Community and Politics

Observations and commentary on Politics, Planning and the People involved therein by David Biltek

Wanted in AB Politics: A Backbone of Principles

Derek Fildebrandt of the Canadian Taxpayers Association wants a: “Full Judicial Inquiry”

Danielle Smith the Wildrose Leader wants a public inquiry to expose the “rot”.

Opposition parties and some members of the PC Caucus are calling on Finance Minister Horner to resign  see full story

Raj Sherman leader of the Alberta Liberals will ask for an emergency debate in the Legislature over the “misleading statements ” (which is parliamentary language for lying) made by Hancock and Horner earlier this year concerning the flights

and why? to expose the rot as Smith says, or to hold accountable those who abused power?

Not to be out done Interim Premier Hancock is sending the whole affair and the report from the Auditor General to the RCMP to see if there is any criminal wrong doing.

and MLA from GP Wapiti Wayne Drysdale, also Minister of Infrastructure says he is “disappointed ” with the report…no doubt since he was listed as one of the MLAs on one of the inappropriate flights in the AG’s report. A flight on October 25th, 2012 from Edmonton to Grande Prairie where they were to make some announcements about the new hospital and coincidentally there was a PC party fundraiser that night.

and not to be outdone, MLA from GP Smokey, Everett McDonald also on the flight says he has nothing to apologize for, he came here for the announcement, which seems to be missing in action, some even Minister Fred Horne say the press announcement was delayed and all he did was chat with some reporters when he landed. So what we is Redford, Drysdale, McDonald, Horne, Donna Kennedy Glans, plus a few other minor cabinet ministers, MLAs and staff took a government aircraft to GP to chat with a few reporters and oh yes attend the PCs fundraising Leaders Dinner that night.

Meanwhile Jim Prentice says there is no need for any of this and that if Premier he will tighten the rules and get rid of the fleet of planes owned by the Government of Alberta

while Rick McIver another PC leadership candidate says having an public or judicial inquiry would show “disrespect for the auditor general, a new found respect for the AG?

and we have Donna Kennedy Glans who left the PC Caucus on March 17th is now apologizing saying: “I did not make sufficient inquiries about the logistics of the flight that evening” . By the way Glans is MLA from Calgary West and at the time of the flight to GP was Minister for Renewable Energy…I guess she too had urgent government business that night in GP?

Inquiries, RCMP investigations, emergency debates, promises of rule changes, squirming apologies and denials….and the only comment that makes any sense in all of this is from the Auditor General:

” You can’t write a rule for everything, someone will find a a way around it. Ultimately, people have to be governed by principles…what;s needed is a backbone of principles , not a corset of rules”

I know of some businesses who have no rule books, no policies, when asked about this they produce a copy of the Ten Commandments

and another I know is governed by : “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

and yet another whose direction to the company employees is: you may do anything you want to help a customer so long as it is not illegal, immoral or fattening

Everything we have seen and heard for years from the PCs contravenes all of these very simple yet concise directives…

Mervan Saher is absolutely right…what is needed is a backbone of principles

and that is what we need to look for in the people  we elect to govern.

Blame Alison, Blame Alison…as sung by the Simpsons or rather the pee cees

Tonight in advance of the Auditor General’s Report, interim Premier David Hancock announced he will be asking the RCMP to conduct an investigation into wrong doing by former Premier Alison Redford, he said:

“Based on what I have read in the report, and after seeking legal advice, as soon as the report is publicly available tomorrow, I will be directing the minister of justice and solicitor general to refer this matter to the RCMP for their review and any investigations that they consider appropriate,”

This action is another attempt, and a not so subtle one to divert public attention away from the role played by a supportive, and willing Cabinet and Caucus and put all the blame and talk of entitlement onto Redford.

Earlier today the President of the pee cees added to the pile by issuing a statement of very mixed messages but with one clear intent: BLAME IT ON ALISON…they could get the Simpsons to sing the song. the letter from President Jim McCormick follows:

“It is with mixed feelings the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta learns of the resignation of Alison Redford as MLA for Calgary-Elbow.

Her Premiership started off with such promise, and coming out of a strong victory in 2012, Albertans were excited and engaged at the potential for our province.
She showed this early in her tenure, as Alberta’s economy continued to be the envy of Canada and a force on the world stage. 
Unfortunately, it was her own personal choices that led to her demise. 

She is alleged to have broken government rules, and taxpayer dollars were not treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. She has paid a personal and political price for her mistakes, and we appreciate her decision to take responsibility for her actions. 
This circumstance won’t happen again.
We are in the midst of an important leadership race right now to replace her as Leader of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta and, by extension, Premier of Alberta.  The PCAA and, indeed, all three leadership candidates, have made their positions very clear  behaviour such as this cannot and will not be tolerated.​
The Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta is more than one person.  It has a membership and supporters that are Albertans of a broad spectrum, from all walks of our society, one where honesty, integrity and service to building and strengthening our community — things that Alberta PC governments are known for — are paramount.”

