Chris Hedges in Edmonton

One could be forgiven for listening to Chris Hedges in Edmonton last night and coming away with an ill feeling for the future of the world; even worse is that it’s not about to get better any time soon.

If you’re not familiar with Chris Hedges, he’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and writer, living in the US. He’s been a foreign correspondent for a number of major media organizations, including the New York Times. He’s also an activist and major pain in the ass to corrupt, power hungry politicians and businesspeople, particularly through his association with the Occupy movement.

But the purpose of this is not to write his bio. You can find all that online. Hedges has great experience as a reporter and he’s seen corruption and war around the world.

I hadn’t been familiar with Hedges until I became aware of him as a result of the Occupy movement. I haven’t read his books and I’m not sure if I’ve ever read any of the articles he’d written as a reporter.

chris-hedges-edmontonWhat I have done is to watch a variety of interviews with him. I have been impressed both by what he has to say and also how he says it. He certainly seems to be unflappable, and he’s remarkably consistent in his interviews. I wouldn’t say I agree with everything he says, but I’ve found it interesting how we’ve got fairly similar views on what is happening with government and business around the world. I will say that he has certainly done a lot more research than I have though!

In his speech in Edmonton he covers a variety of items such as Barack Obama and the erosion of civil rights, his lawsuit against Obama and the NDAA and he also does a reading from his latest book Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. He covers a lot of ground in the video I took of his speech, and it is worth watching the entire video.

While I was quite impressed with his speech, I was less impressed by the questions afterwards. It seemed that there were people there who thought it was time to do a public service announcement or to expound on their point of view. No, it’s time to ask a question. I get that sometimes questions need a bit of context, but I wish people would get to the point.

Nobody cares about your point of view, whether we might agree with it or not. People were there to listen to the speaker and get his point of view. They didn’t impress anyone and many in the audience were upset with the speakers, as you may hear on the video. Unfortunately those audience statements were little better than the inane comments you find so often on YouTube.

I’m not going to blame the organizers for the disrupted Q & A. If I were to host an event such as this I might consider calling on the audience before the event started to submit questions, and then choose the intelligent ones. Or, if I were the one holding the mike I would tell them to get to the point or take the mike away.

I’d like to hear your thoughts about the video.

(I posted photos of Chris Hedges in Edmonton on Flickr.)

Nuclear power issues are not about science

It was just a matter of time before this kind of information came out about the problems with the Fukushima nuclear reactor.

One has to wonder what else we’re going to find out about the design and preparations at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

I’m rather tired of people talking about the science behind nuclear power and about how safe it is. First of all, theoretically, anything can be made safe. Science is irrelevant.

The relevant factors are engineering and business. This will determine the ultimate safety of any system. It’s a natural inclination for any business to minimize costs. Engineering any system can be an expensive process, and with something like nuclear power, cutting corners can be costly, as we’ve seen.

There have been serious questions about the safety of the GE Mark I reactors, such that three GE nuclear scientists resigned in process. It’s not about science because, theoretically, nuclear power is safe and can be contained.

In GE’s case, it’s about business and engineering. Oh, statistics play a role here too. They probably have a statistician on staff who gave them the odds against the critical events the GE 3 warned against.

Business decisions by GE probably dictated that they weren’t going to toss the Mark I design and start over. Why waste that investment?

The engineering, obviously, was an issue. Other reactor designs are likely much better than GE’s Mark I. The GE 3 obviously were so concerned about it that they went public with their concerns and resigned from GE.

It’s not a science issue at all. As happens in so many cases, there are other issues at play in man-made disasters, but people mistakenly or intentionally obfuscate those issues with the weak appeal to authority argument (science).

I understand the science behind the reactor, containment, cooling, etc. I trust the science. We’ve studied it for 60 years. So what? I also understand people and that’s the problem I have. I don’t trust the people behind these power plants. If they weren’t heavily regulated, we’d have far more problems than we do now, given the propensity of business to spend as little as absolutely required on virtually anything.

Heavy regulation of these types of operations is no guarantee of safety either, but it’s a start. Regulations have required nuclear plants to have multiple redundant systems to ensure that if problems or accidents happen, we don’t see catastrophic failures such as those at each of the Fukushima reactors.

