As U.S. shocks with NAFTA demands, Canada and Mexico ask: What does Trump want?

News 07:07 PM by Alexander Panetta The Canadian Press Hamilton Spectator

ARLINGTON, United States — The chief U.S. negotiator shrugged his shoulders when asked about signs of trouble in the NAFTA talks on Sunday. John Melle pulled open a door, entered a work room, and offered a one-word reply about how it’s going.

“Fabulous,” he said.

Upon leaving those rooms, people are saying the exact opposite. The No. 1 discussion topic at this current round is whether Melle’s team is being ordered to sabotage the talks, so President Donald Trump can declare NAFTA has failed.

That’s because the U.S. team has unfurled a half-dozen bombshells so far beyond the realm of what’s palatable to the other parties that it’s all but exploded earlier hopes of a quick, easy negotiation.

The other countries are scrutinizing the body language of U.S. negotiators as they present ideas like a sunset clause that could end NAFTA after five years; ask to gut the deal’s enforcement mechanisms; and pursue non-starter ideas on dairy, textiles, automobiles and Buy American rules.

Some of these American negotiators built the very agreement they’re now proposing to strip down. Melle has even praised NAFTA’s successes. One non-U.S. official described the body language of American negotiators as: “Kind of sheepish. They say, ‘We don’t have any flexibility on this.'”

Another used an analogy: “The (U.S.) negotiators are like lawyers who hate their clients.”

Everyone is now watching Donald Trump.

The president has repeatedly stated his desire to invoke NAFTA’s termination clause, allowing him to cancel the deal on six months’ notice, in order to scare other countries into making concessions.

It would fit a tactic Trump has been accused of: Break now, fix later.

Critics have said Trump used this strategy on health care, undocumented young migrants, and the Iran nuclear deal — breaking an existing policy, then ordering others to put together a replacement, in a hurry, before a deadline hits, and chaos ensues.

Could he try it on NAFTA?

A front-page New York Times article on Sunday on Trump’s approach concludes with an analyst comparing Iran and NAFTA.

Iran’s foreign minister sees parallels himself.

Javad Zarif linked the NAFTA scrap to the one involving his country in an interview that aired Sunday: “This administration is withdrawing from everything. Somebody called it the, ‘Withdrawal Doctrine,’ for this administration. It’s withdrawing from NAFTA. It’s withdrawing from Trans Pacific Partnership. It’s withdrawing from UNESCO,” Zarif said in a CBS interview.

“So people cannot trust anymore the word of the United States. You see, in order to bring United States on board for many of these international agreements, a lot of people make a lot of concessions. Now nobody is going to make any concessions to the United States because they know that the next U.S. president will come back and say, ‘It wasn’t enough.'”

The Canadian and Mexican governments intend to sit through the storm.

They say there are no plans to walk out, or make aggressive counterdemands, like pushing their own non-starters — such as free trade in softwood lumber. They say they’re better off working patiently.

Officials do profess to being perplexed about Trump’s goal.

Several Canadians said it’s unclear: Is Trump trying to get other countries to leave the table, declare talks have failed, and invoke NAFTA’s six-month termination clause? Or is this just overly dramatic early bargaining — a la, “Art of the Deal”?

But one thing is increasingly clear, they say: hopes are fading for a quick deal by Christmas.

“Do we want a deal? Yes. Do we want a quick deal? Yes,” one official said. “But are we gonna take any deal just to wrap up quickly? Obviously not. If it takes more time, it takes more time.”

The initial rush for an agreement was prompted by the political calendar, as some worried that if a deal wasn’t completed by the time national election campaigns start in Mexico and the U.S. next year, it won’t happen before 2019.

And that would mean an extra year of uncertainty watching Trump — scrutinizing whether he’s readying to pull the plug on NAFTA.

That lingering uncertainty over NAFTA, coupled with homeowners’ concerns about possible interest hikes, are acting as drags on an otherwise strong economy, the Bank of Canada governor said last weekend.

“These are sources of angst,” Stephen Poloz told reporters.

He said it’s hard to predict the economic impact of a NAFTA termination. He said the bank’s own models rely on research from people like Dan Ciuriak, who assesses the impact of different tariffs on business decision-making.