 The  intent and timing of both these actions are unlikely just coincidental. The intent is clear, blame everything on Alison and w=once it is before the RCMP it would be inappropriate to discuss this for fear of disrupting the investigation. so not only blame Alison but now we should not even talk about it. So all the support by Caucus, the over 70% support she received at a convention after the election, the fact that Department of Finance officials were aware of the schemes and as such likely that then and now Treasurer Doug Horner was also aware…all of this is now pointing to a CULTURE OF ENTITLEMENT that was and is rife throughout the pee cees , all f this is now Alison’s fault and we cannot comment…

Tom Flanagan in an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail said today that the attacks on Redford by her own party demeaned Alberta and was in essence a “witch hunt”…an expression which perfectly fits what i have been saying…it is her fault we are simple blameless folks be taken in by the witch…and although I have seldom agreed with Tom Flanagan on this matter i think he is right

His full comments may be seen here “demeans Alberta”

This strategy and tactics by the brain trust in the pee cees is indeed demeaning, cruel and exactly what one expects from a party who feels entitled to lead and to sack the public purse.

 

and…what do you think?

 

 

Full report on Dave Hancock’s announcement:click here

 

That was Then and This is Now…

Heard that one before?

Sure Ralph said it time and time again, and expect to hear it more again as Alison Redford resigns as MLA from Calgary Elbow.

so what now?

Alison will not comment, she will say things like moving on or moving forward and as a private citizen the Opposition parties will have not have her as a target.

This is good for Jim Prentice as he will be elected as Leader of the PCs next month and will essentially be able to say: “That was then, this is now”, or words to that effect. It allows hi  to move on.

and he has a great deal to do.

First, he must get elected. He will not be able to govern from the galleries. Once elected Leader and as such Premier (no you do no need to be elected to be Premier), he will call a by election. As well election laws in Alberta require that a by election for the now vacant Calgary Elbow seat be called within six months of today.

My guess is Prentice will NOT run in Elbow….it would be foolish and a high risk activity. First he may suffer retribution by the obviously disillusioned voters of Calgary Elbow; his results would be compared to Redford’s and if he did not do better than her the pundits would designate it a fail, plus the constituency has a very strong Liberal base and on the other side of the spectrum the Wildrose is surging in Calgary. No he will not run in Elbow.

But where?

I think there is every chance he will run in an Edmonton Constituency. This will allow him to claim he is an Edmonton MLA, thus keeping the balance, and tradition of switching Edmonton and Calgary as the home of the Premier. Also Edmonton although the stronghold of the Liberals and NDs, they are both pre occupied and in some areas f Edmonton they have little support. It would also keep him close to the Legislature during the campaign.

I suggest his best bet may be Edmonton Whitemud, yes David Hancock’s present constituency. Hancock has been a good and loyal servant to the party and has as Premier done a good job as Premier. It may be time for him to move on. As well this is one of the safest PC seats in Edmonton and an area that sees itself as deserving of a Premier. Jim would do well here.

After that by-election and the one in Elbow…and watch that one closely….is there a PC brave enough to run there?…The Elbow race could be the real interesting place. A Liberal candidate has been working there for some time, she is an articulate lawyer with a substantial background in the oil industry.

But that is all for another time…and what do you think?

Is Alison Really that Evil?

Another week and more reports about former Premier Alison Redford abusing her position of authority and misusing public funds.

Is she really that evil?

Maybe. Maybe not.

It seems every week there is another story making her out as a villain. When she was fdoreced from office, members of her caucus told how mean she was, imperious, and never met with some of them .And this weeks story about seats on her plane being block booked to ensure limited people would have access to her all appear to confirm the earlier statements about how she behaved while Premier.

But why are we hearing about all of this now? Why are these reports being leaked to the media? Why in particular Charles Rusnell of CBC?

In the past the PC caucus and the staff that supported them including many members of the bureaucracy were water tight, nothing, not even a squeak was leaked; but now…it never rains but it pours.

Maybe the worms have turned. Maybe.

But I suggest that this is being done intenionally. The political mandarins in the PeeCees are intentionally laking this information to heap all the bad news on Allison, so that the new Premier, read Jim Prentice will have a clean slate, and be able in the words of King Ralph be able to say: ” That was then, this is now”

They want Alberans to believe that there is no “culture of entitlement” as many in opposition say but simply one bad, evil leader, who we dismissed and now that she is gone we are ok, we are still the fiscally responsible, good managers we always were.

Is it working? No, but did they have any options?

This strategy will leave Jim Prentice a clearer field of action…maybe, but more about that later.

and what do you think?

Surprises, Results, Smart Guys and Humility

So where to start?

Results, you can get the results here: City Election Results or from this INFOGRAPHIC produced by 9-10 and Richard Podsada

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I am going to look at some of the surprises and then offer some general comments

But first, I have been politically involved since high school, through University and in Provincial, Federal, and City, serving here as an Alderman, as we were called at the time, for nine years and through this I have always admired people who seek public office. It is  always a challenge, it is always hard on family, it does expose you, and many people feel you are now a punching bag. Many run because of  real desire to serve, others run for hope of gain, financial, prestige, or to satisfy some unfulfilled needs. But in the end I respect them for so doing but it also means that I will engage them in vigorous debate and may criticize them for positions taken, which is fair and part of the process.

