Monday, April 30, 2007


Times have changed for who we used to know as good old Ralph. It's not like it used to be, that's for sure.

There was a day when a fawning press, sycophantic and reward seeking hustlers, manipulative neocons, loud-mouth right-wing talk show hosts, drinking buddies and other assorted hangers-on and lowlifes, used to chortle at his every word, excuse every gaff and move to cover up every mess left in his wake.

If in a besotted rage he got into a shouting match with a resident of a homeless shelter at Christmas time, well, all he had to do was say he was going on the wagon. Voila! The story was torqued by his pals so that the big news was that he was giving up the bottle. If he blew up one perfectly good hospital and closed another in his home town, his toadies sold the public on the fact that he did it for a good cause - to get rid of the deficit and pay down the debt. If he left a Premier's conference on Health Care while it was still in session, to go to play the slots at a casino, well then, the groupies would say that he was just a regular guy and that's what regular guys did. Criticism would be muted and indeed, unreported. The public bought it all.

But, as the Klein Tories used to love to say, 'That was then and this is now.' Actually, the 'now' for Ralph began about the time of the last Provincial Election in the fall of 2004. The major city newspapers turned on him. So too did his Party. And soon he was history.

Or, what should have been history. Like the heavyweight champion who loses the title after a terrible beating, and who refuses to believe that he is finished and insists on more fights, so it is with Ralph Klein. Since his removal as Party Leader, he continues to consciously seek the spotlight. No sooner than he hired on as a lobbyist with a national law firm days after he left office with his $600,000 settlement, it was on every front page newspaper in the country. The public verdict was that it appeared to be a greedy and hasty act. Not the kind of thing a good old boy would do.

Now, he's getting it again. While accepting a 'Friend of the Industry Award' at the Alberta Film and Television Awards in Edmonton on the weekend, he talked about a documentary about aboriginals that was filmed near Rocky Mountain House. He said his Executive Assistant had told him, that ". . . the Indians have been drinking there for years and years. Why can't they shoot a film there?" After a tepid crowd response, Klein went on, "We made it possible for them to shoot the film."

The response to Klein's words has been ugly and, unlike the old days, has been widely reported. Muriel Stanley Venne, President of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, was 'appalled.' Len Untereiner, President and Founder of the Spirit Keeper Youth Society, which tries to keep Aboriginal youths out of gangs, said "He'll [Ralph] kick anybody who's down. He's a bully. The best thing to do is to ignore him." Ralph, who can't seem to pass an open mike without saying a few words, was interviewed on radio about the incident. He claimed that his words were taken out of context.

Ralph should go underground for a while. He should take a page out of Brian Mulroney's book, who disappeared largely from public view for some time after his departure from politics. Like Ralph, Mulroney needed to be laundered and unlike Ralph, he knew it. He also knew that his continued presence on the public stage was going to be a hindrance to his Party, just as Ralph is a hindrance to his party, as well as to the fledgling Stelmach Government.

As one who has known Ralph Klein and liked him (although I never voted for him as a Tory), I always felt that he was led down the wrong track as Premier by the backslappers, hustlers and neocon ideologues in business and the Alberta print media. The result has been a mess waiting for another Government to clean up. A growing number of Albertans feel this way. For the ex-Premier, its time to lay low.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Those naive Canadians who believe that the Harper Government and the Bush Government operate differently, better start paying attention to what is going on.

What is happening in Afghanistan with respect to our military operations as they deal with suspected Taliban detainees is outrageous and perhaps worse.

By way of review, as has been been widely reported this week by the Globe and Mail, our Canadian troops from time to time have detained people suspected of being or helping Taliban fighters. After the detainees are taken into custody by Canada, they are turned over to the Afghanistan authorities. Some of those are handed over to the Afghanistan National Directorate of Security, which is the Intelligence Police. The Canadian military have signed an agreement with the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission wherein the Commission agrees to monitor and report back to the Canadian authorities about any allegations or evidence of torture or other mistreatment while the detainees are in the custody of the Intelligence Police.

Defence Minister O'Connor has stated to the House that he knows of no allegations of torture, and that he has relied on the Human Rights Commission to keep the Canadian military informed pursuant to the Agreement.

The Geneva Convention requires a country that has taken prisoners that are transferred to another authority, must ensure that those prisoners are not abused by that other authority.

The Globe and Mail's in depth look at the situation published this week, indicates that there were 30 suspected Taliban detainees who, once they were under the control of the Intelligence Police, were tortured and mistreated in a host of inhumane ways. Furthermore, the report states that the Human Rights Commission said that it does not have enough staff to monitor what is happening to the detainees. Worse yet, the Intelligence Police refuses to cooperate and allow the Human Rights Commission to investigate.

