Are you like millions of Canadians outraged by Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s relentless assault on our democratic institutions, traditions and values? Maybe you’re wondering if the Harper can really be stopped? This week (September 15-22) is the week to do find answers. And do something about Canada’s ailing democracy. It’s Democracy Week (September 15-22) in . . . → Read More: Canadian Progressive: Who is sponsoring Canada’s Democracy Week? Elections Canada, of course
It is with extreme disappointment that we learned today that the Government has decided to end its funding commitment to Katimavik. Today’s announcement comes as a surprise, since we are entering the third year of a funding agreement whose terms … Continue reading →
Wonderful thing, the Tweeter. Keeps things lively, and keeps you on your toes.So apparently there’s some question over what I wrote about the Globe’s ideologically reliable urban affairs curmudgeon and his role in helping propel Mayor Stupid into the C… . . . → Read More: @AntoniaZ, @SusannaKelley, @marcusbgee, and the Rob Ford ascendancy | #TOpoli
Honestly, where do you begin?First, Mayor Stupid’s dismissing all the folks who spoke at last month’s city hall all-nighter as left-wing, NDP, special-interest types trying to protect their free money. No surprise there, really. It’s not as if the guy’… . . . → Read More: Another day, another embarrassing eruption from Mt. Ford | #TOpoli
Which Lie Do You Buy? « All Fired Up In The Big SmokeA lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.– Winston ChurchillSo over at his place, @cityslikr’s on about the fact that politicians have an uneasy relati… . . . → Read More: @cityslikr on Team Ford’s bullshit, and our complicity therein | #TOpoli
Sad, isn’t it. When this is what occupies our imaginations and dominates public discourse, is it any wonder that so many people don’t bother to take the responsibilities of citizenship seriously? Look at the energy it’s consuming, for Chrissakes.  … . . . → Read More: Kate’s royal ass cheek: #sunmedia triumphs again, @davidakin makes sure we all know about it
Go and read this piece from Ed Keenan in The Grid. He’s right of course, and you don’t need a master’s degree in public administration to know that public services cost money. And you don’t need cheap childish gimmicks, either. The troublesome part i… . . . → Read More: @thekeenanwire, #TOpoli and that whole ‘deserve’ thing, redux
The idea of rewarding volunteer hours with a tax break has been bruited around recently, and has caught my attention for a couple of reasons. The first issue with this as an incentive to volunteerism of course is that the incentive has nothing to do wi… . . . → Read More: The Roundhouse: Volunteerism as a Tax Strategy?
The idea of rewarding volunteer hours with a tax break has been bruited around recently, and has caught my attention for a couple of reasons.
The first issue with this as an incentive to volunteerism of course is that the incentive has nothing to do with the reasons Albertans volunteer so extensively. There is . . . → Read More: The Roundhouse: Volunteerism as a Tax Strategy?
I was only able to make time to attend the Reboot 3 gathering at the last minute, meaning that I was not prepared or engaged in the agenda-setting stage. I found it interesting to note that the blogger population at Reboot 3 was considerably smaller than the first two, with major cogs in the Alberta . . . → Read More: The Roundhouse: Reboot 3 – Now what?
I was only able to make time to attend the Reboot 3 gathering at the last minute, meaning that I was not prepared or engaged in the agenda-setting stage. I found it interesting to note that the blogger population at Reboot 3 was considerably smaller than the first two, with major cogs in the Alberta blogosphere like DJ Kelly, Joey Oberhoffner and Dave Cournoyer not attending. Congratulations DJ, by the way!
The morning sessions were spent discussing models of ownership and their implications for the management of the oil sands. The table I happened to be at was, to my good fortune, full of passionate, articulate and capable people – one of whom thankfully makes a living as a mediator and was able to keep the conversation moving in more or less the intended direction. While we certainly didn’t arrive at a consensus on how ownership ought to be considered in the area of natural resources we were agreed that it was important for the Government and corporations to think differently on the issue. To me there is, or ought to be, a creative tension between the profit motive of corporations and the social good that ought to underlie government decision-making. Interestingly the table was quite interested in the idea of full-cost accounting, which is hardly a simple or non-contentious topic in and of itself.
The central conversation in the afternoon revolved around the question of what it meant to be a progressive. In examining this issue four speakers gave us their thoughts: Troy Wason of the Alberta PCs, Chris LaBossiere from the Alberta Party, Phil Elder for the Democratic Renewal Project and David Swann of the Alberta Liberal Party. (Speaking in that order) Both Mr. Wason and Mr. LaBossiere talked about their reasons for being involved with their respective parties, and their thoughts on how they feel their organizations are embodying and responding to ideas that can be defined as progressive. Mr. Wason was passionate in his belief that the progressive element of the PC party is a central part of that party. He also pointed out that his qualification as a member of the provinces notional political elite consisted of “paying my $5 and putting up my hand to volunteer”. Succinct and important to bear in mind – our system is run by those who choose to show up. Mr. LaBossiere’s talk is perhaps best summarized by himself on his blog, but he too addressed the importance of engagement.
