Saturday, December 22, 2012

Thanks For Helping To Raise $10,000 for Inn From The Cold Families This Christmas!

  Wow!  What started out as a simple idea  to use social media to try and help some local families this Christmas turned out bigger than any of us could have imagined.  The plan was to raise a few hundred dollars and gather some much needed items to fill a Christmas hamper or two for the Inn From The Cold, but due to everyone's generosity, we exceeded that modest goal by a long shot.

  We had lots of interest in the goods donations and dozens of people on Twitter had contacted me to confirm that they were going to donate hamper and wish list items and many people had dropped off goods directly to me to forward to the Inn From The Cold.  I was amazed at the response and so happy that we could help the Inn in this small way.  Then, thanks to an idea hatched by my pal Joey Oberhoffner, things took off in another amazing direction.

  At the last minute, Joey organized a challenge to some of our contacts on twitter, to raise money from their respective political party members via a food pledge night!  This idea turned out to be a massive success, as we saw people from across the Alberta political spectrum get behind their members and donate money for each wing and taco that they ate!  Some even donated to all of the participants, which was amazing.  Here is how the results shook out...

  • Vincent St Pierre (Alberta Liberals) - 24 tacos (NOT a typo...!) 
  • Joey Oberhoffner (Progressive Conservatives) - 15 tacos ( Hold the sour cream....) 
  • Derrick Jacobson (Wildrose) - 41 chicken wings  ( Yes, there is some symbolism in the "41 Wings..." )   FYI,,,Derrick and the Wildrose raised the most money! 
  • Marc Doll (Alberta Party) - 13 tacos (at $100/taco!) 
  • Stephen D. Anderson (NDP) - 10 tacos 

  • These gents raised over $4700 for their efforts!!  It was hilarious to actually watch them chow down and push themselves to the limit for charity.

    The best part?  We had an anonymous donor who agreed to MATCH any money raised!  This brought the total raised to well over $10,000!!!!! ( This donor's generosity had inspired all of us in this initiative)

     I had the chance to deliver the hamper items with our anonymous donor yesterday to the Inn and they were very thankful.  When they received the cheque from our matching donor, they were blown away.  This money will go a long way to helping families this holiday season.     

      Over the past few years, I have had the privilege to meet some amazing people on twitter and they always come out to support good causes.  I am truly blessed to know these good people.  Thanks again to everyone who helped, either through donations, re-tweets and support of the #ablegcares gluttony on Wednesday!

    Merry Christmas everyone!  

    Bookmark and Share

    Tuesday, December 4, 2012

    Hey Calgary! Who Wants To Help A Family In Need This Christmas?

    ** Update 12/10/12**  An anonymous donor has advised that they are going to match/equal all donations received, up to $5,000!!!  This is amazing news! 

      With the holiday season in full swing, many of us are caught up in the hustle and bustle of December.  As our attention turns to finding the perfect gifts for our loved ones, many people tend to get lost in the madness of the shopping season.  As Calgarians, we are fortunate to live in one of the wealthiest cities in the world and many of have been blessed with great families, careers and financial stability.  That said, as well off as Calgary appears, there are many people struggling to make ends meet on a daily basis.

      Inn From The Cold is a local charity that provides emergency shelter, support and programs to homeless children, their families and others in need, with the goal of building healthy, stable families and ending homelessness.  I have had the opportunity to tour their facility and I found it personally heartbreaking to imagine the hardships that a homeless family faces.  The work that Inn From The Cold does on a daily basis helps families in need and I thought it would a good idea to try and give back to our community and help a family have a brighter Christmas this year.

      During this holiday season, Inn From The Cold can use our help in providing items for a Christmas hamper and holiday wish list items for their clients.  I am reaching out to friends, coworkers and associates on social media to help put together some donated items for local families.  By working together, we will be able to make a family's holiday a little brighter this year.

    How can we help? 

    • Please review the list of hamper and "wishlist" items in the links below and let me know if you would like to help by donating some of these important items.
    • Please share the wishlist items on Twitter and Facebook to help spread the word. ( #yycTwitterXmas)
    • Help with the collection and drop off of these items at the Inn From The Cold facility. 

    Some of the key items they require can be found below.

    1) Inn From The Cold Hamper Items
    2) Inn From The Cold Wishlist Items

    Ideally, I would like to collect all of the items and drop them off around December 16, 2012 if possible.

    If you are interested in helping, leave a comment below or email me at ( Also, be sure to share any other ideas that may help a family at Inn From The Cold this Christmas.) and let me know if you can help!