Many people are aware of this deplorable situation. Defence Minister O'Connor and Prime Minister Harper have both stated to the Commons, that they are not aware of such goings on. The Prime Minister in the House yesterday, said that the allegations of torture were allegations of the Taliban. That is not what the Globe and Mail reported. All of the 30 suspects were ultimately released with no charges filed. Upon their release they told of suffering from torture while in the custody of the Intelligence Police. The Prime Minister said yesterday, ". . . We do not have evidence that [the torture] is true. And certainly I have to say that to suggest the Canadian Forces would deliberately violate the Geneva Convention, and to make that suggestion solely based on the allegations of the Taliban, I think, is the height of irresponsibility."

O''Connor continued his dissembling, Pinnochio-like, wrong-again, performance in the House by saying that the Human Rights Commission, ". . . have confirmed that they can do what we have asked them." In fact, the Globe and Mail discovered that the Human Rights Commission is barred from inspecting detainees held in cells run by the Intelligence Police and are understaffed to properly do their work.

Are Harper and O'Connor stupid, wilfully blind, or stupid liars?

A clue lies in a related story about a written report prepared by Canadian diplomats respecting conditions in Afghanistan. The Report was thought to include information on Human Rights. When inquiries by the Globe and Mail were made about the existence of such a report, the Foreign Affairs Department lied. They said it did not exist.

After complaints were made to the Access to Information Commissioner, Foreign Affairs released the Report. It appeared to have been prepared in 2006 and was entitled "Good Governance, Democratic Development and Human Rights." The produced report had large swaths of it blacked out.

Fortunately, the Globe and Mail got its hands on the full unedited and uncensored report. The two reports were compared - the censored report and the complete report. Among the passages blacked out were the words: "Extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture, and detention without trial are all too common." Another blacked out passage stated "the overall human rights situation in Afghanistan deteriorated in 2006." Another blacked out passage stated: "military, intelligence and police forces have been accused of involvement in arbitrary arrest, kidnapping, extortion, torture and extrajudicial killing." There were more statements which showed that torture and corruption of the Security forces that had been edited out of the censored report. In fact, the edited, blacked-out version of the report contained only positive news. The full report contained negative passages together with the positive.

The Foreign Affairs Department appeared to have told a whopper when it said originally there was no report. Then it produced a report containing only the good news and censoring the bad -a deliberate attempt to mislead the public.

The actions of our Government in this sordid affair are uncannily akin to the Bush administration practice of tailoring intelligence to support its mindless policies in Iraq, and deliberately misleading his public about torture and mistreatment of prisoners by United States forces in places like Abu Graibh and Guantanamo.

In fact, the Canadian Government at the moment is run by many extremist, neocon, Bush admirers and lackeys. The Prime Minister and Minister of Defence are two of them. They are prepared to mislead, lie, and look the other way about torture and mistreatment of detainees, so that the public swallow their Afghanistan policy. Canadians, when they are finally asked their opinions about this Government at the ballot box, will have it all figured out by then. And this Government will be defeated.

Monday, April 23, 2007


In case Canadians think that we don't have our very own Dick Cheneys and Donald Rumsfelds, they should read today's Globe and Mail. In a front page expose we learned that when suspected Taliban Afghans are captured by our troops, after being handcuffed and treated politely, they are turned over to Afghan security forces. The Globe dug up 30 former detainees in Afghanistan who said that they received good treatment from the Canadians.

However, once the Canadians had sent them to the Afghan security forces it was a different story. To put it mildly. The Afghans were a little harder on the detainees. For example, they were choked. They were hung by their ankles. They were whipped with electrical cables. They were starved, stripped naked and made to spend the night in brisk Afghan temperatures. And this treatment went on for days on end. When their tormentors decided that the detainees were no threat, they were then released.

When the Opposition got on O'Connor's case in the Commons today about him turning a blind eye to torture, he and the Prime Minister said our Canadian troops treated all detainees well. Which was true as far as it goes. As to the treatment of the detainees by the Afghan security forces, well, they would look into it. With a straight face, O'Connor said in his defence that the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission had promised to advise Canada if any of the detainees were abused.

That ranks up there as a mother of all disingenuous responses. O'Connor has been connected to the military all of his life. He rose to the rank of General in the Canadian Armed Force. After he retired he lobbied for some Defence contracting firms for a time before he went into politics. Since he's been in politics he has been Defence Minister. He is telling us and would have us believe that he is naive about these things. He pleads ignorance of interrogation methods and treatment of detainees by third world countries like Afghanistan, a country steeped in revolutionary foment for as long as anyone can remember. This is beyond belief - just like the piano player in the bordello who claims he doesn't know what's going on upstairs. This is monumental stupidity or wilful blindness. Take your pick.

O'Connor's actions before and after the evidence was presented by the Globe and Mail are no different from Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush who denied knowledge of mistreatment and torture in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison or Guantanamo Bay. It is the same mentality of officialdom that would send Maher Arar to Syria from Canada and the United States, so that the dirty work would be done by another country that had ways of making people talk. So they wouldn't have to worry about inconveniences like the Charter of Rights or civil liberties lawyers.

This is a continuation of O'Connor's blindness or stupidity on these issues. In the Commons in early March, he was questioned about allegations of detainee abuse by Canadian troops. He responded that Canada got reports and updates from the International Committee of the Red Cross on such issues. Two weeks later he apologized for his misstatement. He had discovered that The Red Cross has no such obligation.

