In 2015 a man I developed a strong respect for as he ran for various political offices ran to become MP of my federal constituency. I had a long phone call with him one night. The most important question I asked him was “I’ve come to know you as a socially progressive, fiscally conservative man, but I’ve also seen such people enter the conservative world and either not be allowed to speak their social progressiveness or simply lose it altogether. How are you going to maintain your principles and prevent that from happening?”
At the time, John Barlow told me that nothing about politics was worth his character, and that he would still maintain it. So I told him “as long as that remains true, you have my support.”
I’m a man of my word.
In February of 2016, Barlow appeared beside actor Bernard the Roughneck, and that was my first glimpse that something was up.
In October of 2016, one year into office, he voted against including gender identity and expression in Human Rights legislation and the Criminal Code as prohibited grounds of discrimination, despite that vote being supported by other conservatives.
Another year later he endorsed Jason Kenney as leader of the United Conservative Party of Alberta.
Over the rest of the term thus far, Barlow has shown himself not to be a social progressive anymore.
This is important to note, because it provides evidence that you are the company you keep.
Jason Kenney’s leadership campaign is under investigation for fraudulent emails and votes. His campaign is also linked to allegations of a “kamikaze” Jeff Callaway whose only job was to siphon votes from competitor Brian Jean. So far a $15,000 obstruction of an investigation charge, and thousands of dollars of fines for irregular donations has been handed out. An application for an injunction to the investigation was quashed by an Alberta judge. And that is just so that Kenney could become leader of the new UCP.
It's not the only place this kind of nonsense has allegedly occurred. In my own backyard, former MLA for Highwood Wayne Anderson and Carrie Fischer (two people I have come to respect despite having lost to them in the 2015 election) have both submitted complaints of irregularities in the nomination race for Highwood. Alongside these complaints are allegations of sexual misconduct within the Highwood constituency association. Frankly, these allegations do not come as a surprise, because linked to both the Highwood constituency association and the kamikaze campaign is conservative operative Wendy Adam, who also once called the #MeToo movement an affront to her gender.
Across Alberta we see UCP Candidates being removed from candidacy for not having been forthright with their contributions, xenophobic comments and homophobia. Before that we saw many nomination candidates in hot water for xenophobia in Edmonton, Brooks-Medicine Hat, Calgary-Glenmore, Calgary-Shaw and Calgary-North, not to mention the homophobic attacks planned in Calgary-Shaw and the acceptance of illegal corporate donations in Red Deer South.
Even within the folds of the candidates who are remaining standing there is a litany of homophobes, xenophobes, climate-change deniers and misogynists. Start with one candidate who called homosexuality akin to pedophilia, move over to a candidate who sought to fund Nazi and anti-Semitic propogandists, carry on to another who claimed the United Nations was trying to take over Canada’s border, strafe to two candidates (and a failed one) who stood shoulder to shoulder with white nationalists, shuffle to a replacement candidate who seems to have supported a “gay conversion” program, slide to a misogynist demanding women give their husbands “respect and sex” to make their husbands better, shimmy to a climate-change denier who called environmentalism “unspeakable stupidity”, and glide to another candidate who called climate change a “hoax”. And don’t forget leader Jason Kenney has a history of his own in denying basic human rights to people who identify as LGBTQ+.
Moreover, each of the UCP candidates and their volunteers must be okay with all this attack on humanity. Kenney and the UCP Board have the right to deny any of these people from flying the UCP banner, but they don’t, and in some cases they even support the “diversity of opinions”.
There is a difference between “diversity of opinions” and “hate”.
Calling Muslims “Satan-worshippers” is hate.
Calling homosexuality akin to pedophilia is hate.
Denying homosexuals the right to visit their partners in the hospital is hate.
And this isn’t limited to the UCP, although obviously the UCP has the bigger budget. The Alberta Advantage Party makes no bones about wanting to do away with GSAs, and being selective about immigration.
So it comes as no surprise when we see swastikas, racism and phallic symbols drawn on election signs across the province.