    Bookmark and Share

    Friday, November 30, 2012

    Still Missing My Grandfather....Five Years Later

      Lately, I have found it hard to find time to post anything, but today I am thinking about my late Grandfather, Andrew Byciuk, and decided that I needed to post this.  My grandpa lost his battle with cancer five years ago today ( oddly enough, he passed away on his 82nd birthday) and this day has been a bittersweet one for me ever since. 
      As a child, my grandfather and I shared a very special bond and he always made me feel like I was the most important person in the world.  Even as I got older, I am certain that he felt like I could do no wrong and gave me a lot of confidence that I have carried with me into adulthood.  Apart from our genetically shared blue eyes, great hair and above average intelligence, ( see the previous sentence regarding my cockiness/confidence.. ) he has influenced my life immensely.  Through him, I have inherited a love of classic country music, unapologetic sarcasm and a keen interest in politics.  I often laugh when I think about some of his home made "political" editorials, where he would cut out a picture of Trudeau, Getty or Mulroney and inset his own funny cartoon style captions. I wonder where I get that from? 

      I was fortunate enough to grow up in a neighborhood adjacent to where my Grandpa lived, which meant that his home was only a short bike ride away in the summertime.  Many people are not as lucky to have their grandparents live so close by and people often take these blessings for granted, especially as we get older.  You just always assume that they will always be with you and personally, I know I did.

      During the last six months of his life, I was fortunate enough to have been able to visit him everyday and those visits have become priceless to me. During this period, he shared some very personal stories with me and then would jump into some hilarious "life lessons from Grandpa" quotes that still make me burst into laughter today.  I wish that I would have kept a journal of these stories and "one liners" as they would have made a fantastic book! 

      Even though five years have passed, I still miss him and think about him every day.  I really wish that he was still here to see how much my life has changed in such a short period of time and to share in some our our family milestones. I honestly would give almost anything to have another 15 minutes with him.  I also wish that he could have met my son Kyron, who was born two years after he died.  I know that they would have been pretty good buddies. 

      So today and every November 30th until I join him, I will always take some time to try and honour his memory with a stiff Canadian Club, a few Johnny Horton or Merle Haggard songs playing in the background and a private rant about how liberals and socialists are going to take this country into the toilet!  Until then, I'll keep on plugging away and make him proud. 

    I really did think that he walked on water.


    RIP and Happy Birthday Grandpa...... 

    Bookmark and Share

    Tuesday, July 10, 2012

    MP Jason Kenney's Stampede Breakfast 2012

      I hope that everyone is enjoying the 2012 Calgary Stampede!  Calgary Southeast MP, Jason Kenney will be hosting his second annual Stampede Breakfast on Saturday, July 14!  This event was a huge success last year and it was a lot of fun for all who attended. 

    I will be volunteering at this event so be sure to say hello if you stop by! 

    Bookmark and Share

    Tuesday, April 24, 2012

    2012 Alberta Election Results: Quick Thoughts and Vlog Post

    Well, that was fun! Here is a quick post on my thoughts on the results of the 2012 Alberta election.

     The 2012 Alberta general election is finally in the books and this will prove to be one of the most interesting elections in Alberta history.  The series of missteps and amazingly incorrect polls will be analyzed over the next few weeks by all parties.  It has been one of the nastiest, most passionate campaigns in Alberta history as anyone on twitter will likely confirm.   

      I was really shocked by the lack of accurate polling over the entire course of the campaign.  Right from the start of the campaign, the Wildrose Party was showing massive leads in every single poll.  While there are probably a lot of explanations pending as to why the polls ended up so incorrect, it is clear that the Wildrose dropped a ton of support among "main street" Albertans following the "foot in mouth" moments by a few WRP candidates.  The slow response by the Wildrose Party proved to spook a lot of Albertans, in my opinion.

      In talking to many casual political followers, it became clear that some people were uncomfortable with the statements made during the last weeks of race and it looks like it became a defining issue at the end.  It is not a PCAA/Liberal conspiracy as many are saying.  I do not believe that the WRP is a racist party at all. It simply proved to be a lack of damage control by the leader in the form of a quick, honest response. 

     I think that the Wildrose may have made a mistake by failing to promote their candidates at the local level.  It seemed like the strategy was "all leader...all the time".  It seemed that every ad was targeted around Danielle Smith and really failed to highlight the local candidates.  The fact that the public really did not know much about the local politicians that were running under the WRP banner likely added to the perception that they did not know who they were voting for or what they stood for.

     Here is a quick vlog post about my thoughts on the election results.