O'Connor is a cowboy in matters of Defence. As is General Hillier, the Chief of the Defence Staff who broke through to the public consciousness in July with his famous 'murders and scumbags' speech. Part of what he said on that day about the Taliban was this: "These are detestable murderers and scumbags. I'll tell you that right up front. They detest our freedoms, they detest our society, they detest our liberties,.." Now if that isn't a page out of George W. Bush's 'Political Speeches for Dummies' book I don't know what is.

Hillier signed an agreement in December of 2005 wherein Canadian Armed Forces would transfer suspected Taliban detainees to the Afghan security forces. However, the agreement contained no clause that the Canadian military had a right to inspect the detainees after transfer. Unlike other European nations who are in Afghanistan as part of the NATO forces -those nations have such a clause in their agreements.

O'Connor and Hillier are reckless. They are Canada's Cheney and Rumsfeld.

As suggested today by a couple of Professors, if it is proven that Canadians turned over the captive detainees knowing they would be tortured, the two cowboys may be in for a helluva lot of trouble for themselves, not to mention the disgrace upon our country that will follow.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


The performance of Premier Stelmach thusfar has rendered his sobriquet 'Fast Eddie' as pure nonsense. The Premier is anything but fast. But he is special. Special to the opposition parties in the Province and particularly to the opposition and government-in-waiting Liberals of Kevin Taft. And so, for the forseeable future unless anyone has any objection, I will refer to the Preem as Special Ed.

Special Ed did not have a good week. It was the week of the unveiling of his first Budget - to devastating reviews. His Government intends to spend a monstrous 33.1 billion big ones with total spending increasing by 7%. Unfortunately, most of the money is going to the operations of secondary schools and hospitals, together with infrastructure maintenace. Aside from a few meaningless tax cuts, there was little left over for anything else. As usual, there is not even a whiff of a long-term, short-term, or any kind of plan.

18 billion or so is for capital spending over the next 3 years - about a 5 billion increase from last year. More than 25% of that 5 billion - 1.3 billion - covers cost escalations of on-going capital projects as a result of the hot economy. Another billion of that 5 billion is being kept in the bank in case costs increase even more than anticipated. In fact, there is little difference between this additional capital cost caused by rising costs of projects, and paying interest on a Government debt. Either way, the Government is spending money for no material return. Because of current projects and their cost escalations, there is little room for new projects - like schools and hospitals, not to mention affordable housing.

This sad state of affairs is a direct fallout of the disasterous johnny-one-note policy of the Klein Government of which Special Ed was very much of a Big Stick. Its only policy was to kiss the backsides of their fat cat neocon friends and wannabes in or on the fringe of certain elements of big business. It was they together with Klein's brains trust who counselled that the quick and full payment of the Provincial debt should be its only priority - over a period of 13 years. And we're all paying for it now - including Special Ed, Ralph's former Big Stick.

Calgary specifically gets in in the ear. Again. There is 96 million dollars allocated to major school maintenance. 15 million or 16% of that sum is allocated to Calgary, a city that contains roughly 33% of the Province's population. The deferred maintenance backlog on Calgary schools is almost 500 million. So, that generous sum represents about 3% of the city's needs.

Particularly ominous for Special Ed were the rants of gutsy and popular Mayor Bronco. According to Bronco, the Budget was 'hocus-pocus, booga-booga economics.' Thats a pretty strong indictment coming from a guy who until the Budget was brought down was making nice to the Premier. Bronco expected that the municipalities would get an annual amount equal to the education portion of the property tax with no strings attached - 400 billion this year to about 1.4 billion by 2010-11. Ah, but Special Ed's Government attached strings - the money is ear-marked to a series of specific projects. It was not the deal Bronco thought he'd bargained for, and so Bronco is letting him know. Special Ed becomes Slippery Ed.

The Public and Catholic School Boards, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, the Mayor, Members of Calgary City Council, SAIT administration, U of C students, the Mustard Seed Ministry, the Alberta Chamber of Commerce, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Certified General Accountants of Alberta, are but a few of the voices of the underwhelmed heard in the wake of Special Ed's first Budget.

Yes, Special Ed has had a tough five months. Given the demands on his Government, and the fact that he has to play catch-up because of the past mindless pursuit of the debt to the exclusion of all else, things are not likely to get any better.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


It all looked so easy at first - the new Liberal leader Stephane Dion struggling to get his message across in English, a youthful (if portly) Prime Minister that seemed to stick to his promises and deliver well crafted speeches, a Government party unburdened by scandal, party coffers bursting at the seams, the Premier of Quebec making nice, an economy going gangbusters - shurely, it was only a matter of time and the Conservatives would form a majority Government.

The chattering class by a wide margin interpreted the Quebec election results as boding well for Steve. The public seemed to show strong initial support for the budget - initial polls showed the Conservatives' support spiked to 40%. It all looked so rosy for Bush's pal Steve Harper. It was going to be a waltz. A breeze. A romp. He had the bucks, the brand new hi-tech 17500 square foot, shiny headquarters. And the polls that showed him to be a 2 to 1 favorite as the leader who would make the best Prime Minister.