If you can’t stand the NDP that much (which, frankly, I won’t blame you for, as they have some serious problems including a $2 billion electricity boondoggle, poor management of minimum wage, an incomplete pipeline with no solution in sight, and much more), there are other options that don’t require you to abandon your human decency.
If what you really want to do is stick it to the rest of Canada who doesn’t seem to give two beavers about Alberta, go for the Alberta Independence Party (although do be prepared for an infrastructure deficit as they move to get rid of all taxes).
If that’s not your main goal, but rather you would like to stick it to the NDP, consider the Alberta Party who have some pretty sound and researched policies (although do be prepared to have another government who wasn’t prepared to govern).
If you hate the corporate world, consider the Green Party, but don’t expect much more than environmental policy … they simply have no plan elsewhere.
For just a moment, forget that you hate the NDP. Forget the reasons why you hate the NDP. We as Albertans need to decide if we really are okay with homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, climate-change denial and electoral fraud.
Because if you are, go ahead, vote UCP, and be the company you keep.
Yesterday was Student Vote at my school. The conversation around it was quite enlightening.
One 13-year-old student actually broke down into tears because he was genuinely afraid that should the NDP be elected again, it would ruin our province.
I wonder where he learned that gross generalization.
A 16-year-old student also broke down into tears, because he was genuinely afraid that a UCP government would see his safe and caring school turn into a factory of test-takers.
He was a bit closer to reality.
It doesn’t matter who runs our province when it comes to the economy. Oil’s boom and bust is still going to continue, and so as long as our economy continues to be based on that we’re going to continue to feel economic lurches.
Albertans are highly educated innovators with the ability to drive our economy forward if given the opportunity. No elected government is going to stop Albertans from being who they are. It is Albertans who are going to bring our province to some form of economic stability through their innovation, not elected governments.
All we need, then, is for Albertans to be educated innovators. Our best investment in our economy, therefore, is our education system. That is where any elected government has the greatest impact on our province’s future success.
4 years after all the attacks had been put to rest as grossly uninformed politicians trying to tell teachers how to teach, they’re back for more.
The UCP dredges up the old “Taskforce on Teaching Excellence”, because it was so effective at whipping up discord 5 years ago, and that’s what the UCP wants, is such discord as to incite fear of the wicked NDP. The UCP’s platform includes 7 points on curriculum, each of which shows they put the same amount of research into what education is as did the “Taskforce” of 5 years ago; dangerously little. Yet here they are, doubling down on debunked data, and receiving the thoroughly politically-whipped former Education Minister Jeff Johnson’s endorsement for doing so.
It’s the Revenge of the Fifth, and the “Taskforce” is not with us.
They claim the curriculum review belongs to the NDP, despite being started by the PC Government, and that it was underconsulted and “secretive” when it in fact is among the best consulted curricular review documents in provincial history. They demand the use of teaching methods that produce the best outcomes without having done any research to find out what those methods are. They say that “phonics” are a proven method, but they ignore the fact that fonix wen yoozd alon iz not sufishent. They call for “proven math instruction methods”, but in the same document ignore some proven math instruction methods because they could be considered “discovery” or “inquiry” education simply because they don’t know what it is (it’s obvious they don’t know, because they later call for “open, critical debate and thinking as key to lifelong learning”, which is exactly what discovery and inquiry education includes). Refer back to my third installment of my series discussing why such strategies are not actually part of curriculum, but are simply strategies teachers use out of their vast toolbox of strategies to ensure every learner is given the best opportunity for success possible. The UCP, by telling teachers they can’t use one of the tools in their toolbox, are in effect being politicians who are trying to tell teachers how to teach.
The UCP also want to bring us back to assessment strategies that have been discounted by mounds and mounds of research, including Grade 3 Provincial Achievement Tests (or PATs), 50%-weighted diploma exams, and even adding standardized high stakes tests in each Grades 1, 2 and 3. They say they’ve walked those ideas back, yet they still sit firmly planted in their election platform. Make no mistake, when you vote UCP, you are voting for increasing anxiety for elementary students because they are being forced to take test after test after test. Grade 12 students will be set up at a disadvantage compared to all other Grade 12 students across Canada. We know these things don’t work, that is why the PC government started to get rid of them. That’s right, the PCs did that (you know, one of the UCP legacy parties), not the NDP.
