Mr Kenney’s Announcements on TMX and KXL

This just in from the how-to-make-a-good-news-story-sound-bad department:

Mr Kenney’s government issued two press releases this week, one about the restart of construction of the TMX pipeline project, the other about the favourable ruling of the Nebraska Supreme Court on Keystone XL.  Both of these announcements are about a good result achieved by someone else.

And that’s why Mr Kenney’s knickers are in a knot. 

Mr Kenney going on about something

Good news isn’t really good news because…

The TMX press release contains just one word that’s not critical or negative.  It appears in this sentence: “The news that construction will restart on this project is positive; however there is still not reason to celebrate.” 

The Keystone XL press release contains two words that aren’t critical or negative.  They appear in these sentences: “Today’s approval is encouraging news for both Alberta and our nation as a whole.  This court victory is another step forward for this vital pipeline project after far too many years of regulatory delays and hurdles.”  No wait, there’s a third positive word, Mr Kenney expressed gratitude to the US administration (is he afraid to say the word “Trump”) for issuing the second permit for Keystone XL.

After offering those tepid “attaboys” the press releases shift into campaign rhetoric and misleading information.   

Mr Kenney promises his government will “fight” those who “obstruct progress,” and who must not be allowed to “illegally block” construction and “essentially veto a project.”  He fails to mention that TMX protestors (including Elizabeth May) who violated the injunction protecting the TMX work site in Burnaby were arrested and fined and will be arrested and fined if they violate injunctions in the future.  And that Canada has no jurisdiction to fight those who illegally block the construction of Keystone XL in the US. 

In case his rhetoric isn’t persuasive enough, Mr Kenney ends both press releases with a demand that the federal government repeal what he calls the ‘No More Pipelines’ Bill (C-69) and the West Coast Tanker Ban (C-48), but neglects to mention that neither bill has any impact on TMX or Keystone XL whatsoever and may have minimal impact in the future because some oilsands executives say Canada will have enough takeaway capacity for quite some time if TMX, Keystone XL and Enbridge Line 3 are completed.   

Mr Kenney’s references to Bills C-69 and C-48 are red herrings intended to divert our attention from the fact his government had nothing to do with TMX and Keystone XL achieving these milestones. 

Mr Kenney may argue he’s just being realistic.  If so, he should have mentioned Keystone XL and Enbridge Line 3 (and Line 5) are facing additional legal challenges in the US.  If Mr Kenney wants to get in on the action, perhaps he can aim the big guns in his $30 million War Room in the Americans’ direction.  (NOTE: “big guns” is a metaphor, Ms Soapbox is not for a moment suggesting Mr Kenney take up arms and declare war on the United States).

Where’s a stateman when you need one?

Even the former premier, Rachel Notley (NDP) and the former Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr (Liberal) were able to overcome their lack of affection for Donald Trump (nutbar) when he reissued the federal cross-border permit through an expedited presidential order that allowed Keystone XL to proceed.  They issued press releases welcoming the news.    

Wouldn’t it be nice if Mr Kenney could rise to the level of statesman instead of defaulting to cheap partisanship and misleading attacks on the federal Liberal government?

Just once?  Please? 

Posted in Economy, Energy & Natural Resources, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Trudeau’s Ethics Violation

It was a headline befitting the National Enquire, splashed across the top of the newspaper in four different fonts and three different colours: “The evidence abundantly shows that Mr Trudeau knowingly sought to influence Ms Wilson-Raybould both directly and through the actions of his agents.”

And boom, it turned into a media circus.      

The fundamental problem with this headline is the Ethics Commissioner, Mr Dion, also said simply seeking to influence another’s decision is not enough to breach of section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act. 

A second element is required.  Mr Dion had to find that “Mr. Trudeau, through his actions and those of his staff, sought to improperly further the interests of SNC-Lavalin.” 