Well, if I may be permitted to indulge in some trite and hackneyed political truisms, that was then and this is now. Or, dare I say, if two weeks is a long time in politics, one month may seem like an eternity.

Since the Budget was tabled on April 19, its been all downhill for Stevie. It took a few days to settle in, but once Canadians had time to think about the great Quebec giveaway - the billions given to rectify a mythical fiscal imbalance - they were . . . well, they were underwhelmed. Particularly when they thought about Premier Charest - toute de suite, as they would say in La Belle Province -bribing Quebecers with a 700 million tax break upon hearing of of Harper's beneficence on the eve of the Quebec election. Premier Danny Williams, the colourful and fearless newfy and the normally sober and sedate man-of-the-cloth Premier Calvert of Saskatchewan, began leading an attack on the Budget that continues unabated.

Even Bay Streeters, who one would think regarded Stevie as their fair-haired boy, became angry. They were irate over the Budgetary tax change that disallowed Canadian companies deducting loan interest for foreign investments.

The El Stinko Budget seemed to revive that damnable Income Trust issue still festering in the minds of millions of middle class Canadians and income trust business leaders. Harper's shameless broken election promise saw net worths of ordinary Canadians slashed. Cash flows that older families had relied on for their twilight years, thanks to Harper, were now out the window. Furthermore, piranha-like foreign companies were now picking up business assets of the trusts for a song. Ontario MP and Grit finance critic John McCallum was greeted by cheers - in Calgary of all places - as he assailed Harper and his Government for being idiots and morons for trashing income trusts.

But that's not all. Soon to replace Stockwell Day as the gift to the Liberals that keeps on giving, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor has been front and center in the Conservative drive to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. Former General O'Connor was already in trouble. He had to do an embarassing about face by admitting in the Commons that the Red Cross did not inform Canadian authorities if Taliban prisoners turned over by Canadians to Afghani authorities were mistreated. He had earlier informed the House otherwise. O'Connor was also
under heavy criticism regarding Federal untendered purchasing contracts made between his Department and a company for which he had formerly lobbied.

In recent days O'Connor blithely commented that the Afghanistan war would probably last 15 years. Underlining that statement and in a move indicating Canada would be in the Kandahar debacle far beyond the Commons approved 2009 date, his Department acquired tanks from Holland which will only be delivered in 2009. This comes at a time when plenty of Canadians have become concerned with body bags of our brave young troops, and informed that the good news of our heavy lifting participation in the NATO initiative in Afghanistan is not shared by knowledgeable observers on the ground. The feel-good rhetoric from O'Connor, Day, Toews, and Hillier about success in Afghanistan seems to be shared only among themselves.

And there remains the disquiet felt by many Canadians about the meanness of the Prime Minister, reflected by his partisan and personal attacks which can only be described as extreme - accusations that Liberals support the Taliban instead of our troops, that a Liberal Sikh MP did not support the continuation of measures under the anti-terror legislation so as to keep his father in law from testifying at the Air India Inquiry, and that Liberals are not a friend of Israel, etc. etc.

There's more. Now we have the attack on Kyoto. Harper's Environment Minister Pit bull, John Baird's over the top doomsday scenario unveiled this week in the Senate hearings has met with derision from all quarters - even including traditional Conservative cheerleader Canwest columnist Don Martin. Senator Denis Dawson referring to Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth,' called Baird's show 'a convenient lie.'

And if all of that wasn't bad enough, now Stephane Dion has begun to find his voice. His environment policy is widely seen by experts to be the most responsible. He and John McCallum have offered up a credible alternative to the Conservative axing of Income Trusts, so as to protect the investments of ordinary Canadians. He has boldly agreed with Elizabeth May not to run a Liberal candidate in the Central Nova Riding that she hopes to win from Peter McKay, and she has agreed to reciprocate in his Montreal Riding. This clears the way for unprecedented cooperation between the Liberals and the Greens (and probably some Green NDP) in the next Federal Election.

The result: a poll released by Decima Research on April 17 shows the Tories at 34% - 2 points below election day in January 2006. The Grits have 31%, the NDP have 15%, the Greens have 11% and the Bloc 7%. And in Quebec, the Budget honeymoon has really gone south: the Bloc has 29% and the Grits lead the Conservatives 23% to 20%. Apparently Quebecers do not liked being bribed. The ND's trail with 10%.

The future is bleak for Bush's pal Steve Harper. With numbers like that he will not win a majority. With a trend like that he is likely to lose if the election is called soon. With gaffes like he and his Government have committed in recent weeks, the result could be a Liberal majority Government. Which of course, I have predicted. Once again, you can say you heard it here first.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


For Calgary Grits it was a sight to behold - 300 or so Calgarians, old and young, men and women, oil patchers, business people, all crowded into the foyer of the Jack Singer Theatre in downtown Calgary to cheer on a Ontario Grit MP.

