Friday, February 27, 2009

Tory Crime Bill will not get "shot" down.

Bad news yesterday for Canadian gangsters and thugs! The Conservative government tabled a new bill that will toughen punishment for gang related crimes. Not surprisingly, the Liberals and NDP party is expected to allow the bill to pass. ( Can you imagine anyone "shooting" this bill down?) As I have talked about on here in previous posts, I am frustrated at how these gangs are able to run free on our streets.

Some pundits and opposition party members feel that the bill does not go far enough. In some respects, I agree....but we have to start somewhere. It is always easy to do NOTHING. I am sure that the Conservatives have more legislation coming, but to package it all under one bill would make it extremely difficult to pass.

While the current crop of gang members may not be deterred by the prospect of stiffer jail sentences, any future/potential members may think twice about choosing this lifestyle. Once/if the police are able to round up and convict enough high ranking members, maybe the message to the next generation will be heard. Until there are some real arrests and convictions, these clowns will continue to run around like they have immunity on our streets.

Here are my thoughts on some other measures:

  • Tighten/Restrict Bail and release conditions for gang members.
  • Enhance legislation that allows police and the courts to seize property/assets gained from the proceeds of crime.
  • Develop programs that educate and deter young people from joining gangs. A tough sell, but the Calgary Police Service has an interesting program called " Get a Life".
  • Why not introduce a Made-In-Canada version of the US RICO laws? This will help in convicting higher level members who tend to keep a low profile and let their members do their dirty work.

I am no expert, but feel that Canadians need to speak up and get tougher on organized crime before these organizations grow and get out of control. I am tired of hearing about shootings in every major city in this country and applaud the Conservatives for taking this first step.

Any other ideas? Have a safe for stray bullets in the meantime!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New Alberta Slogan?....

Well folks, the "Alberta Advantage" is now more! The Alberta government is spending $25,000,000 on a PR exercise to re-brand Alberta and will be looking at a new provincial slogan. On a nice cold Wednesday here in Calgary, I am lacking any creativity this morning, but perhaps here are a few possible replacements...

  • Alberta....100,000 Newfoundlanders can't be wrong.

  • Alberta...where we will never run a deficit again. ( or is that already no good?)

  • Alberta....just west of Saskatchewan.

  • Alberta...just wait, the next boom will be even better!

  • Alberta..where its hard to be humble, but we're doing the best that we can.

  • Alberta... kind of like Texas, without the Handguns and Racism.
  • It ain't easy being green.

As you can see....this is not easy, lol. Any ideas? Perhaps the $25MM is actually well spent.

Monday, February 23, 2009

More Tax Logic from Calgary City Hall!

Calgary City Council will be debating the issue of implementing a yet another TAX on Calgarian's today. Supporters of this new Real Estate Tax include our wonderful, forward thinking Mayor, Dave ( Let's Tax 'Em) Bronconnier. This new tax, if approved, will apply a 1% levy of the sale of all homes in the City of Calgary along with a levy on the land development industry on new and redeveloped properties.

Look at the math.... On a sale of a $400,000 home, the tax would equal $4,000!!! Add on the realtor fees of approximately $7000 and the average homeowner is taking a massive hit. The timing of this tax proposal could not be worse. Calgary home prices have fallen 10-20% from their peak in July 2007. Anyone that bought their 1st home in 2007 likely now owes MORE than their home is worth. Imagine if a family was forced to sell their home following a job loss in this market and had to pay this additional tax?

The home builders in Calgary are suffering badly due to this downturn. Ask any Tradesperson how busy they are right now? Take a look around the new neighborhoods and see how many empty lots are sitting there vacant! Yet the City thinks its wise to look at adding an additional tax on this industry?

Mayor Bronconnier's idea is to use this additional tax money to address the shortage of affordable housing in this city. While the "Red Tory" in me agrees that there is a severe shortage of affordable housing in Calgary and that something must be done, this tax proposal is not the right way to go about it. Rather than TAX TAX TAX...why doesn't our Mayor show some creativity and leadership and look for some alternate ideas?

  • Given Bronconnier's lack of vision, perhaps Calgary can follow Edmonton's lead on this issue.
  • I would also support tax BREAKS to landlords that properly convert basement suites.
  • Why doesn't the City use funds from its profitable operations ( EG. Calgary Parking Authority) to fund affordable housing?

