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Alberta Politics Big Government Bureaucracy Environmentalism Politics Science Uncategorized

Springbank Dry Dam?? Nope. Wet Dam, Mud Hole, & Dust Bowl.

Dave 07

3 years ago I published a blog about the highly controversial  flood mitigation project, the Springbank Dry Dam. (SBD)

Here it is again, with some updates.

In the fall of 2014, to great fanfare and just before the Alberta provincial by-elections, the PC government announced the Springbank Dry Dam (SBD); an Elbow River flood mitigation project to be constructed a few kilometers west of Calgary. The announcement was in the papers and on television, and sadly, that’s where landowners who will lose their land, or the use of their land, found out about it. Talk about a callous and cynical disregard for property rights!

There is no question that some form of flood mitigation is required before we inevitably get hit by the next big one. After all, Calgary was subjected to two floods in the late 1800s, each bigger than the 2013 deluge. But it has to be the right project in the right place, and at the right cost.

Here are a few things for Calgarians, and anyone else who believes in property rights, to think about.

Is it right that people whose lives will be disrupted, livelihoods threatened, and property values greatly diminished are completely ignored in the planning stages of a project of this magnitude and impact?

Does it make sense to locate a flood mitigation dam where it will provide absolutely no protection to the communities of Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows, both of which suffered serious damage in 2013?

SpringbankRanching families in the area have ridden these foothills and valleys for generations, and know them intimately.  In fact, they have been ranching in the area since 1885; decades before people began building mansions on the Elbow River floodplains. Why was their counsel not sought in the lead up to the announcement of the SBD?

These people of the land point to a number of better locations for a flood mitigation project which would not only protect Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows but would also provide larger scale and safer protection for the City of Calgary.

Several upstream Elbow dam proposals actually have been discussed by Government bureaucrats.  One site that appeared to be viable was the McLean Creek area, but the government told us that “it was finding it too complicated to wade through all the government regulatory requirements, recreational aspects, and environmental concerns that would involve placing the dam on public lands.”

Think about that. Future infrastructure projects in Alberta must sometimes only be undertaken on private lands because it is too complicated to comply with government regulations, when putting them on on public (government) land. But if the land is privately held they can, apparently, simply announce the project through the media and, voilà!, problem solved.

In addition to being in the wrong place, the proposed SBD project is based on seriously flawed research. After they announced the SBD, representatives of the Government proudly told us that the project is to be based on a concept they discovered while on a recent trip to the mountain-less Netherlands.  It even has a catchy name: “Room for the River.”

As we know, when rivers flood their banks in fertile alluvial regions like those upstream from the Netherlands, the water carries rich organic sediment downstream and deposits it downstream along the river’s flood plains.  When the water subsides, the land can be farmed intensively. Does the government actually believe that this is what will happen in the Elbow River Valley?

Anyone who has witnessed flooding in an alpine setting will recognize this as complete nonsense.  The proposed “dry dam” will provide a shallow catchment basin for mountain sediment and rock grindings, and will turn thousands of hectares of pristine and carefully managed grazing land, into a vast, sterile, mud flat. Rock grindings are inorganic and will kill grass rather than fertilize it.

I was in High River several times after the 2013 flood, and the sediment was being hauled away because nothing will grow in it. How will you remove sterile muck from thousands of hectares?

You can’t, so as the sediment dries out the muck will turn to dust, and a once lush valley will become a dust bowl and westerly winds will carry the dust into homes west of Calgary, and into Calgary itself.

Has the government asked the folks in Springbank and West Calgary how they feel about rock dust? I haven’t heard about it. Because that’s government’s way. They come up with bright ideas to “help you”; insist that they’ve had the finest experts develop the solution, but tend to under-emphasize, or completely ignore, unintended consequences.

A few years ago, Travel Alberta came out with some great commercials telling you to: “Remember to Breathe.” Great advice, especially for West Calgarians, while you still can. Here’s a commercial I’d like to see, to be directed at governments, everywhere. “Your decisions – including their unintended consequences – affect real people. So, Remember to Think!”

I’m Dave Reesor

** Don’t Dam Springbank.org published this disturbing reminder. I don’t remember it being emphasized in government talking points, or by local media, but it should be a central part of the discussion.

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Alberta Politics Bureaucracy Canadian Politics Conservatarians Politics

The Debaters

Dave 07IWUZ watching Alberta’s political party leader’s debate last week and I agree with the consensus; Rachel Notley won.

But Jim Prentice got it exactly right: we can’t keep doing things the way we have been in the past; we need less arrogance and more integrity in government, and we need a plan. The only problem is that we’ve known Jim for nearly a year now and we’re not sure that he understands any part of that.

When he was running for the leadership of the PC party he allowed his henchmen to buy thousands of PC memberships and then hand them out for free – obviously with the intent that the recipient would feel a “moral” obligation to vote for him for PC leader. Maybe “moral” is the wrong word.