Ciuriak used to run the computer-modelling unit at Canada’s foreign-affairs ministry. Now a private consultant, he happens to be working on such a study about what would happen under different scenarios — ranging from the end of NAFTA, to the end of all trade deals with the U.S.

He’s still crunching the numbers, and won’t publish for another couple of weeks.

But his early estimate is that ending free trade would slice 2.5 per cent from the Canadian economy. He says the initial shock might be more severe.

“That’s the ballpark,” said Ciuriak, who will publish his study with the C.D. Howe Institute.

“That actual pathway to that (eventual) figure may be worse.”


U.S. slow to present specifics on key NAFTA demands Canada still optimistic deal can be renegotiated by the end of the year

By Katie Simpson
CBC News Posted: Sep 22, 2017 5:00 AM ET
Last Updated: Sep 22, 2017 4:27 PM ET

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to terminate NAFTA unless his country gets what it wants. A source says Canadian officials are anticipating a change in tone from U.S. negotiators, given these negative statements.

The United States has made a big fuss over using NAFTA talks to demand better labour standards in Mexico, but after two rounds of discussions, U.S. negotiators have still not presented any specifics about what they would like to see changed.

A source close to negotiations says this is just one example of how the U.S. team is lagging when it comes to presenting NAFTA proposals, or what negotiators call text.

The source says the U.S. had been expected to present its text on labour standards before the third round of talks, which begin Saturday in Ottawa, but that has not yet happened.

Despite the lack of specifics, the source remains hopeful a deal can be reached by the end of the year.

What Canada hopes to get out of NAFTA talks
Provincial elections a reason to speed NAFTA talks

The optimism is not shared by trade experts or stakeholders, who have suggested it is not possible to overhaul a complex trade agreement in such a short period.

The U.S. and Mexico want NAFTA dealt with before both countries hold elections next year — U.S. voters go to the polls in November for their midterm elections, while the Mexican federal election will be held next summer.

Talks have been scheduled roughly over two-week intervals, and are expected to continue at that pace for months.

Tone change expected

Behind the scenes, talks between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico have been described as professional and broad, since negotiators have mostly been focusing on areas of agreement.

But the source says Canadian officials are anticipating a change in tone from U.S. negotiators, given the negative statements made by U.S. President Donald Trump about the deal.

Trump has repeatedly threatened to terminate the agreement if the U.S. does not get what it wants.

The source says Canadian negotiators are expecting their U.S. counterparts to adopt a more aggressive approach to negotiations, to match the mood of the White House.

Digital trade, telecom, small business

A second government official, speaking on background, says talks at this point are where Canadian negotiators had anticipated.

While major breakthroughs have not taken place, the official says progress is being made in several areas including digital trade, telecom rules, and rules for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Analysis: Mexican rush to get a deal has altered NAFTA negotiating strategy

Analysis: Trump is the elephant in the room at NAFTA talks

Detailed discussions on the more contentious issues, including trade dispute mechanisms and rules of origin, have not yet taken place.

The second official expects those conversations to happen later in the renegotiating process, but would not eliminate the possibility both could come up this time.
Mexico Renegotiating NAFTA

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will hold a series of meetings and carefully staged photo ops leading up to the third round of talks.

She will be in Toronto on Friday to sit down with members of Canada’s original NAFTA negotiation team, including former prime minister Brian Mulroney.

They will talk trade over lunch alongside Derek Burney, Allan Gotlieb, and Michael Wilson, three former Canadian ambassadors to the U.S.

Earlier in the day, Freeland will meet with members of her NAFTA advisory council. That team includes industry experts, stakeholders and elected officials from across the political spectrum.


U.S. wants 5-year ‘sunset clause’ in NAFTA: Ross NAFTA


In this April 21, 2008 file photo, national flags representing the United States, Canada, and Mexico fly in the breeze in New Orleans where leaders of the North American Free Trade Agreement met. (A

P Photo/Judi Bottoni, File)

Alexander P

anetta, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, September 14, 2017 1:20PM EDT

WASHINGTON — The United States is seeking to insert a so-called sunset clause into a new NAFTA, which would terminate the agreement after five years unless the three member countries agree to extend it.

Wilbur Ross, Donald Trump’s commerce secretary, confirmed the news Thursday, saying the constant threat of termination would force a permanent re-evaluation of the agreement and require countries to keep improving it.