On Thursday at noon hour, John McCallum Ontario Liberal MP and Opposition Finance critic, with gusto, tore into the Conservative plan to tax income trusts and offered up a plan of his own. McCallum, clearly pleased with and invigorated by his reception and knowing he was among friends, referred to the Conservatives' income trust policy as not only a broken promise, but also a policy of 'stupidity' that was 'idiotic' and concocted by a bunch of 'morons.' He said that the Tory policy made the energy trust sector 'sitting ducks' to acquisitive foreign companies. He promised that a Liberal government would make the trust issue a priority and would set a 10% tax on the sector which would be refundable to Canadians - in contrast to the Conservatives' 31% corporate tax rate. To all of which the crowd cheered mightily.

Questioners who were longtime Conservatives repeatedly accused the Harper Government of betrayal and arrogance, with several stating that they had cast their last Conservative ballot. Both McCallum and the Liberals in attendance were all smiles at the end of the session knowing that he'd struck a solid chord with a growing number of disenchanted former life long Tories.

By contrast, on Saturday Calgary Conservative MP and Secretary of State for Multiculturalism Jason Kenney took a pasting from many of his 350 or so of his constituents at an open house meeting at Sam Livingstone School. There, former loyal and faithful Conservatives accused Kenney and the Conservatives of betrayal and playing games, and called him a liar during discussions about the income trust issue, equalization, the war in Afghanistan, immigration and the environment. The most wilting attack came in discussions about the income trust issue. Kenney said later that he found the experience 'humbling.'

What does all this mean? It means that a helluva lot of people in the area - and elsewhere - lost 20 billion or so of savings with the Bush's pal Harper's flip-flop on the income trusts. Most of those hurt in Alberta were dyed in the wool Conservatives and many of those were relying on income trusts to take them through their twilight retirement years. Many westerners were also appalled at Harper's billions of dollars kow-towing to Quebec to correct a mythical fiscal imbalance. They feel they were stabbed in the back and now realize that their loyalty was taken for granted.

All of which will help the Liberals in Alberta in the next Federal election. More so than even imagined in Bush's pal Steve Harper's worst nightmares.


If anybody knows anything about the Green Party, they know that it is a Party whose members and supporters are not short of brains. In addition, they are idealists. They support the Green Party for a high moral purpose: to prevent the pirates and brigands of this world from destroying the planet Earth.

Having brains and principle, Green Party membership and supporters know how to vote strategically. In any election, if they become satisfied that another party's candidate shares their values, they will vote strategically and support that other candidate from that other party.

An example of this occured in Calgary in the last provincial election in the Riding of Mountain View. The Green support in the riding was strong. David Swann, the Liberal candidate, was a known fighter for the environment. As a matter of fact, he had been fired by the Medicine Hat Health Region on orders from a Tory Provincial Minister, because he had publicly supported the Kyoto Accord. A lot of Medicine Hat residents were appalled at this ham-handed move, and so applied pressure on the Health Region to reinstate Swann. The Region, feeling the heat, offered Swann his job back. He refused. He then ran in the next election in the riding of Calgary Mountain View as a Liberal. The Green Party knew he was on their side. He received the Green vote (and a good many NDP votes as well) and won the riding handily. The Greens had voted strategically for a person from another party that they knew represented their goals and values.

Stephane Dion has agreed not to run a Liberal in the next Federal Election in Central Nova so as to allow Elizabeth May, the Green Party Leader, a better chance to defeat Peter McKay, the current Tory MP and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Equally, Ms. May has agreed that the Greens will not run a candidate in Dion's riding of Saint Laurent in Montreal. This was a deft strategic move by Dion. It gives him extra cachet with the Greens (and very likely the NDP as well) right across the country. It was a move designed to show clearly that he supported their great cause. May, for her part, made clear her respect for Dion and that she believes that he is sincere on the environment. Convinced that Dion is serious about the environment, she helps the Green cause by helping the Liberals. And so, the Green Party leader has enhanced the credibility of Stephane Dion both amongst her following and amongst those of the NDP who are ardent Greenies on the issue that most matters to them.

This highly political and influential move is designed to get Greens and some NDP to vote strategically to elect Liberal candidates in the next Federal election. The message from this May-Dion pact that goes out to all Green and NDP voters across the country is simple one. The Liberals are friends of the Greens, and so a strategic vote for the Liberals is a vote for a better and cleaner environment.

This spells bad news for the Bush's pal Steve Harper and Jack Layton. There are twenty to thirty percent of the Canadian electorate that could park their vote with the Greens and the NDP in the next Federal Election. By this move Dion is sure to siphon some of that towards the Liberals.

Let's see, the SES poll done a week or so ago had the Conservatives at 36% and the Liberals at 33%. If 10% of the Green/NDP support goes to the Grits from strategic Green and NDP voters - why, that puts Dion and his Grits in majority country. Remember to say you heard it hear first: it will be 'Prime Minister Stephane Dion' after the next Federal Election.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Fast Eddie 's nightmares mount.

