Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mike Allen: The Wrong Choice for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo

Shortly before the 2012 election, we saw the creation of two new ridings here in response to our region's growing population.  Fort McMurray and the surrounding municipality of Wood Buffalo was split creating the new ridings of Fort McMurray-Conklin and Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo.  It was supposed to give Fort McMurray greater clout in Edmonton.  Unfortunately, 2012 saw the election of Mike Allen under the PC banner in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo.  It started off well enough, I suppose with Allen being appointed as a special advisor to the Transportation Minister on Highway 63, a long-standing issue in this riding.  After that is was all downhill.

Allen was busted for soliciting prostitutes while on government business in Minnesota, a charge to which he subsequently  plead guilty. He was banished to sit as an Independent and  a plethora of highway "updates" and media circuses on the highway issue followed.  Allen was eventually allowed back in to the PC caucus by then premier Redford after a secret vote.  To this day, the Premier, or any PC MLA for that matter has yet to inform Albertans how they voted.

For this reason alone, Allen is undeserving of a second term.  What is even more ridiculous is Jim Prentice's  pathetic defence of him.  Essentially, in PC Land if you break the law of a foreign country but admit to it, you're A-OK in Jim's view.

Allen isn't in my riding.  However, he still represents my community and by extension, all Albertans.  Many of the questions I posed in my last post in regard to Don Scott can just as easily be asked of Mike Allen.  Why should we trust you, Mike?  Were there other times you pulled a stunt like this and didn't get caught?  If so, how many times?

Mr. Allen, you're a business owner.  If an employee stole from you or damaged your business or its reputation, would you keep them on?  What if they admitted their wrong-doing?  Would you keep them on staff still?  Presumably you would because this is essentially the defense that Prentice is using for you.

Mr. Allen, if re-elected can you tell us when you will be introducing legislation to ensure that those MLA's who plead guilty to an offense are not eligible to hold elected office?  Mr. Allen, trust and integrity are important to me.  Really, if I'm going to have someone represent my views and make decisions with my money I'm sure you would agree with me on that, no?  But you've proven conclusively, that you can't be trusted and have no integrity.  No amount of sorry excuses and bumbling apologies can change that.  Fortunately for you, I cannot vote either for or against you as I don't live in your riding.  However, I trust that the good people of Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo will judge your suitability for elected office accordingly.  You've been tried, Mr. Allen.  And you've been found wanting.

Mike Allen...perhaps a popular choice for the "ladies of the night" of Minneapolis-St. Paul but definitely the WRONG choice for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Don Scott: The Wrong Choice for Fort McMurray-Conklin

As I suspected, Don Scott and the PC machine are getting desperate.  Clearly it isn't business as usual.  He is being forced to defend his first term but many long-time PC supporters are giving up on him. So desperate, in fact, that Scott's only play seems to be to attack his Wildrose and NDP opposition  Forced to defend a budget that is clearly unpopular with Albertans, Scott accuses Wildrose leader and local candidate, Brian Jean of showing a lack of leadership.  Mr. Scott, were you showing leadership when you spent over $24,000 on a government trip to Poland?  Why don't you show leadership and apologize for wasting our tax dollars?

Mr. Scott, I have another question for you.  Last July your fellow MLA Mike Allen from Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo was allowed back in to the PC caucus via secret ballot after being booted out following a prostitution charge while on government business in Minnesota.  How did you vote?  Why won't you tell us?  Why do you feel your constituents, and indeed, all Albertans, don't need to know this?

Mr. Scott, as you know, Highway 63 is still not completed.  This despite umpteen updates, press conferences and further promises.  Why do you keep holding press conferences and announcing the same project over and over again?  This has been on-going since 2006. How is this leadership?

Mr. Scott, earlier this week I listened in to your telephone town hall as you stumbled and bumbled all over yourself pushing you government's budget to fix a mess that was created...BY YOUR OWN GOVERNMENT?  Is this the leadership you seem to want to tout?  In your closing remarks you stated that your constituents didn't need "lies and empty promises"?  Can you explain why your actions seem to suggest otherwise?

You seem to be fond of spouting that Jim Prentice  managed to complete the land transfer for Willow Square a mere 100 days after taking office.  You left out the part about how this has been an on-going issue.  You were a minister under Allison Redford.  Why wasn't it done then?

Mr. Scott, why didn't you fight for Fort Murray when Redford hiked our taxes in 2013?  Did you need that money to pay for your trip to Poland?

Why did your party call a reported $23 million dollar election when it wrote the law that the election should be held next year?

Why did it take 43 years to come up with your 10 year plan?  As your leader said himself, math must be hard.  Can you explain why your party flip flopped on this 10 year plan just a few days in to the election?  Why over the course of the decade-long economic boom did you not put any money into the Heritage Fund?