But before continue I want to single out Lorne Radbourne who dedicated his win last night to his dad: Ernie Radbourne, a very touching and emotional moment in an always emotional time. 

SURPRISES

Justin Munroe, to me the biggest surprise of the evening, yes I was impressed with Chris Thiessen’s second place showing , but frankly I did expect him to place in top 8, Justin I did not expect to place 10th. Justin was a solid Councillor, did his homework, and provided thoughtful contributions to the debates. What more could you ask?  Well presence for one. Many people last night at election parties said that Justin was simply not at enough community events as Councillor. Given and O’Toole for example went to everything, sometimes Bill Given with his new born in his arms, but he was there and people appreciated that their MAYOR was there, same is true for O’Toole. That is the only explanation I can offer and the one that makes most sense.

Justin , Thank you for your contribution, and thanks also to his wife Fiona and family. I am sure we will see you again in public life.

Second, Chris Thiessen. Many of us felt after the forum, he would do well, but placing second after veteran Radbourne, was a huge victory and a big leap from 9th place finish in 2010. As well Chris is the winner of the MOST EFFICIENT CAMPAIGN AWARD, well in line with his environmental bent. He spent only $989 on his campaign, his budget was $999, and  he earned 4558 votes so his votes “cost” him $.22 each. Now that is  real FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY in action, and not just a meaningless slogan

To put that in perspective Given’s votes cost him about $3.75 each. Blackmore on the other hand likely saw her votes cost her close to $20.00 each. That is based on my guess that she spent at least $45,000 and may have spent as much as $70,000, which was her “ideal” budget. By the way Iveson in Edmonton spent about $800,000 to $900,000 while unsuccessful Lebovici spent over $1,000,000, so $70,000 here would be in line.

As for the rest of Council I think most of us expected Radbourne, Rice, Clayton, O’Toole and Logan would all be elected. Although many did not think Logan would do as well, however as does Kevin McLean who placed 7th, both men have a base of support that comes out for them for each election, so does Croken, but this time out it was just not enough.

Tarant was successful, much as I thought. His speech at the Forum put him on the trajectory to succeed, but it was his post about the 55 year old woman who was voting for first time that sent that trajectory into victory. However he along with MacDougall, Mclean, Croken were all on “the bubble” as I suggested with only 400 votes separating 7th and 11th places, much like 2010.

The Mayor results?

No I was not overly surprised. in an earlier post on the first poll results in this blog which saw her with about 20% support I said that she would do better than that, and she did but clearly not enough. Her campaign theme, “Say NO to Higher Taxes”, simply did not resonate with people.

Why? Positioning requires an opposite to be real, no one is going to explicitly say YES to Higher Taxes, so you cannot successfully “position” yourself unless there is an opposite position and an “enemy”. That is why “Fiscally Responsible” is not a good positioning statement, no one is going to claim to be fiscally irresponsible!

see related articles: Iveson’s Win a Vote for Optimism and Smart Planning

  Nenshi, Iveson wins show powerful winds of change in Alberta

Reasons why the rest of Canada is Jealous of Alberta, and no not just about Rob Ford, but he is mentioned

The TURNOUT

Okay so it was low, 20.95%. It has ALWAYS been low. In the last 40 years the highest I can recall is about 30%. It is low all over Alberta, and yes we may be among the lowest, Fort MacMurray is lower in 2010 I think it was about 10% and therein may be the clue, as a friend says about Grande Prairie and Ft Mac: ” lots of boomers, not enough stickers” People who are just here for a good time and the money and not a long time, have little interest in the election. There is no point beating up people, and here I am going to quote always, well mostly right on, Dean Radbourne:

After this I am going to do my absolute best to stay out of every “voter apathy/voter turnout/voter right” discussion today. Comments on both sides of this are absolutely insane and driving me bonkers. Browbeating people into voting is ridiculous. Saying that “voting is stupid” is ridiculous. Saying you’re “embarrassed” about low voter turnout is a bit melodramatic. Saying that you couldn’t find any information on the candidates and that none of them worked hard at getting their message out makes me want to punch you in the throat. What’s better, a 20% voter turnout and electing a pretty strong and exciting council, or an 80% voter turnout because the previous guys drove this sucker into the ground and total overhaul of everything is needed? Ask Australia how they like their mandatory voting and now nearly impossible it is for newcomers to beat incumbents (regardless of the job they’ve been doing). I think our voter turnout was too low.”

Provincial Trends

Iveson, Nenshi, Given….all under 40 and what else do these people have in common? They are all SMART and Progressive, not formally aligned to a major political party, smart as in technologically aware, innovative, willing in fact eager to look at and try new policy approaches. These guys will have a huge impact on life in Alberta, and they will together and individually challenge the Provincial Government. “Allison in Wonderland”, be forewarned, these guys will have huge influence.

I pointed out in a post a few days ago there was a “youth” movement, and here is the strongest proof. Add to this group the new Mayor in Red Deer, who is also under 40 and new City Councillor in Edmonton, Michael Walters, a good friend of Bill Givens by the way, and also a SMART young guy…these are the people who will make a difference in Alberta and in their communities.