First, there was the Calgary Holy Cross Health Centre. The Centre was formerly the Holy Cross Hospital. Founded in 1891 by the Order of the Sisters of Charity known as the Grey Nuns, the Holy Cross Hospital successfully attended to the health needs of the people of the City of Calgary and Southern Alberta for over 100 years. In its hey-day it was a major active treatment hospital, known for excellent care, outstanding surgical facilities, a highly rated School of Nursing, and a staff that took pride in their work. It delivered a very high standard of health care until it closed in 1996 when it fell victim to the Klein Government's misguided reorganization of health care services. Since then its been down hill all the way for the Holy Cross.

In 1997 the building was sold for a song to the Huang family, some of which members were close friends of the Premier's. The purchase price for the buildings and the 9 acres of prime inner city land it sat on was 4.5 million dollars. The hospital had just had a 20 million dollar renovation before its closure.

Since the sale, the buildings have housed medical offices, some out-patient treatment facilities, and an assisted living housing facility. In addition, the owners entered into a contract with the Calgary Health Region to operate a private nursing home or long-term care facility on the property.

The assisted living residents were recently greeted with rent increases as high as 42% - at a time when Calgary faces a critical lack of affordable housing together with wide-scale chronic homelessness.

Yesterday the Calgary Health Region announced that due to allegations of fire code violations, and inadequate wound care in the nursing home, as well as the failure of the owners to address those concerns, it was terminating its contract with the owners. The result: 42 chronically ailing and disabled Albertans have to move and 30 staff are without jobs.

That has been the fate of the venerable Holy Cross Hospital which until the Klein years, provided quality health care for 106 years. Operated privately by the friends of Ralph, its management turfs poor people who can't pay the rent increases out onto the street. Worse, because of managment bungling, the chronically ill in the nursing home are forced to move elsewhere because of a lack of adequate care.

The days of the Teflon Tories are over. Fast Eddie was a Big Stick in the Klein Government and he is the one who is now called upon to pay the political price for this catastrophe by the inspired Taft Grits in the current session of the Legislature.

And if that nightmare isn't enough for the Premier, what about the strange case of Bob Maskell?
Maskell was an Edmonton Tory MLA who was defeated by a Grit in the election of 2004. A couple of months later the Government's Aboriginal Affairs Department signed Maskell to a contract which was to be effective from two days after the election. The contract provided that the Department would pay Maskell 38 grand a year to chair a committee to approve aboriginal projects for the province's 2005 centennial celebrations. Maskell also picked up an extra 80 big ones as a transitional allowance to which he was entitled to ease himself back into private life.

Maskell's actions were similar to the unseemly actions of his former boss Premier Klein, who days after he was eligible to pocket the $600,000 or so severance from the Province, took a cushy job as a lobbyist with the esteemed law firm of Borden Ladner.

But there's more on the Maskell file. A perusal of his bills for services that he submitted to the government and which were paid, show that he once worked and billed for 50 hours in one day. Another had him working and being paid for 30 hours for one day. And another for 28 hours in one day. Some of the itemized services rendered were cutting ribbons, raising flags, and presenting blankets to elders. I kid you not.

And the Premier is defending Maskell.

Taft and his gang are screaming blue murder in the Legislature about this nightmare too. And the papers are screaming headlines. They aren't swallowing the swill that Fast Eddie and his hayseeds are something new and the 'that was then and this is now' routine the Tories are famous for.

'Nope,' as Eddie might say. This time the buck ends with Eddie.

Monday, April 09, 2007


Fast Eddie's 'Revenge of the Farmer' government has been in the saddle now for three months. So far, it has shown that with one single exception it is no different from the Klein government. The exception of course is the new government's treatment of the Province's major cities. It took power away from the cities and transfered it to rural Alberta.

Without belaboring the point, the cities of Calgary and Edmonton have about two-thirds or 67% of the Alberta population. Eddie has given those two cities only four out of a 19 member cabinet - about 21%.

The hallmark of the Klein government was that it was cheap. It did not like to spend money (unless it was on its many friends). It did not like to spend money on health care, on schools, on universities, on roads, on most of the responsibilities a Provincial government has in this country.

The Klein government's many fans, sycophants, as well as neocon ideological campanions and cheerleaders in the establishment print media, all thought that this was quite alright - because Alberta would soon 'hit the wall' as far as deficits and debt were concerned, because the single important legacy that could be bestowed on future generations was a debt-free Province, because belt-tightening was good (so long it was their belt that wasn't being tightened) and so forth.

Oh, the Klein government liked raking it in. VLT machines started pumping the greenbacks into the government coffers to such an extent that it even surpassed its annual take from oil revenues. One senior Klein Minister was reported to have joked to some of his colleagues that with the VLT machines, the government had finally discovered a way of taxing the poor. Some joke. Yes, raking it in was fine for the Kleineys. But paying it out was quite another matter. In a perverse reversal from human nature, they could take it but they couldn't dish it out.