Mr Dion said both elements were satisfied; however Errol Mendes, a professor of constitutional and international law, says Mr Dion appears to have misinterpreted “his own act and his jurisdiction” and  we need a “more in depth discussion of the accuracy of this report among government, the media and…the public.”

Mr Trudeau

Sadly, the media is not interested in a thoughtful discussion about the Report.  It’s perfectly happy running amok, cherry picking its way through the Report and blasting out the juicy bits to boost readership.       

Media Spin I: Improper interference in a criminal proceeding

The media says Mr Trudeau breached the Act by trying to get JWR to “interfere” with a criminal prosecution.  This ignores the fact the AG has the discretion to intervene and if she chooses to exercise her discretion she’s not “interfering” with a criminal prosecution, she’s “intervening.”  (And remember Mr Dion said Mr Trudeau trying to get JWR to do anything doesn’t violate the Act).

Media Spin 2: The women vs the old boys club    

The media says JWR led a group of women (Ms Roussel, director of public prosecutions, Ms Prince, her chief of staff, Ms Drouin, her deputy minister, former Liberal MP Ms Philpott and maybe even former chief justice Beverly McLachlin who “had her own reservations”) in a fight to fend off the “Old Boys club” (comprised of Mr Trudeau, some SNC executives and senior government officials, and maybe even two former Supreme Court justices, Frank Iacobucci and John Major) who were trying to get JWR to “interfere” with a criminal prosecution.

Have they read the report?

Ms Drouin, JWR’s deputy minister, was the first to propose bringing in an outside expert.  She said the Attorney General (JWR) could issue a directive instructing the Prosecution Service to give the outside expert enough information to ensure the “public interest criteria had been properly weighed”.   JWR rejected her deputy minister’s advice. 

With respect to Ms McLachlin, JWR said she’d talk with the former chief justice, then changed her mind.  Ms McLachlin was prepared to meet with JWR, Ms McLachlin’s so-called “reservations” were that she was no longer a lawyer and couldn’t give legal advice, she needed a proper briefing and she’d need to be retained by the AG not the government. 

No matter how the media spins it, this wasn’t a battle between the women and the Old Boys club.        

Media Spin 3: Rushed remediation agreements  

Discussions about whether Canada should adopt remediation agreements (also known as deferred prosecution agreements) had been ongoing since May 2015 when SNC engaged in discussions with the Harper government.  Talks stalled and were suspended pending the outcome of the federal election in Oct 2015. 

The Trudeau government revisited the idea in Feb 2016.  It held public consultations from Sept 25, 2016 to Dec 8, 2016 and found the majority of the participants supported the idea.  It introduced amendments to the Criminal Code in the omnibus Budget Bill that was tabled on Mar 27, 2017.  The Budget Bill was reviewed by the House Standing Committee and several Senate committees before receiving assent on June 21, 2018. The Criminal Code amendments went into effect on Sept 19, 2018. 

JWR complained that the consultation process was rushed and refused to lead the memorandum on the Criminal Code amendments to Cabinet, speak publicly or speak before parliamentary committees about it. 

Was the consultation rushed? 

There are no rules setting out how long public consultation should last.  Consultations range from three weeks for input on national historic sites, to three months for input on the agenda for Canada’s Sustainable Development Knowledge, to three years for input on the implementation of the Species at Risk.  JWR didn’t say how long the consultation should have been, but she was so unhappy with the process she boycotted it.      

Media Spin 4:  It’s all about Quebec votes

Mr Trudeau had direct contact with JWR once, in a meeting in Sept 2018 that included Mr Wernick, the Clerk of the Privy Council.  Mr Trudeau said he understood the decision was JWR’s to make and she’d made it.  He said he wanted to find a “solution” and when she agreed to talk further with Mr Wernick and her own deputy minister (who’d suggested bringing in an outside expert and reaching out to the Prosecution Service) he thought she was prepared to revisit the issue.