Evidently Japan’s regulation of these plants was inadequate, especially given the level of earthquake and tsunami activity in that part of the world.

I am not against nuclear power. If the plants and waste are managed properly, they can be a safe, albeit expensive, way to generate large amounts of electricity. In our hubris, humans often don’t see the big picture and don’t change until it’s too late. Nuclear power is not something we want 20/20 hindsight on. We need to ensure that we get it right before we go ahead with these plants. I don’t think there is such a thing as over-engineering when it comes to them.

As the world is increasingly looking for clean and reliable sources of energy, nuclear has become an increasingly attractive option. The disaster at Fukushima, if nothing else, should serve as a warning against hubris, and show us the importance of a thorough approach to safety. More nuclear power plants will be built, so let’s make sure we construct them properly. Maybe Mike Holmes should supervise nuclear power plant designs.

Pints & Politics: Debating name changes in Alberta

The other night I went out to Pints and Politics at Brewster’s Pub in Edmonton, a gathering of people interested in talking about politics.

It was pretty good. I had the opportunity to meet a few MLAs (Dave Taylor – Alberta Party, Kent Hehr – Liberal Party, and Jonathan Denis – Conservative Party) and chat with people from those parties as well. I was surprised I didn’t meet anyone from the Wild Rose Party, but I didn’t meet everyone there either.

What I so often discover from casual, in-person discussions about politics is that our differences usually aren’t that far apart.

I prefer these types of discussions to online political discussions. The trolls usually don’t come out to these events, preferring the perceived anonymity they possess behind their computer screens and pseudonyms.

What’s in a name?

I had fun prodding a few of the Alberta Liberals in the room. We got onto the topic of changing the name of the provincial Liberal party, which apparently has little connection to the federal party.

I still find it odd that the Alberta Liberal party is so stuck on keeping the name, when it’s so obvious that it’s the biggest impediment to their political success in this province right now (leaving aside the issues of ineffective leadership).

The provincial Conservatives love to bring up the 1980s National Energy Program, signed by Conservative premier Peter Lougheed. When the NEP is mentioned, there’s a collective knee-jerk around the province, and it’s never good for the Liberals, despite the fact the provincial Liberals probably had absolutely nothing to do with it. The truth has nothing to do with the issue.

The rationale I heard was that the Alberta Liberals are worried their stream of donations would dry up if they were to change their name. I countered that it would likely increase as they tapped new sources of donations.

I have to respect the Alberta Liberals for manning the helm of their swamped ship to the bitter end, but a touch of Machiavellian sensibility wouldn’t hurt. Would a name change mean a complete abandonment of their principles? Absolutely not. Why would it?

I heard something interesting too, that nobody has ever presented a motion at a party convention to change the party name. About time it happened, but it won’t be me doing it. So, what should the name be?

The Prairie Party

I thought this would make sense, because the Alberta Liberals, according to what I heard, are a truly provincial party with few ties federally. It’s the same in B.C., where the B.C. Liberals are really Conservatives and have few real ties to the federal party.

Albertans, and here I’m stereotyping a little, tend to be quite patriotic about their province, and a name like the Prairie Party could be appreciate by many in the province, particularly rural voters. I have never seen a province where its residents feel so strongly about their home.

My thought is that if you’re truly convinced your principles are worth fighting for and should be adopted here, why would something like a name change be so problematic? It is puzzling. In fact, it’s truly odd, considering so many political parties would be willing to force their mothers to work in a Chinese sweat shop if it meant they could get into power.

In some ways you have to respect that kind of conviction, but in other ways, it’s sort of dumb. Apparently Einstein was quoted as saying “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

I also came up with a cute slogan that captures why the name change should happen: change the name and you change the game.

Looking at it practically, a good portion of the voters in the province have grey hair, like it or not. Voter turnout here is pathetically low, but you can count on seniors to get out and do their civic duty. They don’t tend to be swing voters either. They’re loyal and often conservative. They also remember the NEP, rightly or wrongly, so if the Liberals (with that name) expect to form government here, it’s likely not going to be until the baby boomers are dead and gone.

