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? 

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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 )

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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

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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. 

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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?

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