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.
From Left to Right: Dr. Terry Coleman, Jamie Kinghorn, Michael Nychyk, Sandra Wiebe
Online Presences for Each Candidate
Your First Glimpse Courtesy the High River Times.
On September 29, 2016, the High River Times published an introduction to each of the candidates. View each candidate's profile by the High River Times as below.
An update appears mid-post in Italics.
It has been a very interesting week.
At the end of the work day on Friday, Alberta Party President Pat Cochrane sent out a message to people who subscribe to emails from the party (although the subject line indicates it was intended for members).
To all the members who received this message yesterday and were unaware of my departure, this message is exactly what needed to be said. They would feel reassured that their party stands for something, and abhors sex crimes committed on youth. They would even feel the party wants to stand up for victims of such crimes. This is a very good thing, and is exactly what those members should feel.
However, to all those who were aware of my post yesterday, this message rings a little hollow. They would be aware of the fact that I departed from the party because the party did not take a stand as their first reaction. They would be aware of many of the messages of support I received on social media. They might not be aware of the nearly dozen phone calls and dozen more private messages I received yesterday providing support for my departure and even considering it themselves, but they might suspect I would have had those conversations yesterday. And unless they live in Highwood, they would likely not be aware that the radio picked up the story yesterday, too.
They would see this new email as exactly the right message, issued far too late, to the wrong people. It should have been the first response, to stand up for victims, to take a stand as a party, and to reassure members and Albertans that the Alberta Party is a truly principled party who fights for those who need a hand. It should have been sent to the media, so that they could have helped spread the word that the Alberta Party is strong. By being one more voice to stand up for victims, perhaps the silent victims would feel a bit more confident in reporting crimes perpetrated on them, as it seems such crimes are one area of weakness for our justice system.
But it wasn't.
It was a response sent almost 45 hours after the original response which was, despite my recommendations and advisement, woefully inadequate. It was a response sent 20 hours after the phone call conversation I had with the same Pat Cochrane who wrote the response; a conversation in which I was told to "trust the people in the party making the decision, because they know more than you do" (obviously oblivious to the implications it had on me and other members professionally). It was a response sent 8 hours after my public departure, with a litany of people expressing their support and concern over the party's actions. It was reactive once more.
There are many people who have seen this whole exchange, and it has shaken their faith in the party. I know, because I've had conversations with many of them in the past 24 hours. I'm sorry your faith is shaken, but I understand. There may still be hope for the party, but many of you are absolutely right, they must get back to their grassroots in order for that hope to be realized. I encourage you to keep on fighting for prosperity, fiscal and social responsibility, sustainability, democracy and quality of life, and if you think the Alberta Party can make that happen, stick with it.
What I've seen this week has shown me the party hasn't the capacity in its current form to do it. But I'll still be fighting for those principles. So for those who live in Highwood, I have a message for you.
I'm not going anywhere. I'm here for you. And I'll be stronger than ever.
The Alberta Party is no longer my political home. This is a very disappointing revelation for me, however it's not a decision I made.
The Alberta Party did.
It did when it stopped taking a stand as a party. It did when it's prominent members stopped walking the walk and talking the talk. But most disappointingly, it did when it minimized sex crimes committed on youth.
Two former members and candidates have now been charged recently with crimes of a sexual predatory nature with youth. With Troy Millington, the Alberta Party and Leader immediately distanced themselves from him, condemned such crimes (properly, without prematurely passing judgement on Troy), and put their faith in the rule of law. With Terrence Lo, there was no distancing, no condemnation, and they barely made a statement in support of the law.
How can a party with multiple such allegations not immediately and dramatically distance themselves from it and condemn the bejeezus out of it? When it becomes a party that is not willing to stand up for itself, how can it possibly be counted on to stand up for Albertans?