“(It) would force a systematic re-examination,” Ross told a forum organized by the website Politico.
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U.S. lawmakers express optimism over NAFTA negotiations

“You’d have a forum for trying to fix things.”

He said he and the U.S. trade czar, Robert Lighthizer, agree on the idea. Ross made his remarks after being asked about a report on the idea by Politico and he publicly confirmed the report.

But he said it’s unclear whether Canada and Mexico, the other NAFTA countries, would accept the proposal.

He said he wants a deal by the end of the year and would rather not terminate the agreement as Trump has threatened.

Ross said it will become harder to get a deal after this year for four reasons: Next year, the U.S. fast-track law needs to be re-affirmed in Congress, the U.S. has congressional elections, Mexico has presidential elections and Canada has provincial elections.

Ross said the president is serious when he threatens to cancel NAFTA.

“It’s a very real thing,” he said.

“But it is not the preferred option.”



9 Sep 2017
Lethbridge Herald

Alberta’s energy minister is calling a decision by Canada’s national energy regulator to consider indirect greenhouse gas emissions in evaluating a multi-billion-dollar pipeline an “historic overreach” that could cast a chill over the future of energy development. Margaret McCuaig-Boyd said it’s inappropriate for the National Energy Board to consider the $15.7-billion Energy East pipeline’s contribution to upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions.

“Deciding the merits of a pipeline on downstream emissions is like judging transmission lines based on how its electricity will be used,” she said in a statement Friday, a day after TransCanada Corp. announced plans to temporarily suspend its application to build the proposed 4,500-kilometre pipeline to carry western crude to Saint John, N.B.

“This is not an appropriate issue to include in the review,” McCuaig-Boyd said. “We believe it would be a historic overreach and has potential to impact the future of energy development across Canada.”

NEB spokeswoman Sarah Kiley said typically the board considers direct emissions that result from the construction and operation of a pipeline.

However, she said the board broadened the scope of its review of the Energy East and Eastern Mainline projects due to “increasing public interest” in greenhouse gas emissions and the federal government’s interest in assessing upstream emissions associated with major pipelines.

McCuaig-Boyd said Alberta’s climate plan, cited by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his approval of two new pipelines last fall, should satisfy concerns about upstream emissions.

TransCanada said it has filed a letter to the NEB asking for a 30-day suspension for the project so it can study how the NEB’s decision on greenhouse gas emissions will affect “costs, schedules and viability.”

The Calgary-based company is calling the changes to the regulatory process “significant,” and warns that the entire project and related Eastern Mainline pipeline project could be cancelled.

It indicated that it may need to record a writedown of its investment in the project, if it is discontinued.

“Should TransCanada decide not to proceed with the projects after a thorough review of the impact of the NEB’s amendments, the carrying value of its investment in the projects as well as its ability to recover development costs incurred to date would be negatively impacted,” the company said in a statement.

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant said he will do whatever necessary to make sure the pipeline proceeds and delivers crude — and jobs — to his province.

In a statement late Thursday, Gallant said he spoke with TransCanada CEO Russ Girling and was reassured that the company is still considering going ahead with the NEB process.

But a dour-sounding Gallant said the possible cancellation of the project would be a big blow to a province that hoped to see the creation of thousands of jobs linked to the pipeline.

“There’s no sugar coating it, TransCanada suspending its application in order to re-evaluate the viability of the Energy East pipeline project is not good news for those who want to see that pipeline built,” he stated.

“We will do everything we can to have TransCanada continue the process, but there’s no doubt that it is possible they won’t.”


Farmers turning to specialized forecasting – Service plants weather stations throughout property

Lethbridge Herald
12 Aug 2017
Ian Bickis

In an industry that lives and dies by the weather, farmers like Dwight Foster are looking for all the help they can get to know what’s coming. “We use every tool in the toolbox we can get our hands on to try and figure out what’s going on,” said Foster, co-owner of North Gower Grains south of Ottawa.

With about 25 farms to manage, he has signed up with a service that plants weather stations throughout his properties that tell him whether the wind is calm enough to spray his fields or if it’s dry enough to till the earth.