    For full election results, head over to

    The analysis in the days and weeks to come will be interesting. I hope to have a detailed post following up on the results once the dust settles. 

    Bookmark and Share

    Monday, April 16, 2012

    Our Failed Attempt To Buy Garth Brooks Calgary Stampede Concert Tickets!

      Anyone that knows my wife Becky will attest to the fact that she is probably the biggest Garth Brooks fan in Calgary.  She has been a fan for close to twenty years and she loves his music and his humble persona.  When we heard that Garth Brooks would be performing a special concert in Calgary, in honor of the Calgary Stampede's 100th anniversary, she was ecstatic to say the least.  I often joke that she loves the country crooner more than me and she even walked down the aisle to an instrumental version of his song "She's Every Woman" when we got married in 2007.

     When the ticket sales were announced, I knew that they would sell out very quickly but like most Calgarians, I figured we had a good shot at securing some tickets online.  As the 10am online sales time neared, Becky was turning into a nervous wreck as she dreaded the thought that we would not be as lucky as I anticipated.  When the sales opened, I clicked the "process order" button at five seconds after ten and was elated that I was going to be able to score some tickets to the hottest show to come to Calgary in years.  As the seconds passed, my joy to turned to shock....then dread.... as the message came back saying that no tickets were available! 

      I could hear the panic in Becky's voice downstairs as she was trying to get through also without luck.  After about ten minutes of futile attempts on my part to get tickets, Becky started calling all of her friends, praying that someone we know was able to get through.  Unfortunately, no one else was able to get tickets either.  Over the next hour or so, it became clear on social media sites that many people in Calgary were furious that tickets were available online from secondary ticket markets like StubHub and Kijiji at outrageous prices.

      Garth Brooks in notorious for his dislike of ticket scalpers and always tries to ensure that as many fans as possible can see his shows.  Many Calgarians will remember the "wrist band" system that was used when he played a set of shows here in 1996 and that scenario worked out well as it blocked out the scalpers.  While I understand that his Calgary show really comes down to supply and demand issues, I am sure Garth was furious when he heard that his show sold out in less than a minute but thousands of tickets were already for sale by the online brokers.  I don't know what else could have been done to prevent this fiasco, but it sure left thousands of fans shocked at the outcome.

      Becky and I were fortunate enough to do a fun interview for CBC Calgary on Saturday about this adventure, which can been seen on the link below. ( Its the lead story at the beginning.)

     Since this show will take place on the weekend of our fifth wedding anniversary, I am really hoping that some more tickets become available.  Maybe the Stampede gods will find a way to add a second show.  Failing that, perhaps Garth can mail some tickets over my way and make me the best husband in the world.  :)

    Bookmark and Share

    Friday, April 13, 2012

    The Alberta 2012 Election Twitter Echo Chamber

      Most people that know me will confirm that I love to use Twitter and think that is an amazing social media platform.  Over the past three years, I have been engaged on this medium and have met some outstanding Calgarians of all party stripes online.  I have become friends with a diverse group of people on twitter that I probably would never have met in real life.  Over the past few years we have always had a great banter and while we often disagreed, we could have a respectful debate.  This can best be seen through the diverse group of bloggers and media people that often get together for "Politweet" meet-ups, usually generously hosted by Joey Oberhoffner and Derrick Jacobson.  These tweetups take place with people from the entire political spectrum and truth be told, we all get along just fine!  That said, not all of the twitter engagement over the past few weeks with respect to #abvote has been as ideal.

      I have noticed that over the past month the tone from all parties on Twitter has gotten a tad nasty.  Its OK for all parties to disagree, but I am shocked at how personal the attacks against party supporters has become.  A quick scan of the #abvote hashtag will reveal a cesspool of attacks, negative re-tweets and slurs against each PC and WRP supporters.  To be fair, I think that all parties have an equal amount of negativity and I think that the election campaign has increased tensions substantially.  It has gotten so nasty online that I joked that "I hope we can all be friends when this election is over" and I seriously hope the nastiness dies down after April 23.  

      If you think back to the 2010 Calgary Municipal election, the use of Twitter to engage political discussion exploded.  People that were not typically involved or interested in politics used this medium to ask questions and debate issues respectfully.  This healthy debate actually engaged people to get involved and led to an increased turnout on election day and help to inform voters of the issues the city faced.  Fast forward to the Alberta provincial election and the same cannot be said.  The #abvote negativity appears to have driven many average tweeters away from the conversation.  I have heard numerous times that people who try to ask questions or join the debate are "pounced on" from the opposing side, which causes some to just back away from the conversation.

