Over the last few years, the government of Canada — led by Stephen Harper — has made it harder and harder for publicly financed scientists to communicate with the public and with other scientists.
It began badly enough in 2008 when scientists working for Environment Canada, the federal agency, were told to refer all queries to departmental communications officers. Now the government is doing all it can to monitor and restrict the flow of scientific information, especially concerning research into climate change, fisheries and anything to do with the Alberta tar sands — source of the diluted bitumen that would flow through the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Journalists find themselves unable to reach government scientists; the scientists themselves have organized public protests.
There was trouble of this kind here in the George W. Bush years, when scientists were asked to toe the party line on climate policy and endangered species. But nothing came close to what is being done in Canada.
Science is the gathering of hypotheses and the endless testing of them. It involves checking and double-checking, self-criticism and a willingness to overturn even fundamental assumptions if they prove to be wrong. But none of this can happen without open communication among scientists. This is more than an attack on academic freedom. It is an attempt to guarantee public ignorance.
It is also designed to make sure that nothing gets in the way of the northern resource rush — the feverish effort to mine the earth and the ocean with little regard for environmental consequences. The Harper policy seems designed to make sure that the tar sands project proceeds quietly, with no surprises, no bad news, no alarms from government scientists. To all the other kinds of pollution the tar sands will yield, we must now add another: the degradation of vital streams of research and information.
Calgary has been accused of being a “bully” for trying to actually enforce our policies (based on the province’s own Water for Life strategy) for responsible water development.
The best example of this occurred in 2011 when the City was asked to provide water and water servicing for a large industrial development outside the city, in Rocky View County. This is precisely the kind of development the Plan envisions, but since the County has not signed onto the Plan, the City’s policy doesn’t allow for it.
But the province, without telling anyone, decided to pay for the water connection itself. The details are unclear, as the province has never publicly released them, but it’s almost certainly true that their solution cost taxpayers millions of dollars more than if they had legislated the Plan, and it’s not at all certain they will ever be able to recoup the cost.
Last week, the Premier met with the council of the Municipal District of Foot-hills (another of the holdouts), and was quoted in the local paper saying that she would not “force” the MD into the Plan (meaning she would not legislate the plan). She also implied that she is not sure the Plan is needed at all. The same day, her Minister backpedalled furiously, saying the Premier’s words did not represent government policy, that the decision was his to make, and that he would continue working to a resolution.
You might forgive me for being a little confused.
What I am not confused about is that the future prosperity of this city is the future prosperity of this province.
Treating the City government as the farm team in this relationship and managing important files as cavalierly as this is not good for Calgary, and it’s certainly not good for Alberta.
It’s weird seeing a mayor take this approach to government relations. You see it with the provinces and the feds all of the time but rarely with cities and their province (Toronto would be the only other city that plays hardball with the province). In Saskatoon former mayoral candidate was mocked for this desire to be more aggressive in asking the province for more. We seem to have resigned ourselves to be reduced to thanking them for government handouts when they are so inclined. Nenshi took a different approach and not only got his meeting with Premier Redford but also was offered mediation from the province.
According to this column by Don Braid, there will be a political cost to pay.
Even as Mayor Naheed Nenshi was being invited to meet with the premier, provincial needling continued Thursday over the city charter.
The PCs don’t forgive readily, and they never forget.
Premier Alison Redford implied that Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel co-operates, and Nenshi doesn’t.
She said both Edmonton and Calgary city councils are satisfied with talks on the charter. So is Mandel.
By leaving out Nenshi, she suggests he’s the unreasonable renegade.
In an interview Thursday, the mayor said none of that’s true. He and Mandel agree on most points of the charter, he insists. Nor is he offside with his own council.
The mayor also points out, correctly, that he never called anybody names in this dispute.
He did say in a Herald op-ed piece that the province is fumbling civic issues and treating Calgary like a “farm team.”
Technically, he was only calling Calgary a name. But even that mild comment deeply irked the provincial types who, in recent years, have become almost fanatical about suppressing criticism from local municipalities and authorities.