The Saskatchewan Party

I used these guys as a good example for the Alberta Liberals to follow. They formed in 1997 and 10 years later they were in power. There’s so much wrapped up in a name and such a name has broad, subconscious appeal to Saskatchewan residents, obviously.

This is why the Alberta Party has a positive future ahead of it, no matter what their policies, no matter what they do, no matter who the leader is. The party has the right name. It’s all about the brand. That’s not knocking the positive things the Alberta Party is up to, but having the right name gives them a leg up on their competition. Right out of the gate they have an advantage.

There’s been some public bickering about parties merging, but the Alberta Party would be crazy to do it, if it meant adopting the Liberal Party name. If anything, the Liberals should merge with the Alberta Party and adopt their name.

The one thing the Liberals could do to counter the Alberta Party brand is to come up with one which symbolizes Alberta, and that’s the Prairie Party. I’m not going to launch into some poetic description of how the name represents the province, it just does.

The real question is, how long are the Liberals going to sit on the sidelines of Alberta politics as other parties pass them by? My prediction is that the Alberta Party will form the official opposition not after this election, but the election after that (sorry Wild Rose Party). Perhaps when the Alberta Liberals are down to their last member in the Legislature, they’ll consider a name change, but by then it will be too late.

Canadian healthcare – catching up

I’ve had a question about the Canadian healthcare system for a while now, which has been prompted by the endless, vitriolic debate south of the border about private versus public healthcare.

Critics of the Canadian healthcare system point to waiting lists as one of the big failures of our system. Of course this is a problem and it’s something that needs to be dealt with. The scale of the issue is another question.

While our system isn’t perfect, I certainly wouldn’t trade it for the US healthcare system where your coverage could be yanked if you’re just not profitable enough, if you even had health care coverage. The life expectancy of Canadians is higher than Americans too, so we can’t be doing too bad.

What I’ve wondered is how much would it cost to resolve the waiting lists in one year? If we were to spend the money necessary to take care of everyone on the waiting list who can reasonably be attended to, how much would that cost?

Of course that would not include people waiting for transplants. Obviously they can’t get real help until donors become available.

I know that urgent cases will always be moved to the front of the line, but when you’re in that line, your case is the number one priority, in your eyes! And who’s to doubt that? If you need knee or back surgery and can’t work because of it, it’s critical to get that treatment so you can be productive again.

My wife was seriously hurt at work and had an MRI very quickly. She’s been getting treatment and physiotherapy, so our system can work well for particular silos of patients, namely WCB claimants, although WCB claimants have many more issues when it comes to injuries that prevent them from working.

And what would the cost be compared to the costs of having these people languish on waiting lists? Would there be more tax revenue for government to offset that additional cost? If someone were to have to wait for two years on disability to get back surgery, if they were to get the back surgery sooner and get back to work quickly, surely that would be more beneficial to government coffers.

Also, by getting these surgeries done quickly, there would be less damage to undo. The longer someone has to wait, often more damage is done, making the problem worse and, in the end, more expensive.

So, has anyone in government has really looked at the opportunity cost of having all these people who can’t work languishing on waiting lists? When I look at how our governments operate today, I tend to doubt that it’s happened. Maybe someone needs to figure that out.

It would certainly be better in the long run if our healthcare system could keep up with current cases rather than having to deal with surgeries that should have been performed up to two years prior. Maybe that makes too much sense?

Canadian and U.S. healthcare – a debate

I can never resist a good debate, especially when politics is involved. Recently I had the opportunity to debate Canadian versus American healthcare on Facebook. It was short-lived. I guess the person whose Facebook page it was decided they didn’t want the debate there! EAVB_YHQVSKDEAR

No problem. I’ll continue the debate here. I don’t have the original comment about Canadian healthcare, which I don’t remember being particularly negative, or my comment, but I do have the comment I’ll be responding to. Thank you, Facebook, for emailing responses to me.

Here’s the comment (verbatim):

And i’m sorry Alain….you have absolutely no idea what your talking about. Those so called greedy corporations that your mocking…just so happen to be the reason that the U.S. has become the super power that it is. It’s called “free market”. And no thanks to these liberal jack offs in our govt they are ruining what we have spent 200+ years building and defending.