“It’s more high-tech than ever. We have weather stations on our farms, they’re telling us wind speed, wind direction, temperatures high and low, rainfall amounts on almost every one of our farms.”

Farmers like Foster are on a never-ending quest for more detailed weather forecasts as they try to increase yields on larger plots while contending with more extreme weather, such as the record rains that have drenched parts of southern Ontario this year, or the droughts that have left vast fields bone dry in Saskatchewan.

Foster said he installed the weather station system upon the encouragement of seed companies, since knowing exactly how much rain has fallen allows him to buy specific seeds, depending on the conditions.

That kind of data could prove especially useful this year, with some of Foster’s farms soaked with triple the rainfall compared with last year. Environment Canada says the Ottawa area is on track for its wettest year.

In Saskatchewan, Todd Lewis is dealing with the opposite problem. The area south of Regina where he farms has been struggling with some of the driest months on record.

Lewis uses a service that sets up personalized weather stations to better manage the grains and pulses on his family farm. At roughly 4,500 hectares, the operation is part of an overall trend that saw the average farm size increase almost 13 per cent between 2006 and 2016.

He said field-level information helps him make decisions around harvest time, like whether to keep working a few extra hours before an oncoming rainfall or assessing if weaker crops were caused by parched soil.

He said he has noticed improvements in both the short- and long-term forecasts — even if he doesn’t like what they predict.

“The long-range forecasting, unfortunately this year they’ve been kind of correct,” he said.

“They predicted dry and it’s been dry. So sometimes you wish they were wrong.”

Despite the better data, Lewis said there is still a degree of uncertainty when it comes to knowing what Mother Nature will bring.

“Anything outside of a week, you’re going to be pretty skeptical about it.”

Precision agriculture companies are, however, hoping to reduce that gap with the reams of information they’re collecting.

“I think every farmer, at the top of their wish list, would be better seasonal forecasts so they can know what to expect,” said Andy Nadler, product manager at Farmers Edge.

The company, along with Canadian competitors like Weather Innovations Consulting and a growing field of international rivals, are trying to use new ways to crunch data to help guide farmers.

Nadler said Farmers Edge is learning from the more than 3,000 weather stations it has installed since starting to offer them about three years ago. It charges about $2 an acre (0.4 hectares) for its data management service.

Farmers shouldn’t expect any breakthrough, however, on longterm weather forecasting, said Drew Lerner, president of Kansas-based World Weather Inc. and a practising meteorologist for 38 years.

“Long-range forecasting is an art, and it is a very risky thing to do,” said Lerner. “It really does come down to a great deal of prayer.

“There’s too much going on, too much chaos in the atmosphere — it is not a solvable equation. All we can do is get better at estimating.”



Lethbridge Herald
12 Aug 2017
Faron Ellis and George Rigaux

Much was said about vote splitting during the run-up to Wildrose and PC members’ endorsement of the United Conservative Party. Since then, more speculation about how many former PC and Wildrose voters the UCP will attract has ensued. Unfortunately, the simple math most often used — adding up the votes two parties received in a previous election or in recent public opinion polls to total what a new party will receive — does not do justice to the complexities of voting behaviour and the impact of the electoral system when translating votes into seats.

Initially, we must remember that Canadians are known as vote switchers. This results in all parties losing some of their supporters between elections, typically at least one-fifth and sometimes half or more. As such, all parties engage in an ongoing process of electoral coalition rebuilding, constantly seeking to maintain as many supporters as possible while reaching out to new recruits to replace those they will lose between elections and increase their overall support.

Federal data illustrates this phenomenon. During the last three elections in which the Progressive Conservatives competed, the PCs retained only 22 per cent (1993), 51 per cent (1997) and 44 per cent (2000) of the voters who supported them in the previous election. In other words, in increasing their total share of votes between 1993 and 1997 they had to make up for losing half of their past supporters before getting around to increasing their total.

During that same period, Reform/Alliance was much more efficient at maintaining its base, consistently retaining 80 per cent of its previous voters. Yet their task was similar. In increasing its total vote share by six per cent in 2000 the Alliance had to replace one-fifth of its former votes prior to securing those overall gains.