     Since many casual political twitter followers seem to be driven away from the debates, it looks like the only people left screaming are the "usual suspects' ( myself included) and we appear to be just yelling into an endless echo chamber.  If this is true, I often wonder if others think there actually is value in tweeting and trying to debate issues regarding the election?  If PCAA and WRP members just banter back and forth, without outside engagement, what is the point?  (Its not like we are not going to sway each other to vote for the other party!)  It often just comes back to attacks by each side, followed by responses and another attack.  While I have been guilty of this, I have really been getting drained by it all. 

     It will be interesting to see just how bad things get online over the next few weeks.  While its unfortunate that it has gotten so nasty, it is even more shameful that we have driven people away from the conversation. While most of us clearly show which party we support by our avatar "twibbons', we are probably failing to properly and objectively inform the casual twitter user.  Hopefully, we really all can go back to being friends when this is all over and can look toward the example that the Politweet members set in respectful disagreement! 


    Bookmark and Share

    Thursday, April 12, 2012

    Alberta 2012 Provincial Election Riding Profile: Calgary Southeast

      The riding of Calgary Southeast was created in 2010 with the Alberta provincial boundary changes, due to explosive population growth in this area.  The riding was carved out of Calgary Hays and parts of Calgary Shaw and includes the neighborhoods of Auburn Bay, Chaparral, Copperfield, Cranston, Mahogany, New Brighton and Silverado.  The riding was previously represented by PCAA MLA Art Johnston from 2004-2012. 

      Most of the communities in the riding of Calgary Southeast have all been built after 2000, so this is a dynamic, new suburban area.  The are is also home to the massive new South Calgary Health Campus that is set to open this year.  The area is made up of a lot of young families and professionals. 

    The Candidates: 

    Brad Carroll ( Liberal)

    Rick Fraser ( PCAA)

    Bill Jarvis ( WRP)
    Marta Warszynski ( NDP)

    I will attempt to post some individual interviews with the candidates on this site during the election.

    To find out where you vote in Calgary Southeast, head over to this link.

    Bookmark and Share

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012

    Alberta Election 2012: Which Candidate Will Put Their Foot In Their Mouth First?

      As we head into the second week of the 2012 Alberta provincial election campaign, I am still waiting for a candidate to create a nasty headline with some ill timed comment.  Every campaign has these "foot in mouth" moments and while I am sure that there will be a few over the next few weeks, I am surprised that none have come from the Wildrose Party as of yet.  Sure, we saw the stupid comment by a 23 year old female PCAA staffer, which kicked off a minor "fertili-tweet" flurry, but I am actually talking about candidate campaign mistakes.

      While all parties seem to have an eclectic cross section of candidates, I think the upstart Wildrose has an even greater selection of rookie political candidates than most parties.  The Wildrose members are a passionate bunch and I assume that most of them have joined this new party because of a variety of social or financial conservative touchstones that they are rabid about.  Because of this passion, I am shocked that the candidates ( and most of the WRP twitter-esque types) have gone rather quiet as of late.  That said, after reading Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid's article this morning, I really should not be all that surprised by the silence.

     In the article, Don mentions that his local WRP candidate got a little spooked when he realized he was on Mr.Braid's doorstep!  The nervous candidate then told Don that if he wanted to talk, he would "have to call the Wildrose campaign media team.'  Hmmm....sounds like a classic gag order from the party executive to me!  It is not hard to imagine the fear that the WRP executive must have when they imagine their candidates running wild and talking to reporters during an election.  Without the complete control of the WRP executive talking points at hand ( or some sort of wireless microphone feeding the script to their candidate) they must be afraid that some sort of "foot in mouth" moment will sink the Wildrose campaign in an instant.

      The majority of the (non-political)  people I talk to still are not sure what the Wildrose is all about.  To them, they feel that they are an "extreme right wing" party and I think that the Wildrose knows that a few crazy comments from their candidates will derail their "centrist" message and further cement the undecided voters ill informed image of them.  With that in mind, I can see why it appears that there is an implied "gag order" in place.  I would love to see the list of "DO NOT DISCUSS" issues that each candidate received in their training package.  It will be interesting to see which candidate will be the first to get caught in a media scrum and stray from the official/approved talking points and get themselves in some hot water?