You really wanna get in a debate with me over socialized heath care? Let me tell you a little something about your perfect system.

Do you have any idea how many other countries come to the united states for health care??? You don’t see Americans flocking to Europe or Mexico for heath care do you? Hmmmm i wonder why. Also…do you have any idea where most of the drugs and health treatments come from in the world??? They sure as hell don’t come from Japan. Germany. France. etc. They come from HERE. So educate yourself before you mock my country sir. Here’s just a tidbit on how messed up socialized health care is.

1.In socialized medical systems, the doctors work directly for the state. In Canada (and many other countries with universal care), doctors can run their own private practices, just like they do in the US. The only difference is that every doctor deals with one insurer, instead of 150. And that insurer is the provincial government, which is accountable to the legislature and the voters if the quality of coverage is allowed to slide. which means they control every aspect of your health because your on a federal file….

2.Doctors are hurt financially by single-payer health care. Because they don’t make crap compared to those “evil” american greedy doctors who’s only goal is to take your money. Funny thing is… unlike your “lotto” system when your govt runs outta money to fund your health care. They take whoever no matter who is sicker or not. Ours have the best interest in keeping you alive because if your dead….they don’t get paid!!!

3.You have to wait forever to get a family doctor. where i can choose from any list of private health care providers.

4.Wait times in Canada are horrendous… and on…and on…and on…and on….

So, Trevor, while I don’t have my original comment to refer to, what I do know is that I never claimed the healthcare system in Canada is perfect, but I prefer it to the US system. I readily admit that it’s not perfect.

I also was not mocking the US system, but criticizing it. The US healthcare system is definitely worthy of criticism. How is it that what is arguably the wealthiest country on earth cannot have healthcare for all of its citizens? How many are left out? 10 million? 30 million? Estimates vary, and I’m talking about US citizens, not illegal immigrants.

Even for those who do have healthcare, if you’ve got a health condition under one insurer, you may not have that condition covered if you were to move jobs or try to get a different healthcare provider because it’s a “pre-existing condition” with the new insurer. It effectively turns patients into slaves of those healthcare providers and potentially your employer.

If your health condition was sufficiently serious, you’d be crazy to change jobs, at the risk of your health care coverage ceasing in relation to that condition. How is this considered ethical or just? Is this the kind of society we want? I don’t.

From an economic perspective, it certainly limits labour mobility. That’s not a bad thing from a company perspective, I guess, but not an employee perspective. I can’t imagine an unhealthy employee is going to be particularly productive either.

Also, health care coverage in the US, from what I understand, can also be limited, as you’re saying apparently happens in Canada. I understand that in the US, health care companies routinely decide which procedures will be covered and which won’t. If there’s not a likely positive outcome or it’s not included in your policy, etc, it’s not covered. I’ve also heard of many cases where people had their coverage dropped completely.

That’s a superior system alright. Your coverage gets dropped when you actually need it most.

People say that in Canada bureaucrats decide on treatment, which actually isn’t true. Your doctor decides on the appropriate treatment, and yes, you may need to wait in line. Waiting lists in Canada are a problem that our governments are working on. How successful are they? Jury’s out on that right now. If cases are serious enough, they can be moved up quickly though.

Contrast this with the US where, in my opinion, it’s actually worse. Your case may not be decided by a government bureaucrat, but a corporate one! Brain tumours can’t be a profitable thing, so I can see why companies would routinely deny people coverage for serious medical procedures. After all, if you deny many of the most serious procedures, the shareholders will be happier. Sorry, but I don’t want my case decided on when there’s a profit motive involved. If insurance companies could get away with it, they’d be happy to collect your premiums and never pay anything out

I’m not aware of any countries seeking care in the US, but I know some citizens of other countries do seek care in the US. The US is blessed to have a large number of skilled, experienced and well-trained physicians. There’s no doubt about that. Treatment can happen quickly, provided you have the money. Sometimes governments or private insurers will help to pay the cost.

Sorry Trevor, but Americans are also seeking treatment abroad. It’s called medical tourism. And what is the most common reason for this? Price. Many Americans can’t afford the treatment at home, so they get it elsewhere. That’s a superior system at work. Many Americans also like to buy prescription drugs in Canada. Why? It’s cheaper.

