Monday, June 21, 2010


Travers: Changing Canada, one backward step at a time

Published On Sat Jun 19 2010

By James Travers National Affairs Columnist

Imagine a country where Parliament is padlocked twice in 13 months to frustrate the democratic will of the elected majority. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that slyly relaxes environmental regulations even as its neighbour reels from a catastrophic oil leak blamed on slack controls. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that boasts about prudent financial management while blowing through a $13-billion surplus on the way to a $47-billion deficit. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where a political operative puts fork-tongued words in a top general’s mouth. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that refuses to fund the same safe abortions to poor women abroad as it provides at home. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where the national police commissioner skews a federal election and is never forced to explain. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that writes a covert manual on sabotaging Commons committees. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country dragging its climate change feet as the true north melts. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that silences political debate on the sale of a publicly owned, crown jewel corporation. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that puts higher priority on building super-prisons than keeping people out of them. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where parties that win the most federal seats are dismissed as “losers”. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that twists its foreign policy around the interests of another nation. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that argues that barricading its largest city promotes tourism. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that promises Senate reform only to continue stuffing it with political hacks. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that avoids answers about a controversial war by accusing questioners of supporting the enemy. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where party apparatchiks decide who in a nominally free press is allowed to ask the Prime Minister questions. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where donut shop wisdom is more prized than expert analysis. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that builds a fake lake for a tough-times summit. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that preaches law and order while killing a long-gun registry police chiefs insist makes citizens safer. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where serving the Prime Minister as chief propagandist is job preparation for running a national news network. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where charities mute constructive criticism of public policy for fear of losing federal funding. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that can spend $1.2 billion for summit security but can’t find the petty cash needed to invest in the status of women. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that promises accountability only to impose secrecy. That country is now this country.

Every example is familiar, all are documented. Only the cumulative effect is surprising.

Conservatives came to power knowing reluctant Canadians could only be shifted to the political right incrementally. That movement is now advancing according to the plan Conservative thinker, strategist and Stephen Harper mentor Tom Flanagan infuriated the Prime Minister by making public.

Imagine that.

Saturday, June 12, 2010



On the whole I have always enjoyed the writings of Edmonton Journal columnist Graham Thomson. To me he has always been – dare I say - a fair and balanced observer of Alberta politics. When he graces the pages of the Calgary Herald I read him with great appreciation because for that one fleeting moment in time he gives the editorial page some class. Upon finishing reading his piece the paper then for days on end sinks to its usual low level diatribes from lunatic neocon think tanks and single-issue loud mouths.

So Thomson is different and the people of Edmonton are lucky to have him.

But even Thomson gets it wrong sometimes as he did in his column today entitled, ‘Alberta Liberals split by bid to co-operate.’ Read:

He opens with a line surely to capture the affections of the Herald’s editorial page editor: “One of the truisms of Alberta politics: No matter how bad things get for the Liberal Party, they can always get worse.”

He then goes on to list he party’s recent woes as he sees them - the departure from the caucus of Dave Taylor and the decision of Kent Hehr to run for Mayor. Let me assure Thomson as well as others who may think along the same lines that I have talked to a host of Alberta Liberals about Taylor’s grumbling exit, and I have heard very little in the way of regrets or misgivings of any kind - even from people like me who supported Taylor in the leadership race. The consensus is simply that if Taylor was that unhappy, it is better that he left. For David Swann and the remaining caucus it was one less hassle to deal with.

As far as Hehr’s quest for the mayor’s chair is concerned the Grits that I speak to only wish him the best of luck and if he wins they would regard his victory as a feather in every Alberta Liberal’s hat. I mean, he is one of us and he is running for arguably one of the most exciting political offices in the country. How does that reflect badly on the Alberta Liberal Party?

Thomson then moves to the dust-up in Kevin Taft’s riding of Edmonton-Riverview. Three members of the riding association executive have resigned from their positions because of the passing of a resolution at the recent convention of the Alberta Liberal Party. The resolution in question reads:

“be it resolved that the Alberta Liberal Party supports making every reasonable effort to persuade other progressive parties in Alberta to work together during general elections.”