Even more notoriously, during his campaign for the leadership of the PC Party he promised to honour the mandated spring 2016 election date. The other night he challenged Rachel Notley on her math; again more than a little bit ironic since he’s now apparently has mixed up spring 2015 and spring 2016.

Last fall he used the bye-elections to announce schools, dams, and medical facilities in a way that – while not illegal – was recognized by the Ethics Commissioner as immoral.

Then almost immediately he seduced some members of the Wildrose Party – apparently themselves possessing PC grade ethics – to cross the floor with promises of perks and power. It turns out he was just kidding.

Earlier this year we were inundated with a tsunami of PC promises – all expenses paid for by we the taxpayers – and then, as noted before, he called the election a year early. But of course, it’s only “what’s best for Alberta.”

So while Premier Prentice’s call for change is spot on, maybe the first change should be Premier Prentice because it appears that the only significant difference between him and the former Premier is gender.

Brian Jean didn’t win the debate: he mostly kept calling over and over for “no new taxes.” But then, he didn’t have much time to prepare, Premier Jim having gotten his election dates mixed up and all.

And tragically, Brian Jean had lost his son just a couple of days before he became leader of the Wildrose Party. So all things considered, he didn’t do too badly.

But hearing: “No tax increase!” “No tax increase!” “No tax increase!” “No tax increase!” “No tax increase!” ad-nauseum; it starts to get tiresome. But then, if you think about it long enough the nausea starts to dissipate and “No tax increase!” starts to grow on you.

Because, if Brian Jean is really serious about no tax increase, it’s probably quite doable. If we know anything about governments it’s that they waste enormous amounts of our money for layer upon layer of overpaid administration, boondoggles, and corporate welfare. Ending corporate welfare alone would save billions.

Rachel Notley won the debate, no question. However, it’s worth remembering that we are not choosing a debating champion, but a party, and a leader that will set Alberta’s direction for the next four years, and beyond.

Jim Prentice told Ms. Notley that “math is difficult.” Actually it’s not. Ms. Notley promises to take more tax dollars away from corporations. If the government takes more money from a company, then how can that company use that money to hire more people? Yet Ms. Notley says that her plan will add 27,000 jobs. That’s a severely mathematically challenged notion.

We have three granddaughters who went to “McDonald’s University” to learn how to get to work on time, deal with customers; and count change. Ms. Notley wants to raise the minimum wage from $10.20 an hour to $15 an hour, a move which would have raised a huge barrier to our granddaughters, and to many immigrants needing an entry point into the workforce.

But more taxes and “raise the minimum wage” are standard socialist dogma and should raise  serious concern to say the least. When the NDP’s Bob Rae introduced socialist dogma to Ontario, it started Ontario’s slide from  being Canada’s economic engine to its current status as a have not province.

Alberta needs neither a debating champion nor a slick talker. It needs a leader committed to positive change to the healthcare system; a leader committed to sound financial management; and a leader committed to serving Alberta’s taxpayers rather than perpetuating crony capitalism.

AB leaders debateI’d say that life experience is what counts in this election. So as you walk into the polling booth on May 5, thank God you live in Alberta, and remember to breathe. Then take another deep breath, and Remember to Think!

 

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Alberta Politics Canadian Politics Politics

Trying to fix health care is stupid??

Dave 07

A few days ago I wrote a blog criticizing the Calgary Herald’s unbalanced coverage of the party leaders in the Alberta election; particularly the fact that the Herald apparently believed the Wildrose had pretty much dropped out of the race. Six or eight of you sent me a note saying you had contacted the Herald, and several of you apparently threatened to cancel your subscriptions.

The change was immediate. The Herald has since done several spreads on the Wildrose, complete with location photos. (This speaks volumes about the effectiveness of working together to bring about change.)

But the editorial page is a separate department of the paper, and yesterday’s editorial was a complete hack job on the Wildrose. It’s not signed so I can’t be sure, but It appears to have been written by Naomi Lakritz. I’ve had many back-and-forth’s with Naomi on the subject of healthcare, and she is adamantly opposed to any hint of choice in healthcare delivery, even when it means patients waiting in months long lineups to get their hips replaced or their arteries bypassed.

The Wildrose has said that if we can’t get these procedures in a timely manner, we will be allowed to have the procedure done at a local private clinic, or alternatively, seek help elsewhere, and Alberta Health Services will pay what it would cost to have it done at a government owned hospital in Alberta. PC Health Minister Stephen Mandel predictably called the Wildrose plan stupid, and the Herald editorial concurred.

The editorial claims that the Wildrose plan will only work for the rich because the cost of travel, room and board during recovery etc., etc., will be beyond the reach of low income people. The editorial ignored the fact that if a hip replacement is done in a local private clinic, there is no extra cost for room and board, or travel.

