A recent column in the Calgary Sun suggested that Premier Alison Redford's announcement of policy on disaster relief funding for future floods was poorly timed, and not sensitive to the needs of High Riverites. "The premier truly is politically tone deaf," charges the Editorial.
Pot, meet kettle.
Imagine a scenario when you have been unable to enter your flood-ravaged home for 3 weeks, and when you finally do, nothing in your house is salvageable because of the high quantities of mould. You start cleaning up, and very shortly are asking "what for?" This is what thousands of High Riverites are doing as I type this.
Now imagine this scenario with no announcements from the province or municipal governments explaining what's next. Some people move away, because they can't handle the recovery. If they don't get disaster relief funding, they declare bankrupcy and hope for the best in the future. Others stay, use whatever funding they can get to return the house to liveable state, but will never be able to sell it because no government is saying whether or not they will be covered for future events. Then, 3 years later, after another political election, the government is in the "safe" zone and can make the controversially timed announcement that they will not get covered if they didn't move.
If that were to actually happen (which thankfully it won't), I would join the riots.
High Riverites are stronger people than the Calgary Sun gives us credit for. We don't need our Premier to stroke our hair and say "there there, there there." We need our Premier to say "don't build there again, and here's some relief funding to help you make that decision."
Good political decisions are those that are made in the best interests of all Albertans, regardless of the sensitivity of the timing.
Now this policy is a good one for all Albertans, not just High Riverites. Not making the announcement would have been far less sensitive to our needs.
That being said, the announcement is devoid of detail. We could look at the current Alberta Environment Flood Mapping application, but it is now badly out of date. Compare the two pictures below.
The first is Alberta Environment's Flood Mapping app. The second is a map of the affected areas in the Town of High River's re-entry plan. Notice how Alberta Environment said there was no risk of floods in the yellow, and yet that is where all the standing water is?
People who were in those yellow areas, yet still flooded out anyway, don't even know if they are in a flood plain or flood fringe zone. There was never any indication that they were in danger, so that's why they built there. Now what?
All levels of government need to double ... no, quintuple their efforts to get those flood mapping applications updated with current data, so those people who never expected flooding was a possibility will know whether or not that is still the case.
Then, when it comes to mitigation, we must make decisions that make sense.
The Province says "don't build in a flood plain". Assuming we know where that flood plain is, I'm sure every High Riverite will say "thanks, I hadn't figured that out yet."
But then the Province says "if you are in the flood fringe, fortify against floods." Then I see what Alberta Environment's idea of fortification looks like.
You don't need to be an engineer to see the problem here. If every municipality allowed the building of many flood proofed areas, floodway and flood fringe levels would rise, the flood hazard areas would change, and we'd be back to square one.
Simply flood proofing is obviously not the best course of action if it is the only course of action. There must be more. Building berms or dykes aren't the best options either for the same reason. The reason water levels rise is because they have nowhere else to go. You build a berm to prevent the water from flowing, it goes somewhere else. You build a dyke to divert the water, once it arrives at its destination, it still needs somewhere to go.
I'm no expert at this. But this much I can figure out for myself. There are experts elsewhere in the world that can help us out with this. Ask those who manage the mighty Mississippi. Ask those in the Netherlands who deal with floods regularly. Those along the Nile use floods to their advantage. Somebody out there can help us figure out how to manage our ever-changing climate, and the likelihood that this flood can happen again.
I'm glad for the announcement of flood relief policies. It tells us what to expect, and now we can plan for it. While the PCs missed a lot prior to the flood (namely sitting on a flood mitigation report), they at least got that part right. Now the real test is if they'll follow up on that policy and give us the details.
We need those details now. We need to demand it. If we have to wait six years for them, we won't be asking the PCs for it, because they won't have been elected again. We need that action, and we need it now.
And we need the patronization of High Riverites to stop. We don't need sensitivity. We need action.
It's similar to "liking" your own Facebook status, or laughing at your own joke, when nobody else does.
The High River Times printed in yesterday's paper an article about the Alberta Liberals efforts in touting their new brand, or wordmark, or whatever they wish to call it. It stated that people (all 30 of them that came out to hear about it) were generally pleased with the brand. Had they known how the green logo came about, they would likely change their viewpoint to match that of a number of Alberta Liberal Party insiders.