The situation is even more complicated for merged parties like Alberta’s united Conservatives. Federal data indicates that in its first election in 2004 the merged Conservative party retained 88 per cent of former Alliance voters and 68 per cent of former PC voters resulting in slightly less than 30 per cent of the vote, approximately three-quarters of that received by the legacy parties. In fact, it took the CPC three elections to equal the totals previously achieved by the PCs and Alliance.

Alberta polling data indicates a similar pattern emerging in united Conservative support. Prior to the merger Mainstreet Research registered combined Wildrose and PC support at 57 per cent. Post-merger numbers indicate the UCP has 43 per cent. A substantial base from which to build, but again only about three-quarters of previous legacy party support. Further, the number of undecided voters has surged from 15 per cent to 27 per cent. Given the relative stability in their competitors’ numbers, most of that increase appears to be former legacy party supporters who have yet to be convinced of the virtue of the new party and are still shopping.

As misleading as it may be, the simple two-plus-two-equals-four logic is persuasive and will therefore likely continue to be used to oversell the benefits of ending vote splitting. Albeit unnecessarily because a merged party does not need to win over as many voters as its legacy parties to be more successful than were the legacy parties.

Federal conservative numbers are again instructive. Despite winning eight per cent fewer votes than the Alliance-PCs total in the 2000 election, in 2004 the CPC won 21 more seats than its two legacy parties. In 2006 the CPC still won a smaller percentage of the total than its legacy parties, but won 124 seats compared to the 2000 Alliance-PC total of 78. A substantial improvement despite not yet reaching the combined total of the legacy parties.

So it is fair to say that ending vote splitting helps merged parties like the UCP, for a variety of reasons not least of which is the simple elimination of one choice for voters. But knowing the UCP will both gain and lose some of the legacy parties’ former supporters need not compel proponents to oversell the benefits of ending vote splitting any more than it should embolden detractors who are doing little more than pointing out the obvious in suggesting the new party will not garner all former supporters of its legacy parties.

The ultimate fate of the UCP will be determined by how well its leadership maintains and perpetually renews its support base.

Much of that will be importantly influenced by factors beyond its control such as the state of the economy and its competitors two years down the road. Much, however, is under its own control. Only the UCP will be responsible for its leadership, policy positioning and strategic decisions. These will ultimately determine how successful any overall UCP voter mobilization strategy will be. We will turn our attention to some of those matters next week.

Faron Ellis is Research Chair, Citizen Society Research Lab, Lethbridge College. George Rigaux is a Lethbridge banker, Reform-CPC organizer and campaign manager.


Political entrepreneurship and UCP


Lethbridge Herald
5 Aug 2017
Faron Ellis and George Rigaux

First of four parts

Following the decisive votes by both Wildrose and Progressive Conservative members in support of merging their parties into the new United Conservative Party (UCP), many headlines have posed the quite reasonable question: what comes next?

Beginning today, and over the next few weeks, we will attempt to provide some answers. Initially, we will review what led to the merger by placing the UCP in its contemporary and historical contexts. Past examples of political entrepreneurship can provide useful lessons, at least where circumstances are similar enough to make meaningful comparisons. Fortunately, Canada has a rich tradition of political entrepreneurship from which we can draw.

Political entrepreneurs from the Canadian prairies, Alberta in particular, have spawned a variety of new parties, mergers of legacy parties and major political realignments. The United Farmers provincial parties and their progressive federal counterparts in the early 20th century were followed by the Great Depression-era Social Credit and Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. The latter eventually entering into a formal alliance with the Canadian Labour Congress to create the NDP. Indeed, Peter Lougheed’s building of the Alberta PC’s from the ground up into a 44-year dynasty that replaced the 36-year Socred dynasty, itself the result of an outstanding act of political entrepreneurship, serve as provincial examples. More recently, and likely more useful for comparative purposes, are Preston Manning’s Reform Party/United Alternative and Stephen Harper’s successful merging of the Reform/Alliance and Progressive Conservatives into the Conservative Party of Canada.

Although somewhat unique in their circumstances, approaches and results, each of these share common threads of political entrepreneurship: the identification of substantial unrepresented or inadequately represented demand within the electorate; and the attempted establishment of a new political vehicle to meet that demand, either by way of building anew from the ground up, or through amalgamation of existing parties.

