disaster of “extraordinary scale” by integrating the lessons learned from past disasters.  It notes the Emergency Management Agency and government departments performed well then goes on to provide 21 recommendations to improve how the government interfaces with local authorities, non-governmental agencies, the federal government, industry, aboriginal groups and communities.

The MNP report focused on the department of Agriculture and Forestry.  It said the department recognized the wildfire hazard to be high and was prepared earlier than usual.  It provides 10 recommendations including advancing the start of fire season, improving wildfire-related forecasting and improving and expanding strategic and operational capacity.

The most compelling assessment of the government’s response comes from a fire fighter who battled the blaze which became known as The Beast.

Fire chief Jody Butz said “Obviously, in reflection, we can all agree [the response] wasn’t soon enough…but in understanding the size and the scale of how this wildfire had blown up, for all intents and purposes, I think the work done from that point forward was incredible.”

The Beast raged for five weeks.  It consumed 589,000 hectares.  It leapt over the Athabasca River where it was one kilometer wide.  It’s the worst disaster in Canadian history; 88,000 people were safely evacuated, two unfortunate souls lost their lives traveling on the highway.

A political response

Mr Jean may choose to cherry pick and inflate the findings of the audit reports but he should heed the warning contained in the MNP report:  while the first 36 hours of a wildfire are critical “it is not possible to determine whether any alternative decisions or actions … would have resulted in a different outcome.”

A businessman will accept the results of a professional audit.  A politician will second-guess decisions made and actions taken from the safety of his arm chair hoping to set off a political firestorm.

Posted in Disasters, Economy, Environment, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , | 33 Comments

Mr and Ms Soapbox are in Quebec City

They’ve learned two important things so far: people expect you to keep the promises you made over 100 years ago and there’s no such thing as too much Maple Syrup pie.
A la semaine prochaine!


Fountain outside the hotel

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Bill 17: A Unicorn or a Chimera?

Last week the NDP government introduced the Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act (Bill 17).  It’s intended to update workplace legislation that became increasingly outdated under Progressive Conservative rule.

Premier Notley describes Bill 17 as a balanced middle of the road approach.  The Opposition is says it’s a “union-friendly omnibus bill” that should be split in two to prevent the government from “sneaking labour in with everything else.”

Is Bill 17 a unicorn or a chimera?  A force for good or a monster?

The Legislation

Bill 17 changes the employer/employee relationship in six areas:

  • Family-friendly leave: Most provinces have between 10 and 14 forms of job-protected leaves.  Alberta has four—maternity, paternity, reservist, and 8-week compassionate care.  The bill aligns eligibility for leave with more generous eligibilities provided by the feds and adds new unpaid leaves to support victims of domestic violence, those suffering short term illness, caring for sick children, bereavement, the disappearance of a child and attending citizenship ceremonies.
  • Youth employment is aligned with international labour conventions which set the minimum age for children doing light work, but won’t impact children performing chores, babysitting or involved in 4H.
  • Workplace standards changes will address banked overtime, hours of work, rest periods, compressed work weeks, vacation and holiday pay, minimum disability pay, and minimum termination notices.
  • Administrative penalties will be toughened up for employers who violate the law.
  • Labour relations changes require an employer and newly formed union to go to arbitration if they can’t reach an agreement within 90 days and (here’s the tricky part) if more than 65% of eligible employees sign a certification card, they’re be unionized without the need for a vote, unless the Labour Relations Board deems a vote is required.
  • Changes to the agricultural sector will give “waged, nonfamily workers the same rights as their peers in other sectors” subject to some exemptions.

An Omnibus Bill  

Horrors! say the Opposition.  It’s an omnibus bill in the worst tradition of he-who-tabled-monster-budget bills that included everything from finance and budgets to veterans’ benefits, anti-terrorism measures and changes to the Fisheries Act.

Leaving aside their hypocrisy, they’re just plain wrong.

Bill 17 focuses on the relationship between an employer and an employee, one on one or as part of a group.  That’s it.  The difficulty for the Opposition is that both aspects of this relationship appear in the same bill—the Opposition will have to be very careful when they explain to their constituents why they voted against it.

Card-based vs ballot-based certification  

The heart of the controversy swirls around the elimination of the vote by secret ballot if 65% plus one of the employees (a supermajority) sign certification cards.

Under the existing legislation if 40% or more of the employees signed certification cards, the Board will conduct a vote.  If the majority of the employees vote for the union, they’ll be unionized.  This is called “ballot-based certification”.

Under Bill 17, if 40% to 65% of the employees sign certification cards nothing changes. The Board conducts a vote and if the majority votes for the union, they’re unionized.

However, if more than 65% of the employees sign certification cards that’s it, they’re unionized.  There is no vote unless the Board has some concerns in which case it will conduct a vote.  This is called “card-based certification”.

The ballot-based certification requires a majority (50% plus one), the card-based certification requires a supermajority (65% plus one).