I acknowledge that many leading edge treatments and drugs are developed in the US, but the US is hardly the only place where health treatments and drugs come from. This typifies the ‘ugly American’ attitude that the US is the centre of the universe and ‘how come they don’t do it like we do in the good old U S of A?’ kind of thinking.

I don’t really see the need to start listing off medical discoveries and drugs discovered outside the U S of A. I don’t need to mock the US, but I will criticize it. Don’t take it personally. I criticize the Canadian government too.

Socialism – so what?

The US is 31st at 78.1 years. Even Bosnia is higher.

The funniest thing about the whole healthcare debate in the US is the hysteria over socialism. If our socialized healthcare in Canada is so bad, how is it that Canada is fourth in the world in terms of life expectancy? The US is 31st. Not too hot for what’s supposed to be the best medical system in the world. Looking over the top 10 countries for life expectancy, how many have a socialized healthcare system? Those citizens don’t seem to mind.

I don’t understand the fixation so many Americans have with anything resembling socialism. I guess they look past the socialism at work in their own communities like firehalls, police stations, roads, libraries and other evil, socialist institutions.

How’d you like the firehall to come to your house when it’s burning and leave when they notice you’re not covered by their firehall? Not that it ever happened in America. Or a cop that doesn’t investigate your car being stolen because you don’t pay into their police fund? How about a toll on every single road you travel?

Another way to look at socialism is that it’s a pooling of resources for the common good of a group of people. Countries are kind of like that. It’s community. People unite around a common belief. Nothing wrong with that.

So, who cares if some doctors in socialized medical systems work for the state? Really, who does, other than some Americans? In Canada, our doctors run their own practices and they don’t seem to mind it. We do have some private clinics here and there is some debate about how much private care to allow and how that might work.

In fact, on a per capita basis, Canada spends just over half what the US does on healthcare. Another source of information on per capita spending on healthcare (PDF).

That’s some system in the US that doesn’t cover everyone. Where does all that money go? Seems rather inefficient to have 150 health care insurers with all the overhead to administer each company. It certainly simplifies things from the doctor’s perspective too.

For the record, I don’t believe US doctors are greedy, nor do I believe Canadian doctors are. In fact, I’m sure there are many US doctors pissed off at the whole system there because the decisions on treatment are often decided by the insurers and not them. Your health records are available to private corporations and mine are held by my doctor. The billing information and some treatment info is held by government. So what?

Government accountability, especially on an issue so important to everyone, is a good thing. I’m glad my governments are accountable in that way. Accountability in the US system is elusive at best and non-existent at worst. Health care companies, from what I’ve heard, are the biggest lobbyists on Capitol Hill.

Oh, look at that. Health is in second, just edged out by real estate, finance and insurance. $3.8 billion for lobbying? I think lobbying is synonymous with bribery.

If Canadian doctors have a problem with how much they’re paid here, and they’re paid well, I guess they could go to the US. We still have doctors here. I guess they don’t mind. Physicians and health workers in Canada, as in the US, are consistently among the top earners.

And Trevor, I’m not sure where you get the idea that somehow US physicians have a higher purpose and dedication to keeping you alive because they want to get paid. So Canadian doctors don’t care whether their patients live or die? What an asinine statement. I think that’s also an insult to professional physicians in the US who are doing the best they can for their patients, no matter what.

I think you illustrated the key difference between the US healthcare system and the “evil” socialized healthcare systems around the world: “They take whoever no matter who is sicker or not.” You’re right. Insurers in the US have no interest in you if you’re sick. It’s double jeopardy if you’re sick and don’t have the money to pay. You’re as good as dead in the US then.

At least in socialized healthcare systems you have the opportunity for coverage and treatment. I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is why if you ask most Canadians or citizens of countries with a socialized medical system, they’d never want the US system in their country.

As for getting a family doctor, I’ve never had an issue in finding a family physician here in Canada. I know it’s been tough for some. The same baby boom bubble there is happening here and many doctors are retiring. Our governments in Canada have also made mistakes in the past by restricting the numbers of physicians and nurses being educated. I guess they forgot about statistics.

Free market?