Also watch for Helen Rice as she runs for President of Alberta Municipalities Association. This would greatly benefit Grande Prairie and Helen along with the growing influence of Bill Given on the provincial scene.

ONE FINAL NOTE

Many of the successful candidates said in post election statements that they were humbled by the support they received, or words to that effect. Remember from time to time over the next four years that you were humbled, remain so, and recall from time to time the person you were that got you here, and never forget that sense of enthusiasm, wonder, commitment and humility, it will serve you better than almost anything else you will do.

Congratulations to all the successful candidates and thank you to all who ran, worked so hard and especially their supporters and families who also”ran” but mostly in anxious silence.

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Waiting for results #1

Watch the Institutional poll which will likely be first counted and released.

Radbourne, Rice and Croken did well in this poll. Mclean came in fourth. If they do not do well here it could portend changes in the end results.

Turnout has NOT been brisk, estimated total eligible voters is just over 40,000. 

The advance poll was up 20% at a little over 900 ballots being cast. Part of that increase is population growth. Our population grew by 10% since 2010.

Bottom line is we MAY see a turnout of 25%, which would be a small increase over 2010. That would mean about 10,000 votes cast.

If this is the case the successful candidate for Mayor would need about 5000 votes. and we can expect about 56,000 “votes” cast for Councillors

AN UPDATE: see comments from Dan Wong Them’s Fightin’ Words!, plus Final Statements from Candidates

Friday saw Gladys Blackmore, candidate for Mayor launch an attack on the Entire current Council:

Council claims increases to mil rates have been tiny; but the fact remains, ours is the highest mil rate in the province. And when coupled with recent increases in property values, the effective tax rate has been significantly higher. As a result, the city realized a NET PROFIT of over $30 million in EACH of 2011 and 2012. This money, almost $65 million, is sitting in reserves. Shouldn’t it be invested in infrastructure and economic development instead?” for more

to which Bill Given responded:

“Some very bad, intentional, misinformation is being circulated today by email and on Facebook, about how the city manages it’s savings accounts, otherwise known as reserves. “Reserves” are a fancy name for savings accounts and the city maintains 12 different ones. Each has a different purpose...read more “You Don’t Deserve to be Misled

DAN WONG, Current Councillor but NOT running this time weighs in and in some detail explains the reserves and how they have been handled in the last 2 – 3 years. This is from a man who was there and knows of what he speaks:

“At the risk of getting too involved, I felt I had to respond to the latest information released by the Gladys Blackmore campaign..There are no politicians out there who don’t want to decrease your taxes where possible and no one out there really suggesting the reserves be collapsed and spent — that’s why it’s not explicitly stated as a solution.  This is an example of careful wording in an attempt to instill enough doubt in the mind of the electorate. ” To Read the complete article click here: Dan Wong Blog 

MY Take on all This

The old mil rate claim….it is likely true, but it is meaningless. The mil rate is simply a tool to ensure everyone WITHIN A MUNICIPALITY pays their fair share, based on the value of YOUR PROPERTY, of the city budget. The mil rate is determined yearly, it changes, it is determined essentially by dividing the City Budget by the VALUE of all assessed properties WITHIN the CITY (for a more detailed explanation see GPVOTERS.CA) So one might compare with other cities but it is like the proverbial comaparing apples to oranges, the mil rate is a tool to be used within a city.

When property values go up, the total assesed value goes up, so the mil rate changes, and again the budget is shared equally based on the value of your individual property. It is possible depending on changes in values, and what new properties and their type have been added to see a change in the mil rate, it may even go down, but it is still used to share the burden equally based on the value of your property.

Yes it may be an antiquated and complicated system, but it is what is PROSCRIBED by the PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT. Failure to either understand this or to pervert it for political gain is questionable.

Regarding the reserves. It is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL that the CITY maintain adequate reserves. WHY?

The City, in fact ALL MUNICIPALITIES in ALBERTA are PROHIBITED from running deficit budgets. Unlike the Provincial and Federal Governments, Cities are NOT PERMITTED TO BORROW for OPERATIONAL EXPENDITURES. They may borrow for capital projects, but not operational expenses. So what difference does that make?

If there was to be a “One in a hundred year” snow season and the costs to remove snow were substantially higher than usual, the City has a reserve upon which it may draw to pay the added costs. Or if there was a major disaster like the flood in Calgary (or heaven forbid a Lake Megantic type disaster) and the City incurred substantial costs in emergency crews overtime, assistance etc. they would have the cash upon which they could draw.

When I was on Council in the early 1990’s the Klein lead Conservative Provincial Government drastically cut grants to the Cities. In some cases like the assistance for maintenance of Muskoseepi park the grant was cut to zero. At that time the City reserves were pathetically low and totally inadequate and were we forced to make substantial and immediate program cuts. If there were adequate reserves we could have dipped into them and eased into the cuts more slowly. After that the City started to accumulate more reserves. As the City gets larger and as commitments to operations increase the City’s reserves also need to grow. As any business owner knows, and as many of the senior managers of local institutions also are well aware, failure to have adequate reserves for operations is fiscally irresponsible and is only done at great risk to the organization.