Recent Alberta conservative politics is well known and need only be briefly outline here to understand what caused the unrepresented demand. When successive PC governments could not find their purpose after the policy drift that accompanied the final years of the Klein governments, each successive administration alienated swaths of former supporters, and eventually the Alberta electorate more generally. The Stelmach government so thoroughly annoyed the Calgary oil patch that it began financing the upstart Wildrose. When Wildrose elected Danielle Smith as leader and the Redford government began alienating rural Alberta, it appeared Wildrose would continue the provincial tradition of replacing a long-serving dynasty with a new party, elevating it from relative obscurity to majority government in a single election. But the 2012 election exposed Wildrose’s inability to corral its more radical social conservative elements whose outbursts repeatedly damaged the entire brand.

When Jim Prentice ascended to the PC leadership and engineered the floor-crossing of Smith and most of her caucus, both parties were tarnished beyond repair. Alberta voters flocked to the NDP and conservatives in both parties were left with some soul searching to do. Despite their defeat, the 2015 election produced ambiguous results for Alberta conservatives. Wildrose won more seats and formed the official opposition, but on fewer votes than the PCs. The PCs were reduced to third party status but had history, more votes and enduring organizational capacity. With posthoneymoon polls showing Notley and the NDP faltering, often trailing the PCs and Wildrose, both conservative parties dug in for another four years of internecine warfare. Enter Jason Kenney. Kenney was first to identify the strong demand for a unified option among both Wildrose and PC voters. He launched what was at the time considered an audacious campaign to unite the two warring conservative factions, built momentum, won the PC leadership by campaigning on a unity platform, convinced reluctant Wildrose leader Brian Jean to come onboard, achieved a workable unity agreement and delivered an overwhelming majority of PC members’ support.

Of all the variables that had to be considered, all the people that had to be convinced, recruited and organized, and all the hurdles that had to be overcome, Kenney’s intervention into the self-induced quagmire of Alberta conservative politics stands as the single most important factor in getting Alberta conservatives to the UCP. Although coming a bit late to the party, Jean deserves credit for delivering Wildrose. But make no mistake, full credit for ending the now decade-long split that eventually led to the neither Wildrose nor PCs governing rests squarely on the shoulders of Jason Kenney.

Kenney is only three acts into his five-act entrepreneurial play. And substantial hurdles remain. But his quest to create and lead the UCP to government already ranks as one of the most successful acts of political entrepreneurship in Alberta history. Should he ultimately succeed, it will rank among the most successful in Canadian history.

Faron Ellis is Research Chair, Citizen Society Research Lab, Lethbridge College. George Rigaux is a Lethbridge banker, Reform-CPC organizer and campaign manager.


Party merger sparks unrest Splinter groups forming in province

Lethbridge Herald
5 Aug 2017
Bill Graveland

The merger of Alberta’s two conservative parties is prompting some disaffected members to form splinter parties of their own despite warnings from experts that the move is unlikely to affect the next provincial election.

Members of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta and the Wildrose Party voted 95 per cent in favour of creating the United Conservative Party last month.

A race for the leadership is underway and includes former PC leader Jason Kenney, former Wildrose leader Brian Jean and conservative strategist Doug Schweitzer.

But there are rumblings from those who don’t favour the move. A number of disgruntled PCs have been talking about creating a new centrist party while those on the other side of the spectrum have already received approval from Elections Alberta on the name Alberta Advantage Party.

Edmonton lawyer Marilyn Burns was one of the founders of the Wildrose and is hoping to take the same role in the Alberta Advantage Party.

“We’ve picked up the ball that Brian Jean dropped and this is turning into a huge snowball really fast,” she said. “People are really kicking my butt to move fast on this.”

To reach official party status, Burns said it has to have one of three things — 44 registered candidates for the next election, three MLAs who cross the floor to join the party, or 7,868 signatures from Albertans reflecting a percentage of eligible voters.

She said there are a lot of people angry about the merger.

“There is such an overwhelming anger towards Brian right now because of this betrayal that you can touch it. It’s palpable,” she said. “These people who have this intense emotion are sticking with the UCP for the sole purpose of voting against Brian in October in the leadership vote.”

Jean was unavailable for comment.

Lori Williams, a political scientist from Mount Royal University, said the creation of such splinter parties was inevitable. The Alberta Advantage Party will likely resemble the early days of the Wildrose Party before “they moved into real contention for government,” she said.