Mr. Elder and Mr. Swann took another tack entirely. Mr. Elder outlined the Democratic Renewal Project and their plans to encourage non-competition among opposition parties. My thoughts on the undesirability and futility of their project are elaborated in an earlier post http://myroundhouse.blogspot.com/2010/05/night-with-alberta-democratic-renewal.html . Mr. Swann’s presentation focused on the reasons why the people in the room for Reboot should vote for the Liberals. Interestingly his primary reason was fear – he argued that without the Liberal’s tradition, organization and financial framework none of the other parties before Albertans could advance a progressive agenda or effectively challenge the PC party. Leaving aside the assumption that replacing the PC government is inherently desirable, it is hard to see anything progressive or attractive in this inherently negative formulation. It appeared to me as an attempt by Mr. Swann to dissuade those present from considering the Alberta Party, which, while an entirely justifiable end for the leader of another party to undertake, seemed entirely at odds with the kind of dialogue Reboot exists to promote.
In my view there are two ends that the Reboot name and movement can serve here in Alberta moving forward. I need to underline that my views here reflect nothing beyond my own opinions, and have no bearing on the thoughts or intentions of the organizers in particular or the other participants in general.
To begin with I continue to find these meetings to be a good forum for people of diverse views to meet and discuss matters of common interest. There is real value in a periodic forum to exchange views outside our usual partisan or professional communities, and Reboot has contributed usefully to the political culture of Alberta in that respect. Being exposed to alternative viewpoints is essential in challenging our assumptions. That process of challenging ideas and evolving them under the pressure of new information is in turn a fundamental element of healthy public discourse. I would like to see the Reboot gatherings continue once or twice a year, focusing on acting as a common area in which people of all partisan stripes, or none, can gather to discuss issues of public interest. As a mechanism perhaps an issue or two could be selected for discussion, followed by an unconference format upon arrival to decide where and how that conversation will be focused.
Reboot can, however, be the genesis of something beyond a useful meeting place on the political commons. I would like to see a permanent non-partisan think tank develop from the Reboot community. This organization would study questions of civic engagement, civil society and public policy. The public discourse gains real value from organizations like the Manning Centre and the Pembina Institute, the research they create, the events they hold and the people they train and employ. Given the population and wealth of Alberta, and the gaps between existing bodies of similar nature, there is more than enough room in the public discourse for such a body. (That sound you hear is the pained laughter of the Reboot organizers as I volunteer their idea and efforts for an extensive and labour-intensive expansion.) If the idea is of any interest to anyone but myself I hope to hear from you! . . . → Read More: The Roundhouse: Reboot 3 – Now what?
I’m in Edmonton this weekend for the Reboot 3.0 conference, to see what the latest installment of these gatherings for self-selected ‘progressives’ has in store.
The most interesting charecteristic of the Reboot gatherings in the variety of people who attend. The first two Reboots crossed partisan lines in their attendence, and based on Friday’s . . . → Read More: The Roundhouse: Reboot Alberta 3.0
I’m in Edmonton this weekend for the Reboot 3.0 conference, to see what the latest installment of these gatherings for self-selected ‘progressives’ has in store. The most interesting charecteristic of the Reboot gatherings in the variety of people who… . . . → Read More: The Roundhouse: Reboot Alberta 3.0
From today’s Toronto Star:
Funny and on target! I have to say that I’m very happy with the real contest of visions we had in our municipal election, especially compared to the dismal partisanship of the Toronto campaign.
From today’s Toronto Star:Funny and on target! I have to say that I’m very happy with the real contest of visions we had in our municipal election, especially compared to the dismal partisanship of the Toronto campaign. . . . → Read More: The Roundhouse: Some Pictures Are Worth a Thousand Words
The negative tone of much contemporary politics in Canada, and even more the case in the United States, is an issue of concern to people from all sides of any given issue. It seems to me, based on prolonged observation, that there is a simple remedy that would go a long way to address the . . . → Read More: The Roundhouse: What’s in a Name?
The negative tone of much contemporary politics in Canada, and even more the case in the United States, is an issue of concern to people from all sides of any given issue. It seems to me, based on prolonged observation, that there is a simple remedy th… . . . → Read More: The Roundhouse: What’s in a Name?