The resolution was controversial and the final tally on the vote was close. I confess that I had something more than a little to do with its content as I had moved it in the workshop as an amendment and spoke for it on the convention floor just before it was passed.

My take on the resolution is simply this. Alberta Liberals, like any political party that aspires to govern, must create a big tent and fill it up with diverse thinking individuals who can set aside some of their differences to support the greater cause. Otherwise, power will forever elude them.

This approach is not new. It has been followed by most progressive parties that have attained power in the Western democracies. The best example in my memory in Alberta is the Progressive Conservative party under Peter Lougheed. Lougheed brilliantly put together a diverse team that represented all elements of Alberta society - business, labour, progressive thinkers, even right-wingers, and so on - who worked together for good government and it delivered for Albertans the best government in the province’s history.

Thus, the resolution meant to me and most others at that convention that Alberta Liberals were extending an invitation to a diverse group of people, many of whom had not supported us before, to work together with them in order to bring about an era of good government for the people of Alberta.

Oh, the wording of the resolution could have been spiffed up somewhat, but the idea was there, and it was clear: All you NDs, Greens, frustrated Tories, Wild Rose Alliancers and anybody else out there who believe in progressive policies that help ordinary people and who are sick and tired of lousy leadership, marginal support, or narrow ideology, come and talk to us . . . or let us talk to you. We want as many of you as possible who believe in progressive policies to come inside of our big tent so we can throw the rascals out in the next election.

Thomson complains that the resolution didn’t explain what “work together” meant, that it didn’t mention parties by name, and that it couldn’t have been aimed at the Tories or the Wildrose Alliance. If Thomson doesn’t know what “work together” means in a political setting he should choose another profession. Just to be sure Thomson understands, “working together” means “working together” to win elections!

As to the party names, why should they be listed in the resolution? Why wouldn’t the Liberals want to welcome disaffected Tories or Wildrose Alliancers along with NDs and Greens who wish to join them in common cause to promote progressive policies on the environment, health care, education, and so on? Do disgruntled Tories and Wildrose Alliancers have some contagious disease?

Thomson says he and others are puzzled about what the Liberals will do with the resolution. C’mon. The resolution is nothing more than a codification and a reminder of what political parties should be doing at all times – generating support for their cause – particularly from others who have not supported them before. This is not rocket science.

So, from the standpoint of someone - namely me - who had as much to do with the resolution being passed as anyone, there is no mystery to it. There are no hidden agendas; there is no intent on weakening the Liberals resolve to win the next election. The resolution simply means that Alberta Liberals should get out there and work towards inviting voters who share our values and who have never voted for us before to give us their support.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


attacked unfairly says reader

CORBELLA (above)
Irate reader accuses Herald
editor of showing"icy blue right wing colours"
in her recent mean-spirited attack on
David Swann

I have received a note from one of my many loyal and faithful readers who has asked me to post the following open letter to the editorial page editor of the Calgary Herald, Ms Licia Corbella. Of course, I try to accomodate all such reasonable requests.

It reads as follows:

Dear Ms. Corbella:

Like Darryl Raymaker, I too thought you more than over-stepped the boundaries of good journalism in your recent political editorial-—you went beyond journalistic decency.

I’m trying to be as objective as possible here—am even willing to cut you a little slack in the objectivity call because none of us is totally impartial, even journalists who have specialized training in this regard.

But Licia, your icy blue right-wing colours are now glowing in the dark. You need a warm bath, with soft candlelight. Try soaking in a couple of these thoughts...How about covering a story or two right out there on the front lines of the poor, the starving, and the dying in Africa? Or, maybe you could do something to improve public health conditions in the Phillipines, or pen a few thoughts on the plight of babies who’ve been made pawns in a war game somewhere.

You could visit our own native people whose pleas with big oil and the government to clean the tailing ponds have largely been ignored.

I've got it Licia--a hunger strike! Please make it for something that matters more than a politician’s one mistake out of 72 speaking points.

Maybe you’d like to objectively cover two sides of a controversial story—one that could get you fired because it jangles a conscientious nerve or two (for pointers, see Swann and Kyoto story, 2002).