To suggest that the reserves be drained for current projects is absolute folly and is not in anyway “fiscally responsible” .  As a senior person of a local educational institution said today: “Thank god for reserves …”

Some people have made fun of a reserve for perpetual care at the Cemetery. It is a serious matter. I have spent much time in England and can attest to the terrible state of cemeteries throughout the country, some centuries old, that do NOT have perpetual care funds in place. The burden on CURRENT Churches and Cities is in many cases overwhelming.

Failure to adequately understand these issues after six years on Council is either purposefully misleading, manipulation for political gain,or a belies a  grasp of the operations of a complex organization like the City, a lack of business experience and knowledge of proper practices, all of which does not recommend one to lead this City.

FINAL STATEMENTS FROM CANDIDATES FOR COUNCIL

all candidates were offered space, the following replied:

Jackie Clayton

“On Monday, a vote for me will ensure a legacy for your children in the City of Grande Prairie and its community, and a focused and responsible long term plan for the future of your business.” for more

John Croken:

“As your new councillor I am going to erge councill to put a full time day care for city employees at the eastlink sportsplex and have 132 ave paving project moved to 2014 budget”

Jared Gossen

“Our City is equipped with a diverse set of assets.  This may lead many to thinking that there are a number of directions to head in and how do we choose?”…click here for more

Dwight Logan

“I am well known for my service in our City’s political life.
I have served three terms as an Alderman, and three terms as Mayor”… for more.

Miriam Mahnic

“Dream Big we have such incredible potential…As a Community Development Officer I have worked with”to read more click here

Kevin McLean

“I am excited for the election on Monday. I have enjoyed my term on council because it was productive. There is more work to do to stabilize taxes down where we have them and to lower the debt. I hope you will again put your trust in me and Vote McLean.”

Justin Munroe

“Grande Prairie, like most communities in our country, has some real challenges in its future. My business background & experience tell me we need to trust our instincts” to read more click here

Kevin O’Toole:

“I have a passion for this city, I truly believe I have had a huge impact on council and the people of Grande Prairie in these past three years. I have goals and projects that I would like to see completed in the next four years example Poverty reduction, homelessness, major road developed to give flexibility where we travel take pressure off many major intersections. Both North and South and East and west travel routes need to expand. And constant communication with all levels of Government.”

Lorne Radbourne

“Congrats to all candidates for offering to serve their community. Our report card comes out Monday. Good luck to everyone!”

Helen Rice

“There is no time to waste. In order to lower taxes and become sustainable we need a level playing field, Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

Erin Steidel

Stumble, everyone does from time to time.  It is what you do after that really shows one’s character.  I have stumbled many times, and I have gotten back up and continued to move forward.  This is my last blog post before the election, and so, if you were unable to attend the chamber forum on Thursday night (or if you were there and want to know what I meant to say) here is my speech.” read more

Rory Tarant

I had a very humbling experience today while door knocking. I knocked on a door and was greeted by a lady in her 50s of Middle Eastern descent.  After introducing myself, tears welled in the lady’s eyes…READ MORE

Chris Thiessen

“I am a hard-working and caring individual with a passionate drive to help people in any way I can. I will and always have done what it takes to create a positive difference in our city.”

For a more complete review of the Candidates go to: GPVOTERS.CA Daryl White has developed a website for the election with a very good summary of candidates plus articles on some of the issues.

ON MONDAY OCTOBER 21…ELECTION NIGHT…

LIVE ELECTION WEBCAST hosted by Fred Rinne, Editor of the Daily Herald Tribune and Dan Wong (City Councillor)

go to LIVE ELECTION WEBCAST.

AND DURING THE NIGHT FROM 7:30PM on….Intelligent, Insightful and entertaining commentary  (we hope!) from:

Daryl White from GPVOTERS.CADawn Moffat McMaster (twitter: @DANILOTH), Eric Burton from MRGRANDEPRAIRIE,

and I will be blogging, tweeting and commenting on the election issues, people and the results Follow along at:

Daryl White will be live blogging at GPVOTERS.CA

Dawn Moffat will be tweeting : @Daniloth

Eric Burton will be posting on http://mrgrandeprairie.wordpress.com/

and I will be tweeting: @DavidBiltek and facebook: Grande Prairie

and at https://www.facebook.com/david.biltek

Look forward to you joining the conversations adding any gossip, rumours and cogent observations.

The Who, What, When, Where and How of Voting

First the REQUIREMENTS: Essentially you will need photo ID proof that you are a resident of the City of Grande Prairie, a current drivers licence will work, but for more thorough details: RIGHT ID TO VOTE

For information on WHERE to VOTE, and WHEN: CITY OF GP ELECTION INFO and for Candidates information: GPVOTERS.CA

Its Like a Stock Market…Who’s Up, Down and Sideways

Last night the Chamber of Commerce held the Election Forum as they have done for many elections, and as in the past they did a very good job. Kudos to the organizers and especially to Vince Vavrek who handled the sensitive job of chair/facilitator in an exemplary fashion.