In the 20 years since Ralph Klein undertook a complete overhaul of the health care system, what have the PCs done to improve delivery? Whatever they’ve tried, it must have been stupid because lineups are just as long as ever. What is their smart plan to get it done now? If they were to put forward a believable plan, why would Albertans have any reason to believe they would know how to implement it?

The Wildrose plan points out that it doesn’t cost any more to do a hip operation within a month of diagnosis than it does to do it six or eight months later. This is stupid? I would go further and say it costs much less to do it more quickly because you have fewer visits to the doctor; and the patient endures less suffering. I know this from personal experience because of what my mother went through with a hip operation. Fewer visits to the doctor would mean less cost to the system and less suffering. This is stupid?

I don’t think the Wildrose plan is meant to be permanent, but surely it is not stupid to initiate a conversation that might lead to a genuine fix of our healthcare system. Because most industrialized countries around the world – even those that are avowedly Socialist –  have rationalized healthcare by introducing competition into its delivery.

The largest hospital in Malmo Sweden, the country’s second largest city, is privately owned. But if you suggest that privately operated hospitals might be something for Canada to consider, the Friends of Medicare, and left-wing fundamentalists like Naomi Lakritz light their hair on fire and hyperventilate about our imminent descent into a US style healthcare system. The horror! Truth be told, I’d  be horrified by us adopting US style healthcare, but how about adapting the best from Sweden and Finland and England and Germany and Singapore and Australia and New Zealand and the 25 or so other developed countries whose healthcare systems rank ahead of Canada and the United States?

Considering that our system and the American system are ranked second last and dead last  in the developed world, the left’s opposition to any idea that will move the discussion forward seems to be based purely on ideology rather than a desire to actually improve the situation for the suffering.

And that to me seems cynically cruel, or maybe even stupid?

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Uncategorized

Wildrose drops out of race! – well, apparently the Calgary Herald think so.

Dave 07I subscribe to the Calgary Herald, but I’m not sure for how much longer. I don’t think it’s much of a secret that I tend to have mostly conservative views, and that means that I hope that the Wildrose does well in the upcoming Alberta election.

But I think for a major local daily paper to do its job properly they must cover all the major parties with reasonable balance; that would include the NDP, the PCs, the Liberals, and yes, the Wildrose. But so far in this campaign, the Herald’s coverage of the Wildrose has been a fraction of that given to the PCs and the NDP, and today, Monday, April 20, the Wildrose has almost entirely disappeared from the pages of the Calgary Herald. I found one brief article; no pictures.

So far in this campaign, the Herald has run numerous photos of Jim Prentice making grand announcements in front of staged backdrops, while most of the photos of Wildrose Leader Brian Jean have been head shots. In today’s paper, big spreads on the PCs and the NDP, but Wildrose; nothing.

A couple of days before the vote in the 2011 election, the Calgary Herald ran a commentary by Paula Arab that was one of the most blatantly biased and unbalanced pieces of journalism that I have read in 60 years. In it she speculated about a still unelected Edmonton Wildrose candidate (who lost in the election) becoming Education Minister, and that gay bashing might somehow becoming acceptable in Alberta’s school curriculum. The article was so absurdly unbalanced that you could almost conclude that the writer was unbalanced.

So is the Calgary Herald planning to do the same thing this go around? If you’re not okay with that, here is a quick link to the Calgary Herald’s editor.

letters@calgaryherald.com

Click on it and say: Once again you are embarrassing yourselves again by your blatant bias in covering an Alberta election campaign. Get some balance, or we’ll cancel.

If you do that – it will takes less than 60 seconds –  and you get your family, friends and colleagues to do it, the Herald will get the message.

Of course if we don’t do it, there will be no change. And we can’t complain.

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Uncategorized

Why an Election Now?

Dave 07 IWUZ thinking about the state of Alberta politics. Here we are a week into a Alberta election that was scheduled for the spring of 2016 and it’s only April of 2015! You never know with Alberta politics!

But I suppose we should know. We have a fixed date election law, passed by the Progressive Conservatives to great fanfare. It stipulates that the next general election is to be held between March 1 and May 31, 2016, and when he was a candidate for the leadership of the PC party, Jim Prentice promised to keep it.

But that was then, and this is now. Having successfully used a bait and switch to seduce some naive and unprincipled Wildrosers to take the bait, and switch, the Wildrose Party was left decimated and with an interim leader. The Liberals also had an interim leader, but having been told that the election was in 2016, both parties believed they had another whole year during which to choose a new leader.

So Jim Prentice saw an opportunity, and instead of keeping his promise, he found a loophole. With low oil prices expected for at least another year, spring 2016 might be a bad time for an election. Albertans would have another year struggling with an expensive but chaotic healthcare system; discovering more dams that the government can’t assure us are safe; noticing that the same schools are promised at each election but don’t get built; and recognizing the extent of our financial mess.