Going logically hand-in-hand with the reluctance to spend was utter inaction in doing things. Not wanting to spend meant not wanting to build. The result: Alberta's crisis-level state of crumbling infrastructure and the exponential growth of costs to improve it, a deteriorating health care and education system, and homelessness that a few years ago would have been unimaginable. Among other problems.

For the first three months of his administration Fast Eddie's Government has shown itself to be a clone of Klein's. They are not spending. They are not building. There are no hospital construction sites being excavated. Ditto for schools. Medical staff shortages, doctors, nurses and the like remain in short supply.

And a crisis is growing from the lack of affordable housing. This past week, the cold spell in Calgary coinciding with the closure of a temporary homeless shelter brought the plight of affordable housing to everyone's attention. Fast Eddie's response, as parroted through his Jeremiah Johnson look-a-like Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Ray Danyluk: it's Calgary's problem, not ours. Let the City deal with it. In other words, its business as usual. Don't look to us to solve your problem.

But on the 'raking it in' side the Stelmach government is as alert as its predecessor. Broadening the use of Photo Radar to catch speeders incidentally increases the cash cow production of hidden cameras for government coffers. That's OK with Ed. Let's do it, he says.

So, don't expect much from Fast Eddie's so-called new team. His new team consists of most of the old team as well as the bench warmers for the old team. The bench warmers are just as inculcated with the Klein way of doing things as the city slickers that are now on the back benches.

Alas, to get government working again and doing the things they should be doing, the people are going to have to throw Fast Eddie and his gang out of the saloon. They must be beaten at the polls and confined to the trash heap of history. And the sooner the better.

It is extremely disconcerting that there is nothing novel or challenging coming from this Tory government. Its steady as she goes and do as little as possible. Most of the reasons for this must be laid at the doorstep of the the Premier and his Tory politicians. The buck must certainly end there.

But what about the senior bureaucrats? Have they become so steeped in do-nothingness, that they don't have any ideas either? Having regard to the boring and lacklustre performance of Fast Eddie and his posse, it would seem so. And so, when the house cleaning comes . . well, it should be quite a house cleaning.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


He's tried it all. He has emulated his neo-con hero-pal George W. Bush by extending a call to arms in Afghanistan. He has a couple of his dim-witted Ministers over there running around telling anybody who will listen that thanks to Canada's role there that things are improving (we lost 6 more of our valiant young soldiers there again today). He tried to solely occupy center stage at the Vimy Anniversary Memorial, by freezing out other Canadian political leaders.

He's ran American style attack ads in both official languages to beat up on Stephane Dion before the bell had sounded. He has resorted to Joe McCarthy tactics to malign opponents.

He tried to bamboozle the Canadian people with phony guarantees of maximum wait times for surgery. He has sucked up to Quebec in truly epic style by purporting to correct a laughable financial imbalance by giving it 3.4 billion of hard-earned Canadian tax dollars - thus allowing Premier Charest to give Quebecers a 700 million election eve tax cut. He cozied up to the Bay Street establishment by torpedoing oil income trusts.

He has stolen a good deal of the Dion Environment policy after dumping poor Rona Ambrose from the Environment portfolio and replacing her with his pit bull John Baird. He reminds Canadians daily of the Grit Adscam debacle.

He has unveiled his Party's cyber-age 17,500 square foot election headquarters. He implicitly or explicitly threatens to call an election every couple of days. Yada, Yada, Yada.

Yes, Bush's pal Steve Harper has tried everything. Every low-life political trick in the book. Blarney, subterfuge, smarmy brown-nosing of Quebec. You name it.

And guess what? SES Research has just released the results of a poll conducted for Sun Media, and it is bad news for Stevie. The poll conducted between March 31 and April 5 has the Conservatives with a 3 point lead - 36% to 33% - over the much maligned Grits. That's about where they started from at the start of the last election. A party has to be at the 40% mark before it is in majority territory.

The Grits are 12 points up in Atlantic Canada, 1 point up in Ontario, only 6 points down in the west and 10 points down in Quebec.

Of further worry to Stevie is that the margin of error of the poll is within 3.2% 19 times out of 20. SES called the last election to within one-tenth of 1 %. They're good.

The only region where the Tories have significantly increased their numbers is in Quebec. Now, is there anybody in the country who is willing to bet against the Liberals improving their standing in Quebec during a Federal Election?

How about when the Conservative leader is an Anglophone raised in Toronto and grazing in Calgary, and the Grit leader is a home town francophone? How about when the Conservative leader has been an arch-rightist most of his adult life, is a pal of Bush's, frolics in international adventurism and until recently did not give a damn about the environment? And suppose the Grit leader has an impeccable reputation for integrity and brains, occupies the center, does not cozy up to Bush, is cautious about sending Canadians into war, and has led the environment debate with a comprehensive policy from the beginning?

I like the sound of the phrase - "Prime Minister Stephane Dion." Get ready. We're going to hear it a lot more often. You can say you heard it here first.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Yesterday, our Defence Minister said that Afghanistan was a 'success story,' 'improving,' and that Canada will have a presence there until the progress made cannot be reversed by Taliban extremists. He said that he would watch the progress this year to determine whether the Afghan mission needed to be extended beyond its existing mandate - i.e. Canadian troops there until 2009 and millions of dollars in aid until 2011. He did not mention the billions more required in military expenditures.

