Remember where you heard it first: privatizing the Alberta government air fleet in haste was a lousy business decision

NDP Applauds the Protection of the Castle Special Place but Calls South Saskatchewan Regional Plan Disappointing

July 23, 2014

NDP applauds the protection of the Castle Special Place but calls South Saskatchewan Regional Plan disappointing

EDMONTON – The NDP is applauding the government for listening to the activists and opposition parties who worked tirelessly to get the Castle Special Place protected NDP MLA, David Eggen said today.

The government released the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, outlining land use framework for 44 per cent of the province, today.

The report includes significant changes to SSRP draft that came out earlier this year, increasing the area of the Castle Special Place that will be protected.

“The castle is such a special area. It needed to be protected. The government completely overlooked it in the first place, but we’re very happy to see the PCs have finally listened to Albertans and protected it,” said Eggen.

“That being said, the NDP would still like to see the entire Castle Special Place receive the same level of protection.”

The plan also fails to protect against industrial activity in the area. The SSRP maintains the status quo and prioritizes fossil fuel production and transportation over conservation, environmental protection and the development of southern Alberta’s abundant natural resources for renewable energy.

“Earlier this year we saw the PCs unwillingness to limit drilling within Lethbridge city limits. Only the sustained public pressure from residents and the NDP, got results,” said Eggen.
“This is yet another example of the PCs inability to put Southern Alberta families first by creating meaningful, responsible limits on industrial development in and around communities.”

“This government can’t be trusted to stand up to their corporate insider friends.”


Watch Out For Fake AltaLink Employees Asking For Money

Posted on Friday, April 18, 2014 at 4/25/2014 7:40:18 AM
Source: Tristan Tuckett – Country 95 News

LETHBRIDGE – RCMP are warning about a fraud where people impersonate AltaLink employees with the intent of getting money from a landowner.

Back in early March, a landowner in a community east of Calgary was approached by two people claiming to be AltaLink employees. They requested a financial contribution for transmission project activities on their land. The landowner provided a cheque, which was later cashed.

AltaLink says under no circumstances would an employee or contractor request financial payment. All AltaLink employees and representatives carry personal identification with them and are expected to present it when talking with landowners.


Talk Straight and Keep your Word, That’s the Alberta Way

Posted: 10/25/2013 2:26 pm

On the eve of her first Tory leadership review, Premier Alison Redford is watching the centre-left coalition she stitched together to win the 2012 provincial election come apart at the seams.

Voters are rapidly losing faith in Redford. A recent poll for the Calgary Herald shows that among people who voted Tory in 2012, nearly 46 per cent want a new leadership contest. It also showed that, among the general public, keeping Redford as leader would make them 45 per cent less likely to vote for the Tories in the next election, while only 23 per cent said it would make them more likely to vote PC.

Teachers are angry with her (just look at their television ads). Senior citizens are fuming too. The entire post-secondary system is under a cloud of confusion and resentment, leading academic staff to strike back with their own slick campaign. Families with disabled adults that have been thrown under the bus are organized and taking action. Health care is in such disarray that it needs no such campaign – the evening news is enough.

Finally, on Monday a province-wide public awareness campaign called The Alberta Way will launch. Backed by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, it calls on Redford to stop breaking her promises and restore Albertans’ faith in her government, before it’s too late. To get a sneak peak at the campaign’s TV commercial, watch below.


How did this happen? How did Redford, who pulled off one of the most miraculous electoral victories in Canadian history 18 months ago, so quickly alienate the very people she courted on the campaign trail?
Simple. She and her government did the one thing that Alberta voters will not tolerate: she repeatedly broke her word and betrayed their trust.

A year and a half ago, Redford promised Albertans that she would put the “progressive” back in the Progressive Conservative party, vowing to invest more in education, health care and services for people in need. To borrow one of Redford’s most abused adjectives, her platform was clear: “A new PC government will deliver a balanced budget by 2013 with no new taxes and no service cuts.”