When questioned about the ethics of springing an election on the opposition parties a year early, Jim Prentice rather testily replied that: “My job is not to get the opposition parties ready for an election; that is not my job. My job is to take care of the province. They have had ample notice that we are in serious times and Albertans need serious solutions. People need to be ready.”

Can the Premier be serious? He already had an overwhelming majority and could have passed any legislation he deemed necessary. And why should the opposition parties be ready for an election in May 2015 when it had been promised for the spring of 2016?

But I think the Premier was making a valid point. Having broken his word several times before – including one to be less arrogant and more respectful of Albertans than his predecessors – what he was actually saying was: “You should know me by now. You know that PC promises are never meant to be taken seriously. So it’s your own fault that you believed me about the election date.”

So the question that will be answered on May 5 is: “Are Albertans going to be seduced like the Wildrose and the Liberals? Should Albertans believe the new promises? Are overwhelming PC majorities a good thing for Alberta or do we need a strong opposition?

As you walk into the polling booth on May 5, thank God you live in Alberta, and remember to breathe. Then take another deep breath, and Remember to Think!

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Bullies Gay Rights Politics Religion US Politics

Indiana Pizza Parlor Remodels!

Dave 07Indiana passed a law last week, and since then, Indiana has been reviled, mocked, and boycotted. And what is the uproar about? According to Stanford law Professor Bernadette Meyer, the law appeared to be aimed at allowing companies to discriminate against same-sex couples or gay people. She said: “I am disturbed when that articulation of rights, as in the Indiana law, winds up trumping other people’s interests in equality.” Apparently Ms. Meyer believes that the interests of special interest groups trump the rights of ordinary people.

As soon as the Indiana law was passed, and in order to show how open and tolerant they are,  individuals, major corporations like Apple and Walmart, and even the governors of other states, widely and wildly condemned Indiana’s law, in spite of the fact that many other states including their own have similar laws. They said they feared that bigots would use the law to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

(By the way, in most cases, discrimination is a good thing. I’ve landed in my 70s through no choice of my own, yet if I now decided to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming, say, an airline pilot, how far along in the process do you think I’d get? They’d take one look at my birth year, 1943, and politely show me the door. And perhaps, justifiably suggest I see a psychiatrist.)

Anyway, in order to get a juicy story, a TV news reporter went into a small pizza shop owned by Christian family in a very small Indiana town. She asked the owner’s daughter a hypothetical question about their response if a same-sex couple asked them to provide pizza at their wedding. The daughter of the owner said that, because of their religious faith, they would probably decline.

A vicious Twitter campaign was launched against the pizza shop, and the next day they closed down. But the campaign backfired massively. A woman who believes in freedom of religion started a counter campaign to raise funds for the owners of the pizza shop. In two days $842,000 was raised, about eight times the pizza joint’s annual sales. They now intend to remodel and reopen. Remember that story the next time you shake your head sadly and say: “But what can we do?”

Since 1963, I have been speaking out on behalf of the rights of gay people to live their lives without interference or oppression from the rest of society. But we’ve gone way too far. The radical gay lobby now insists that their choices override everyone else’s rights, including the right to peacefully practice your religion.

In the history of marriage, has there ever been an unfettered right to marry? There has not. The right to same sex marriage is assumed by its supporters and now conferred by the government. In that, a same sex marriage is different than any heterosexual marriage in history.

Only in the case of war, or civil emergency, has anyone ever had a right to force someone to participate in something that goes against their conscience. It has been done, but only by governments we generally regard as totalitarian. Are we prepared to accept this in Western Society?

Let us concede that most gays have no choice about their sexual orientation. But without question, gay or straight, we all have multiple choices regarding lifestyle, association, and whom to marry. And whether you’re a gay couple, or straight, it’s you who makes the choice about whom you’d like to perform your ceremony, or cater to your wedding. If your choice declines, make another choice.

Because it takes a boatload of chutzpah to insist that your choice to have your same-sex wedding catered to by whomever you choose overrides the rights of another individual to practice their religion as their conscience dictates, and that the government is obligated to back your choice.

We need to push back against this nonsense, and the fact that tens of thousands got together and did, and bailed out the pizza shop, goes to prove that when we work together we can successfully push back.

Remember that, because in the next few weeks I will be asking you to join the Let’s Do It Ourselves online community so we can do just that; push back, inexpensively, pro-actively, and effectively.

For a hilarious and satirical take on the Indiana issue, follow this link to where Rex Murphy deftly skewers the Pecksniffian pretensions of the Apple and Walmart CEOs.  http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/rex-murphy-apple-and-walmart-have-no-business-casting-stones