During this meeting Mr Wernick mentioned the upcoming Quebec election and Mr Trudeau said he was a Quebec MP.  JWR asked Mr Trudeau if he was politically interfering with her role.  He said no and never mentioned politics again, unfortunately some of his staff did in their meetings with JWR and her staff.

Professor Mendes and others say the Shawcross doctrine precludes an AG from considering political interests in a criminal prosecution.  But here’s the kicker.  Professor Mendes says the Shawcross doctrine does not apply in a consideration of section 9 of the Act and the Ethics Commissioner misinterpreted the Act and his jurisdiction when he applied it.    

Media Spin 5:  This is about ethics

Mr Dion said Mr Trudeau attempted to influence JWR’s decision not to intervene in the SNC prosecution on four occasions:    

  1. At the Sept 2018 meeting when he said he was an MP for Quebec.  Professor Mendes says the Commissioner inappropriately applied the Shawcross doctrine and misinterpreted his jurisdiction when he did so.
  2. When PMO and Privy Council staff asked whether the AG could intervene in SNC’s application for judicial review to expedite the hearing or get a stay pending the outcome of discussions about the remediation agreement.  Does staff asking the question amount to “influence”?
  3. Suggesting to JWR that she seek external advice from “someone like” former chief justice Beverly McLachlin when SNC had legal opinions from two former Supreme Court justices and shared them with the government and these opinions were prepared for the “sole purpose of persuading [JWR] to reconsider her opinion.”  This is highly insulting.  Ms McLachlin is not a puppet on a string.  She would have formed her own opinion which may or may not have agreed with that of the two former Supreme Court justices.     
  4. The “final and most flagrant attempt to influence” JWR was her conversation with Mr Wernick where he asked her to reconsider.  The irony here is palpable.  The Ethics Commissioner is relying on a conversation JWR secretly taped (most people would call that unethical, but the Ethics Commission calls it an “audio recording”) to condemn Mr Trudeau for things Mr Wernick said.          

Mr Dion said these four instances tick the box for “seeking to influence.”  He then embarked on a mushy discussion of the “national public interest” to demonstrate Mr Trudeau sought to improperly further SNC’s interests. 

Mr Trudeau said he was trying to save 9,000 jobs.  Mr Dion said this was improper because a prosecutor cannot consider the “national public interest.”  Mr Trudeau’s lawyer argued “national public interest” as defined in the Criminal Code is modeled on the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and the former Secretary-General of OECD said it was never intended to include job loss so a prosecutor can consider it .  Mr Dion rejected this argument.

And Mr Trudeau was done. 

When its all over

Yes, the Report contains evidence of discussions between Mr Trudeau and his staff and JWR and her staff, but these discussions are not enough to find Mr Trudeau in breach of the Act.  To cross that bridge Mr Dion applied the Shawcross doctrine, perhaps in error, and relied on a definition of the national public interest which may be incorrect.  The Report requires more in depth discussion.     

Not that it matters to the media who are guided by the maxim: what would the National Enquirer do?

Based on what we’ve seen so far, the National Enquirer would be proud. 

Posted in Crime and Justice, Feminism, Law, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , | 44 Comments

Patriot Games

“Patriot:  the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about.” Mark Twain

Last week Mr Kenney joined the patriot squad.  On August 4 and  August 7 he released two odious videos on social media.  Let’s call them “Patriot Games One” and “Patriot Games Two.”

Patriot Games One

The gist of Patriot Games One was that Mr Kenney is a Canadian patriot who comes from a long line of Canadian patriots and is descended from people who fought for Canada even before it became a country (um, wouldn’t that make them British patriots?).  Mr Kenney said Alberta is getting a raw deal from the other provinces and the feds, Alberta is paying the bills and getting no respect, but fear not Mr Kenney will not let Justin Trudeau “push us out of our country”.  Mr Kenney said instead of focusing on Alberta separating from Canada, Albertans should focus on “separating” Justin Trudeau from the prime minister’s office. 