Even as the Wildrose gained ground on the right, Redford’s centrist, social-democratic rhetoric attracted enough new voters from the Liberal and NDP side of the spectrum to give the Tories three quarters of the seats in the legislature.

A few months after taking office, Redford became the first premier in the province’s history to address delegates at AUPE’s annual convention, suggesting a new era in labour relations.

She assured the delegates that they live in “one of the best economic jurisdictions with the most favourable economic conditions of anywhere in the world. We are aware of that and we will manage that well. We remain committed to balancing the budget in 2013-14, which was our commitment before the election. And I can assure you, we won’t do it with short-sighted responses.”

Within weeks, however, her government had spun 180 degrees and was abandoning nearly all the promises made during the election. Suddenly, Alberta was facing a fiscal “crisis.” The government blamed it on the volatility of oil prices (as if this was something new and unforeseen) and invented a new term: “bitumen bubble,” which turned out to be doublespeak for “short-sighted response.”

The list of bridges burned is extensive.

  • After legislating a three-year wage freeze on Alberta’s teachers, the government cut funding to school districts, despite the fact that the K-12 system would grow by 11,000 children this year, forcing class sizes to swell.
  • After Redford promised a modest two-per-cent funding increase for post-secondary institutions, Advanced Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk cut funding by 7.3 per cent, forcing institutions to reduce student spaces, close campuses, cancel programs and cut staff.
  • The Tories cut funding to adults with developmental disabilities and announced plans to close Red Deer’s Michener Centre, a home for people with the highest needs.
  • Alberta Health Services began closing nursing homes in small towns, uprooting elderly residents, sometimes moving them to new communities. Meanwhile, $180 million was cut from pharmacare for seniors’ medications.

The cuts continue, even though the alleged crisis is fading in the province’s rear view mirror. Alberta’s economy is getting stronger every day and the government’s oil revenues are miles above their budgetary estimates.

Albertans see through this charade and the Tories are headed for major electoral trouble. But it’s not too late. There’s no obvious successor to Redford so in all likelihood she’ll remain leader. Luckily for her, the electorate is forgiving, and she still has a couple of years before the next general election.
Redford still has time to change course and become the premier she promised Albertans she’d be. That said, time is quickly running out.

Follow Andrew Hanon on Twitter:


Redford needs to come clean on flood costs before they sink Alberta

Edmonton Commons, The Edmonton Commons

Premier has plenty of questions to answer on flood relief payments.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford needs to come clean on how much flood relief is going to cost Alberta taxpayers.

Will it be $1 billion, the money already set aside? $2 billion? $5 billion? More?

Is this relief  going to bankrupt this province for a generation? Will the billions paid out for flood relief make it next to impossible for the Alberta government to help build schools, hospitals, roads, rec centres, LRT and C-train?

We need to have a public debate about just how much the provincial government should pay to help rebuild flooded homes, but to engage in that debate we need much better information and openness from our government leaders, starting with Redford.

First off, she needs to make it clear just how much of the total flood relief the federal government will eventually cover.

Federal guidelines indicate the federal government will pay as much as 90% for some kinds of flood relief, and that’s the number Redford is putting out there to comfort all of us as well, as seen as this paraphrase from Graham Thomson column:  “Redford who wants the federal government to help cover the cost of mitigation projects. As Redford points out, Ottawa has to cover 90 per cent of disaster assistance anyway, so it might as well invest money now to save money later.”

Federal government only covered 40% of Manitoba flood

But there’s a major and uncomfortable hitch in this calculation.

After the 2011 flood in Manitoba, taxpayers there had to foot a $1.025 billion bill, reported the Winnipeg Free Press:  ”The province has spent $359 million on agriculture assistance, $289 million on disaster financial assistance, $48 million on the Lake Manitoba Flood Assistance Program, $240 million in flood fighting, mitigation, restoration and flood-proofing and $89 million on an emergency channel and other infrastructure works.”

