Sunday, October 18, 2009


Dear Ed,

Since you became leader of the Tories in Alberta I’ve always liked you. I know, I know, I was rough on you often, calling you names like ‘Special Ed’ and all, but I want you to know that what I did was always in your interests. It was my way of spurring you on to do great things. I knew the mess you were left by Ralph’s dumb and dumber crowd. In fact, I’m sure you knew it too given that you took such a major part in it. See:
And I knew it was going to take brains and ability to clean it up. So my motive was to inspire you to do great things. After all Ed, I live here. If you succeeded so would I.

I think part of your initial problem was that you and your pals like Danyluk and Snelgrove thought governing was easy. You knew that your mentor Ralph for the most part had an easy time of it, didn’t he? Almost until the end he had all of the usual Tory political, business, and media establishment kissing his ample backside – the big daily newspapers, the fawning columnists (two of which are now working for you), neocon media barons and think tanks like Conrad Black and the Fraser Institute, etc. It seemed to me that all you guys thought about when you knocked off Dinning was that it was now your turn to divide the spoils – Calgary had its turn and now it was Northern Alberta’s turn. Governing is far more complicated than that Ed, as I’m sure you have come to realize.

And so the first thing you did was screw Southern Alberta by tossing out most of its ministers. It was your first big mistake. Oh, I know, you tried to make amends. You put Ron Stevens in as your deputy premier, and added a couple of people in junior portfolios, but it wasn’t enough. You know the Calgary Tory establishment. They think they’re pretty good. They don’t like getting pushed around. This initial action, Ed, poisoned the well for you down here for sure.

Then there was the small matter of a lot of things going to pot in the province. I mean, we had deteriorating health care, education, infrastructure, and most everything else the provincial government is supposed to be taking care of. The problem was that people began to figure out that the Alberta Advantage that Ralph talked so often about was really no advantage at all. Oh sure, the oil companies were making big bucks. Developers, too. But the sick were being treated in hospital corridors. Some had to be flown to Saskatoon or Great Falls, Montana for treatment, for God’s sakes. Seniors’ care was understaffed, overcrowded, and generally a joke. Roads were an insult to the vaunted money generating capacity of big oil. There weren’t enough places or money available for our big universities to provide for all of the young people who wished to attend.*
[*On the matter of education perhaps when you are retired you will find time to read the following piece published on October 15 by the Herald’s premier columnist Deborah Yedlin:]

Geez Ed, did you know that Alberta had the highest high school drop out rate in the country? Or that Alberta had the lowest participation rate in the crucial 18 to 25 age category in post secondary education in the country? Did you? How about Snelgrove? Danyluk, even? No? I didn’t think so.

As if all of that wasn’t bad enough you then goofed up on royalty policy. First of all, by ordering the task force study and then putting the study out for public debate just gave your opponents one big fat target to shoot at. Then when you decided on royalties you failed to provide for that dark day when oil and gas prices collapse (Did you know that it is an historical fact that they always do, sooner or later? Did you know that?). The whole royalty issue has won you legions of enemies and no friends whatsoever. Look at what oil companies put into the coffers of your party in the last year and a half. Hardly anything. Small gas producers are under the gun. It’s a helluva a mess.

I’m sure you will say that you couldn’t have been that bad because you won an election in the interim. Eddie – can I call you Eddie? – Eddie you won that election for two reasons. First of all, as Muhammed Ali used to say, the other guy didn’t ‘whup’ you, and secondly because the people wanted to give you a chance. It was not because the people thought you were competent, believe me.

While all of this is brewing, then we are hit by a financial crisis. That was something you and the Tories should have been prepared for. North America had been riding high for some time. There is a thing called the business cycle and it is more than a theory. Bubbles burst. Good governments prepare for that. The financial collapse forced your government to rocket into major deficit territory at a time when people were just figuring out that the Alberta Advantage for Martha and Henry was a crock. Bad timing for you, Ed. The result of all of that was the loss of Calgary Glenmore to the Wild Rose Alliance – even though you had a high profile candidate who ran a helluva good campaign.

Okay, okay, you might say much of this is bad luck. And you might be right in saying so. But Geez Ed, you have to try to help yourself. That statement you made the other day about reducing your pay by 15% makes you look like a weasel - even more than usual. You cut it by only 5.7% and everybody figured it out in about five minutes. And many are convinced you said it was 15% to mislead the people. See:
And you still haven’t learned how to give a decent speech where you do not look like a dweeb, for God's sakes!

And now on top of all of this, you’re confronted by the loquacious babe who just won the Wild Rose Alliance leadership. I hear old Tory stalwarts and ministers like Doug Main and Ernie Isley joined the party and voted for her. The story is that all kinds of old Tories are signing up for her. They’ve had it with you and the old Tory party. See:

Well, Ed, when I started this piece I thought I could still give you some constructive advice that might pull it out of the fire for you before your moment of truth coming up in Red Deer in three weeks. But after giving due consideration to everything, I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do or say to help.

Perhaps you might think of going into your den, taking out your beretta, wrapping yourself in the Alberta flag, putting on maybe some of your favorite Hank Williams or Wilf Carter records, having a couple of slugs of chokecherry wine, locking the door and then do the honorable thing. Or perhaps do what the Japanese do when things are hopeless and they have run out of options. But, Ed, I think its over for you, and it’s probably over for the Tories.