Message:  Be a patriot.  Vote Conservative because Trudeau is trying to push Alberta out of Confederation.           

Patriot Games Two

Patriot Games Two came out three days later.  Apparently, Albertans continually ask Mr Kenney about separating.  He says he’s a Canadian federalist, always has been, always will be…but he understands Alberta’s angst.  Alberta contributed $600 billion to Canada over the last six decades and Trudeau “killed” and “surrendered to a veto” on Northern Gateway (I guess killing it wasn’t enough), he “killed” Energy East, he “bungled” Trans Mountain, he’s “threatening us with a punitive carbon tax,” he brought in the “no more pipelines” law, he attacked Alberta oil exports off the northwest coast and did other bad things to Alberta.  But Albertans are “proud Canadians”, we should fix the problems with the federation by electing a conservative federal government. 

Message: Be a patriot.  Vote Conservative because Trudeau is hurting Alberta.   

Here’s where Patriot Games Two got really interesting.  Kenney said, “I believe we Albertans are patriotic Canadians we believe in Canada even if we’re frustrated with how the current federal government has been injuring our economy and I’m trying to isolate the frustration on a series of federal government policies that have injured our economy, the only alternative is for me to pretend that this frustration doesn’t exist and when political leadership ignores that level of frustration, that’s where things can go in the wrong direction.   (Is he going to “isolate the frustration” by magnifying it? If he ignores the frustration what direction will it go? Car bombs and kidnapped politicians?)

The Patriot

He ends the clip by repeating his claim that he’s a proud Canadian patriot who wants Alberta “to be a key member” of federation, contributing to the rest of Canada. 

Message:  I’m not a separatist, I just sound like one because I’m isolating your frustration.    

Patriot or Nationalist

There is so much wrong with Patriot Games One and Two it’s hard to know where to begin.

Let’s start by defining terms.  Merriam Webster defines “patriot” as someone who loves and supports his/her country.

Mr Kenney says he’s a patriot, but his actions aren’t those of someone who loves and supports his country.     

A patriot does not spend years maligning federal institutions (like the equalization formula) or telling Albertans they’re getting a raw deal and “no respect” from other provincial governments and the federal government.

A patriot does not pretend the language of separatism is an effort to “isolate” frustration and he has no other alternative.  Mr Kenney could try working with Mr Trudeau to gain his support like Ms Notley did when she convinced Mr Trudeau to buy Trans Mountain and increase unemployment insurance benefits for Albertans, or Mr Lougheed did when he engaged with Pierre Trudeau on changes to the 1982 Constitution Act.  These fine premiers found an alternative that did not suggest the federal government was trying to throw Alberta out of the country. 

(As an aside, why would Mr Trudeau push Alberta out of Canada when he just spent $4.5 billion on a pipeline to transport Alberta bitumen to tide water?)    

Lastly, a patriot does not use the language of patriotism in a crass partisan pitch for the federal Conservatives coming to the people directly from the premier’s office and the lobby of the Alberta Legislature no less.  Does Mr Kenney seriously think Albertans will vote for anyone else?

The historian, Timothy Snyder, said a patriot sets a good example of what the country means for generations to come.       

George Orwell said a nationalist, “although endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge” tends to be “uninterested in what happens in the real world.”

Mr Kenney may say he’s a patriot, but his actions suggest otherwise. 

Posted in Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 19 Comments

What Do They Want?

When Ms Soapbox read the “open letter” to Canadians published by three oil executives she was reminded of Sigmund Freud.  Freud spent 30 years asking himself: what do women want?   

After 70 years of riding the boom/bust roller coaster with the energy industry Canadians are wondering the same thing:  what do they want?          

The answer is contained in the “open letter”. 

Here’s the letter as it appeared in 30 newspapers.  (Ms Soapbox’s comments appear in italics).          

What do they want?