The Forum, essentially the only Election Forum is an important part of the campaign trail. The audience is composed mostly of community activists and people who are on the campaign teams of mostly the Mayoral candidates but also the Councillor candidates. These are influential people because they are engaged in the community, have large networks of friends and associates and will share their opinions. Many of the people there are opinion leaders in their circle of friends, and that is why the Forum is so important.

If you do well there, or of you do poorly, the next morning lots of voters will have heard. More about that later when I will share my assessment about whose “stock” went up, and whose “stock” went sideways. Note I do not think any candidate’s “stock” went down.

But first some general observations about themes in the campaign that were all too evident last night.

Positive/Negative

This is a campaign about being positive There are campaigns that are negative  but this is one is not. The same theme is apparent in Edmonton and Calgary. Candidates who present a positive, encouraging view of the present and future are doing well, whereas those who are negative are struggling. This is a positive time in Alberta.

New Blood

Many people commented last night that it was time for some “new blood” on the Council and were impressed by some of the new candidates. I mentioned this in one of my first posts and warned the incumbents that some of the newbies were articulate, prepared and would be running good campaigns. That has come to pass and now many of the newbies may well be successful on Monday night.

Of course the reverse of that is also true, many people said to me that although it was good to have a mix of new and veteran councillors, it was time for some to move on. The fact that some of those newbies are also young, also plays well in a community where the average age is 30 and where their are more people in pre school than over 65.

Community Involvement,

it may be a truism, but candidates who have a strong background og being involved in the community are doing very well.

Leadership

Many candidates  spoke about leadership, and some described in detail what a leader is, how they behave, and do, and coincidentally, that described the candidate to a “T” or “L”. In my experience real, true leaders, the sort of people you would go to war with, or set aside acres of time for and commit yourself for a project never talk about “Leadership”, never describe it…they simply get on and do it, while the describers simply want to stand at the front of the parade and warm themselves in the praise and glory.

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say:                                                                     we did it ourselves”. —Lao Tzu

Teamwork

All the incumbents spoke about TEAMWORK, and they spoke with pride about what had been accomplished TOGETHER. It was teamwork they all emphasized.  Other candidates  spoke about teamwork and how they were a “team players”, here again team players never have to say so, they just are and you can tell by the way they speak and what stories they tell if they are team players or not

and another thought about Teamwork…in every election a candidate or tow thinks it a good idea to attack “the administration” or one member of such. This is a huge tactical error. Why?

Two reasons, first  attacking one member of “administration” or the entire administration is unfair, they are unable to respond or “fight back. Second these people work together, attacking one is tantamount to attacking them all and they are ALL ELECTORS, and they have partners or spouses, and friends, and they talk, and they vote since the results of the election are very important to them. They are 500 full time workers , 500 part timers, and the their is the staff at Aquatera. Can you really afford to have several thousand people vote “against you”

And finally, the third reason, if you get elected you have to rely on these people, you have to work with them. I have seen Councillors who have attacked members of administration be “hung out to dry” at a later date. I am not saying that the administration is evil, but sometimes might be “forgetful”. Council and the Administration are a TEAM.

Vision

Again lots of talk about the need for VISION but few were able to enunciate their vision:

                                                                     The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the                                                                                 leader is a servant. —Max DePre

                                                                      Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. —Warren Bennis

Leadership and vision are not about “me”, nor are they about simply showing up at meetings, attending events,  answering emails, or talking about it. The way to get started is to stop the talking and get on with doing.

Clearly for those at the forum and even casual observers of the campaign, you can or will see some of these remarks resonate for some candidates.

and now for the assessment of the forum.

The following remarks are based a number of interviews and conversations with dozens of people at the forum. I asked them all the same question: “Who went up, and who went sideways?”  “Who impressed you tonight and who stayed much the same?” I have syntesized them and added my own. Words in quotes are word said to me.

In my opinion few if any had their “stock” go down.

The candidate whose “stock” rose the most last night was Rory Tarant, who gave a very “energetic” speech and handled questions with ease and knowledge. Everyone I spoke with mentioned Tarant in a positive fashion

Next was Chris Thiessen who expressed some “alternate” policy options and is clearly passionate about them. People appreciated his”passion” and his stock rose. Miriam Mahnic also did well, she showed herself to be thoughtful and articulate, maybe too “thoughtful” as one person commented. Gossen on the other hand left many people unconvinced about his positions, but as many said they liked his ease and responses to questions, on balance I would say his stock rose a little, much like Mahnic.

Jackie Clayton who one observer suggested  said she spoke “like an incumbent” acquitted herself well, as was expected, as did Lorne Radbourne, Justin Munroe and Kevin O’Toole, who delivered what can only be described as an endorsement for Bill Given, when he said that the Council had achieved a great deal under the “leadership of Mayor Given”. O’Toole is well liked and I am sure his endorsement is welcome. All of these people likely saw their stock rise, however since , in my opinion they were already quite high the rise was not significant.