    Bookmark and Share

    Thursday, March 22, 2012

    Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson Pulls Diva Act

    With the Alberta provincial election calls just days away, it sure seems that things are getting a bit testy in Edmonton!  I laughed so hard at the Edmonton Journal story about Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson's tussle with a female sherrif at the legislature yesterday.  In what can only be described as a severe "diva" moment, the Airdrie MLA intentionally parked in Premier Redford's assigned parking stall, only to have a fit when the sheriff demanded ID and asked him to move.

      In the story link above, you can see that Mr. Anderson feels that he is an important man and really is above reproach.  A civilized person would have apologized and simply moved the vehicle to his own assigned spot.  Perhaps he has been watching too many episodes of "Parking Wars" on A&E and thinks its OK to belittle Sheriffs who are assigned to provide security.

      I think that since he feels he is the de facto leader of the WRP that he is entitled to "test drive" the premiers spot and imagines he will in fact be the Premier one day.  Unfortunately, the thirty second park job is about as close as he will actually come to filling the Premier's shoes.

     It should be an interesting month! 

    Bookmark and Share

    Monday, March 19, 2012

    Wildrose Party Campaign Tour Bus Tire Failure!

     Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words!  I was shocked this morning when I saw the picture of the Wildrose Party campaign bus making its way around Twitter.  At first, I figured that this had to be some kind of "frat boy" photoshop joke, but I guess not.  While I think its kind of silly to make light of the picture, you cannot help but laugh at the judgement of this picture placement.

     I truly believe that the Wildrose Party is so disciplined that to think this is some sort of "error" would be naive.  I don't think that it is out of the question to consider that this placement was intentional or that once the mistake was realized, they decided to run with it anyways, due to the shock value!  I would expect that something as important as your campaign bus branding would have to be vetted by some of the senior leaders in the party.

     Maybe its a generational thing, but I doubt that there would be the same innuendo talk if the wheel placement was beneath a male leaders image, which is disappointing. ( Well, I guess it would depend on the picture though.)

    You really cant buy this type of media chatter.  Especially with an election call expected within the week.

    I'd love to hear some of the captions that people would apply to this picture!     

    Bookmark and Share

    Monday, March 12, 2012

    Happy Happy Wildrose Tweets! ( And A Huge Surprise Endorsement!)

      With the Alberta provincial election call just around the corner, the tension on Twitter has never been greater.  I have noticed that the tone between tweeters of all political stripes has become overheated in the last few weeks.  I used to love to jump in and debate issues with some loud Wildrose supporters, but I am just drained from all of the negativity.  I am all for honest debate, but most of these conversations have just become super partisan pissing matches and to be honest, I just cant be bothered.  The tone has gotten so nasty that I have even seen non-political people turned off.

     While I have some good friends in the Wildrose Party and think that they have some (....some) valid ideas, one of the main reasons the party has turned me off is the negative tone from the majority of there supporters online.  I would never paint an entire group of people based on a few dozen high profile members, but unfortunately they tend to represent the views of the average party member in my opinion.

    Since I tend to prefer lighthearted posts, I thought I would share some cool products that may help ease the anger of the Wildrose tweets!

    The Oscar "I Love The WRP" Iphone Skin! 

    Campaign Buttons!  ( Watch for them on the campaign trail!)

    The "0.05 Hater Shot Glass" ( I predict that this will be a big seller the day after the election!)

    Good Times! 


    Bookmark and Share

    Friday, February 24, 2012

    Calgary Peace Bridge Discussion

       I think that most Calgarians will agree that the "Peace Bridge" controversy has been one of the most polarizing issues in local politics in may years.  Love it or hate it, the Peace Bridge is finally nearing its completion after nearly fifteen months of delays.   I had the chance to appear as a guest on the CBC Calgary Eyeopener again this week to discuss everybody's favorite pedestrian bridge and had a blast as always. 

    Personally, I think that the bridge is quite odd looking, but unique.  My issues with the bridge include the following:

    •  I am not a fan of the way that this bridge funding was pushed through council.  I would have preferred a public tender process and more transparency during the whole process.  Had there been more discussion on this, I think that this bridge would not have become such a polarizing issue. 

    • I agree that most people were not sold on why this bridge would be needed as there are some additional pedestrian bridges nearby.

     Either way, I am pleased that because of the public uproar over this bridge, city council will never go through with this type of untendered public infrastructure project again. 

    Here is a link to the CBC Eyeopener chat....

    What are your thoughts on the Peace Bridge?


    Bookmark and Share

    Thursday, February 9, 2012

    Help Alberta Senate Candidate Jack Redekop "Jack The Senate"

      With the Alberta senate candidate nominations underway, I thought I would share some information about local candidate Jack Redekop.  I have known Jack for a few years now and worked closely with him on a few different boards and I believe that Jack would make an excellent Senator.  Jack is a successful business owner, dedicated community volunteer and I am impressed by his commitment to the community.