The Open Letter  

We have big decisions to make as a country, and there is an opportunity for each of you to influence the outcome.  (How will you vote in the federal election?)

Canadians want to know what the energy sector is doing to address the global climate change challenge while working to strengthen our economy. (True).

As energy company leaders, we believe Canada is ideally positioned to do its part to both positively impact climate change and ensure a strong and vibrant economy for the future. (Good).

This is not an ‘either’ ‘or’ conversation, it’s an ‘and’ conversation.  (Got it).

The world needs more energy to sustain a growing global economy that is expected to lift three billion people out of poverty in the decades ahead. We need more wind, solar and hydro, but oil and natural gas remain a large part of the mix too. This is true in even the most optimistic scenarios for the worldwide adoption of renewable energy. (Lifting three billion people out of poverty involves geopolitical and macroeconomic issues as well as climate change, but okay).

The world also needs to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But shutting down Canada’s oil industry will have little impact on global targets. In fact, it could have the opposite effect, with higher carbon fuels replacing our lower emissions products.  (This is not an excuse for doing nothing, Canada can set an example.  It’s called moral leadership).   

A healthy Canadian oil and natural gas industry is vital in leading the way to a lower carbon future.  (Not if “healthy” means “profitable” and “profitable” means minimal GHG reduction).

Made-in-Canada technologies that reduce emissions at our oil and natural gas operations could be adapted for sharing with other industries worldwide. We are already making meaningful progress developing those solutions.  (True).

We’ve reduced the emissions intensity in the oil sands by about 30% over the past two decades, and a number of oil sands operations are producing oil with a smaller greenhouse gas impact than the global average. We’re working to get those numbers even lower. 

(Actually, Suncor says it’s reduced emissions by 50%.  Is Suncor sharing its technologies with you, if so, why are you at 30%?)

And Canada’s energy companies are the country’s single largest investors in clean tech. Through organizations such as Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada (PTAC) and the Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN) we are continuing to work on – and share – breakthrough technologies.  (Good, but you don’t get brownie points for doing the right thing).

But we can’t do it alone.  (Here it comes…)  

And that’s why we are writing this letter.  (Wait for it…)  

As we head into the upcoming election, we are asking you to join us in urging Canada’s leaders of all political stripes to help our country thrive by supporting an innovative energy industry. One that can contribute to solving the global climate change challenge and play a significant role in creating future energy solutions by developing our resources in the cleanest most responsible way possible today. 

(So you want to elect a government that will support the industry.  According to 80% of the investors and industry executives who attended the 2019 ScotiaBank Conference, the biggest issue facing the industry is lack of egress/takeaway capacity—only 10% thought regulatory issues were the biggest challenge—the Trudeau Liberals bought Trans Mountain to fix the egress problem.  The holdup is Charter challenges in the courts.  A change of government won’t “fix” the courts. 

The Conservatives say they’ll repeal the carbon tax.  This will put more cash in your pocket.  How will you invest it?  85% of the ScotiaBank guys said they’d buy back shares or pay off debt (ie. give the money to shareholders or banks), 0% said they’d invest in growth (ie. more jobs).  So why should Canadians support the Conservatives?   

The choices we make will determine the quality of life we create for ourselves and future generations. These choices will impact our ability to fund schools, hospitals, parks and the social programs that we as Canadians so deeply value.  (Canadians also value the environment).

This isn’t about any particular pipeline, policy or province. This is about the future of Canada. 

(So let’s talk politics.  The ScotiaBank guys were asked who’d win in the fall election:  11% predicted a Conservative majority, 5% predicted a Liberal majority and 75% predicted a minority government of some sort.  A CBC poll showed 35% of Canadians support the Conservatives, 31% support the Liberals, 13% support the NDP and 11% support the Greens—this foreshadows a non-Conservative minority government).   

Signed by the Presidents of CNRL, Cenovus, MEG Energy 

(And not signed by the presidents of industry giants like Suncor, Husky and Imperial and mega pipelines like Enbridge and Trans Canada). 