Monday, October 12, 2009



Ritter (L), stacks of cash, and Carter (R)

Michael Peter Ritter is a white collar criminal in his early fifties from Edmonton. He is a thief, a fraudster, and money launderer. Just how bad a guy he is can be gleaned from reading these pieces:

Ritter was a wealth manager when the gendarmes finally caught on to him. Like many in the wealth management game he was intelligent, cool, and glib. As people were to discover he was also a nonpareil liar. He lied about having a law degree. He lied about finishing his studies at the London School of Economics. He lied about being admitted to Gray’s Inn for English barristers. He lied about being an intern in the House of Lords Legal division. He lied about attending the University of Geneva and he lied about having been an advisor to the Swiss Bankers Association. And all of that happened years before he got into his legal quagmire at which time he began to tell more lies.

Those early lies about his experience and education helped him wangle a job in the hapless Don Getty Progressive Conservative government in 1988. He conned Getty’s motley crew into making him chief parliamentary counsel to the speaker of the Alberta Legislative Assembly – one of the qualifications for which was that the applicant had to be a lawyer. The speaker in those days was the very pious appearing – and, as it turned out, fabulously naïve - Anglican man of the cloth by the name of David Carter, now happily retired and living somewhere in the Cypress Hills.

The job description for Ritter’s governmental post included advising the Alberta government on parliamentary procedure, constitutionality of legislation, conflicts of interest, and alleged improprieties of members. During his tenure, he took the position that the government and the speaker could do anything they wanted to do – even when it came to roughing up reporters. The Tories loved him. He was one of their true blue enforcers. He could do no wrong. In 1993 with his patron Carter’s retirement from government and politics Ritter followed suit, and soon began his sordid career as a wealth manager.
Law enforcement officials began looking into his affairs in the summer of 2002 and in October of 2003 he was indicted on several fraud related charges in Los Angeles that could have landed him in jail for life. He spent the next four years trying to fight off his tormenters by using every legal and illegal trick in the book – including arranging for a false passport under an erroneous name. Finally, on October 27, 2006 in an Edmonton courtroom he pleaded guilty to stealing 10.5 million bucks from one client, and of engaging in a Ponzi scheme that bilked 6500 investors out of 270 million dollars. He chose to cop out in Canada to avoid further prosecution in the U.S. where, had he been extradited and convicted there, he knew he would be spend a hell of a lot more jail time than in Canada. Once Canada got the guilty plea, the Americans folded their tent.

Much of the dough he made off with was the life savings of little people of modest means. He blew the money on lawyers, his pals, rich kids’ toys - like two private planes and a sky box for Edmonton Oilers games - and more of the good life. In other words he spent the money on himself. For a brief accounting of some of his expenditures and tastes read:

Surprisingly, some of his old government pals even tried to help him out by submitting character references to the court in an effort to get the Judge to go easy on him. Among them were Tory ex-minister Jim Horsman, ex-speaker Carter, and, oddly enough, even two former NDP leaders, Ray Martin and Pam Barrett. The judge that heard the case took the joint advice of the prosecutor and defence counsel, and sent the charlatan to the big house for ten years. So far so good.

However, about four months ago, the National Parole Board – now stacked with Tory and Conservative friends of Stephen – paroled Ritter. He had served a meager 18 months in a minimum-security prison for his dastardly deeds. Not only that, even though at his sentencing Ritter agreed to help track down the money he had filched so as there would be some restitution to his victims, not a dime has been forthcoming. Despite all of the aggravating circumstances the Board followed its policy of releasing non-violent offenders who have served only one-sixth of their time. After 18 months of jail time Ritter is free - free to wheel his Jaguar around town and live in baronial splendour in expensive three storey digs replete with a home theatre and cherry wood humidor, and plan his next move.

The case raises many issues and concerns. To say that the case is a sad reflection on the Canadian parole system under the Harper government is an understatement. The parole board gave him kid glove treatment for serious crimes that deserved real and prolonged punishment. Also, following in the tradition of Alan Eagleson, Conrad Black, David Radler and most recently Peter Pocklington, the prosecutions emerged not in Canada but in the United States once again for the reason that Canada lacks the resources to go after white collar criminals.

Then there is the curious case of David Carter. In most circles Carter was and is a well-respected Anglican clergyman. However as a speaker, his tenure was not applauded by the opposition. Too often he appeared to be pedantic, condescending and unduly critical of the opposition’s attempts at keeping the government honest. The fact that he worked with Ritter for so long without suspecting his mendacity is astonishing; that he would submit a character reference for the scoundrel after he more than others were lied to and misled by Ritter is even more strange.
But that’s not all. In 2001 Carter had his picture taken together with Ritter and a kitchen counter full of $20 bills. The money is thought to be all or part of $400,000 fraudulently scooped by one of Ritter’s clients and then given to Ritter for deposit into a Swiss bank account. Carter acknowledges that he helped Ritter take the money to Switzerland but was not suspicious about the trip because, “Wasn’t my business.” When he was asked what his reaction would be if he knew that the goal of the Swiss deposit was to evade taxes, the ordained Anglican priest said, “Hey, . . . that’s been going on for decades.”

That Carter exercised poor judgment in his dealings with Ritter is obvious. His blithe and reckless attitude towards what Ritter was doing with the money is either fabulously naïve, profoundly stupid, staggeringly arrogant, or stunningly and abominably amoral. Perhaps it is all of those things.