EDIT: When I made my courtesy phone call to inform the party of my departure, I was told that I should trust the media managers with the party who are privy to additional sensitive information. Under no circumstances should sensitive information ever be so sensitive as to trump the condemnation of sex crimes committed on youth.
If I were the father of a child that was victimized, reading that release would have left me bewildered. Does the Alberta Party not care? Do they even believe my child was victimized? How can two people in their midst get charged, and they be so deliberately indifferent? Heck, why would they even bother sending a release if they weren't going to say anything at all?
DIG (Do It Green) sent out a release distancing themselves from him, condemning sexual crimes, and even offering support to victims. That's how you do a release following this type of heinous crime.
Now I know perfectly well that the Alberta Party could never have predicted that Troy nor Terry could have been inclined to such alleged activities. I have worked with them both, and it's not like they wore a tattoo on their foreheads indicating such proclivities; they were friendly amicable fellows like the vast majority of people I work with. I also know that the Alberta Party can't presume they're guilty, because that would not be respecting the rule of law. But their response amounts to what some of my students would say: "meh, whatever".
For me it was the last straw. I've become the squeaky wheel within the Alberta Party of late. I've sent a couple of strongly worded messages indicating how I dislike how the party has become a "party of one", how prominent members in the party have left their collaborative mindset and started using "gotcha" moments that are the main tool in the Wildrose toolbox, and how poorly organized and potentially undemocratic some of their activities behind the scenes have been. After meeting with some Board members, I had high hopes that the new Board would get their poop in a group, and I would finally start seeing some messaging coming from the party itself. I had high hopes that I would hear about a plan for presenting and adopting the proposed policies many people including myself worked on that have been collecting dust for 9 months. I had high hopes that the party would return to it's roots of "doing politics differently". I was wrong.
For the guy who has been driving across Alberta with the Alberta Party magnets on his car for the past couple of years, this is a pretty big blow. In my last blog I told you that "The Alberta Party is different. Let me prove it to you." I'm sorry I let you down.
But I can assure you I didn't waste my time.
I helped write the amendments to Bill 5 last year that protected the privacy of those who work in education and in municipal governments. I helped write countless policies that balanced fiscal with social responsibility. I blogged and wrote reams of press releases that tried to bring civility back to political discourse. I got people in Highwood thinking that perhaps there really was a better way, that balance could actually be achieved, and that common sense could make its way into the legislature. And in many cases, it worked.
But as a teacher who works with youth on a daily basis, being indifferent to sex crimes regarding youth is the last straw. I'm done. I'm politically homeless once more.
How deeply, deeply disappointing.
Hang on, isn’t that the party in power now?
Not even a year after crushing into the legislature, the Alberta NDP Government is presenting itself as the new government.
But it isn’t. They are just as pleased with the idea of pork-barrelling as the PC party was. They are just as pleased with using the government purse to advance their own self-interest as the PC party was.
It would be a different story, I’m sure, had that advertisement for the NDP Caucus been placed in a publication that distributes to one of their ridings.
But it wasn’t. It was printed in High River’s publication. Wayne Anderson, a Wildrose MLA, is our representative here.
This isn’t the first pork-barrelling experience we’ve enjoyed with this new government. It started on day 1. Premier Notley’s swearing-in was coupled with invitations to the non-partisan government-funded event asking for donations to the very partisan NDP. Later in November of 2015, access to Notley was once again sold at a Calgary fundraiser, and again a similar attempt at the Alberta Art Gallery in Edmonton in February of 2016. The NDP were cleared of wrong-doing with regards to a $10,000/ticket Ontario event featuring the Alberta Premier, although they dismissed Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler’s assertion of a “perception that only a chosen few are being invited”.
Sounds awfully close to an “aura of power” assertion that happened a mere 18 months ago.