Any other ideas??? I applaud Alderman Ric McIver once again for opposing this tax proposal and will watch to see how this progresses but council will likely shelve this idea until the fall. In the meantime, I hope that this tax proposal will die a quick death and that Council will step up and come up with some creative alternatives.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Obama visit to Canada...Happy to be in Iowa? lol

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Nice video of President Obama's and Prime Minister ( or is it "President" ) Harper's press confernce yesterday. I love the opening line.... when Obama says he is happy to be in "Iowa"

As is typical with these meetings, all the right things were said in the press conference. I would have loved to be a bird on the wall during their private meetings.

Anyways...its a good chuckle for a Friday Morning!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Alberta Municipal Auditor General Position Welcomed

I was pleased to read this morning that my MLA, Art Johnston ( Calgary Hays-PC) is introducing a private members bill that would look at creating an Alberta Municipal Auditor General position. While I am sure that our fine mayor, Dave Bronconnier will not like to be held accountable to anyone but himself, I think this position has some great potential.

The City of Calgary spends hundreds of millions of Tax Payers dollars and I think that this position will ensure that all citizens are receiving value for their money. The Municipal Auditor General will keep an eye on spending and ensure that tax dollars are spent efficiently and effectively. I also see that Calgary Alderman Ric Mciver is in favour of this proposal, and is also calling for the City to make its own auditor independent.

Nova Scotia recently introduced legislation that creates an independent auditor general to oversee municipal spending in smaller municipalities and requires Halifax to establish its own separate auditor general office. This example illustrates that other provinces are increasing independent oversight of municipal spending and I think that they are a step in the right direction.

I will be watching to see how the bill progresses and what it entails completely. I am sure there will be some heated opposition to this bill as the rural/smaller centre MLA's will not like this idea.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

No Sympathy for Calgary's Millionaire Mayor

So Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier wants to keep his 5.5% salary raise...fine, just say so. But please don't try to come off as an average Calgarian by claiming you need it for family expenses. While I respect everyone who works hard and secures a better financial future for their family, I have no sympathy for Mr.Bronconnier's plight.
Our Millionaire mayor has significant real estate holdings in the Beltline and on 17th Ave SW, which appear to be worth Millions of Dollars! Hardly the portfolio of the average Calgarian. If the Mayor's salary is causing such a financial hardship on his family, I am sure that Calgarians will be glad to help. Hopefully, we will send him back to the private sector following the 2010 election.
Sorry Bronco...I'm not buying it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bush Coming to Calgary...Can't Wait to count the UMMMS and AHHHS

As reported in the Calgary Herald today, former US President George W. Bush has chosen Calgary for the location of his first speaking arrangement since leaving office. The organizers for the March event figure 1500! people will attend this. I am not sure who would spend ( likely $500+) money to hear this man speak? I mean, he is definitely lacking any charisma and oratory skills.

For laughs, I wonder if someone will count how many Ummms and Ahhhs...he will utter during this speech. What will he have to talk about? How he is lost now that nobody is telling him what to wear, what to say and where to be all day long?

In a good laugh, Premier Stelmach responded to the news of Bush's visit by saying, " He is a free man, he can travel to any country he wants.". OUCH... Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Perhaps Alberta is trying to distance itself from Mr.Bush in an effort to get friendlier with the Obama administration....( Think Green....think Oilsands...!)

I would go if the ticket was free, but then again, I also like watching reality TV...sometimes you can't stop watching people make fools of themselves!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

BC Insurance Industry Initiative to Combat Organzied Crime

To gun-happy B.C. gangsters: installing armour plating and bullet proof windows on your cars will invalidate your insurance -- ICBC

A tip for B.C. gangsters driving off to a busy afternoon of
semi-automatic gun play: that armour plating and bulletproof glass on your
Escalade will invalidate its insurance. Such gun play between gangs waging increasingly violent turf wars is becoming more and more frequent in urban areas in the province. It can be a big problem for the car dealers who lease vehicles that are then altered by criminals.

Police and ICBC are warning auto lessors that gangsters are taking their vehicles out of province to be armoured for combat. If such vehicles are damaged in gunfights or normal fender-benders, their insurance is invalid.

It's a headache for honest lessors since gang members often lease vehicles through a relative or friend with no criminal record. But when the car comes back riddled with bullet holes, as was the case in several recent high-profile shootings in Metro Vancouver, ICBC won't pay.