In the midst of this dispute, Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths said Nenshi has “an election coming up; he’s going to puff up like a peacock and be tough.”
Answering a question Thursday, Griffiths said: “If there’s tension, it’s on his side. I don’t feel any tension.”
But the PCs do. They have ever since ex-mayor Dave Bronconnier scared the heck out of them 2007, when he accused then-premier Ed Stelmach of a “broken promise” over infrastructure funding.
Facing an election, the government had to back up. Bronco won that contest by a knockout. Everybody knew it — especially the provincials. They fumed, but didn’t forget.
During the 2008 election campaign, Jack Davis, then CEO of the old Calgary Health Region, declared a medical emergency and demanded extra funding from the government. Again the PCs were livid.
Within four months, the health regions were abolished.
There were many reasons for that decision; but one was the growing tendency of the health regions to speak up about local problems.
It will be interesting to see what this is going to cost Nenshi.
Great public awareness campaign and website from the Government of Alberta on the dangers of texting and driving. I am amazed that despite the Saskatoon Police Service cracking down on it and the large fines that come along with it, many people I know text and use their phone while driving. It’s not that hard to put your phone on vibrate, put it face down and ignore it when in the car.
In a series of interviews following her televised address to the province Thursday night, Redford said that she wanted Albertans to understand that the province should no longer rely on its resource wealth to balance its books, pointing to a $6-billion “bitumen bubble” that will cut the province’s anticipated resource revenue almost by half in 2013-14 fiscal year.
“We can no longer continue to rely on oil and gas for 30 per cent of our revenue,” Redford said Friday. “It’s a fundamental change. It’s the sort of thing a province has to deal with, I think, once in a generation, and this is our opportunity to do it this year.”
The provincial government has received plenty of advice in recent years urging it to wean itself off a practice of using resource royalties to balance its books.
The Premier’s Council for Economic Strategy, a panel of experts established by Premier Ed Stelmach, tabled a report in May 2011 that asked Alberta to divert non-renewable resource revenue instead into a new “shaping the future” fund dedicated to helping diversify the province’s economy.
The council’s chairman, former federal cabinet minister David Emerson, said Friday it sounds like Redford is looking to make that kind of shift.
“She’s looking at establishing a new fiscal regime and that’s essentially what the premier’s economic strategy council was calling for: To stop treating non-renewable resource revenues as a form of operating revenue to be spent on, in effect, buying the groceries and to become more strategic separating natural resource assets,” Emerson said.
“If that’s the case, my congratulations,” he said.
But while Redford said Friday that a “different” budget will be forthcoming, she also said will not be a disruptive document. The government has already sent some signals about what some of those changes might look like, she said, pointing to the government’s plans to borrow to fully twin a 240-kilometre stretch of Highway 63.
“The Highway 63 announcement signalled to people that we’re going to think differently about long-term infrastructure plans,” Redford told The Canadian Press. “We’re going to finance that differently. We’re prepared to go out to capital markets and to really put out stellar fiscal reputation out there and ask people to invest in our province in some of our public infrastructure.”
As of right now, however, Redford said tax reform is not part of that financial restructuring.
Right now it looks like a lot of talk without the deep cuts and probably tax increases needed to bring the budget back in line.
Mount Royal University political scientist Keith Brownsey said Redford needed to make a case for a fiscal crisis in her televised speech. She did that in a reasoned, effective manner, he said.
Such a statement was needed, he said, because Albertans thought financial problems were something that were a thing of the past because of its resource wealth.
“I think she prepped us for both cuts and tax increases,” Brownsey said. “Now, she may not have said that today, she may have said, ‘No taxes,’ but the current revenue structure in the province is unsustainable. We cannot exist as a modern industrial state living off of revenues from non-renewable natural resources. It’s simply too volatile.”
The truth is that Alberta spends money like no other province in the confederation. Even during the Klein crisis, they spent more money than everyone else. People talk of the deep cuts he made but ignore the fact that in Saskatchewan, the NDP made even deeper cuts (and had to raise taxes). Whatever the solution is that it should be a combination of taxes and spending cuts and it is going to take a bit of time.