The UCP want to see Alberta’s Education system “benchmarked” against leading global jurisdictions, yet they don’t have any clue how to do that. Alberta’s Education system is already at the top of the world, and the leading experts in our system, being the teachers, are constantly asked for advice from other jurisdictions. Why would we benchmark against someone else when we’re already a leader in education implementation and research? Often the UCP refers to PISA, an international “standard” organization, and fully ignores the fact that PISA has been thoroughly debunked as an education system assessment and political policy tool.
The UCP pull out recommendations from the Taskforce almost verbatim. Rather than detail in verbatim again why that Taskforce was so completely out of touch, I invite you to read my second blog on the topic. If you’re not interested in reading that far, suffice it to say teacher professional and practice review is already exceptionally rigorous, and that suggesting teachers require “testing” by a politician who has no educational expertise is demeaning and offensive, and that allowing for alternative pathways to teaching certification will in actual fact erode the quality of teaching and education in our province.
They also pull out the old Education Act which was fraught with problems which, if implemented, would include free school until age 21 (go ahead and fail, taxpayers will still fund your education, and in rural schools you’d still be in the same building as kindergarteners), school fees coming back, removal of more rigorous teacher quality standards, and removal of protections for LGBTQ+ students.
Let me be clear; absolutely no person should ever be given the right to “out” a student without that student’s consent. This would be true if the child was being “outted” for being gay, or being “outted” for wanting to be a musician instead of a doctor, or being “outted” for choosing one religion over another. The Education Act would place that expectation in teacher’s hands, and it would relax requirements for private schools to accommodate LGBTQ+ students. Make no mistake, LGBTQ+ students in Alberta will not be safer in our schools if this were to come to pass.
Although it isn’t in their platform document, the UCP have also gone on record saying they’d seek to remove principals from the Alberta Teachers’ Association. They ignore the fact that principals are in such positions because they are teachers first, not because they are business managers separate from the teaching profession. The professional and pedagogical integrity of our schools is largely due to the fact that our principals are teachers, will always be teachers, and are considered leaders in our field. Yet the UCP wants to see them removed from our profession.
The UCP platform, plain and simple, is an attack on education. Even the Alberta Teachers’ Association, who is a world authority on education implementation and research yet is a non-partisan organization, released a statement refuting the value of the vast majority of the UCP education platform, a highly unusual move for the organization. It’s obvious the UCP have no interest in listening to educational experts.
Our children’s education is not only at risk, it is under attack, and our future economy cannot afford it.
It’s been an interesting ride since 2015. We knew the election of the NDP would mess with our orientation in Alberta Politics. But this has simply got to stop.
Since I heard about the specifics of Haley’s condition, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and learning. I’m no healthcare professional, but I have been able to glean some details that allows me to speak a bit more confidently about it. The most important detail is that the drug Haley needs, Soliris (Eculizumab), is not approved for use with her condition, despite reports of it working for the very few others around the world who have it. The pharmaceutical company who holds the rights to Soliris has no financial incentive to seek out the drug’s approval. And Alberta won’t accept it’s use because there isn’t enough data to support it.
It's a rare disease. Getting the research volume Alberta Health is asking for is simply not possible. But the research that does exist is more than promising.
Research or not, it's a $700,000/year drug. There is no way that Haley’s family can float that amount.
It’s not like it’s a drug that will incapacitate her with side-effects, either. There are side-effects, but not much different than some people’s side-effects to antibiotics.
But Haley’s life is on the line. I’m not being melodramatic about it either. Within 10 years of having the condition, kidneys shut down, so a transplant would be needed. Haley is in year 7. But the disease isn’t even in her kidneys, so she’d have a high likelihood of damaging the new kidneys, too. The medical regiment she would have without Soliris is significantly limiting, to the point where she may not be able to contribute to the society she so desperately wants to enjoy.
She wants to be a nurse. Because while under treatment, other nurses have been so uplifting for her. She calls it her vocation, her calling, to help other kids when they are in tough times. Something she can’t do if she isn’t healthy herself.