This was consistent with the statements of happy warriors Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Treasury Board President Vic Toews. Earlier in the week while in Afghanistan they announced further aid to the Afghan police. Proudly sporting their bullet proof jackets and strutting about in the style reminiscent of General Patton, they used their photo-op to declare that Canadian assistance would not only help Afghanistan develop a professional civilian police force that would fight crime, but also promote Canadian values such as the Rule of Law and human rights.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission monitors carefully the goings on in Afghanistan. This is what Ahmad Zia Langari a commissioner of the AIHRC has to say about the Afghan police that our Government is trying to bolster with our money. He said, "There is not a very strong rule of law and the government is not keen to follow the law. Also, in the criminal court there is not a very strong and clear code for prosecuting police action." . . . "The main problem in Afghanistan is the culture of impunity. The government is not powerful. When a Governor, for example, has committed violence or he has been very corrupt, he is not prosecuted. The President just changes his position."

A recent joint report by the Pentagon and the US State Department said the Afghan police was 'far from adequate' at carrying out even conventional responsibilities. The report stated that recruits were illiterate and there was pervasive corruption.

Nicholas Kristof, a prominent American Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times journalist and
columnist as well as an expert on the history and politics of Asia and the author of several books on the subject recently interviewed President Karzai in Afghanistan. Karzai accused Pakistan of aiding the Taliban so as to turn Afghanistan into a colony of Pakistan. In Karzai's mind the NATO forces had focused on the wrong targets in seeking to wipe out terrorists. Instead of attacking villages, they should have stopped Pakistan from harboring and financing the terrorists. In other words, NATO should have been fighting the source of terrorism - namely, Pakistan. Karzai said that terrorism in his country was surging because of the Pakistani policy of turning a blind eye on the Taliban.

Kristof, an acknowledged Asian expert, who has witnessed the troubles in Afghanistan first hand, described conditions in southern Afghanistan as 'a catastrophe.'

In fact, the only optimists around talking about progress in Afghanistan is the Conservative Government of Bush's pal Steve Harper together with his Rumsfeldian Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor (a character right out of Dr. Strangelove, to be sure) and two dim-witted Ministers, Stockwell Day and Vic Toews. All of the feel-good talk about our commitment to Afghanistan is likely to continue only until the election is held. Then, whichever Government takes power, it will be truth time. No more photo-ops with bullet proof vests for campaign pamphleteering ballyhooing pointless and toothless assistance to a corrupt and violent Afghani police force. No. Then we will have a painful reassessment of our Afghanistan policy, the result of which will be to high-tail it out of there and pronto.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


What a joke. Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Treasury Board President Vic Toews on a junket to Kandahar. They are making the trip to provide assistance to the Afghan police.

Kandahar is well known for many reasons . For instance, it is a City that for a couple of hundred years at least has been known to be one of the most lawless on earth. For countless generations it has also been known to have among its residents more religious fanatics per capita than almost anywhere in the world.

The Afghan police force in Kandahar and elsewhere in Afghanistan is known to be ridden with corruption. Murder, rape, torture, pillage and bribery is its idea of law enforcement, not to mention looking the other way respecting poppy production which supplies heroin to the world. Many argue that it is the disgrace of the Afghani police that gives strength to the Taliban. Even the Pentagon and U.S. State Department have acknowledged this sorry state of affairs.

So what are Day and Toews doing in Kandahar. Don't laugh. They are there to spearhead a Canadian Government initiative to help train the Afghan police in such areas as weapons training, searching of suspects and vehicles at checkpoints, and how to respond to roadside bombs. Surely the Afghani police, coming from a country that by and large has been perpetually at war, have nothing to learn from the Canadians about those subjects. Unless it is to learn about the application of a Charter of Rights - which I am sure neither Day nor Toews had in mind.

To assist the Afghanis, Canada is providing 36 Canadian civilian police officers. In addition, Canada will pay for 2500 uniforms and other police equipment, help pay police salaries, and assist in the building and renovation of police stations as well as prisons.

Day, with his usual vacuity, stated that '. . . our police are playing an important role in promoting Canadian values such as the rule of law and human rights, and will help to bring stability and peace to Afghanistan." Fat chance.

Canada has an impossible job in Afghanistan. The west has not put its money where its mouth is. Their meager NATO troop levels in the country together with a reluctance of most of the contributing nations to get involved in the real hot spots of the country will doom the whole exercise to failure. The Russians couldn't control the country with 3 or 4 times the troop levels provided by the NATO forces. The Afghani Government is getting weaker by the day. According to all reliable sources, the Taliban is getting stronger. Its a helluva mess.

Just maybe, that is the reason why Day and Toews made the trip. Get some phony mileage out of a photo-op while you can, and keep bamboozling the public that our contribution actually has a chance of success. Until the election is held. After the election, they can deal with the fallout. Until then, milk it for all its worth.