Tell us how you really feel.

Perhaps you haven’t been to Canada. You should come and visit some time. You might find that we also have a free market economy, and a still healthy one at that. How’s that free market working for you lately? Nothing like a little deregulation of the financial, real estate and insurance markets, combined with those “greedy corporations” to unravel your entire economy .

Fortunately, Canada’s economy has remained relatively healthy, all things considered, through the near collapse of the world’s economy. See, a little banking regulation is necessary, despite the attempts by Canadian banks and some Canadian politicians to go the virtually complete deregulation route in the US. Had we done that, we’d be as screwed as the US. I’m not particularly fond of the big banks here, but they’re among the strongest in the world now

I believe in a balanced approach when it comes to regulating business. Regulation and enforcement is needed to protect citizens, employees and consumers, but also to allow business to operate. It’s a sensible, Canadian approach and it’s generally worked pretty well for us here.

What’s happening in the US right now is sad. So many US citizens are still caught up in the “us versus them” style of politics between Democrats and Republicans, but they fail to see that both parties are the same. They’re beholden to special interests and lobbyists and are consistently screwing American citizens.

We can blame much of what is happening right now on the Republicans though. It was under George W. Bush’s reign that the US went from a $250 billion annual surplus from Bill Clinton in 2000 to $1 trillion deficit in 2008. US debt in that time went from about $5 trillion to $10 trillion. So much for the idea that Republicans are brilliant money managers.

I am certainly sympathetic to the plight Obama found himself in: an almost ruined economy and two unfinished wars, one of which was completely unjustified (Iraq – there were no weapons of mass destruction).

Americans have every right to be angry right now, but that anger should mostly be directed at the Republicans for what they did (or didn’t do) during their 8 years in power. That doesn’t absolve the Democrats of their duplicity either.

The problem in the US is far from being the “liberal jack offs” as you say. Your country is being ruined by rampant greed and outright theft of public money. Bush started the ball rolling on paying out companies like Goldman Sachs, Citibank and others with public money. Now the US taxpayer is on the hook for their criminal behaviour. You can’t blame it all on Obama.

If Americans are going to pull out of this nosedive successfully, it relies on Americans seeing their current politicians for who they really are. America used to command a lot of respect around the world, but that is not the case these days. So many Americans still hold outdated views about how the world sees them. Things will only change there when Americans open their eyes to what is really happening and how they’re being screwed by their own government, financially and in many of its corrupt actions around the world. Good luck.

Thoughts on the Alberta Party & Alberta politics

Alberta-Party-logoPolitics in Alberta, it seems, is a blood sport especially when one feels their turf is threatened.

With the reigning Conservatives on the ropes in terms of their approval ratings, the Wildrose Alliance has seen support rise for its party. It seems like a natural thing, since they both occupy similar real estate in the political spectrum.

The Conservatives are especially defensive after the defection of two MLAs to the Wildrose Alliance. This defensiveness apparently has spread to the Wildrose Alliance now that the Alberta Party has merged with the Renew Alberta movement

The Wildrose Alliance has the attack dogs out on the Alberta Party questioning a number of things such as the party apparently suspending its constitution as a result of the merger, appointment of board members, etc.

I had to laugh at Jane Morgan’s claim:

“Sorry to disappoint the WAP detractors; but the WAP has absolutely ZERO to do with this. It’s just lil’ol me typing away on an otherwise boring weekend; trying to get to the bottom of some very bizarre switch-a-roos.”

Using someone else to do your political dirty work, paid or unpaid, is a political tactic as old as the hills and helps politicians maintain plausible deniability. I get the impression Ms. Morgan is now a former party official, though I do not know what role she played in the WAP.

I understand what they’re doing. They’re hoping to frame the debate about the Alberta Party as one that is acting illegitimately, in violation of its constitution and without the support of its members.

The Alberta Party could potentially siphon off support from every party as Alberta voters don’t seem to be satisfied with any party at this point. No surprise that the WAP sees the AP as a threat. WAP would like to be the protest party of choice for Albertans. Having two out there muddies the already very murky political waters.

My view of the Alberta Party

Anyone who knows me, knows I have some strong views on politics and I’m suspicious of political parties in general.