In a letter I sent to Health Minister Sarah Hoffman, I point out that this wouldn’t be the first time that Alberta has found funding for medication that hasn’t yet been approved in Alberta, for another child with a different rare condition. Other jurisdictions, namely the National Health Service in England, are seeking approval for Soliris for others with Haley’s condition. But for some reason Alberta isn’t willing to give Soliris, the only drug that has shown efficacy at all for others with Haley’s condition, a chance.
This is where Wayne Anderson has been called upon for help, and now Brian Jean is bringing it directly to the Premier.
Now credit where it’s due. Premier Notley rightly states that it shouldn’t be politicians making the decision, but rather healthcare professionals. Brian Jean was obviously reading from a script, and missed the point he should have made at that response.
That point was that it IS the healthcare professionals who are telling Haley to use Soliris. Dr. Julian Midgley, a specialist in the field discussing Haley’s condition, has recommended Soliris despite it not having received approval. Why on earth would a professional do that unless they were absolutely convinced it was the best, nay, the only way forward? Why is the Alberta Government not listening to this healthcare professional?
If this scenario was about someone asking for a drug that would simply improve their quality of life, certainly the conversation would be completely different. But this scenario is about trying to ensure that the basic health of a 17-year-old Albertan is maintained, and it is the health care system’s duty to ensure it. At this point it isn’t, not for Haley.
I’ve joined Wayne Anderson (and now Brian Jean) in asking the government to reconsider their position. There is precedent. There is supporting research. There are other jurisdictions seeking approval. But most importantly, there is a young Albertan with dreams and aspirations of her own, to help others who are sick. For someone going through what she has, there is no higher calling.
What more could the province of Alberta want?
When I started this blog series, I was trying my hardest to make the questions open-ended to let the candidates take it where they wanted, making their platforms apparent. Yet in doing so, some of my readers felt as though some topics were missed.
Knowing me, it's no surprise those topics I heard were the Arts and Youth. After all, I surround myself with Artists and Youth.
The Arts seems to have wide support amongst the candidates, but the different approaches are what sets them apart. Terry Coleman would like to remove barriers for Arts Initiatives as a way of working with the Arts community. Jamie Kinghorn touts his direct involvement, and recognizes that in terms of "Culture", we have a significant immigrant population that should be included in our concept of community. Sandra Wiebe points out that Arts are not just an aesthetic, but also an industry and an approach to the look and feel of community. Michael Nychyk discusses a potential financial solution led by Council to support the Arts in the form of a development levy that can be directed to Arts programming or capital projects. From the perspective of an Arts Advocate myself, each of these approaches are necessary for Arts to thrive; the question ends up being "which approach is more accessible for a 365-day Councillor?"
With regards to youth, there were a few similarities once again, but each had their own perspective as to the manner in which youth should be supported. First, it should be clear that each candidate seemed to agree that the term "youth" refers to people under the age of 30, and most discussed this category as young families. Both Coleman and Kinghorn referred to a Youth Committee and consulting them for ideas forward. Wiebe focused on the public spaces and safety for youth in those spaces. Nychyk referred largely to the need for economic development to encourage a youth population, pointing out that High River's youth population remains much smaller compared to other locations. However, both Kinghorn and Wiebe also pointed out that there is a plethora of activities available for youth.
Finally, I gave the candidates an opportunity to sell themselves to the voter one last time. In their final bid for your votes, candidates once again showed their knowledge, experience and aptitude for the role. The differences between them in their final statements were more about nuance than about glaring differentiation. Coleman's experience outside of High River can be coupled with his experience inside High River. Kinghorn has a clear understanding of what the role entails, having done it before and having stayed immersed in it. Wiebe touts her communication skills, and the fact that she is "a citizen just like you". Nychyk has also remained immersed in the goings-on of Town, and claims to be a good fit with Council. With as many credentials, approaches and similarities as there are, it really leaves a voter wondering what it is they should do.
But that is for a different blog.
Candidates Responses Part 3
The Town of High River has a vibrant Arts community. What initiatives would you pursue as elected Councillor to support and grow the Arts in High River?