Jody MacPherson, former Alberta Liberal Party VP of Communications and President, raised the alarm over how grassroots the organization truly was. In the same Executive meeting the logo was endorsed, the decision to not cooperate with other political parties was made, contrary to the wishes of the general membership of the party.
Alex MacDonald, an Alberta Liberal policy wonk, explained to a number of Twitter followers, including blogger Dave Cournoyer that the new brand was not focus-group tested. It was just the brainchild of the Executive, who approved it quickly like a fashion model giddy with a new Versace.
And the President, Gerald McEachern, touts the party's grassroots and transparent nature?
A party whose Executive flouts the wishes of the general membership, and then does a massive rebranding without public consultation sounds neither transparent nor grassroots to me.
And with the backdoor decisions made by the PCs of late, we know that we can't expect transparent, accountable grassroots policy from them.
The Wildrose and the Alberta Party are the only two parties who can truly lay claim to representing average Albertans; the Wildrose from within its party membership, and the Alberta Party through its Big Listens. There are some fundamental differences in how the two groups work, but they both develop their viewpoints from a grassroots base.
If the people of Highwood are to truly value grassroots politics, I hope they seriously consider where examples of grassroots actually exist. Explore the Wildrose and the Alberta Party, and support the party that best represents your views.
And I would be happy to answer questions about the Alberta Party.
The Alberta Party isn't going anywhere, but they do have a lot of work to do.At their Annual General Meeting two weekends ago, it was obvious party members were not only interested in moving forward, but also that it would be best to do so as a political party.
However, in my Highwood constituency, it means absolutely nothing unless the Alberta Party can gain some footing here. And my hope is that it does.
For the first time in a very long time, April saw two parties duke it out in Okotoks and High River. If you look at the history of MLAs in our area, it comes as no surprise that the MLA chosen was one who had the highest likelihood of being easily recognized. John Barlow had little chance of becoming a Minister, but Danielle Smith had a great chance of being the Premier, and an even better chance of being the Leader of the Opposition. Policy had little to do with it.
However, the position that Danielle Smith is in is one of a megaphone. All she can be is a noise-maker, and honestly Rob Anderson and Shayne Saskiw have been doing more of that. Due to the fact that she did not form government, what she says does not go in the Legislature, and the next three years will prove no different.
Eventually, Highwood will realize that their interests are far from being well-represented. They'll look at the Wildrose and say "you're not cutting it". They'll look at the PCs and say "you're not representing us well, either." They'll have to entertain someone new.
They won't entertain anybody who isn't local. Okotokians and High Riverites hate the idea of being represented by anyone outside their area. Nobody else gets how special our area is, from the culture we breed to the increasing economic influence we sway (with both communities experiencing 20+% growth in the past year). Nobody else gets our challenges either, from our water shortages to our changing demographics. Anybody who represents us must know us.
Liberals and NDP have not been able to mount a local representative for a few elections now. The likelihood of them finding someone is slim.
Not true for the Alberta Party. The Alberta Party will not run anywhere it can't find a local candidate. It's part of their charm, as is their "Big Listen" process, where party members are in personal interactions with constituents about the issues that matter to them, and that any Alberta Party MLA is expected to do the same once elected. And I'm pretty certain finding a local candidate will not be hard. The Alberta Party just needs to help Highwood constituents know why they are relevant, and that will take a lot of work. (Writer's note, if you are interested in helping get started on that work, because you believe in the principles of the Alberta Party, let me know!)
Will Highwood entertain the possibility of the Alberta Party? That depends on whether or not they actually consider policy and principle.
Unless the Wildrose does a significant update of their policies in 2013, they run the risk of being the "Danielle Smith and the BoZo Eruptions" show, and soon the people of Highwood will realize that isn't enough.
Unless the PCs start showing they can actually listen to Alberta citizens, no amount of rhetoric will ever convince the Highwood constituency otherwise. They've already been down that path with the unceremonious removal of George Groeneveld as Agriculture Minister. It is a big reason why people started entertaining the idea of Danielle Smith.
So if Highwood residents really begin looking at policy, and the principles that they want their representatives to live by, the Alberta Party will be here waiting. The Alberta Party has lots of work to do, but are not going to shy away from it. That way Highwood gets the representation it deserves.