I have no doubt that Redford is serious about making cuts (and who knows, she may even raise taxes) but when the oil prices go up, will they stay the course and remake the economy, especially when the opposition will be calling for restored spending and tax cuts (it’s always going to be like that). I really hope she sticks with it because the oil and natural gas won’t be there forever. I know the oil sands are a massive reserve but not all of that is recoverable and there is a point where it gets more too expensive to go after it.
If her hero Peter Lougheed brought in Alberta 2.0, then Alison Redford will need to be the one to bring in Alberta 3.0. I hope it’s more than Devine era rhetoric.
Last night some of us were calling for a return of Joe Clark to lead something but Premier Redford would be a pretty good ideas as well. According to the Edmonton Journal
But the speculation keeps on turning, partly because it’s based on evidence, partly because it’s so wonderfully juicy and partly because it’s July heading into August.
We are approaching the dog days of summer. Politicians are heading off to the cabin and the Stampede, leaving behind a vacuum that journalists and observers are happy to fill with hunches and guesswork.
Such as, for example, talk of a Prime Minister Alison Redford.
How’s that for speculation? This, I should point out, is no idle speculation; this is speculation that is working hard. It has been working as diligently as Redford who, ever since winning the Progressive Conservative leadership last October, has been travelling the country to meet with other premiers to win support for Alberta’s oilsands. Same with her trips to Washington, D.C., and to Beijing.
She is opening a provincial office in Ottawa and she convinced Lee Richardson to quit his job as a Calgary MP to become her principal secretary.
These are all things a sophisticated premier would do to help build better relations with the federal government, with other provinces and with the governments of the U.S. and China.
These are also things a sophisticated premier would do if she had her long-term sights set on becoming prime minister.
Sources close to the premier say they have never heard her discuss an interest in federal politics.
But there are plenty of sources inside the PC party who think there are simply too many clues to ignore. They even think federal MPs such as Kenney see the same clues.
That, they say, helps explains Kenney’s email rant where he argues against a meeting between Alberta’s deputy premier and the federal caucus. He obviously doesn’t like Lukaszuk, but his animosity is also directed against the Alberta government led by Redford.
Many federal MPs from Alberta don’t like Redford because they see her as a Red Tory, a closet Liberal and not a true conservative.
They also share political roots with the Wildrose party that stretch back to the Reform party founded by Preston Manning, a political enemy of former prime minister Joe Clark, one of Redford’s friends and former employers.
The only thing that irritates federal Conservatives more than having Redford as premier of Alberta is the thought of her taking over the federal Conservatives.
Just as Harper as prime minister was a victory of sorts for Manning and the Reformers, having Redford one day become prime minister would be a victory for Clark and a reverse takeover of the Conservatives by the Progressives.
I absolutely love this photo of Goat Creek Trail by Dave King and have been captivated by it since he posted it to Flickr. It’s a composite image of two shots from his Android. What a spectacular image. Check it out full screen on black for an even more dramatic effect. Here is another amazing wide screen shot of the Bow River.
Redford initially rejected widespread guidance to call an election within weeks of being sworn in as Alberta’s 14th premier on Oct. 7.
She was advised to say that unlike former premier Ed Stelmach — who changed Alberta’s royalty regime (and helped give birth to the Wildrose party as a result) before heading to the polls — she would proceed more humbly by seeking a mandate to govern.
“If she had listened then, we would have won 70 seats — another huge majority, since we were ahead of Wildrose by almost 30 points then,” says one Tory MLA, who adds that the seat he won by thousands of votes in the last election, will be a photo finish horse race on April 23. And he’s being optimistic.
But Redford said she wanted to show Albertans her brand of leadership before seeking a mandate. She said she wanted to deliver a budget before hitting the hustings. So, the next bit of advice she was offered was for her to present the budget and then drop the election writ the very next day.
“Again, she didn’t listen,” said a longtime Tory insider about the Feb. 9 provincial budget.