“Substantially altering your vehicle and especially adding weight to your vehicle could be in breach of your insurance,” senior media relations adviser Adam Grossman told Thompson's. It is probably not a common occurrence for
coverage to be pulled due to unauthorized modifications. But then those who
armour their cars aren't likely to inform the insurer.
(Copyright Thompson's World Insurance News)

I think that this is a great idea...any initiative that will combat organized crime is a welcome step. I believe that the only way to hinder the growth of these gangs is to hit them where it really the pocketbook! This is likely their main motivation for getting involved in this lifestyle, so I welcome the ICBC's stance on this.
While it is true that most of these gangsters will not register these leased vehicles in their names, this stance may hinder their ability to recruit their friends from leasing/registering these vehicles in their name.
Although the BC Insurance industry is different than Alberta's, I would welcome a similar official position from the Alberta based insurance companies on this also. There is already standard industry exclusions built into the policy for vehicles that are Modified/Customized, but an official declaration/warning by Alberta Insurers would be welcomed.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Is Don Martin looking to resign from the National Post and move to the Calgary Sun?

Yes Don.... "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."....

In Today's National Post/Calgary Herald, Don Martin wrote a wonderful gossip piece titled " Signs could point to PM leaving before next vote." While I usually find Mr. Martin's articles well researched and factually correct, I think he is straying from his journalistic style a wee bit on this on. One of his apparent advantages over his rival journalists is his constant ability yo tap "inside" sources, who seem to keep him in the loop ahead of the competition. However, today's article is lacking any comment from these sources and is strictly a rag/gossip piece which is better suited for the Sun Media chain of papers.

In this article, Martin speculates that " If he sees serious doubt in being safely re-elected with a reeling economy stacked so dauntingly against the party, he might well quit early that fight the losing battle." He also mentions that if the PM has an early exit plan, "its doubtful that he's told anyone, including wife Laureen." Again, speculation. I see no mention that Don Martin even SPOKE to her about this, so its inappropriate for him to even comment on it.

Speaking of speculation.. since his employer, Canwest Global, is having some massive financial problems, perhaps Don Martin is looking to audition himself as a columnist with Sun Media? Looks like today's article is a great job interview....

Just speculation....but like Don Martin, I have no sources to confirm this!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Feb 10, 2009- Alberta Speech from the Throne

Well...great news to those who care....

The Second Session of the Twenty-seventh Legislature opened today with the Speech From the Throne.

Delivered by His Honour Norman L. Kwong, CM, AOE Lieutenant Governor February 10, 2009

A link can also be found here.

I am sure that all the political pundits/junkies in Alberta are thrilled that the Legislature is now sitting again! At the very least, it will give us something to chew on!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Calgary Campaign Finance Reform...Why Now Mayor Bronconnier?

In a story that just keeps popping up over and over since the 2007 Civic Election, Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier has once again brought up campaign financing reform issues in the news. Some may remember that this was a big issue following the last election and it seemed that most of the Alderman, and especially the Mayor were going to make this a priority. We are now at the midway point of the term and still....nothing has changed.

Remember Alnoor Kassam's attempt to "buy" the mayors seat in the last election? He spent $1MM dollars of his OWN money ( as he had little to no fundraising or donations ) and was able to match Bronconnier's sizable war chest. I am sure that this gave Dave a bit of a scare, as he likely figured that he had enough donations to run away with the election. With the 2010 election just around the corner, I think that Bronco wants to re-open this debate as a means to limit his potential opponents ( ie. RIC MCIVER) ability to fund raise under the same rules he was able to. Bronco already has over $300,000 in a campaign surplus fund that will be waiting for him in 2010.

Bronconnier has re-opened the debate and wants to add some new changes for Mayoral candidates including donation limits. I wonder if the mayor would have been open to these changes in previous campaigns, when he received some very generous donations...? (check them out here. ) I like the $19K donation from BFI ( a garbage removal company)...and the $18K donation from Intergul Cidex, a home builder. While I understand that fundraising is a necessity in politics, these are massive donations! Wow...and no tax receipt for these either.

With the mayor lacking in leadership and creative ideas, perhaps Bronconnier should look to Ald. Ric McIver's ideas on this. I applaud Alderman McIver for taking it a step further and calling out the Mayor to add some real teeth to his nice soundbite.

The Better Calgary Campaign has outlined some great ideas for Campaign Finance Reform, as follows:

1. Limits on contributions. The amount is up for debate, but $1,000 or $1,500 per donor is a good start.

2. Limits on spending. Fifty cents per resident is fair and reasonable. It allows for an effective campaign to be run, without getting into a money war.