A centrist party might be a “contender for power” but it’s not going to happen in time for the next election, Williams said.

“History suggests that new parties have to sort of show their abilities in opposition and then after one election cycle people are ready to entrust them with power.”

On Monday, Kenney told reporters in Calgary the number isn’t significant.

“We’ve seen a few dozen PCs leave to join one of the two Liberal parties and we’ve seen perhaps a few dozen Wildrose leave to perhaps start their own alternative party,” Kenney said.

“Those are folks who are not comfortable in a big tent. They’re not comfortable with a diversity of opinions. They want an echo chamber. They want to live in a partisan pup tent.”

Schweitzer said he has found most people he’s met while campaigning are excited about what the United Conservative Party can become. He said leadership candidates should reassure voters about the future.

“People wonder if there’s going to be a place in the new party,” he said. “We need to do a really good job of defining what it means and what it stands for.”

The leader of the UCP will be elected Oct. 28.


Can Alberta get land use right?

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on July 29, 2017.

Lorne Fitch and Kevin Van Tighem

The best of planning anticipates and prepares for future excellence. The worst simply perpetuates past failures. Recreation planning currently underway for the spectacular public lands of Alberta’s Oldman drainage and Porcupine Hills appears aimed at the muddy middle. We can do better.

Past government failures have filled our headwaters with uncontrolled off-highway vehicle (OHV) use, summer-long squatters’ camps, gunfire, motorcycle racing, weeds, muddy streams and too many fish and wildlife species now classified as threatened.

Those failures drove many Albertans to turn their backs on the Forest Reserves as a recreational destination because of the reality and perception of danger and disenfranchisement. In effect, Albertans were displaced from their own best places.

When Alberta Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips directed her staff to work with the full range of stakeholders to develop science-based land-use plans, she offered us the chance to get them back. A first principle of such planning should be that our public lands should no longer be compromised by efforts to cram every imaginable economic, social, cultural and recreational pursuit into them. These are finite landscapes with intrinsic and important values, not the least of which is that they supply clean water to two out of every three Albertans.

Good plans start with science. In that regard, the government got off to a good start with a Linear Footprint Management Plan for the Porcupine Hills and Oldman headwaters. The footprint plan sets science-based thresholds for road and trail density at which water quality and many fish and wildlife species start to suffer. Unfortunately, road and trail densities are already up to 10 times higher than those thresholds.

Only by getting motorized use under control can Alberta protect our water supplies and recover already-threatened species.

That’s what the Recreation Management Plan for the area was meant to do: to bring OHV trails, camping and other recreational activities into alignment with the science-based limits in the footprint. This, unfortunately, is where planning seems to be going off the rails.

There is still a culture of helpless surrender among some of the bureaucrats and planners tasked with getting recreational use right. Their mindset appears to be that, regardless of a new government’s promises to Albertans, the Porcupine Hills and Oldman headwaters must accommodate all past activities, no matter how harmful. Their vision of the future is what they see in the rearview mirror. Rather than objectively ask, “Is this activity appropriate?” they still ask: “How can we accommodate everything, no matter how inappropriate?”

If that old-guard thinking shapes new recreation plans for Alberta’s public lands, it will entrench past management failures and ongoing land degradation in our future. Alberta deserves better.

A plan that truly respects the needs of all Albertans and the limitations of our public forest lands would:

– keep land, water and wildlife populations healthy by using science to define appropriate uses and then to set thresholds and limits.

– acknowledge the simple truth that some recreational activities (e.g. dirt bike racing) are too noisy and destructive to be permitted on public land.

– assure Alberta families that recreational anarchy, vandalism, random gunfire and other antisocial behaviours are history; make people feel safe about returning to our best green places.

– dedicate most of the planning area for quiet, non-motorized recreation which surveys show the great majority of Albertans prefer.

– bring an end to the noise, trespass and vandalism problems now plaguing ranchers and others who live adjacent to the forest reserves.

– formally establish long-promised wildland parks and buffer them from motorized use to protect their wilderness qualities

– set recreational carrying capacities rather than allow endless growth to degrade both recreation quality and the natural environment.