Instead of publishing an open letter asking Canadians to elect a government that won’t push the industry on GHG emissions and supports less regulation, these three executives should have paid attention to economist Peter Tertzakian who told the ScotiaBank crowd in order to succeed the industry must: (1) lower its costs, (2) pay more attention to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and (3) do the best job it can to get the highest value markets because politics in Canada and the world are unpredictable.

To paraphrase Freud’s question:  What do these industry executives want?  Answer: a government that gives them everything.  

Is this what Canadians want?  We’ll find out in October.

Posted in Climate Change, Economics, Energy & Natural Resources, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Calgary Flames Arena–Have We Got A Deal For You!!!

To paraphrase Jane Jacobs, the majority of Calgary City Council regard Calgarians as “empty-headed young ladies whose main duties were to see that their nails were clean, their curves properly distributed and their behavior seemly.”

These councillors refuse to allow adequate public consultation on their decision to spend $275 million on the new Flames hockey arena while at the same time raising property taxes, wiping out small businesses and cutting $60 million in public services including police and fire.         

Only four city councillors, Evan Woolley, Jeremy Farkas, Druh Farrell and Peter Demong, didn’t rubberstamp the Flames deal, which is described by the Canadian Tax Federation as an example of “corporate welfare.”  (Ms Soapbox and the CTF agree, did Hell just freeze over?)     

Flames CEO Ken King and Mayor Nenshi

The deal’s benefits

Mayor Nenshi and most councillors say investing $275 million in public money will create $400 million in public benefit.    


Let’s review the benefits set out on page 24 of the Facilities Update document:      

  • Ticket tax revenues:  Calgary will get $155 million over 35 years through a ticket tax of 2%.  If it had negotiated the same 9.5% ticket tax deal Edmonton negotiated with the Oilers, it would have gotten $736 million in revenue.  To add insult to injury, Calgary agreed to cap its share of ticket tax revenue at $3 million for the first 5 years, this represents a loss of $1.4 million/year for five years.          
  • Local community sports payments: $75 million over 35 years.  Okay, that’s nice.  The $2 million/year will come in handy when we cut $60 million in public services.   
  • Naming rights: $2.5 million/year for 10 years.  Ditto.
  • Retail property tax: $19.4 million over 35 years.  It’s unclear where this number comes from given that it’s dependent on development that has not yet taken place and would be sensitive to economic downturns which depress business tax revenue.    
  • Indirect Rivers District Development:  This pie in the sky number accounts for $138.7 million and is contingent on many things including whether the Flames exercise two options to buy unspecified Rivers District Lands.  If all goes well, this revenue yields a 1.4% return on investment.  If it goes pear shaped, the City suffers a .6% loss.

The Facilities Update document also lists a number of soft benefits including Calgary remaining committed to economic recovery (well, I certainly hope so!), and the arena being a “catalyst” for future development and an “anchor” for arts, culture and entertainment. 

Sigh, all these benefits are enough to make a girl swoon so I’ll turn to economist Trevor Tombe who said the $400 million in benefits is “misleading” and the real cost of the deal is a $47 million loss.  Loss????   

The deal’s downside  

What the Facilities Update document doesn’t provide is an analysis of the deal’s costs and risks.  These include: 