Helen Rice, THE VET of the Council and one of the longest serving Councillors in Alberta stands in a class of her own, especially when in her opening remarks she said in a firm and commanding voice: ” I will stand up for Grande Prairie!” ” I don’t doubt it!” was the comment from a woman standing behind me. Helen will hold her own and will be exempt largely from the “need for new blood” theme mentioned above. And an aside: it is highly rumoured that if elected Helen will be asked to serve as the President of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, the body that represents the interest of Urban municipalities in Alberta. For the past while Helen has been Vice president. As President she would have great contact with Provincial Government Ministers.

John Croken and Kevin McLean, both incumbents spoke well and delivered what they needed to do, which was a defense of their record and their role as part of the team.

Unfortunately Erin Steidel had problems with her first speech and some answers to questions, her usual thoughtfulness may have been lost last night. Much the same for Jun Binbangco. Jeff Campbell was not able to attend the forum.

And that leaves us with two candidates: Dwight Logan and  Kim MacDougall. Here the observations were varied and not conclusive, and so their stock may have moved up or may have slid sideways. Logan a long serving former mayor and member of Council in the past looked “bored” in the words of one observer, however his speech and answers were clear and straight forward much like the man he is. However many people feel he has “been there, done that”. Although his experience is acknowledged and admired many minds were not made up, and many said they need to think more about him.

MacDougall was NOT bored and leaned into every discussion, answered questions with knowledge and ease, however many people were not impressed with her talk of her leadership qualities, or her general approach. To many her stock went up, but as many did not agree. She has been a controversial figure in this race and some admire that: “…she will challenge them, and they need it”, while others feel she is too much so and will not work as a team member and that her “tiff” with Aquatera will prevent her from working with them.

as for the MAYOR

Gladys Blackmore continued with her themes of controlling taxes, increasing revenues by calculating the shadow population, the need to cut expenses, challenging the administration of the Crystal Centre and saying that leadership by the Mayor is determined by the mandate the Mayor receives in the election.

Bill Given as he had to do spoke about the record of Council and how they worked as a team, the lowest tax increases in a decade while building roads, the Art Gallery/Library, Eastlink Centre and still paying down $11 million in debt. When asked about leadership he said it was all about collaboration, working together to achieve results. Given said that he would not expand Crystal Centre but would alter it to attract more conventions to the Downtown.

In the end they both did what they needed to do, Gladys brought forward the issues she has been pressing, while Bill looked and sounded like the Mayor defending a record.

Did either of their stocks go up…? I am not sure, but if you were there, what do you think?

In fact what do you think about the assessment and where people are? Or the Themes?

Downtown Redevelopment: ONE WAY = NO WAY

Quite simply: 100 avenue being ONE WAY is disastrous for downtown.

In the mid 1970’s, City Council approved a Transportation Master Plan that called for a “One way couplet” system to ease traffic flow from the expanding residential neighbourhoods in the east side of the City to the industrial park on the west side where many people worked. The couplet would see 101 avenue as one way westbound (never did happen) , and 99 avenue one way east bound (was introduced early and is still in place). However it would take some time to buy land, do the design work, and finance the project so Council was advised and decided to designate 100 Avenue as ONE WAY eastbound as a TEMPORARY measure (sort of like Income Taxes).

Every fives since the City Council has approved an update to the Transportation Master Plan which has included the one way couplet plan, and every year the city administration following the plan, purchased land to make it happen, or designed new roadways and did much else to advance the plan.

In 2010 – 2011 they even developed detailed plans for the one way couplets completion in 2012 – 2014; designs were shared with the Downtown Association and detailed lighting patterns were developed. However in the summer of 2012, the Council considered a new report from the Masters of Transportation Planning (sic) which said in essence that making 101 avenue one way would not be sufficient to handle the traffic and that Council should consider other alternatives but 100 Avenue should be made one way permanently. Council thusly decided and this summer the new traffic lights were installed. And those new light standards they installed! dull unfinished grey and in no way complimentary to the bright blue colour scheme the Downtown Association and the City selected and implemented some time ago.

Sometimes Council’s actions speak louder and are more revealing than their plans.

So why do I feel this is NOT good for downtown?

Every report, plan, strategy, enhancement, etc, etc ad nauseum that has been done for the City over the last 40 years has called for a pedestrian friendly, slow traffic precinct along 100 avenue that would be the centre for retail in the downtown area.  However and this is my concern: ONE WAY STREETS are INCOMPATIBLE to a pedestrian friendly retail precinct.

One way streets are designed to move traffic, usually a significant amount to traffic at speed from one area to another. Street level retail areas are best served with two way slower traffic.

I do not know of any successful retail shopping precinct that exists on a MAJOR ONE WAY ARTERIAL Road, like 100 Avenue. All of the most successful street level, outdoor shopping areas are on two way streets: Whyte Avenue in Edmonton, Kensington and 17th Avenues in Calgary, Robson Street in Vancouver, Bloor and Yonge streets in Toronto….and farther afield: Fifth Avenue in New York among many others.