Tonight I attended a panel put on by the Alberta Democratic Renewal Project here in Calgary. http://drpcalgary.wetpaint.com/
I should be clear that while I am not a supporter of the ADRP or their specific aims I certainly endorse their passion for Alberta. In addition I’d spent the rest of the day mired in re-working a . . . → Read More: The Roundhouse: A night with the Alberta Democratic Renewal Project
Tonight I attended a panel put on by the Alberta Democratic Renewal Project here in Calgary. http://drpcalgary.wetpaint.com/
I should be clear that while I am not a supporter of the ADRP or their specific aims I certainly endorse their passion for Alberta. In addition I’d spent the rest of the day mired in re-working a chapter section on the development of the Bank of England’s 1925 American credit for the return to gold, so some political debate and contact with other human beings was more than welcome. In brief the ARDP is an organization devoted to two goals. In the short term a cooperative alliance or non-compete agreement among opposition parties here in Alberta, which they refer to as progressive parties. The ultimate purpose of this alliance, and their second goal, is to institute a system of proportional representation here in Alberta.
The panel consisted of three speakers: Dr. Avalon Roberts (former Liberal Candidate), Dr. Phil Elder (of the ADRP) and Dr. Doreen Barrie (University of Calgary) standing in for a panelist trapped in Edmonton by the weather. Each panelist spoke for 15 minutes to an audience of approximately 50 people. Typical of most such events the crowd was decidedly monochromatic, well off, well-educated and older, but what the group lacked in variety it made up for in lively engagement. The formal Q & A lasted longer than the talks, and many people stayed later to continue conversing. I don’t know whether the event generated any support for the ADRP, but it certainly succeeded in generating a worthwhile and engaging couple of hours.
As I couldn’t take notes I will simply note some of the themes discussed by the panelists. Dr. Roberts and Dr. Barrie both moved over similar territory; the focus was on declining voter turnout, increasing disengagement from the process, the travails of the current opposition parties and the inadequacies of the provincial government. Dr. Elder spoke on the ADRP’s plans and reasoning, which I will omit as you can find the basics on their website above. The one statement he made that I need to set out is the assertion that the opposition parties here in Alberta have broadly common policies. Questioners of note included Donn Lovett, formerly of the Alberta Liberals and now involved with MLA Dave Taylor, The President of the Alberta Liberal Party and MLA Harry Chase. When he spoke Mr. Chase seemed to be saying that he supported the ideas of the ADRP, but they could never work because of the NDP’s unwillingness to work with the Liberals. Mr. Sansotta’s stepped up later to address a critic of the ALP with some humour, but regrettably did not address any of the issues raised by the panel or other commenter’s. Mr. Lovett made a couple of trenchant points about the layout of the Alberta electorate, and the requirements as he saw them of a successful party in the centre.
I had to ask a few questions. To begin I took exception to the repeated assertion that politics in Alberta is moribund or unchanging. What other jurisdiction in Canada has two new parties like our Wild Rose and Alberta Parties, not to mention activist groups like Reboot and the ADRP itself all coming forward at once? Secondly I pointed out that disillusionment might well have more to do with the inaccessibility of parties, and the tiny percentage of the population that belong to one, than the length of the current government. I couldn’t resist noting that most opposition candidates in Alberta are already ‘paper’ candidates, so the plan of the ADRP really only has relevance in perhaps 12-20 ridings in the province, even accepting (which I certainly do not) that the opposition vote could be united. Finally the idea that the Liberals, NDP and Greens share common policies demonstrates far more about the failings of those organizations to define themselves than it does about their commonalities.
So what do I think at the end of the night? For myself I am not sold on the virtues of proportional representation as a system. Provided the basic political culture is healthy it seems like a solution looking for a problem, and if the culture is unhealthy there are a whole new crop of potential abuses – every system has them. As for the idea of non-compete agreement, well, I oppose it on grounds of both principle and practice. To begin with the ADRP is so far from the consciousness of the mass electorate as to be a minor factor in voting intentions at best, so even if such an alliance were signed it could not deliver the votes to one candidate. I also don’t believe that the parties are in fact interchangeable, certainly not to their supporters. In addition I as a voter oppose the limitation of my options, and view diversity of competition as a healthy thing. Besides, with the rise of the Wild Rose it won’t just be the centre/left vote that splits in the next election, will it? All in all I feel that the ADRP’s plan is a poor substitute for a well-organized and well-executed opposition party or two.
That said I think having groups like this coming alive and working to raise awareness and engage people with the system, and trying to change the system, is an essential element of that healthy political culture I talked about earlier. I wish the ADRP people all success in bringing their plan before a wider audience, I just hope that it isn’t adopted! . . . → Read More: The Roundhouse: A night with the Alberta Democratic Renewal Project