      Jack is also a dedicated conservative and has worked on many local riding associations in addition to his community volunteer work.  He is committed to senate reform, which I also support entirely. 

     Here is an open letter that Jack wrote, and I find it very interesting....

    If not an Elected and Equal Senate now, when?
       Why is the Senate irrelevant?  Because Senators have been appointed by Prime Ministers’; some of past governments as far back as Jan., 1984.  The Prime Minister of that day was Pierre Elliott Trudeau.  Who are these Senators accountable to?  Some to a Prime Minister that has been deceased for almost 12 years?
       Constitutionally Senators were supposed to represent the Provinces, particularly in the areas of health care, manpower, education and taxation – a travesty because the Provinces have been robbed of this representation, ostensibly since confederation.

        Moreover, representation by population has also not been adjusted since confederation.  One need only look at the four Maritime Provinces with a total of 2.3 million residents with 30 Senators, as compared say, to British Columbia with a population of 4.4 million, almost double that of the Maritimes, and yet has only 6 senators.
      Of the 104 Senators currently appointed (1 seat still vacant), only 2 have ever been elected by a Province (Alberta), then appointed by the reigning Prime Minister.  Stephen Harper appointed Senator Bert Brown (the father of the EEE) in July of 2007 and Senator Betty Unger this week.
      Prime Minister Harper, with the assistance of Senator Brown have proposed Bill C-7, the Senate Reform Bill, now in Second Reading in the House of Commons, expected to be advanced in June of this year.  With a majority of Conservatives in the House and in the Senate (although even some self-serving Conservative Senators have said they may not support C-7), we may have our single best opportunity to finally right a 145 year wrong.
       Even if C-7 is passed by the House and then the Senate, there is still much work to be done convincing other provinces to actually hold elections for Senators.  B.C., Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and of course Alberta have committed to holding elections, but to be effective, you need at least 70% of the population, which means 1 of Ontario or Quebec, and no one is betting on Quebec getting on board, even if it meant they would finally get the provincial representation they have been seeking since the start of the separation movement.
      So the task goes to convincing Ontario MP’s and Senators to pass then adopt Senate Reform Bill and hold Senate elections.  Once Ontario is on board, we will have that critical over 70% requirement with which we can then further address the Equal part of the equation.
       But the time is NOW, for who knows when we will next have a Prime Minister committed to fulfilling the responsibilities for which they were originally constituted.
     Please help me come beside the Prime Minister and Senator Brown in obtaining an elected Senate that represents the Provinces, and then an equal Senate which will result in, finally an effective Senate. Jack Redekop, PC Senate Candidate Nominee                                                                                                  

    For more information on Jack, be sure to check out his website at

    Bookmark and Share

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012

    Calgary City Council Mediator Session

      I have been lucky to have been a guest on the unconventional panel three times in the past month!  This week, the panel talked about the City of Calgary "intervention", where a facilitator was brought into a special meeting on Monday.  This caused quite a stir on twitter, as many people were shocked at the thought that council actually needed a psychologist to come in and facilitate a meeting to promote harmony amongst the group.

      I had the chance to talk to Mayor Nenshi about this last night and he confirms that it really was blown out of proportion.  Like George and Cory state in the panel, these types of meetings go on all of the time and are often used as a team building event or  a corporate goal setting session.  Mayor Nenshi laughed at the notion that the facilitator ( who is a psychologist by profession) was there to offer his professional services to try and "head shrink" his colleagues.  I am sure that when  most people heard this story, they imagined the Alderman laying on couches and telling the facilitator "about their mother's".

      We had a good debate on the show this morning and we all had some fun with this topic.  You have to check out the picture on the CBC website which shows off George Brookman rocking the coolest pair of ladies sunglasses! 

    Here is a link to the audio podcast!

    Do you think that this was blown out of proportion, or does this point to an increasingly dysfunctional council?

    Bookmark and Share

    Thursday, January 26, 2012

    Calgary City Council Pay Raises 2012

      There has been quite a stir this week over the 5.35% pay increase for Calgary city council members. Many Calgarians appear frustrated over the increase as it seems out of line with what the average worker will receive in 2012.  While these positions do offer pretty good pay, I do not think that it is out of line for the work that they do.  Personally, I know that my Alderman often works 60-70 hours a week, which is not unusual in an elected role. 