What’s the problem?


The elimination of the secret ballot in the case of a supermajority is driving the Opposition bonkers.


A chimera

PC MLA Ric McIver made an impassioned, if incoherent, argument that in the months that elapse between employees signing their certification cards and Board accepting them, everyone will know who is pro-union and who is anti-union, thus leaving them open to intimidation from the company and the union.

This is bizarre argument because the old system also requires employees to sign certification cards; if McIver is concerned that everyone will know who is pro- or anti-union based on their certification cards, then the threat of intimidation exists today.

It will be unchanged if the certification tally results in 45% to 65% signing up for a union because the old system still applies.

It will diminish if the certification tally results in more than 65% signing up for a union because they’ll be automatically unionized.  They won’t to wait for weeks or months for the ballot to be scheduled.

Secret ballots

The Opposition argues Bill 17 is a blow to democracy because the cards aren’t secret but the ballots are.

True, secret ballots are a hallmark of democracy, but companies are not democratic institutions.  They’re hierarchical institutions with power (continued employment, increased pay, and benefits) concentrated in the hands of the employer.

The blow to democracy argument is a red-herring.

The real issue

Labour researchers like Chris Riddell say management is twice as effective at opposing ballot-based certification—what we have today and will continue to have where 40% to 65% of the employees sign certification cards—than card-based certification as proposed by Bill 17 where 65% plus one employees sign up a union card.

Introducing card-based certification, even one requiring a supermajority, may make it easier for employees to unionize.  But this isn’t necessarily a given.

A wise CEO who’s rebuffed many unionization drives said the best way to keep your employees from unionizing is to treat them well.

Is Bill 17 a unicorn or a chimera?  It’s neither, it’s simply good business practice.

Posted in Economy, Employment, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Meet the “United” Conservative Party

Say what you will about the Wildrose, they were always grassroots party…that is until Jason Kenney blew them out of the water.

Last week Jason Kenney and Brian Jean unveiled the terms under which the Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives will roll up into the United Conservative Party (UCP).  The Agreement in Principle on the Establishment of the United Conservative Party will be presented to conservatives for ratification on July 22.  If it’s ratified, a new leader will be chosen on Oct 28. The process is billed as a merger of equals, but it’s not.


Jean had all the leverage going into this negotiation.

The Wildrose had 22 sitting MLAs, the PCs just 8.  A recent poll asking respondents who they’d prefer as leader of the UCP put Jean’s support at 37% and Kenney’s at 22%.  Kenney needed the Wildrose more than Jean needed the PCs.

In a normal world, this would give Jean all the leverage he needed, but this isn’t a normal world, this is politics and Kenney changed the narrative.

It was no longer about which political party was likely to win the most seats and defeat Notley’s NDP in the next election.  It was about which politician was prepared to put aside his ego to “save” Alberta from the “socialists”.

In the new narrative seat count and popular support didn’t matter, Jean’s leverage vaporized and he had to demonstrate he was just as selfless as Kenney (the politician with no seat, and no party or MLAs until recently).

Top-down vs grassroots

They say the devil is in the details, of which the Agreement is shamefully short.

The Wildrose wanted “more specifics” but were persuaded to settle for what Kenney dubbed “a more modest approach” that reflects “the key emblematic issues” for both parties.  (Merge the parties and vote for a leader, no need to worry your pretty little heads about policy and constitutional details, those can be worked out later).


Jason Kenney or Brian Jean: Who will lead the UCP?

Kenney suggests there were trade-offs.  He says the PCs accepted “property rights and language around more democratic accountability” in return for the Wildrose accepting “the formulation of progressive social policies and a diverse coalition”.

He makes this sound like a big deal but it’s not.

In the first place, Kenney’s “progressive social policies” are the same as Jean’s.   Secondly, the Wildrose lost more than it gained by agreeing to Kenney’s “language around more democratic accountability”.

Democratic accountability

The Wildrose Constitution sets out 12 guiding principles.  The most significant for a grassroots party are the principles supporting democratic accountability.  Article 4.4 of the Constitution expressly sets out the party’s belief in free elections, fixed election dates, free votes in the Legislature, the right of citizens to recall their MLAs, and the right of citizens to initiate binding referendums

The UCP Agreement describes democratic accountability as: “Parliamentary institutions and the democratic process enshrined in our Constitutional Monarchy, together with greater engagement by citizens in democratic decision making, and greater accountability of government to citizens.”

Setting aside the gibberish around parliamentary institutions and Constitutional Monarchies, this is little more than the PC’s Constitutional principle requiring “respectful, responsible and responsive governance”.  It falls far short of the NDP Constitutional requirement that MLAs must hold public meetings with their constituents before the House convenes and after it adjourns to gather their concerns and report back on how they were addressed in the Legislature.

Jean says the Wildrose right of recall is embedded in the Agreement.  Presumably he is referring to a reference to “grassroots democracy, including measures to empower Albertans to hold government accountable during and between elections” which appears as one of the guiding principles.