  • Risk of demolition cost overruns: Demolition is expected to cost $12.4 million.  Calgary and the Flames will share this cost 90/10, but the Flame’s 10% is capped at $1.4 million.  Some estimates show the cost of demolition and reclamation at $25 million.  This means Calgarians could be on the hook for $23 million.         
  • Cost overruns:  The Saddledome was completed in 1983, eight months late and $16 million (about 20%) over budget.  A 20% overrun on this project will cost $110 million.  Council says each party is responsible for the changes it requests.  Good luck with that.  It’s easy to request a change order during construction, it’s much harder to figure out who should pay for it after the fact.  The operative phrase here is “See you in court, buster!”     
  • Free options:  The City gave the Flames two no-cost options on River District Lands.  One lets the Flames buy prime real estate in 2024 at 2018 prices; the other lets them buy prime real estate at fair market value any time up to 2034.  Because hey, why shouldn’t Calgarians subsidize the Flames’ desire to become real estate moguls if the spirit moves them.  
  • Liability: The City will own the arena.  This means Calgarians are on the hook for major structural improvements, the cost of City services, insurance, and any flood mitigation costs in excess of $2 million (does “2013 Flood” ring a bell?) and by 2054 when the lease is up, the arena will be ready for demolition and we’ll start all over again.     

Stop carping

Of all the stupid reasons I’ve heard against public consultation, these take the cake: 

  • Councillors had 14 months to get public input:  Excuse me???  The financial strategy and negotiation mandate weren’t approved until March 4, 2019.  What were councillors supposed to discuss with their constituents…free rides on the zamboni?
  • Woolley and Farkas want to run for mayor:   This fails to account for Farrell and Demong who also refused to rubber stamp the deal.  Besides, who cares.  Running a mayoral campaign on the promise that you’ll listen to the people is more convincing when you actually listen to the people.
  • It gives Calgary a shot in the arm:  This reminds me of a couple I knew who were so depressed about maxing out their credit cards they bought themselves new skis (on credit) for Christmas.  Good public services will enhance the quality of life for all Calgarians.  Draining Calgary’s emergency fund down to 5% will not. 

Don’t worry, be happy

Mayor Nenshi said public consultations is only necessary in two cases: (1) changes are possible and politicians want to hear from their constituents and (2) politicians haven’t made up their minds and they want to hear from their constituents.  He said neither of these reasons apply here.

In other words, we’ve made up our minds and there will be no more changes.    

Silly Calgarians, clean your nails, make sure your curves are properly distributed and your behavior is seemly.  No one wants to hear from you.

Posted in Culture, Economics, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 39 Comments

A Letter to My Councillor About the Flames Deal

Dear Councillor Woolley,

I am a constituent living in your riding.  Thank you for bringing forward a motion to extend the time available for public consultation on the proposed deal with the Calgary Flames.  I am deeply disappointed that the Mayor and most of Council rejected your motion.       

The fundamental issue here is not whether this project is good or bad—I don’t know, I haven’t been given enough time to make a reasoned decision—it’s whether Council has the right to make this decision in the absence of a fulsome public engagement process. 

Councillor Jeff Davison says there’s been ample time for consultation with Calgarians, over 14 months.  The Facilities Update document dated July 22, 2019 indicates otherwise.  The Event Centre Exploration Committee was created and its mandate was approved on May 28, 2018.  Its workplan was approved on Feb 20, 2019.   The timeline ends on July 4, 2019.  There is no record of any public consultation at any time between May 28, 2018 and July 4, 2019.          

Councillor Evan Wooley

This is even more egregious considering the Committee’s mandate which requires it to “identify, consult and collaborate with key internal and external stakeholders.” Surely Calgarians who are being asked to foot the $275 million bill and trade off other public services in exchange for an arena would be considered “key external stakeholders.”  

The Committee is required to conduct itself in accordance with certain “principles” including “engagement with the public throughout the process whenever possible to ensure transparency.”    Councillor Davison telling me to send a form to a City website by noon Friday does not satisfy the principle of “engagement.”

Councillor Woolley, you moved a motion in March 2019 (unanimously adopted) directing city administration to work with the Committee to develop a public engagement plan.  The Committee failed to act on your motion.   

If this is as good a project as Councillor Davison says it is and it makes sense on its own merits as Mayor Nenshi says it does, then it will withstand public scrutiny in the form of a public engagement process that outlines the benefits it will bring to Calgarians.