– plan not just for recreational development but for repairing and restoring the damage done by past misuse.

– replace random, unmanaged camping and its attendant sprawl and litter with properly sited and maintained camping areas.

– commit to ongoing monitoring to evaluate recreation, land health, fish and wildlife and other public benefits.

It’s time for old-guard government bureaucrats to stop whispering cynical advice into the ears of the planners. Bureaucrats, planners and citizens alike need to put healthy land, water and wildlife first, suppress our selfish tendencies and work towards delivering the best of our priceless legacy of public lands to future generations.

Lorne Fitch is a professional biologist, a retired Fish and Wildlife biologist and an adjunct professor with the University of Calgary. Kevin Van Tighem is a landscape ecologist and author of “Our Place: Changing the Nature of Alberta” and “Heart Waters: Sources of the Bow River.”



Lethbridge Herald
25 Jul 2017
Dave Mabell

With his “unite the right” campaign successful, Jason Kenney is now expected to run for the leadership of the new United Conservative Party.

But his victory is not inevitable, says political scientist Faron Ellis.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean will be running against Kenney. And Ellis, political science instructor at Lethbridge College, says it won’t be a two-man race.

“Kenney took the bull by the horns,” and he’s got the momentum.

But Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer is campaigning as well, and libertarian Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt is also ready to announce.

“Brian Jean gets credit for delivering his party,” Ellis says, allowing the merger to proceed. And he has the loyalty of many Wildrose supporters.

More candidates will likely join the race, he adds. The name of former Conservative MP Rona Ambrose, who served as the federal party’s interim leader, has been mentioned as one.

“There’s a lot of hope for that from some people,” Ellis says. They want to see a more centreright leader selected — not Kenney, widely seen as a “social conservative” out of touch with most Albertans’ views. While both Kenney and Jean are Catholic, “Jason seems more conservative than the Pope.”

For others, with less name recognition, Ellis suggests it could be difficult to win support.

“It’s a pretty short timeline,” with the leadership vote scheduled for Oct. 28.

First of all, he points out, the merged party must set rules for the leadership campaign. Meanwhile, contenders will be anxious to sell memberships to Albertans who are ready to get involved in the process. So Albertans may see or hear a little less about the party over the last few weeks of summer.

“Labour Day is when the horserace will begin,” Ellis says.

Then Albertans will see if the party is truly “united.”

“There will be some blood on the floor,” he predicts.

But open battles won’t help win support the new party, warns political scientist Geoffrey Hale.

“It’s not in anybody’s best interests to get into the gutter.”

In Alberta, he says, those tactics “don’t sit well” with a majority of voters.

Hale, a professor of political science at the University of Lethbridge, expects the candidates may be too busy with organizational work and membership sales to get into public squabbles.

“Brian Jean is prepared to work very, very hard on this,” Hale notes. “And he has the party’s institutional organization behind him.”

If Fildebrandt launches an effective campaign however, Jean could lose some of that.

“Fildebrandt could syphon some some of Jean’s support away.”

The outspoken Wildrose MLA is no team player, he says. “He’s an ideological libertarian.” Ambrose could have proven a more attractive candidate, Hale adds.

“But she’s been collecting directorships” at major companies, apparently moving away from party politics.

How far right the new leader wants to take the United Conservatives is yet to be seen. But Hale and Ellis say the party’s success depends on its appeal to Albertans in the political centre, not just its own base.

“Albertans are not social conservatives,” Ellis says.

“The leaders have to understand that they’re elected to serve the needs of Albertans and need to run and govern in the main stream.”

And a United Conservative victory in 2019 is no sure bet, Hale cautions.

“Nobody should see that as inevitable.”

Alberta’s political scene has proven highly unpredictable over the last five years. With much of the heavy lifting already accomplished, Premier Rachel Notley and her New Democrats have plenty of time to announce new family-oriented programs and community projects.

A start on the Kinder Morgan pipeline wouldn’t hurt, either. The company is ready.

“It’s up to (Prime Minister) Trudeau to make it happen,” he says.

“That would allow him to do Notley a favour, and maintain a centre-left option for Trudeau in Western Canada.

Getting it started could also secure his image as a truly national leader, with the best interests of all Canadians at heart, Hale says.

“He can’t afford to alienate a large section of the country.”

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