Kenny disagrees.  And most lawyers would side with Kenney.  The principles of statutory interpretation dictate that unless a right (recall, free vote, whatever) is expressly set out in an agreement it doesn’t exist.  This is a critical point, we’ll come back to it later.   

It’s not surprising that the man who wants to lead the UCP is going to clamp down on the grassroots (who are prone to spectacular bozo eruptions).  Kenney prefers the top-down leadership model that carried his boss, Stephen Harper, to power.

The real leadership question is whether Brian Jean will let Jason Kenney get away with it.

The 5% difference

Conservatives supporting the merger say the Wildrose and PCs agree on 95% of the issues.  This is true when they’re discussing conservative ideology and their belief that Rachel Notley’s NDP government must go.

This is not true when they’re discussing how the people can hold a government to account.  

This 5% difference is as wide and deep as the Peningagjá chasm.   Jason Kenney and the PCs believe in a top-down leader-driven government.  Brian Jean and the Wildrose believe in a bottoms-up grassroots-driven government.

The conservatives will likely ratify the Agreement in July.  The big question is whether they’ll support a Jason Kenney authoritarian right or a Brian Jean grassroots right.

Posted in Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 30 Comments

The Conservative Ideology

“ideology” \ˌī-dē-ˈä-lə-jē, -ˈa-, ˌi-\  a systematic body of concepts, especially those of a particular group or political party—Merriam-Webster  

The word “ideology” was coined by the French philosopher Destutt de Tracy.  Originally it meant the science of ideas; but shrewd politicians like Napoleon Bonaparte corrupted it to mean something more pejorative, even sinister.

This is unfortunate because politicians professing to be free from ideology are in fact admitting that they’re rudderless.

For them politics is simply a contest for power which will be won by capturing the issues of the day in catchy slogans and using them to bamboozle citizens to vote for them.

The trouble with slogans is that unlike ideologies they’re meaningless and/or misleading and provide no action plan for the future.

Speaking of meaningless…

Destructive conservatism

Jason Kenney is working tirelessly to merge the Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose Party into the Free Enterprise coalition.


Jason Kenney leadership hopeful #1

His slogan (for now) is Restore the Alberta Advantage.  How?  By beating Rachel Notley’s NDP in the next election and destroying everything the NDP has done over the last four years.

Brian Jean is squarely on board with Jason Kenney’s destructive mission except he says he’ll replace the carbon tax, not eliminate it (smart man, why get rid of a tax after the public has gotten used to it, just repurpose the extra revenue to suit your own agenda).

The theme of destruction is important because it indicates that Alberta’s conservatives are moving along the same spectrum of conservatism that’s engulfed the United Kingdom and the USA.

George Monbiot, the British writer and political activist, says conservatism has three forms:

  • inclusive conservatism which seeks to protect things of value for everyone’s benefit (eg wildlife, works of art and significant institutions like universal healthcare);
  • exclusive conservatism which resists changes that would help the majority in order to protect the privileges enjoyed by the minority (this necessitates opposing things like progressive taxation and the social safety net); and
  • something that calls itself conservatism but is “nothing of the kind”. Destructive conservatism destroys everything that stands in the way of profit-taking (eg norms, values, institutions, and public protections).

Alberta conservatism has evolved from the Peter Lougheed’s conservatives, who fell somewhere between the first and second forms of conservatism, and is now closing in on the third form of conservatism, destructive conservatism.

“Destroy the NDP, destroy all they’ve created, erase socialism from every corner of the province”.


Brian Jean leadership hopeful #2

It’s a slogan mindlessly repeated by Kenney/Jean supporters with no thought about what it might mean.

Destructive conservatism leads to bizarre outcomes.

For example:

  • When BC’s Christy Clark announced she’d retaliate against Trump’s new tariffs on softwood by imposing a $70/tonne carbon tax on thermal coal—an act that would cost Alberta 2000 jobs and $300 million/year in lost revenue and violates the Canadian Free Trade Agreement—Kenney held his nose and said Clark’s government was preferable to the NDP.
  • When Saskatchewan’s premier Brad Wall promised incentives to Alberta energy companies to lure them to Saskatchewan—a move that would further damage Calgary’s economic viability—Kenney and Jean were fine with it.
  • When Scott Thon, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Energy (yes, Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway) said Alberta found the right balance in transitioning away from fossil fuels and his company would continue to be a long-term investor and Cenovus, CNRL and Suncor announced oilsands investments in excess of $28 billion, Kenney and Jean said the NDP’s climate strategy was driving away investment.

There’s only one explanations for this kind of behavior.  Destructive conservatives don’t care who gets hurt as long as they win the next election.

Anyone who doesn’t understand the danger of voting for the Free Enterprise coalition whose sole raison d’etre is to destroy the government that went before it need only look south of the border to see why this is a spectacularly stupid idea.

Posted in Economy, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , | 30 Comments