Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"HOPE" is the new "DEBT"

I have always felt that debt involved a certain amount of "hope", mostly that I  could actually pay it off.  Yesterday  our Premier put a new spin on "debt" that I can really get behind:
I paid for the new tires on my truck with MasterCard, now I "hope" I won't get stuck. If  I get stuck I won't be able to get to work in which case I "hope" the boss does not fire me  because if he does I do not stand a "hope" in hell of being able to pay the MasterCard, keep up with the utilities, the truck payment, the payment on my sled or the satellite TV with the HD sports channels.
All of these things give me "hope"  in the case of the house, the HD sports channels and the sled, they bring me joy, happiness and contentment that can only be found by high-marking in Valemount, or watching the world series. (go SOX)
Actually  while I have a fleet of pick up trucks, a bevy of flat screen TV's some tractors, a motorhome and know where Valemount is,  I prefer to pay cash for everything so apparently I have it wrong: I would have more "hope" in my life if I had more debt.
Somehow this does not ring true for me or anyone else and should not ring true for government. Debt is not "hope" it is quite the opposite. Debt is a cancer that spreads silently, insidiously and is without remission:  once your have debt, all "hope" is lost until it is paid off. 
Once governments get into the habit of "debt" or "hope" as our current premier calls it, borrowing becomes easier and easier because every time you need something, you can justify debt for it by the "hope" it brings.
An average MLA may think:
I hope if I build this new hospital in Wandering River that:
a) I can find a doctor who wants to work there
b) I can get enough votes to win the next election.
That's the "hope" motivation of "debt"
Debt is not "hope"  in any way, context or by any definition: debt is a sign of mismanagement:  overpriced cars, of overpriced chiefs of staff, over budget redevelopment of old buildings and an ever expanding fixed cost structure that eats into the governments cash flow.
Did you know:  if the interest income from the Heritage Fund had simply been reinvested into the Heritage Fund, we would have 150 BILLION dollars that AIMCO would invest and generate 10 BILLION dollars a year in revenue. This is the cost of the PC party choosing to ignore the power of compound interest.
And why I lost "hope"
I know  people  from Ontario don't bring their schools and hospitals with them when they come here, but Albertan's are the ultimate beneficiaries of migration not the victims so it's  a stupid justification for more debt
The  Progressive Conservatives have had 42 years to prepare for this.  42 years of consistent growth in a province where in first boom every town of 500, got a Treasury Branch, a Liquor Store and a Seniors Home.  It was this PC government that got us into the mess then  and got us back into it now.
There is little room to maneuver, all that can be outsourced has been and what's  left is a shortage of services.
Will this government tell the current baby boom kids to "hope" when in 2 years all these wee tykes expect to have schools to go to?
Will this government tell the seniors population to "hope" as grandma can't find a place to live within with in four hours of the family?
The Deputy Premier drives an $85,000.00 Audi you pay for. And the senior Deputy Minister, gets his government Silverado gassed up and  washed twice a week by a junior government employee.
"Those are just a drop in the bucket they will tell you, insignificant" but it's not. It's systemic and will only be cured by surgery, deep and radical surgery.  Entitlement is really what they "hope" to hang onto.
Debt is not "hope" there is no illusion about the truth of this or many other things. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Since joining the Wild Rose........................