Our High River's Vital Signs report shows High River has a sizeable youth population. Yet youth find few activities and entertainment available to them with the exception of organized sport. What solutions would you promote for youth in High River?
Do you have anything to add that you think will make the difference in convincing voters to cast their ballot for you? This is your opportunity to market yourself.
It was likely an informative evening for the current Councillors who were in attendance as well. As I mentioned to one Councillor, it must be gratifying to hear how many things the residents support the current Council in doing, even if they didn’t realize Council was working on them.
For example, some residents didn’t know Council had already approved the removal of the 12th Avenue sandbags. Some residents didn’t know how taxes were calculated. Some residents didn’t know that user fees for the recreation centre are established by a committee of residents. Candidates were able to not only inform residents about how these things happen, but the questions showed that they approve of the current Council’s direction, even if they didn’t know they approved of it.
So how did the candidates perform? The good news is that they all performed very genuinely. Not a single individual at that head table came across as canned, plastic or curated. Voters can count on the “what you see is what you get” feel of their choice. Each of them are also very well-qualified in their own way.
I am excited to say that I could easily see any one of them in that vacant seat on Council, and feel confident with their work. But alas, only one gets to win, so …
One place where every candidate shone was on the highest contentious issue of secondary suites. A number of audience members spoke to the issue, and were joined by choruses of agreement from those who came to listen. Each candidate stated something unique about the issue, which shouldn’t be surprising considering its complexity, but in doing so each showed they had done some research into the topic. Wiebe first mentioned the Town Plan which seeks to increase density, but argued that secondary suites was not the way to do it. Coleman rightly pointed out that the “policing” of illegal secondary suites seemed to be largely inadequate. Kinghorn offered that it is a province- and country-wide problem that requires collaborative effort with other municipalities, and even suggested that a secondary suite should be classified as such if someone other than the family is living in a unit. Nychyk pointed out that it cannot be as simple as that, especially with a large immigrant population whose norm it is to have multigenerational family units in the same dwelling. The unfortunate news for voters is that there are no simple answers, and no single candidate will provide the silver thread that ties everything together into a nice tidy package. The great news is that they can be guaranteed that no matter who gets in, they’ve all considered it, and are ready to dive into those discussions head-first.
There were a variety of questions that ended up having similar answers throughout the night. How do you encourage businesses back in, boarded up houses to recover, young families to move in, additional facilities for Seniors, and the Arts? In each of these questions the answer was common; support the Economic Development department because through economic development all of these other issues will be addressed. That also means that each candidate is acutely aware of the necessary support Economic Development requires, and are ready to give that support.
In byelections, the best strategy for a candidate is to set yourself up as the one every other candidate is trying to beat, and forums help to solidify that stance. No candidate did that yet with a significant amount of certainty. If there was a candidate or two who had the opportunity to do that last night, they did not capitalize, and instead the other candidates closed the gap. This election is still anyone’s game, and anything can happen in the last week.
See all the installments of the Byelection series by WindyJMusic:
Stirring the Pot in High River
The 365-Day Councillor
Dance a Little Sidestep
Post-Forum Mashup: Keeping It Classy
Bonus Round: Taking Your Questions
What's a Voter in High River to do?
As a post-script, the byelection night was not without shenanigans. An audience member chose to grandstand in support of a candidate with obvious intent to shame the other candidates, and in doing embarrassed another audience member, devalued every community-minded citizen’s contribution to High River, and stunned the candidate’s panel and moderator. I’m not even sure the candidate receiving the support was even aware of what was going on because it was so out-of-place. Grandstands like that have no place in Canada.
I’m sure the vast majority of High Riverites do not need the reminder to stay classy. The respect each candidate showed one another was incredible and illuminated High River’s true nature. With leaders like these on our Council, we will have no problems remaining High River Strong. Let’s make sure we follow their lead.
As one would expect, the completion of the southwest berm is a priority for each candidate, with only Jamie Kinghorn suggesting the delay may mean a different plan may be necessary. But some similar themes emerged elsewhere in these responses, including accessibility for everyone including those with mobility issues must be maintained, and patience with the construction. However what we find in these questions about flood recovery, Downtown, secondary suites and community-led initiatives is that there are now far more differences between the candidates.