Now there are some exceptions: Water Street in Gastown, Vancouver is a one way street, but it is NOT a major arterial street, it is short and it does NOT have parking on the street and it does not take traffic from one major residential area to a major employment area. The same is true with the very short section of Government street in Victoria. and In Victoria, Douglas Street and Oak bay, both two way streets are more successful and desirable locations.

I am not suggesting that one way streets and lack of development is a causal relationship, but it is interesting to note that along most one way streets one finds little retail. Especially unique, shopping oriented retail, maybe destination retail.

So long as 100 Avenue is one way it will, in my opinion be a detriment to redeveloping downtown Grande Prairie.

And What do you think?

More on Downtown Development:

Rory Tarant addresses what he refers to as ” The elephant in the Room”, The Crystal Centre which although not specifically about  Downtown development, it does bear on the issue. The Elephant in the Room

and Daryl White at GPVOTERS.CA has done a great backgrounder on Downtown Development in which he explains the current  Downtown Enhancement Plan and  what it contains. He also outlines some of the issues about Crystal Centre.  Click her for details: Downtown Development:Some Background

IMPORTANT ELECTION DATES

October 16Grande Prairie Municipal Election YOUTH Forum: 630 to 8:30PM, GPRC Cafeteria Details Here

October 16 Miriam Mahnic is hosting a Meet and Greet at Tito’s click here for details: Meet and Greet

October 17th The Chamber of Commerce All Candidates ForumClick here for the details

Advance Voting  Friday 18, and Saturday 18 from 11AM to 7PM at City Hall

and the BIG DAY Monday October 21 Election Day. For all information on when and where to vote: Voting Information

This blog reflects  my own opinions about Community and Politics. I continue to offer candidates the opportunity to  place links in the blog posts concerning their announcements about events and policies provided they submit them to me.

The Poll: I did the poll to encourage interest and participation in the election. I have said it is not scientific and candidates may take the results as they see fit. They can of course ignore the results, fret over the results and blame me or the poll, or they may take some action to improve their situation based on the poll.

and for more comments on the election  campaign trail, visit Eric Burton’s Blog where he analyses campaign tactics and strategies

see mrgrandeprairie.wordpress.com

The Poll Results

This poll has no scientific validity. It was not conducted under any process accepted by polling experts. It was done to provoke interest, encourage participation and perhaps to provide hints to candidates as to what they may need to do.

Some notes:

over 230 people voted for Mayor and over 1230 votes were cast for Councillors, which reflects what we have seen in actual elections. The research suggests that the average person who votes for Mayor, votes for 5 – 6 candidates for Council.

230 people are 2.25 percent of all voters in 2010. and 230 is 50% more people who participated over the last poll.

The poll was posted four times over the weekend mainly on Facebook, but also was sent to a number of people on email, and all were asked to share.

Most of the posts were on Facebook and although Facebook may not be entirely reflective of City Voters there are over 40,000 people from Grande Prairie over the age of 18 on Facebook

the results are somewhat consistent to 2010 final vote total and with even twice the numbers participating in this poll as opposed to the last one, there is some consistency

so again just remember what Diefenbaker said about polls.

But What Do YOU think?

Here are the results:

The first column is poll results Oct 11-14 and second is previous poll from Sept 27 and the third is the actual % from 2010 for incumbents

Lorne Radbourne 13% 13%   12%
Justin Munroe  10% 11%  8%
Kevin O’Toole  9% 9%  6.5%
Jackie Clayton  8% 9%  NEW
Helen Rice  8% 8%  11%
Rory Tarant  8% 7%  NEW
Chris Thiessen  9% 7%  6%
Miriam Mahnic  7% 6%  NEW
Kevin McLean
6% 4% 6%
John Croken  4% 5%  6.5%
Jared Gossen
5% 4% NEW
Dwight Logan  4% 5%
Erin Steidel  3% 4%  4.6%
Kim MacDougall  4% 6%  NEW
Jun Bibangco  1% 1%  NEW
Jeff Campbell  1% 1%  NEW

and For Mayor:

Bill Given   79% 83%
Gladys Blackmore  21% 17%

Top Issues Influencing your Decision

Answer Votes Percent
Snow Removal 50 8%
Downtown Development 72 12%
Aquatera 61 10%
Crystal Centre 57 9%
Taxes 85 14%
Economic Development 91 15%
Off Leash Dog Areas etc 25 4%
Roads 62 10%
Sidewalks 26 4%
Annexation 65 11%
Other: 24 4%
Other Answer Votes
Relationship with province 1
Transit 1
Long term vision and how to attract people who will stay! 1
environment 1
the high cost of protective services / recreation 1
Affordable housing 1
More funding to hire bylaw enforcement 1
Honesty and trustworthy 1
utilizing or resources to better our comunity. for example green spaces 1
Transit improvement and better city planning. 1
Equitable funding of visual and performing arts facilities 1
Vision for the city 1
Leadership 1
Business access and roadways 1
Maintaining all of the things that make the city wonderful 1
High cost of police, fire & recreation. 1
Candidate Personality 1
housing crisis, rent rates 1
Common sense, reason, logic, informed. 1
Rec centre reopen swimming pool 1
Candidates ability to connect on a personal level 1
Crime 1
Experience 1