As Darryl Raymaker notes, David Swann has the “competence, experience, and courage” to lead the way on many fronts, including those just mentioned. He has worked the front lines in Africa, the Philippines, Iraq, Fort Chipewyan, in southern Alberta as the Public Health Officer for Palliser (the Conservatives fired Swann from this position for his public support of Kyoto—he hopes to return the favour).

Dr. Swann also went to Ottawa to pressure the feds to intervene in the genocide in Darfur.

David Swann is now working hard for the public's interest—today and well beyond tomorrow. We need to give him all the support we can.

Our democracy (that’d be yours too Ms. Corbella) is imperilled. And democracy and good journalism matter.

Keep writing Darryl! Onwards David!

Judy J. Johnson

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


A relevant and qualified leader of competence, experience and courage

A pipsqueak

Yesterday on June 1 Licia Corbella, editorial page editor of the Calgary Herald, wrote a column about Premier Ed Stelmach’s new communications strategy of hiding from Alberta voters letting his ministers assume the task of getting out into the hinterland to talk to them. See:

In her column Corbella ridiculed Stelmach’s invisibility even when his government was able to wallow in the success of having finally come up with a satisfactory royalty program. Naturally, being the spear carrier for the extreme right that she is, Corbella attributed the new royalty program exclusively to the wisdom of the new darling of the lunatic fringe of the fractured Tory Party - Danielle Smith, the leader of the Palinesque Wildrose Alliance.

In the course of her nonsense, Corbella naturally takes a shot at the Alberta Liberal Party. I doubt that she could write a column about the bathroom habits of bumble bees without her obligatory false malignments against Liberals. She writes that Liberal leader David Swann and some of his caucus attended a Herald editorial board session a week or so ago, and that given Swann’s performance there she predicts “Liberals will remain largely irrelevant.”

She bases her conclusion on 18 simple handouts containing 72 Alberta Liberal Party policy points that the Grit contingent gave to the editorial board during the course of the meeting. Handing out condensed material on policy is standard practice for all political parties who visit editorial boards. As you might expect, this type of simplification is especially important when visiting the Herald editorial board who understand only the simplest of one syllable words.

One of the 72 points contained a reference to a name the significance of which none of the assembled Liberal visitors could remember. I repeat, 1 out of 72! That was enough for Corbella. As a result, her column accuses Swann of putting out policies that he does not know anything about, and that the party was suffering from a lack of professionalism. I repeat - one small mistake out of 72 points. A serious leader, she says, would know them all - 72 out of 72!

When one thinks of the bullshit and factual errors one reads in the Calgary Herald on a daily basis – particularly on the editorial pages over which Corbella presides – her condemnation of the Liberals is – to say the least - galling.

David Swann is a medical doctor, who has practiced family medicine, taught at universities for which he received teaching awards, worked in the public health system, consulted internationally, and has made major contributions towards the betterment of his community. His stature makes Corbella and her ink-stained right-wing pals look like pipsqueaks! For those interested in Dr. Swann’s impressive career see:

Corbella concludes by writing that the Tories aren’t worried about the Liberals because, “They view the Liberals, under Swann, as irrelevant.” I have two observations about that statement. First of all, Corbella fails to remember the results of the by-election in Calgary Glenmore in September - which for an editorial page editor is far worse than missing one out of 72 points. The Tories came third - behind the Wild Rose and the Liberals.

Secondly, in referring to the Liberals under Swann as irrelevant twice in the same flimsy column she repeats a big lie - expressed recently by a publicity seeking, malcontented former Liberal. I am sure Corbella knows from her prior reading - meager as it may be - that if you repeat the ‘big lie’ often enough, people will believe it. See:

How indeed can the Alberta Liberals under Swann be ‘irrelevant?’ He is a qualified leader of competence, experience and courage who leads the strongest party in Alberta by far, that advances progressive policies and ideas. For a better look at some of the policies he is promoting see:

In fact, the Alberta Liberal Party is arguably the most relevant party in the province because it is the only party which is not a conservative party of the right or far right that can come within striking distance of victory.

Is Corbella only interested in right wing parties being on the Alberta ballot, and if so, what does that say about her?