3. Campaign surpluses given to the city, or donated to charity. Yes, if they are donated, the candidate will get a major tax receipt, but it's better than allowing them to simply keep the money.

4. Immediate disclosure of donations -- within five business days of the donation, they should be posted on the candidate's website.

5. Donations only in election years. Otherwise, incumbents can have three unfettered years of fundraising, leading to the question of whether donors are supporting a future election or rewarding current performance.

6. There should be a real estate registry highlighting all of a candidate's holdings.

This seems pretty realistic to me? While some items can be tweaked, the ideas are generally sound.

If the Mayor wants to be really "Transparent" and fair...perhaps he will do the following:

1) Follow Ald. Ric McIver's leadership and work to gets this issue dealt with.

2) Donate your $300,000 surplus to charity NOW. And start fundraising under the NEW Rules, in advance of the 2010 election.

Sorry Bronco, you cannot have it both ways.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Alberta Liberal ( or insert new name here) Party at a Crossroads?

Interesting article in the Calgary Herald this morning, which outlined some interesting developments within the Alberta Liberal Party. Over the past few weeks, much has been written about the speculation that a group of Alberta Liberals are looking at the possibility of starting a new provincial party, but I can only go by what the Herald reporters have said.

Today's article mentions fellow blogger Dave Cournoyer ( who runs an excellent blog by the way..check out the link here) as a member of this group.

They also talk about a different group called "The Democratic Renewal Project" which is focused on building a "grassroots coalition that unites the Liberals, NDP, Greens, Independents and truly progressive Tories." Daveberta also has a good post on this here. Interesting read.

While I am all for anything that enhances the Alberta political scene and combats voter apathy in this province, I am not sure how effective these ideas will be. While a second Liberal party may split the Liberal votes and set the party back even further ( with is alright by me!) I must applaud the initiative. The Alberta Liberal brand is stale and in need of some new ideas, which may engage more moderate Alberta voters to get involved. I believe that a stronger opposition will allow my party (PC's) to become more engaged and refreshed.

If anyone has additional info, please feel to pass it along.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Excellent Work by MP Jason Kenney

I came across two excellent articles this week that highlight some of the excellent work done by my MP, The Hon. Jason Kenney. ( Cons- Calgary South East) Take a look at these examples of our Immigration Ministers commitment to Canada and helping those in need.

Excellent Work!

1)Afghan Woman Given Refuge in Canada

2) After six years, diplomatic lifeline allows Chinese dissident to reunite with family

I know that the liberals out there will try to spin this, but you cannot dispute the facts here.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thanks Google...Spouses Beware!l

Yikes! I am sure that my wife will love this app on my phone! Google announced yesterday the release of their new "Google Latitude" application. This will allow users to see where their friends are on a map, in real time! Scary,

Google confirms the application is strictly voluntary and you have to accept your friends and family members requests to be added to the list.

I guess this will be a good tool for parents of teenage children. Even better for spouses....No more lies like "yes honey, I just left the pub...I will be home soon"! Your partner will be able to tell your exact location with GPS Pinpoint accuracy. ( Suspicious wives/husbands will love this!)

By the way Google is expanding into the "Big Brother" realm, I am sure they will soon release a Toilet "waste analyser" application, which will monitor what foods you are eating so they can customize the Google Ads to your individual food tastes.

Good Piece on the Conservative Budget by Ezra Lavant

This was Ezra Levant's piece on the Conservative budget, in the National Post yesterday. I thought it was pretty fair....and accurate in its reasoning.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Iggy the water boy...Grab a bucket will you?

" I am not in the business of carrying Premier Williams water...and he has to understand that."
( Ignatieff on 1/30/2009- CBC- The House, in response to weather he will allow the NFLD MP to vote against the budget.)

Yesterday, Liberal "Leader" Michael Ignatieff confirmed that he will allow 4 MP's from Newfoundland/Labrador to break ranks and issue a "one-time" vote of protest against the Conservative budget. I was pleased to see that Iggy showed his true leadership qualities and gave confirmation to the rest of his caucus ( and the rest of Canada) that he really has no backbone and will cave into any special interest groups demands.

By doing this he has set a wonderful precedence for the rest of the Liberal MP's, who will likely need to get their own "one-time" protest votes in future matters that are important to their riding's and/or provinces.

Parliamentary tradition requires MPs to toe the party line on important confidence votes such as the budget. Mr. Dion had been forced to expel Liberal MP Joe Comuzzi from caucus in 2007 for refusing to vote with the Liberals on the budget. What has changed here?