The federal government did not cover 90% of that billion dollars.

Instead if covered just 40% of it.

In Alberta, it’s likely that a higher percentage of the total cost will be in the form of relief payments to home owners with uninsured losses.

The federal eligibility guidelines make it clear the feds will cover some uninsured losses, but not all of them. The federal funding is a bit complicated, but here are the key sections:

“The costs of repairing or replacing structures are not eligible if they are in a location that, prior to their construction was designated, recognized or zoned as a flood risk area by provincial or municipal authorities.

“If a structure has been built in a previously designated flood risk area and appropriate measures have been taken during its construction to protect it against the effects of a 100-year flood, it will be considered eligible for damages from a flood exceeding the 100-year flood design.

“Structures in place prior to a flood risk area designation having come into effect are eligible for assistance, provided that: they are not subsequently rebuilt within the designated flood risk area; or appropriate and adequate flood-proofing measures (placing structures behind levees, constructing them on stilts/columns or mounds) are taken to protect against the effects of a 100-year flood. Such flood-proofing costs may be eligible up to the limits established for incremental mitigation costs.”

In Alberta, the old limit on how much one home owner could get was $100,000, but that was lifted in 2010, and Redford has made it clear she’s willing to pay unlimited costs to homeowners in order to rebuild.

Here is what she said in the days after the flood

“We are going to do whatever it takes, in terms of paying to rebuild – to rebuild homes, to rebuild families and communities. The world changed on Thursday and we’re going to deal with it.”

And she said in another interview with the Herald’s Chris Varcoe:

“We don’t know what the final cost will be. We don’t yet have the long-term plan.”

Will you cover the entire cost of rebuilding homes?

“Yes,” Redford said.

Anybody in High River will have rebuilding costs paid?


So you will rebuild all those people’s homes?


The consequence of Redford’s blank cheque promise is that the province is on the hook for payments to homeowners that the federal government will not cover.

How much will that cost?

And is there public support for such a measure?

Even in Calgary’s most anguished moment right after the flood, there was just barely majority support for unlimited relief, at least according to one Herald one line poll.


Alison loves a good disaster

Whatever gods Alberta premier Alison Redford has been praying to, they heard her pleas and decided to help her out: they left the taps in their heavenly communal showers running and flooded a good portion of Alberta, causing around $5 billion-worth of damage, and damage so severe that, according to the most recent assessments, it will be another ten years before all the affected areas will be restored to what they were until last week.

Right now, Albertans, and Canadians, keep seeing Redford on their TV screens all the time. If she’s not out talking to “regular folks’ and pretending that her presence will somehow wipe away those people’s very real hardships, her vampirically pale face (should she be allowed outside when there’s daylight?) pops up at press conferences.

It was funny to see her act like a little school girl standing next to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi: desperate to get enough exposure on TV, she actually started talking over Harper as he was answering questions, while jostling in front of the camera, thus not only cutting off Harper’s answer, but also shoving him aside.

Yes, Alison, that was really so mature.

She relishes the disaster that hit Alberta. No, she doesn’t enjoy the suffering of her fellow Albertans, but for her it’s simply too good an opportunity to pass up to save her own bacon: thus, she announced, she will set aside $1billion, for starters, to help with rebuilding efforts. But that’s not where her message stopped. She hastened to add that this meant that there would be no more attempts to balance her budget.

Honestly, the gods could not have given her a better gift: she can now go on finishing her job of wrecking Alberta’s fiscal health, and probably won’t hear much criticism for it, because, after all, she’s doing it for all the right reasons. And people, as we know, are very gullible (as the 2012 provincial election in Alberta so clearly demonstrated) and will believe just about the biggest crock when it’s served on a silver platter (courtesy of the taxpayers, as usual, of course).

Let’s keep in mind that the last budget showed a deficit of at least $14 billion, which is the actual number that should have been published. But through various ways of cooking her books, and stealing from tomorrow’s taxpayers by drawing on the province’s savings fund, she managed to present a lower figure than that.