Today was a calmer day than yesterday, I tuned up the snow blowers, (yes plural) and spent a nice afternoon at the ranch. When I got home, as I have decided I don't need to read twitter or email on my phone, I was overwhelmed with the support I have received for my decision to joint the Wild Rose.
Wiser men than me coined the phrase "I might disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it".
It is my solemn belief that the second responsibility of ANY government is to ensure that all groups have opportunity to speak unfettered by what it is they are likely to say. I stand by that principal and this government seems to have no time or concern for opinion not favorable to their own.
Grown ups can handle criticism. Speaking of which, the classiest guy in the Wild Rose has got to be Rob Anderson the MLA for Airdrie. Now I was  unkind to Rob when he moved over to the Wild Rose and his fake shoulder punch Friday told me that he was glad to see me.  I thought about and was nervous about his reaction  as Rob was quoted in a paper once as saying "We used to be friends" well, we are again.  
I want to emphasize:   I joined the Wild Rose. The "Big Blue Machine" is alive and well without my help, I was asked to resign  my seat on the constituency association yesterday and I won't be attending the AGM in Red Deer next month, even though as a former party  MLA I have a constitutional right to.
I thought about it, but really there is  a fine line between charisma and bull shite and  I'd  be doing a Cal Dallas without the excuse that it was close to my house.
I'm busy that weekend, whatever week end it is.
As for Wild Rose policy review: Our friends in the PC party have confused flexibility with indecision and to cast aspersions on the private citizens who voted in the Saturday policy review is to do a tremendous disservice to those Albertans as we are all, first and foremost, Albertans.
I think the folks in the Wild Rose policy meeting realized that, upon sober second thought, protectionism, firewalls, discrimination are not the tenets of a modern political organization or society. They are the objects of fear and as such fall flat on their face when measured against the question "What problem are we trying to solve?"
It is political posturing that makes the PC's look, to be polite, very silly indeed. I use the phrase silly because it is an accurate measure of maturity. Motivated by fear.
It is this fear  and that will result in continued PC attacks on persons like me and the policies of the Wild Rose generally. But in reality the best the PC's can hope for now is to go into 2016 with a budget surplus, happy nurses, happy teachers and some new extended care beds. 
The time for planning is so far gone, the vision so far forgotten that it will take a collective amnesia on the part of Albertans to forgive and forget. There will be no "Ralph Bucks", there might be some loonies, but I digress.
I'm not here to do to the provincial PC's what I did for them, at least not yet. But I will measure each and every action against sound fiscal behavior, transparency, decency and fairness and let each decision made stand or fall on it's own merit.
I predict every government bill will pass, every opposition amendment will be defeated and many references will be made to why they call it Question Period not Answer Period. 
I also predict that towards the beginning of December, though not on the night of  the PC  MLA Christmas Party, all night sessions will be held. The Wild Rose and the Liberal Laurie Blakeman will do their best to hold the government to account and the session will end with a whimper rather than a roar.
I am taking some time off work to be a full time student for a couple months, I will need a diversion, because my attention span isn't that good, so I will have time to look at the work of the government from the perspective of the freest ex MLA. 
I intend to make this "most" of the focus of my blog, but remember what I said about attention span.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Some times the only way to find a rose is to get pricked by a few thorns: Why I joined the WildRose.

I knew my decision to leave the Progressive Conservative party would cause a few eyebrows to raise,  but I did it with a full and clear conscience that the only way to solve the problems facing Alberta and address the issues we must face going forward was not to condemn myself to repetition of the same mistakes over again, but to look for a new way  to support.
I found it in the Wild Rose. My decision, which was deliberately not well publicized in advance took many of the Wild Rose MLA's by surprise as I had in my tenure as MLA for Edmonton Calder or since as a blogger of occasion, been none too kind to them.
That being said, politics and the future of this province are not the same thing. I spent the last 18 months in the booming Texas oilfield called the Eagle Ford Shale Play it became obvious to me that within seven to ten years the United States would be hydrocarbon independent;  America would not need our oil, period.
The short and long term implications of this suggest that Alberta, with it's high costs of production, limited access to markets and an entrenched costly and inefficient civil service that do not recognize or plan for  contingencies,  would place our province in tremendous short and long term economic jeopardy.
The Alberta PC's have had over 40 years to do the right things yet we are now, facing declining demand for our most valuable resource with a government that is merrily marching along like it is 1972 and the Arab oil embargo is still underway.
My decision is NOT an issue of respect for leadership, I was the first MLA to support Premier Redford on the second ballot of her leadership run.
I liked her then and  I like her now, but her leadership alone not enough to change the direction of the entrenched civil service and inbred inertia, to be forthcoming about the risks we are facing and take action.
Premier Redford and I have a particularly close connection about our Mom's, the last time she talked to her Mom before she passed away, Premier Redford was with me going to meet mine.
I had promised my Mom she would meet every Premier and Mom is 2-2.
Premier Redford, kicked my ass privately in 2009 (and I deserved it) over some stupid comments I had made on twitter. We made amends and I supported her because she told me the truth, was brutally, blunt and after having kicked my ass got over it and never mentioned it again. She taught me the most valuable lesson I ever learned in politics and she taught me a lot about how to say what needs to be said.
So imagine how I felt today when someone in her office named Stefan Baranski, retweeted the old issue she and I "discussed"  once he learned I had decided to join the Wild Rose.
This guy apparently had on file, in case he needed it, data on me and I presume all other PC MLA's past and present that he could use if we "stepped out of line." This did nothing but solidify my resolve that the decision I made was the right one.
When I was elected in 2008, we were a class of 72 MLA's in an 83 seat legislature. Even the Whip, Frank Oberle had it easy because with so many MLA's to choose from he could always find someone to do whatever needed to be done. The cabinet ministers loved it because they could do whatever they wanted with impunity knowing full well there were enough MLA's looking for something that the Ministers had support no matter how asinine the idea they were pitching.
I learned to play the system well and got every single dollar I could for my constituency.
I was elected in a democracy but I certainly did not work in one. There was no incentive for the status quo to change, the PC entitlement mentality can only be overcome by displacement and frankly I think we are very close.
It is the lack of preparedness for the future and the lack of respect for the past that told me I was in the wrong party.
So I changed.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Post game analysis:

I can live with Don Iveson as mayor, I didn't vote for him, or the councilor elect in ward two for that matter, but I can live with it.
 I have learned that election victories are fleeting things,  none of these folks are "emperor for life" and all of them, or most anyway, are using municipal office as a stepping stone to the big leagues.  Nothing wrong with that either.

The business at hand, however, be it the arena, that pothole you love to hate or the talus balls that look like both typographical and geological wrong are going to suddenly go away. 

Not much will change.
The art gallery will still leak, squishy architecture may, or may not, continue to be the fad of the week, buses will lose money, people will clamour for more services, more government and more rules until one is passed that causes grief personally, in which case it will be bad.
But rules that only affect others, like smoking within 9,000 metres of a playground will be thought of as good.

The last real conservative mayor  was liberal Lawrence Decore, a great guy who used his office in a pretty fair attempt at displacing a floundering Alberta PC party.  I don't see a Decore in this bunch, Linda Sloan was probably the close to Kerry Diotte in that regard, but neither of them are around now, Mike Nickel looks like the only conservative voice left.

Iveson owes a lot to the NDP and frankly  I don't think he can afford to be too pragmatic, given his support base.   Pragmatism is not Don Ivesons strength anyway and while I cannot argue that the vast majority of people think he will do a good job, the proof will be in the delivery.

He follows the polarizing Stephen Mandell and that will make things tough because Mandell covered such a broad spectrum by agreeing, disagreeing or ignoring issues that Don is going to find it difficult to make his mark.

There are no airports to shutter, arena's, art galleries or museums to built, the LRT has as a plan and aside from the traffic messes it causes, seems to be working.

Mandel's legacy, is impressive, he spent more, built more and yelled more than any mayor previously.  
There was one point in particular that was dear to Mandell's heart that got him nowhere:
Municipal taxation and other topics designed to induce sleep, are very real issues in both rural and urban centers. Cash flush counties and cash poor towns are legion in this province and a very real attempt needs to be made at (God, don't kill me for saying this) redistribution of the wealth.
We don't need new taxation but we do need a better mechanism of allowing those areas with population to share some of the Plant and Machinery windfall that is the current purview of the counties.
This, of course is a no win situation for the provincial government. Any pot of money can only be divided so many ways and ultimately those who's share increases will support the idea while those who's share decreases will strongly oppose it. Look no further than the Gaming Revenue review we did in 09. Ultimately we buried that report deeper than Jimmy Hoffa because there was no way to make winners out of losers.
This will be Iveson's real challenge, convincing the Provincial Government that there are issue with wealth distribution that are more complex than simply granting new taxing powers can solve. It is also Mandell's legacy, the one place where he was not successful.

Talk  of global this and world class that are fine but in reality to properly deliver on core services, to stop making excuses for badly managed infrastructure and to make Edmonton a great place to live some real issues of equity need to be addressed and our new mayor needs to address them quickly, quietly and persistently. That will be his real legacy starting today.