"Walkable" High River is a large target for the current Council, and each candidate supports it. Michael Nychyk rightly points out that the construction Downtown is not because we wanted to make town more "walkable", but rather that infrastructure required repairs following the flood; upgrading the look and feel of Downtown is simply taking advantage of the timing of the rebuild to reimagine a vibrant Downtown. Jamie Kinghorn, Sandra Wiebe and Terry Coleman focused on the economic impacts of the Downtown design, with Coleman being specific about not wanting the Downtown to be "a medical center". Wiebe and Nychyk also discussed the healthy-living and community components of a "walkable" High River.
The issue of parking shows the most significant contrasts between candidates so far. Kinghorn suggests that the vast majority of residents are disappointed with parking and is worried about problems amplifying with the completion of the provincial building. Wiebe and Nychyk, on the other hand, indicated they felt the issue of parking has been exaggerated, and encourage the physical activity of walking. Both Coleman and Nychyk indicated that communities are dynamic, and review would be necessary, with Coleman being quite specific about how that might look. Kinghorn, Nychyk and Coleman offered some ideas for solutions, but each referred to consultation to get to the best solution.
Where the issue of secondary suites is concerned, once again there is a clear difference amongst candidates. Kinghorn demonstrated a strong understanding of many of the various sides of the issue, and suggests that the solution can't be found in High River alone, but must be done in collaboration with other communities. Wiebe was interested in supporting the existence of secondary suites to deal with affordable housing issues.
Each candidate points out that economic recovery for the community should encourage the rebuild of empty houses in "swiss cheese" communities, but the assessments of "the real problem" are what sets candidates apart. Kinghorn states a solution must be found because empty non-taxpaying houses impact everyone else's taxes, but solutions must be approached on an individual basis. Nychyk offers that the best solution is to keep the public areas around these properties in good repair, and that attractiveness will help. Each candidate suggests incentives are required.
Improved marketing and communications are the orders of the day according to Kinghorn and Wiebe when it comes to community-led activities. Coleman instead wants to get rid of reducing red tape and barriers to success, while also helping people to be stronger community supporters.
Many of my readers (and my students) have asked questions that did not get covered by candidates' responses in my original questions. As a result, I sent out another request for responses to candidates over the Thanksgiving weekend (and told them not to answer until they had turkey). So you will see a "Bonus Round" blog later this week to cover the questions you have raised.
In the meantime, on Tuesday night (October 11) from 7:00 to 9:00 PM you will find me at the Highwood Memorial Centre for the All Candidates Forum hosted by the High River and District Chamber of Commerce. It leads into my next blog in this series, the "Post-Forum Mashup".
Candidate Responses Part 2
The southwest berm has not yet been completed, and other flood mitigation projects are underway. Which of these projects do you deem most important, and how do you intend to approach these projects if elected?
Downtown is constantly under construction moving towards a vision of a "walkable High River". What, in your opinion, is the value of a "walkable High River"? If you support it, how exactly will you do so. If you do not support it, how will you see that issue addressed?
Another issue in the Downtown region is parking, or a perceived lack thereof. If you see it as a significant issue, do you intend during your term to address this issue? If you do not believe it to be an issue, how do you intend to address the fact that many have such concerns?
The Land-Use Bylaw, particularly with attention to secondary suites, seems to be an ongoing issue. What solutions are you hoping to achieve with respect to secondary suites, and how will you work toward those solutions?
Following the flood, there remains "swiss cheese" communities and business areas, where vacancies exist. What role will you take as Councillor in addressing these vacancies to help rebuild these communities?
Community-minded people build a sense of community. How will you, as Councillor, encourage the continued development of community through citizen-led initiatives? Are there any initiatives you envision that must instead be Town-led to achieve prosperity?
Perhaps I'm a little mean to the candidates.
I asked big questions. They required big answers. So to flush this out a little better, I've split their responses into 3 posts, this being the first.