We haven’t even discussed the partisan appointments the NDP have given their friends. An NDP Government should be expected to hire NDP party faithful to help them implement their policy and ideals. This has happened on numerous occasions, with Brian Topp, Anne McGrath and John Heaney as examples. However, Albertans are right to wonder if these really are the best people for the job, especially when these individuals would top a sunshine list with significant 6-figure salaries and potential severances when they are done. The NDP should not be surprised when the eyebrows of many Albertans rise with the hiring of a Kevin Davediuk, a top union official, to negotiate with the union he is leaving. A pro-union political party making pro-union hiring choices? We should not be shocked.
Except that the NDP said they wouldn’t do that.
The NDP have also had far too much leeway with not understanding parliamentary rules. One such rule is that Caucus funds are government funds from the taxpayer. They are not to be used for partisan purposes. And yet here we see a purely partisan NDP Caucus advertisement in a non-NDP riding.
See the similarity? Advertisements for partisan purposes should rightly annoy Albertans, we just voted the PCs out for the exact same thing. What’s worse, no more are the NDP “fighting for mortgage-paying jobs” than the PCs were building schools as their signs suggested. Over 100,000 jobs are gone, and the only news that Economic Diversification Minister Deron Bilous has produced on the economic file is a bill that, as Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark suggests, does little more than “create committees”.
As a member of the Alberta Party, this pisses me off. Albertans were right to be upset at the PCs. But now a new breed of politician in the NDP is doing the exact same thing. Albertans should not be faulted for thinking “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”.
What that means, though, is that no politician is trustworthy. And no matter how hard I try to say the Alberta Party is different, because we are, I cannot prove it to you unless you give us a chance.
If Mr. Anderson were to place such an ad, I would not be opposed to it as his form of connecting with his constituents. Although, I would never support Mr. Anderson making such a blanket claim as “fighting for mortgage-paying jobs”. His party’s jobs-creation recommendations were either borrowed from the Alberta Party, or has nebulous goals that can never be reached.
As an example, Wildrose Recommendation 2 is to reduce red tape by 20%. By what metric does one measure red tape? Inches?
If the Wildrose is going to do nothing but parrot the Alberta Party’s plans, they should at least be honest about it and just put up a link to the Alberta Party website.
A jobs plan encourages businesses to create jobs. An Investor Tax Credit will do much more than a jobs-creation tax credit. A small business tax decrease will do much the same, as will investment in post-secondary education and research and development, or as the Wildrose calls it, “Knowledge Infrastructure”. This is how the Alberta Party has been fighting constructively for mortgage-paying jobs.
The false advertisements come at a price. The price is Albertans’ trust in politicians.
Check out the Alberta Party’s events for a chance to meet Alberta Party people near you. In Highwood, the next event is March 21 at 7:30 PM at the 1906 Restaurant in High River.
The Alberta Party is different. Let me prove it to you.
On Thursday, March 3, 2016, Paige MacPherson, Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) proposed that the government seek a 10% rollback on Teachers salaries. And you know what? She is perfectly right to ask that question.
In our economic reality where government revenue is heavily tied to the price of a barrel of oil, currently cheaper than a schooner of Big Rock Honey Brown, there is no money in the bank account. Asking teachers to take such a rollback would amount to approximately $340,000,000 in the provincial coffers that would be used to ...
Okay, so what does a 10% cut to teachers' salaries mean? It means teachers are in effect taking $6,000 to $10,000 out of their paycheck and giving it back to the government. Or, alternatively, it means approximately 4000 teacher positions will be removed across the province, which follows as a more likely outcome based on what happened in 2003. The amount being asked of teachers is equivalent to more than the entirety of the education budget cuts in 1994 (not including the taxation powers that were removed from school boards).
Alberta Teachers are among the best paid in the country. However, contrary to what the CTF says, taking a pay cut of 10% would not keep them as the top-paid teachers in the country, it would actually drop them from the current position of 4th behind the territories to 5th behind Ontario, almost on par with Manitoba. Nonetheless, we're still easily in the top five, even after such a pay cut.