      Many have pointed out that the compensation for Calgary alderman is one of the highest in the country, but its also important to note that many other Canadian city councils have "tax free" portions built into their "lower" salaries and do not carry the same constituent level/alderman.  No two cities needs are alike, so I find it hard to make the comparison this way.

     While these increases are paid by our taxes, I think Calgarians need to put pressure on council to find spending efficiencies across the entire budget. 

     I had the chance to be a guest again on the CBC Calgary Eyeopener's Unconventional Panel yesterday to discuss this.  Here is a link if you are interested.....

    It definitely is an interesting topic.  How do you think they should be paid? 

    Bookmark and Share

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

    A Day Without Food In Support Of Brown Bagging For Calgary's Kids

      Many of you know that I am a proud kitchen volunteer and board member for Brown Bagging For Calgary's Kids ( BB4CK) and I am humbled every Monday morning that I get to help make lunches for needy Calgary school children.  Even though I have been doing this for over two years, I still am moved when I try to imagine that there are kids in our city that go hungry everyday.  When I talk to people about what BB4CK does, they are also shocked that there are thousands of kids that go without food in a rich city like Calgary and they always are looking for ways to help.

     As part of BB4CK's tenth anniversary, the organization has laid out many different ways the public can get involved.  This month, we have challenged Calgarians to "go a day without food" on January 24 and share their thoughts with everyone.  While I understand that it may not be feasible to go a whole day with out food, many people have stated that they want to get involved by giving up one meal, their favorite snack or will attempt to go without something that is important to them for the day. What can you give up? 

    Here are my thoughts this morning....

    If you would like to give it a shot, be sure to tweet (@brownbaggingit  #bb4ck10for10 ) or share your thoughts on the Facebook page at   ( The main website is )

    Bookmark and Share

    Thursday, January 19, 2012

    Sean Chu To Enter The Calgary North West PC Nomination Race

      I was pretty excited when I heard the news that Calgary Police officer and longtime community volunteer Sean Chu has decided to enter the PCAA nomination for the Calgary North West riding.  Many people were surprised last week when sitting MLA Lindsay Blackett announced that he would not seek re-election, prompting this nomination race.  I have known Sean for a number of years and consider him a good friend.  I have seen his leadership abilities firsthand and know that he would make an excellent MLA. 

    Here is a little bit about Sean.... 

    Sean Chu arrived to Calgary from Taiwan after 3 years of military service in 1985 speaking not a word of English, and within 7 years he was a sworn officer with the Calgary Police Service. From that point on Sean has worked with the Calgary Police Service as on Officer for over 19 years. Sean took an even more extensive role in contributing to his community by working with many boards and volunteer associations in an effort to be a bridge-builder for the many groups that make Calgary such a diverse neighborhood. The two most important areas that Sean has focused on in his community work is helping new immigrants feel welcome in their new community, while focusing on issues that affect seniors. All while raising two young daughters Jasmine & Sienna.

    Here is a brief snapshot of some of his community work:

    Member of the Premier's Calgary Advisory Committee.
    Member of the Sien Lok Society.
    Advisor to the Calgary Chinese Merchant Association.
    Volunteer Board member of local PC Constituency Associations.
    Homecare support for a person with a disability.
    Recipient of Alberta Centennial Medal for outstanding community service.
    2 terms as director of Federation of Calgary Communities.
    3 terms as director of Foundations for the Future Charter Academy.
    Volunteer regularly at his daughters' school.
    Recipient of Calgary Police Service Distinguished Service Award.
    Volunteers regularly for the Nose Creek Sports and Rec Association (Cardel Place), Sandstone MacEwan Community Association and the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta Calgary Chapter.

    The Calgary North West nomination election will take place on February 4th, 2012 at the Tuscany Club ( 212 Tuscany Way N.W. )

    Eligible voters shall be:

    - a Canadian citizen
    - 16 years of age or older
    - a resident of Calgary North West, which includes Tuscany, Scenic Acres, Royal Oak, Rocky Ridge and  Lynx Ridge
    - a 2012 PC party membership (memberships can be purchased on February 4 at the voting station)

    To date, there are only two candidates that have formally announced their intention to run for the nomination, with Sandra Jansen being the only other declared candidate.  I think this is good for the democratic process as not many people are keen on default acclamations in an open nomination.

    I commend Sean for putting his name forward for this nomination and believe he will be an excellent MLA as noted above. This should be an interesting race.