If Council approves this proposal on Tuesday July 30, 2019, in the absence of meaningful public consultation it will violate our democratic rights as citizens to participate in material decisions that affect our wellbeing.  We will not forget this breach of trust when we cast our ballots in the next municipal election.    

I urge you to vote against this proposal.        

Posted in Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , | 21 Comments

Trump’s “Go Home” Tweet

Ms Soapbox found herself organizing the sock drawer this morning.

She blames this burst of domesticity on Donald Trump. 

She’ll explain how this ties back to Alberta politics in a moment, but first a quick recap of the most recent Trump blowout.    

The Tweet

Last week Mr Trump tweeted that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and three other congresswomen should go back to where they came from, or words to that effect.  All four are American citizens, three were “born and bred” Americans (why does everyone use that phrase, it makes us sound like cattle), one immigrated to the US as a child.

The mainstream media and social media went nuts.

They debated three issues:    

  • This proves/doesn’t prove Trump is a racist.  Does it matter?  His base and many swing voters don’t care if he’s racist or just plain nasty. 
  • This demonstrates Trump is a savvy politician; he’s painting the Democratic Party as AOC “social democrats” in order to recapture the swing districts he lost in the mid-term elections.  All the more reason for the Democrats to figure out who they are before Trump does it for them.         
  • AOC should pipe down because she’s undermining Nancy Pelosi who’s done more for progressive causes than anyone.   One journalist asked:  where was AOC when Ms Pelosi was fighting to get Obamacare through Congress in 2010?  Oh please, in 2010 AOC was in university completing a degree in economics and international relations.  Furthermore, Ms Pelosi’s past achievements do not justify silencing AOC and other fresh thinkers who are in short supply in the Democratic Party at the moment.          

AOC responded to Mr Trump with this: “Weak minds and leaders challenge loyalty in order to avoid challenging and debating the policy.”

This is why the Trump tweet and the ensuing media brouhaha are important in the context of Alberta politics where the UCP continue to demonize Rachel Notley, the NDP and their supporters as “social democrats” bent on destroying our way of life by undermining our capitalistic economy.       

If the UCP and their supporters want to discuss capitalism, it would help if they understood the meaning of the word and its history.          


In his book, Economics for Everyone, Jim Stanford explains that capitalism is just one form of economy.  He says homo sapiens have been around for approximately 100,000 years and had an economy the entire time.  Capitalism has existed for 250 years.  To put this into context, if the history of man is represented by a 24-hour day, then capitalism has been around for three-and-a-half seconds. 

Three-and-a-half seconds.

Capitalism is defined by two crucial features: profit-seeking investment by private corporations and wage labour. Capitalism comes in many varieties.

Mr Stanford compares the key economic and social indicators of four capitalistic countries, the US, Germany, Japan and Sweden and demonstrates that the country with the highest GDP (US) performs much worse than the other countries on other important indicators including poverty rates, inequality, pollution, incarceration and premature death–leaving one to question the assumption that GDP is a good indicator of quality of life.

Mr Stanford points out “the strategy of incrementally reforming capitalism, while preserving the system’s defining features, has traditionally been the ideological core of the social-democratic movement.”  

Or to put it another way, social democrats are trying to make capitalism better.

Now that we’ve cleared that up  

So, the next time someone tries to smear the NDP by calling them social democrats, tell them the NDP is working hard to make capitalism better and ask them what they and their UCP government are doing to achieve the same goal.  After they’ve listed all their efforts to improve capitalism (not corporatism), feel free to engage in a healthy debate on the respective merits of their policy choices compared to yours.

Because whether weak leaders like it or not, we’re going to debate policy.  We’re going to challenge the suitability of old economic policies that failed to address the problems of the last decade (does the financial crash of 2008 ring a bell?) and are now being touted by unimaginative conservatives as our economic salvation.    

There is honour in being a social democrat.

I’ll take Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rachel Notley over Donald Trump and Jason Kenney any day.     

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