I am interested in what is happening with the Alberta Party and may yet participate in their “Big Listen.” Will I vote for them? I can’t say at this point. It really depends on a number of factors.

I think it’s fair to raise questions about the party’s constitution and how that was handled. Political parties do need to ensure they operate according to the rules they’ve laid out for themselves and to ensure they’re in compliance with any government legislation.

Alberta-Party-Big-ListenI would also like to see what policies develop out of the “Big Listen” process and subsequently at any policy convention. I’m not worried, as some anonymous poster is, that the “Big Listen” is similar language used by Hillary Clinton; oh, and also that poster was concerned about “starting conversations.”

So, Democratic party leadership candidates have a monopoly on listening and starting conversations? Does using similar language mean that you have the same policies? Please. Pull your head out of your ass and start listening. Hell, start a conversation while you’re at it.

A key issue for me is the autonomy of party MLAs and party discipline. I believe in free votes on everything.

Political parties should not impose their will on duly elected MLAs. An MLA should always be free to vote according to their conscience and the will of their local electorate. I don’t believe in small- or large-scale authoritarianism. This is one of my main problems with virtually every political party.

I don’t tend to be a labeler and bristle at attempts to label me. I like ideas from across the political spectrum and, really, I am a centrist if you’d like to use the term. Frankly labeling is an overused American political tactic to short-circuit critical thinking. Many Canadian political parties are importing this tactic. Why? I guess their critical thinking skills have been short-circuited. Judging by the political situation in the US and how well everything is going there, do we really need ANY political tactics or policies imported from there?

Open finances

Another concern of mine is that the Alberta Party’s finances be completely open and transparent. That goes for political campaigns as well as leadership campaigns. I have some serious concerns about WAP leader Danielle Smith hiding her leadership campaign supporters and donations from public scrutiny. What does she have to hide?

Furthermore, how can the WAP leader have a party policy of an “open and comprehensive Freedom of Information Act” as well as wanting to “institute strict conflict of interest guidelines facilitated through the Provincial Ethics Commissioner’s office” yet not have her leadership campaign fully open to public scrutiny?

It seems more politics as usual. Money talks and I wonder what money is talking to Danielle Smith? I can bet I know. It’s the same money that talks to everyone in politics in Alberta. That concerns me.

The energy lobby in Alberta is obviously tremendously powerful. We need governments that are transparent, open and not unduly influenced by any lobby. We need a government that implements policies that are in the best interests of Albertans as a whole and do not cater to any lobby.

The citizens of Alberta elect governments, not businesses. That’s not to say that business is not important. It’s not a dichotomy. A balanced approach is appropriate. I’ve been a Chamber of Commerce director and I am fully aware of the needs of small business. I also know that governments tend to focus more on the needs of large business, typically at the expense of small business.

I also believe in a balanced regulatory approach between government and business. The economic meltdown we’re still in is proof that there has to be regulation of business. Business operating without regulation is, quite simply, stupid. Government’s role is to look out for the public interest. Laws and enforcement of those laws is how we keep things fair for everyone.

The supposed architect of the boom and bust, Alan Greenspan, a noted Ayn Rand sycophant, admitted he was wrong about essentially letting business regulate itself. How is it that some could claim one group, government, can’t sufficiently look after the public interest, yet put blind faith in business to do the same? It’s either stupidity, willful ignorance or outright duplicity.

Looking to Alberta’s future

Unfortunately, Alberta governments really haven’t looked that far into the future, looking more towards the next election and staying in power. We need governments that are looking generations ahead. We haven’t had it here. In fact, most governments operate much like large corporations, by the quarter, it seems. Maybe it would pay for Alberta governments to think of Alberta citizens as shareholders? We do have all the voting rights and should be the ones collecting the dividends.

This short-term thinking has to stop. We are facing serious issues on this planet, and while the Alberta government, whatever its political stripe, isn’t going to solve them, it can play a role in not making those problems worse and also look after the interests of Albertans.

These are just some of the things I will be looking at in the Alberta Party. I’ll give them a fair shot, like I have with every other political party. For now I am willing to engage in the listening and conversation, and so should every Albertan because the discussion transcends just one political party.