    Sean can be reached at

    Sean's Facebook page is here

    Bookmark and Share

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    Alberta "Illegal" Political Donations? Much Ado About Nothing

       Over the past few weeks, it has become clear that the Wildrose Party can sense that all of their hard work over the past few years is looking more and more like it will all be for nothing.  In order to try and maintain some sense of publicity, they have been trying to create some controversy over some of the donations received by the PCAA.  It seems that every week, the WRP has continued to try and stoke the imaginary fire by feigning outrage over some disputed donations to local PCAA fundraising events, thereby trying to create a false image of  PCAA"corruption". 

      While I take financial contribution laws very seriously, the recent stories that the WRP are questioning do not appear to be the big issue that they would like it to be.  ( I guess they subscribe to the old theory that if you throw enough crap at the wall, you hope something sticks....)

    I had a great discussion with a reader this week, who pretty much summed up the scenario nicely below....
    Here is their basic explanation of how the PC's can accept "illegal donations" without doing anything wrong.

    Scenario 1:

     "John works for MRU. He gets an emailed invitation from his local MLA (a volunteer working on BEHALF of the MLA, actually), along with 5,000 other constituents who the MLA has email addresses for. John buys a ticket to a local PC golf tournament with his personal credit card. While he's there, he talks about PSE with several cabinet ministers, for a minute or two at a time, over the course of the day. John submits his credit card bill to MRU to be reimbursed, as he feels he was advocating on behalf of his employer. MRU sends John a cheque for his expense. Opposition parties scream bloody murder. PC's are guilty of hosting a fundraiser, and taking John's personal credit card number. Their interaction with John ended there."

    Scenario 2:

    "Suzy is a local town councillor. She holds a fundraising dinner every year, and every year her PC MLA comes out to support her, paying with his own credit card. The MLA is very popular locally, and Suzy thinks he's likely to cruise to another victory in the next election. She gets a phone call from a volunteer, who has already called 52 people today on the MLA's list of identified supporters, asking if she's interested in coming to the MLA's Silent Auction. She feels she should, since the MLA supports her own fundraiser every year, and she gives the volunteer her credit card. Suzy goes, has a great time, and uses her presence there to advocate for local civic issues with the MLA and his guest, the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Later that month, she submits the expense to the City Clerk's office, who pays her back the amount charged on her personal card. Opposition goes nuts. Those Banana Republic, democracy-hating, corrupt PC's solicited an illegal donation. From someone identified on the MLA's list as "Suzie", who gave her personal credit card number to attend a public event with 500 other local residents. It only became illegal when the clerk paid her back the amount - had the expense been rejected by the City Clerk's office, absolutely nothing would have been done wrong.

    This seems pretty straightforward to me and unfortunately for the Wildrose Party, a scandal this does not make. 

      I also believe that if the donation form clearly states that the party cannot accept funds from town/city councils, school boards and/or unions, then the onus is on the individual donating to ensure that they comply.  If they go back and ask for reimbursement after paying for these events in their own name, how can any party verify and check this?  If any improper donations do make it through the cracks, then I agree that the funds should be returned immediately.   I think that the Alberta government needs to revise and strengthen the rules ( along the guidelines that the federal political parties must follow under Elections Canada rules) to ensure that compliance is followed.  The Elections Canada rules are so strict that it makes it very simple to understand what types of donations can be accepted. 

      While I have a lot of good friends in the Wildrose Party, this desperate attempt to revive a dying PR campaign just appears petty.  Show me some willful intent by the PCAA to hide donations or cheat the system, and I will gladly join the outraged crew.  Apart from a dynamic leader, a handful of good candidates and some vague policies, the WRP is just showing the citizens of Alberta what really is important to them.  Albertans want to see solutions to the issues that matter to them ( health care, the economy etc.)  and this frankly is not one of them. 

     I really hope that this issue will serve to help firm up the political fundraising rules in Alberta going forward. 

    Bookmark and Share

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012

    New Years Resolutions For The City of Calgary

     Happy New Year!  I hope that 2012 is starting off well and that it is an amazing year for everyone.  I had the opportunity to be a guest on the CBC Calgary Eyeopener's Unconventional Panel again today and it was really a blast.  The topic today was "New Years Resolutions for the City of Calgary".

    My top new years wishes for the City of Calgary were as follows:

    1) Push to get the much needed recreation facilities built in the deep SE!

    2) Urge Calgarians to get more involved in local charities through volunteering!

    3) To let 98% of Calgary city council know that it is ok to disagree with Mayor Nenshi! ( Why are they so scared of him?....)

    Here is a link to the interview:

    What are your hopes for the City of Calgary in 2012?

    Bookmark and Share