“There’s an old saying that goes like this: ‘She was born on third base but she thought she hit a triple,’” says another Tory mandarin.
“When she was told, ‘Go now, Alison. Run. Run.’ She didn’t listen. She thinks she’s smarter than all of these smart people, but she’s clearly not very astute politically. She won the Tory leadership by a fluke because of a flawed process. On the first ballot she had 19 per cent of the votes, but believes it was her brilliance that won her the leadership.
“The party wanted Jim Dinning and got Ed Stelmach because of a flawed process, and then wanted Gary Mar but got Redford because of the same flawed process, and both of those leaders surrounded themselves with political neophytes and actually believe they were chosen, when they were not.”
You can read more about the Calgary Homeless Foundation does on their website. The same success can be repeated in Saskatoon if we get serious about homelessness here.
Moving from east to west the NDP has pushed back the frontiers of its territory in every region of the country over the past decade. More often than not it has done so at Liberal expense.
In the early 90s, the NDP had little presence in Atlantic Canada. But today the New Democrats are well on the way to become a force to contend with in every province of the region except P.E.I.
They make up the government in Nova Scotia. On Tuesday they came within one seat of beating the Liberals to the title of official opposition in Newfoundland and Labrador.
In Quebec, the federal NDP has gone from one seat to 59 over the span of a single decade.
The Liberals under Jean Chrétien used to sweep Ontario throughout the ’90s. Last May, the NDP elected twice as many MPs as the Liberals in Canada’s largest province.
In the Prairies, the Liberal party is virtually extinct.
Out of 254 federal and provincial seats in the three provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, the Liberals currently hold 12.
Only two of those are federal seats and personal popularity has more to do with the survival of a lone federal Liberal flag-bearer in Saskatchewan and Manitoba last May than party brand.
The same is true in Quebec where most of the seven Liberal survivors of the federal election — MPs like Marc Garneau, Stéphane Dion, Denis Coderre, Irwin Cotler and Justin Trudeau — owe their survival to who they are (or who they have been).
Watching the receding Liberal tide, one can reasonably wonder whether the party as a major national presence has reached the point of no return.
The current Liberal establishment — rooted as it is in Ontario and somewhat blinded by its proximity to Queen’s Park — will swear that it is not so.
To shore up their faith in a brighter future for their party, diehard federal Liberals point to the leadership travails of the NDP and the resilience of their provincial cousins in Ontario.
There was a time not so long ago when the federal Tories drank the same bathwater.
They too clung to their party’s hold on provincial capitals such as Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto as proof positive of their own inevitable triumph over the Reform/Alliance.
Not to shine on Hebert’s rainy parade but the federal Tories changes, adapted, and merged and became… the federal Tories and the last time I checked, were in power nationally. The Liberals may or may not do the same thing but they are not in the same boat as the Progressive Conservatives, even if they are in a rut right now. Will they survive? Not sure but did anyone see Peter McKay and Stephen Harper in power after the disastrous 1993 campaign?
Opinionated alumni and donors have long scolded PBI leaders for deviating even slightly from the status quo. Even L.E. got flak. After spending 19 years as a missionary in Japan, a Prairie grad named Marvin L. Fieldhouse returned to PBI, disliked what he saw and wrote a fiery undated pamphlet titled “Whither Bound” (described on its stark black cover as “a shocking analysis of current trends at Prairie Bible Institute”). Inside, he recalled seeing Ernest Manning, then Alberta’s premier, on the platform at PBI’s 40th anniversary in 1962, a scene that would have been incomprehensible in the institute’s early days. L.E. had warmed to politics over the years and especially liked Manning, admiring that he kept his radio broadcasts free from politics (“a wiser man than Aberhart,” he once wrote). Fieldhouse was nevertheless incensed. “I honestly wanted to vomit right where I sat in the tabernacle,” he wrote.