To their credit, 3 of 4 candidates answered them as quickly and as completely as they could. I'm still waiting to hear back from the fourth. I also offer the candidates a chance to change their responses at any time, but once their first response is posted I will be clear about the changes they send me.
These first questions didn't do much to show the differences between the candidates positions, but their approaches are quite different. I provide a synopsis (so that if you are only reading this while on the toilet, you won't have to read too much), but if you want to get into the meat of their responses, they are further down this blog.
In the interests of full disclosure, I've also shared many of these things with my students, who provided me with their own reactions. Some of those reactions are reflected in this blog.
The first thing to note is that each of the candidates are strong proponents of community, and have volunteered in a wide variety of different ways. They are also apparent fans of the current Council's general direction. But that's where the similarities stop.
At this point, Jamie Kinghorn, Michael Nychyk and Terry Coleman are the candidates with a clearly defined vision for their 365-day term. As methods of providing incentive for economic recovery, Kinghorn focuses on the budget while Nychyk focuses on completion of outstanding projects. The budget gets debated right away at the end of October, so the new Councillor will be able to make their biggest stamp there. There are a great many started and unfinished projects though, and completing these will make the Town far more business-ready. Sandra Wiebe offers that she will simply learn where she is needed most, and go there. Coleman in contrast is focused on the Land-Use Bylaw, as with his 365 days he feels that is where he can be most impactful.
Kinghorn and Nychyk also look outside the Town to our neighbours, with Kinghorn focusing on intermunicipal committees, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) and the Province of Alberta, while Nychyk eyes the Calgary Regional Partnership and all levels of government to help with infrastructure. As the AUMA had a large gathering this week, that seems appropriately timed, and the AUMA has been very supportive of the Disaster Recovery Program Advisory Committee's work. Consideration of the Province with regards to the impending changes to the Municipal Government Act is also apropos. High River recently rejoined the Calgary Regional Partnership, and the most recent visible result is the town's participation in the On-It Regional Transit routes.
Neither Nychyk nor Wiebe have constructive criticisms to offer Council, but Kinghorn has a few words focusing on the construction of a major recreation complex, and on Council's willingness to listen to concerns about downtown parking. Kinghorn's views may be caused by a lack of movement on the Master Recreation Plan proposal presented earlier this year, and the fact that Council tends not to bend to the will of some naysayers. Meanwhile, Coleman is focused on safety with regards to hazardous materials transportation, traffic flow and Land-Use. This may be of significant importance, especially with all the construction going on, and the emergency bottleneck that is the Centre Street Bridge.
The differences in this first section seem small, until you ask about how they will work with non-government groups. Here, a chasm begins to open. Kinghorn points to his extensive volunteer resumé adding that he can be a voice for those groups to Council. Nychyk points out the fact that High River has as many community leaders as it does is in part due to supportive programming to help get them there. Wiebe suggests she would join or meet with groups when needs arise, and Coleman is concise in his desire to have face-to-face interactions.
This is just the first group of questions. The next group of questions are more issue-specific, including flood mitigation, walkability vs. parking, and secondary suites.
Watch for the next blog, where I try my best to at least feign impartiality.
Candidate Responses Part 1
Recently the High River Times published a biography on you. Is there anything you wish to add that the newspaper did not include that will help voters learn about what experience and expertise you will bring to the role of Councillor?
You only have one year in this term. What is your first and most significant priority during this term?
What are some of the directions the current Council is taking that you are most pleased with?
What are some of the directions the current Council is taking that you think require addressing?
What ways do you see yourself working with other government organizations (neighbouring municipalities, provincial, federal) during this term if elected?
How do you see yourself collaborating with non-governmental organizations in your role as Councillor if elected?
Minimum wage recently took another jump. Some are bleating that this will kill our economy. Others are bleating that if we don’t increase minimum wage, current minimum wage earners will make less than the cost of impoverished living.
Way to go, divisive politics, you’ve done away with common sense once again.
Minimum wage does not have to jump up 50% in 3 years. However it isn’t unreasonable to want employers to pay a reasonable amount so that their employees can enjoy a basic standard of living. But that isn’t a minimum wage you are arguing for, that’s a living wage.