So let's talk about this cut in terms of return on investment. In 1994 teachers took a 5% rollback under the then Klein-Administration with not much more than platitudes of "we'll make it better". In my mind, sustainability doesn't last 22 years, it lasts much longer, yet here we are, with the consideration of asking teachers to give it up again. This time, when we seriously consider the cuts, let's make sure we do it with a keener eye to not allowing the government to bring us here again in 22 years.
So teachers, as you seriously consider a 10% rollback, you must ask "if we give you this money, what are you going to do with it?"
Is the $340,000,000 going to be earmarked for fixing the economy, which is the cause of this issue in the first place? Does the Alberta Government have a plan to diversify the economy, and get off our dependence on oil? Investment in green energy doesn't count, that's already being funded by the carbon tax. Neither does the eventual increase in income and corporate taxes, although they will definitely result in additional revenue for the government that is not based on oil. However, income and corporate taxes are heavily based on, wait for it, income, so with so few Albertans earning one of those, we can't count on that revenue either.
So the answer is no to those questions? Okay then, let's consider something else that money could be used for.
Is the $340,000,000 earmarked for a plan to reduce class complexity, including special needs, English Language Learning, impoverished or at-risk students? Will it be used to provide professional development to help us learn how to better manage the increasing class sizes and class complexities? If history is any indicator, the more likely result will be the loss of teacher positions, which will not ameliorate class complexity issues. Further, with fewer Albertans earning an income, and at-risk behaviour and educational success being tied to poverty, those class complexities are only about to get even more complex.
So again, the answer is no to those questions? Then what would this money be used for? Convince the teachers it would be used for something!
It would be used to help the government provide services. Services like teachers.
So hang on, if teachers concede a rollback of 10%, that 10% might just go fund ... teachers? So what that is saying is that a teacher that makes $80,000, the CTF is suggesting the government can only afford $72,000 of their current contract if the teachers concede that rollback. If the teachers don't concede that rollback, the government would then only be able to afford $64,000.
So take the 10%, or see 20% of your salary's worth cut from the classroom.
What that means is the CTF's proposal is not in fact a proposal, but a veiled threat. And it's not threatening teachers most. It's threatening students.
From a business perspective, what we see here is absolutely no return on the investment the CTF is asking teachers to make in Alberta.
Instead, the CTF is asking teachers to manage an increase in class complexity and size, continue to deliver world-class education that other countries look to for examples of educational leadership and research (don't give me the math debate garbage, I've already debunked that), deal with a decrease in income to manage their home day-to-day expenses which often include classroom supplies, and to carry the entire weight of a faltering economy, with no plan to fix it.
What is left to convince teachers to take this rollback? "Be considerate of your neighbours who have had paycuts and job losses, too". A sort of "misery loves company" rationale.
Teachers help our future learn how to question, criticize, reflect, show their work, stand up for what's right, write for a purpose, read for understanding, shoot hoops, make a tower out of dry spaghetti and marshmallows, make a cooler out of cardboard and sawdust, make their parents cry as they play Shenandoah with 63 of their peers, apologize and mean it, refuse to be sorry and instead be better, and make a difference.
Which of those things would you cut to provide the misery of Albertans with more company?
Teachers are already being considerate of their fellow Albertans, as what happens to those Albertans happens to their kids. That means that teachers are already dealing with the increased at-risk behaviour, the kids who come to school hungry because there's no food in the pantry, and the elevated expectations of parents who just don't want their kids to have to go through what they are.
Teachers are already taking a 10% rollback. They cry every time they see another kid disadvantaged. Its just costing teachers their souls and sanity instead of their salary. In response to MacPherson's "won't somebody please think about the chidren" cry, teachers would not be faulted for saying "we do, every damn day."
So teachers, as you seriously consider the 10% rollback, consider these things as well; there is no plan to solve the economic issues, there is no plan to deal with classroom conditions, and you are indeed the best teachers in the world defending our future.
Make your decision with that in mind.