Still, it doesn’t change the fact that the Progressive Conservatives have been robbing Alberta blind for several years now, with the worst acts having occurred since Redford became premier.

In all fairness, it’s not just Redford who’s playing fast and loose with tax dollars, but also her entire party, and their cronies. Redford, for example, refuses to pay her own bar association fees and has taxpayers foot her bill instead, while her fellow Tories milk and bilk in several other ways – and then, of course, there’s that nasty issue of Tories helping themselves, and their cronies, to preferred and special treatment when it comes to health care services.

If money kept flowing and growing freely, all that could be simply ignored. But at a time when Alberta oil is sold at a discount, and the chances are growing that the province will be sealed off by a lack of pipelines, spending like a drunken sailor is probably not such a good idea.

Even before the flood, Alberta in general, and Calgary in particular, had already lost a lot of its “attractiveness value” for living and working. Most recent newcomers to Alberta, and Calgary, were disappointed by the lack of public transit (and many have said so to yours truly), as well as several other drawbacks. What is more, the much-vaunted “Alberta Advantage” is gone, it’s no longer the most affordable province in terms of taxes – in fact, in the most common tax brackets, Ontario is now one of the most affordable provinces in the country.

It had also become extremely difficult, even impossible, for many outside the oil business to find jobs. Not surprisingly, out-migration set in already about two years ago or so, with many former residents of Saskatchewan, for example, selling their homes in Alberta and heading back to their home province, which started to have a better economic (and fiscal) performance than Alberta.

Alberta, sadly, is a one-trick pony, and now that it’s only trick (oil) is pretty much done for, more and more people were already making plans for leaving Alberta as the waters came rushing through their streets.

Many people will be entirely wiped out after this disaster. No matter how much money the provincial and federal governments kick in, there’s no way to make those people whole again. With some analyses that show that property values could drop by as much as 60 per cent – not only because of the flood, but also because of Alberta’s general loss of stature – it’s obvious that many people will just have to eat their losses and move away to start from scratch somewhere else where there is greater diversity of opportunities, that is, anywhere but Alberta.

In that respect, Calgary mayor Nenshi was right when he spoke about the resilience of Albertans – even though it applies to all Canadians – as they will pick themselves off the ground, pack up their belongings and start brand-new lives elsewhere. If the predictions about Alberta’s economy for the next decade are even halfway true, then those adventurous enough to seek fortune outside the province will likely succeed at a much higher level than would have been possible had they stayed at home.


Preston Manning throws Alison Redford, Tom Flanagan under the conservative bus.

By daveberta on March 9th, 2013


Speaking about the state of Canada’s conservative movement at this weekend’s Manning Centre Networking Conference in Ottawa, former Reform Party leader Preston Manning denounced the ethical and financial state of Premier Alison Redford‘s Progressive Conservatives.

“…in Alberta an aging Progressive Conservative administration has lost its way ethically and fiscally and needs to be overhauled or replaced,” Mr. Manning told an audience of close to 800 conservative activists.

Mr. Manning heaped this criticism on the forty-one year governing PCs, giving an obvious tip of the hat towards his ideological allies in the right-wing Wildrose Official Opposition.

Mr. Manning also used his speech to denounce two controversial statements and tell conservatives that they need to draw the line about what public comments are acceptable in their movement.

Mr. Manning characterized his former advisor Tom Flanagan‘s comments about child pornography and homophobic remarks made by a Wildrose candidate in the last provincial election as “intemperate and ill-considered remarks that discredit the conservative movement as a whole.”

“For the sake of the movement and the maintenance of public trust, conservative organizations should be prepared to swiftly and publicly disassociate themselves from those individuals that cross the line,” Mr. Manning said.

Numerous supporters of Dr. Flanagan attending the conference prominently sported buttons showing the face of the discredited university professor.