L.E. got sheaves of letters from similarly disgruntled American fundamentalists. A Minneapolis woman who’d heard that her niece was using hair rollers at Prairie wrote in 1966, “No wonder that in the picture which she sent home that she looked so worldly—much more so than when she left home. What is happening to your standards up there anyway??” Other letters carried a more menacing tone. After a PBI quartet visited his church in 1977, Pastor George C. Bergland of Le Roy, Minnesota wrote saying he was distressed by the singers’ appearance. “For example, last night, some of the young fellows badly needed a haircut. One of them had a moustache.” Bergland was further offended by “pictures of girls in slacks playing tennis” in a PBI publication. Then came his threat: “I am writing to say that if the trend towards worldly dress and haircuts continues I am sure that it won’t be long before our support will be discontinued. I am sure that the same will be true of many fundamental churches.”
L.E. responded generously even to the kooks. To Bergland, he wrote, “we appreciate folk who hold standards in this day—when the whole world has pretty well gone down the drain.” Yet he reminded his correspondent that “there are greater things that unite us” than moustaches and hairstyles. Still, change came slowly at PBI. L.E. himself resisted faculty efforts to relax rules forbidding male-female interaction, and TVs were forbidden in staff homes until the mid-’80s, after L.E. had died.
Red Arrow carries business travellers, mostly. But its fares aren’t out of reach for students and others making personal trips. “Our typical demographic is a professional or a student that does have access to a vehicle, and they choose for reasons of safety and efficiency to travel with the coach,” says Stepovy. “The decision they’re making is: ‘Do I drive, do I fly or do I take the coach?’” Most drive. In 2006, cars accounted for more than 90 per cent of trips between Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary. Air travel accounted for six per cent, and buses, including Red Arrow, accounted for only three per cent of trips.
It doesn’t sound like much. But when somebody gets on board the Red Arrow, they usually come back; its customers tend to be enthusiastically loyal. “If we get them to ride it once, they’re sold – absolutely sold,” says Mike. “And they’ll tell 10 other people how happy they were.” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith and former premier Peter Lougheed and his wife, Jeanne, have all been spotted on the black coaches that cruise along Highway 2 at about 120 km/h. “I find it very civilized,” says Edmonton Journal columnist Paula Simons, who uses the Red Arrow to get to Calgary and enjoys being “above the fray” of highway traffic, especially in winter. “If I’m going down to make a presentation, now I have three hours in which I can actually sit and think and read and research and prepare.” This is perhaps Red Arrow’s strongest selling feature: Travel time that’s enjoyable, comfortable and useful.
It was a tough sell, initially. The first Red Arrow coach that pulled out of Calgary on July 9, 1979, was even roomier than today’s coaches, seating 25 passengers at most. The coach had sandwiches, a big closet, flip-down work tables and cassette tape players pumping music into headphone jacks on each seat. Unfortunately, there were precisely zero customers on board to partake in these unconventional luxuries. “Very disappointing,” recalls Rick. Both Rick and Mike had become involved in their dad’s company as kids – working their way through the maintenance pit, the wash rack, the body shop and the dispatch office – and both were committed to their dad’s vision of an upscale coach service. But barely anyone noticed when Red Arrow launched. “For a while, we were the best-kept secret in Alberta,” remembers Wilson.
I have always thought that this level of service would do really well between Saskatoon and Regina, even could be run by STC from different bus stops (by the Bessborough or downtown someplace). A partnership with wifi on the bus give a business traveller a couple of hours of time to work, relax or just unwind at a fraction of the amount it costs to fly to Saskatoon and Regina. I just did a quick last minute search on AirCanada.com for what it would cost me to fly from Regina and back to Saskatoon. I had to fly through Toronto. $458 (one way) for a last minute flight (via Toronto). I can also take Express Club for $124 plus fees, which is still almost twice the $138 that Red Arrow charges for a return bus trip. STC by comparison is $80 return for Saskatoon to Regina but the quality of service is… how do I say this… really, really poor.
I am not a business man but I think there is a but of margin for a high end bus (oops, coach) service to run from Saskatoon to Regina. It would be interesting to see STC run a business class express from Saskatoon to Regina. There seems to be a big gap in the middle of that market. Whether the numbers support it would the next question I have.