The key difference is that a minimum wage is a mandated amount for all workers in a jurisdiction. A living wage will differ from one region to another. As an example, Calgary’s living wage is $18.15/hour, Medicine Hat’s living wage is $13.00/hour. So a minimum wage of $15.00/hour (which is Alberta's target in October 2018) is far more than a living wage in the deep south of Alberta, but not high enough to be a living wage in our big cities.
Minimum wage is a blunt instrument used for the wrong purpose. It can’t be treated as the only means to achieve a living wage. Instead, as has been done successfully in B.C. and Ontario, we must work to make living wage be a decision made by employers, responsive to the local cost of living, interested in creating peace of mind for their employees, and therefore having far more productive employees. Minimum wage is not that tool, but it can help start that conversation.
But in Alberta, the NDP has chosen this blunt instrument to get to the living wage, and the very real risk is a loss of jobs. Rachel Notley is even aware of this, with easy access to a 2010 study in Québec about what the minimum wage increase will mean for jobs. That study recommends a minimum wage that is 42% of the average wage will cause the best reduction in income inequality while causing the least impact on the jobs market. Even so, Notley says she doesn’t expect any jobs to be lost due to minimum wage.
She is relying on a turn of phrase, and an uninformed voter to be able to make that statement with confidence.
What Notley means to say is that we should not expect any jobs to be lost due to the minimum wage alone. Add in the carbon tax, beer tax, and a dismal showing of support for our economy, and absolutely jobs will be lost.
She’s also relying on the fact that 42% of the average wage in Alberta ($29.54/hour - incidentally I started writing this blog a week ago, when the average wage was over a quarter lower at $29.21) is a a couple of dimes more than the newly-raised minimum wage. According to that Quebec study, that means job losses shouldn’t be noticeable. Notley knows this, and so has had a free pass to blame job losses on other factors, like the economy or the federal Liberals who don’t approve pipelines quickly enough.
However, when that increase comes again next year, it will increase the ratio to 45% of the average wage, and in 2018 it increases again up to 50%. If the Quebec study is any predictor, that will translate to a loss of approximately 24,000 jobs in 2017, and a further 40,000 jobs after that.
And those are just the jobs that actually get reported.
What about the jobs that just simply disappear? Mom and Pop shops can see these wage increases coming, and when someone vacates a job for any reason, they are likely to seriously consider whether or not they want to fill that empty position. A position that goes empty and just never gets filled is not a laid-off position, but make no mistake, it is most certainly a job lost.
These kinds of job losses are already happening. One business in High River I am aware of has simply chosen not to fill 50 hours/week left open by vacating staff members. But because nobody reports these as positions that are cut, Notley’s NDP will never notice them.
And darn those evil Mom and Pop shops for not being willing to pay their employees a living wage! Those people have no care and consideration!
Please, please, please, please, please don’t forget that Mom and Pop are Albertans too.
Consider small town Alberta, where many small business owners exist. These small business owners don’t have a large operation that have more latitude to absorb this increase in the cost of labour. They likely also don’t have a large clientele that they can distribute this extra cost across. No indeed, they will be forced to either raise their prices quite noticeably, or simply get rid of those jobs/let those jobs disappear. If they don’t, how can these small business owners make their own living wage?
Raising prices puts them at a real risk of losing their clientele to Amazon or to the big cities. And having worked with many of these small businesses, not a single one of them wants to lose an employee, much less take on the extra workload without that employee. But they will make that decision, and as they don’t have a demographic of 1,000,000 people to serve, they lose their viability. It’s not a poor business model, it’s the reality of the labour of love that is running a small business in small towns.
This is no small issue for small business in small towns. And when a small town’s economy takes a hit like this, the whole town does.
What’s the solution? Change course. According to the study suggesting what the perfect balance is, we’re already there. Continue with that study’s recommendation to index the minimum wage to the average wage. If every year we index the minimum wage to 42% of the average wage, we can always expect a properly proportional increase that manages income inequality while not cause a major expense in the jobs market.
If you really want, make like a Canadian and round it to the nearest nickel.
But the current course is on a sure path to attack our economy. Our small towns can’t take any more.