Iggy has stated " This is not just about Newfoundland and Labrador, this is about the way Stephen Harper runs this federation, this tendency for unilateral, surprise action is damaging to the national unity of our country. Tonight, they will have a one-time vote against the budget in order to send a clear signal to Newfoundland and Labrador and the rest of the country that this is no way to run a federation.''

If the budget is so bad and if Iggy is so upset with how Mr.Harper is running the country, why did he allow his party to pass the budget? He is spinning the mini-revolt in his caucus to deflect from the bigger issue here....the fact that this job is way over his head and abilities. While teaching at Harvard, I wonder if he allowed 4 of his students to avoid writing the final exam? I am sure he would have let it slide, as confronting them would just create conflict and force him to take a stand.

It looks like he is more concerned about saving those Liberal seats in Newfoundland. You can also say that he may be a bit afraid of facing Premier Williams wrath. By showing his weakness and caving in to one provinces demand.... I think we have Dion II on our hands. Which is all right by me!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Liberal Party of need of some financial stimulus

Looks like the Liberals are scrambling for some good ideas on how to raise more money for their party. I guess their belief that they are the natural party to govern Canada has stopped them from making fundraising a priority over the past few years. The once mighty Liberals raised only $5.9MM from party supporters last year, a far cry from the $21MM haul that the Conservative Party obtained. Even the NDP raised $5.5MM, just under the Grit totals....

I can clearly see now why the Conservative proposal to eliminate public funding of political parties was such a big deal to the Liberals/NDP/Bloc. Much like their ability to run the country, they lack the organization, creativity and commitment to strengthen their party through grassroots fundraising.

The Conservative Party of Canada has seen the benefit in appealing to its supporters for donations, and they have opened their wallets generously to them. ( Myself included.) If the Canadian people actually supported the Liberal Party, their financial situation would not be in this state.

How can the Liberal Party of Canada be trusted to run the country finances, when they cannot even control their own internal party debt? I wonder if Mr.Iggy wonders this himself when he looks in the mirror?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Read Between the ( Boundary) Lines with Alderman Andre Chabot

I got another great chuckle this week courtesy of Calgary Alderman Andre Chabot! After calling for all Aldermen to "tighten their belts" and consider cutting their pay raise to 2.75%, he now proposes that city hall consider adding 2 new Aldermen to the City Hall! His rationale is that a review is due to the city's explosive growth since they went to the current roster of 14 Aldermen. He wants to see what a boundary map would look like with 16 alderman and is quoted as saying... “At the end of the day, I may not even support it. It depends on what it looks like.”

If you look a little closer, I think it is apparent why he would like to have another two alderman added to the city hall roster....

  • Ald. Chabot was 1st elected in 2005, after 3 failed attempts to win the Ward 10 seat. He was only elected in a by-election following the Margot Aftergood voting controversy.

  • Last fall, he was loudly opposed to a proposed "redrawing" of the City of Calgary Ward maps, as it looked like the communities in Ward 10 were going to be swallowed up by neighboring wards.

If this were to happen, Mr.Chabot's riding would be severely altered, which in turn would put a hamper on his re-election prospects in 2010.

Perhaps the fact that "adding" two new aldermen posts would leave his riding unaltered during any ward boundary changes are his main motivation here?

The City of Calgary uses a benchmark to determine the number of residents that are represented by each ward. Currently it is +/- 75,000 people. I have attached a breakdown of the ward populations below:

Ward Sizes
Calgary 1,042,892
Average 74,492

Ward 1 =92,186 Ward 3 = 99,077 Ward 5 =60,293
Ward 2 =77,831 Ward 4 =72,351 Ward 6= 84,112
Ward 7 61,418 Ward 8=66,916 Ward 9 62,568 Ward 10 64,484
Ward 11 = 65,902 Ward 12 = 92,933 Ward 13 =82,838 Ward 14 = 59,983

Source: 2008 City of Calgary census/Calgary Herald.

So looking at these numbers, the figures are not out line and definitely do not support the idea of adding new positions. I would say that Ald.Chabot is clearly looking at adding these two new Aldermen positions to save his own job. It stinks of political survival and I think it is a terrible idea. By the way these aldermen have acted over the past year, ( except for the common sense of Alderman Ric Mciver) I would prefer to see the number of alderman posts cut down, not increased.

I am sure that Chabot will try to push this motion through, if only for his own political survival. Let's see how well your ideas float in the real world... Good Luck!