Mr. Scott, I could go on and on.  As I said earlier, it's clear that you don't have a plan and that you will take the next 6 days to attack others rather than answer some fundamental questions about trust and good fiscal management.  Please spare me whole "we are under new leadership with Jim Prentice" spiel.  It's old and clearly not working.  The truth is that your party doesn't get to hit the "reset" button simply because we have a new schmuck in the Premier's chair.  You are still accountable for all the nonsense that occurred under Redford and as well as earlier.

I can understand why you want to campaign solely releasing federal land and the twinning of Highway 63.  Really, it's all you have to go on.

Don Scott....clearly the WRONG CHOICE for Fort McMurray-Conklin.

Politicians and School VP's Behaving Badly

When I saw a headline about Premier Prentice trying to defend the actions of yet another of his hapless MLA's, I knew just knew that this one had to do with one of our local clowns.  Like a bad hangover, Minnesota Mike keeps hanging around.  It really is ridiculous that  Prentice tries to defend him.  I'm not sure what part about how 3-Way Mike broke the law of a foreign country can be defended.  I guess in Prentice's fantasy land, if you're a PC you can do as you please as long as you fess up to it afterwards.  Pathetic.

All this has led to the PC's (rightfully) getting walloped in the polls.   So much so that some polls are even hinting at the possibility of an NDP minority government.  While I'm not fan of the NDP and don't see them winning either local riding, I must admit that an NDP government would make for an interesting dynamic in Edmonton.  At the very least, no one would be able to say Alberta politics is predictable and boring, I suppose.

Anyhow, possibilities of a new government lead in the past couple days led to me getting involved in a lot of political discussion, the majority of it surprisingly civil.  And then one die hard had to get involved and said a few choice words to me that I find disappointing.  Disappointing because this individual turns out to be a local school vice principal.  And hey, I love a good debate, but resorting to vulgar language while touting your university education doesn't sit well with me.  I don't care if this fellow has a degree in politics.  I studied a great deal of political history as well so I can hold my own.

To make things worse.  He then tried to justify his choice of words by stating that they aren't really considered vulgar to him.  Yes, we have a vice-principal here who evidently thinks that calling a person a "prick" isn't considered inappropriate.  Being the nice guy that I am though I did ask him if he felt the school board would agree with him and then emailed the board.  I know for a fact that school officials are expected to maintain a certain level of decorum and this extends to online activities as well.  Now, I won't name the individual involved or the school because I'm a nice guy but suffice it to say the email I reply I received back from Fort McMurray Public Schools wasn't exactly impressed with this man's behaviour.  The guy's assurances to me that well, he doesn't act that way while around students just didn't sit well with me.  But apparently, according to him, acting that way toward adults (adults who pay this clowns salary) is acceptable.  And of course, lacking the conviction to stand by his words, as such people often do, he then proceeded to delete all of his comments from the thread.  I'm assuming the board acted quickly to put the man in his place and I am glad for it as I received a very contrite response from the individual in question later that afternoon.

Why these types of people think they can say and act the way they do and expect and nice cushy public salary along with a pension that my parents and many other people would love to have, is beyond me.  At the very least, one of them got a good shake yesterday and, if the polls are any indication, the other one should expect a good thrashing early next week.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Mr. Scott Needs A Dictionary

You know a government is in trouble when it needs a Minister of Accountability, Transparency and Transformation.  Really, shouldn't these be things a government should strive for anyway?  But no. Apparently in Alberta we need an entire bureaucracy to monitor the integrity of all its other bureaucracies.  It's also apparent that our own MLA, Don Scott, wasn't following the Premier's "look in the mirror" advice, when, as associate minister for accountability, transparency and transformation, he took a rather pricey jaunt to Poland.  I think Mr. Scott really needs a dictionary to look up "accountability"  I would suggest he look up "irony" as well.

$24,100 for a trip to Poland?  Seriously?  And for what, exactly?  MLA never communicated that to his constituents.  At least that I'm aware.  The only real communication I've received from his office was a flier a few days ago asking me to re-elect him.  Come on.  Are you kidding me?  And this is the same guy who recently chided local candidate and Wildrose Leader Brian Jean to practice what he preaches when it comes to fiscal responsibility.  I appreciate the fact that we live in a northern riding with far-flung communities and that travel in the north isn't cheap.  I spent 10 years living in isolated communities throughout the north, including 6 years in Nunavut, so I understand how his costs for travel to and around the riding can be expected to be a bit higher than if he lived in say, Edmonton-Centre or even one of the Grande Prairie ridings.   But 24k for ONE trip?  Are you serious?  The bottom line is that this is an inexcusable expense.  Especially when he outspent his counterparts from THREE other provinces COMBINED on the exact same trip.  Scott's claim that he followed the government's guidelines for expenses is laughable given the fiscal mess find ourselves mired in at the moment.

There's no reason in my mind for provincial politicians to be embarking on these international junkets.  NONE.  We have a federal government to represent our interests on the international stage.  It rankles me that we have a government who embarks on expensive overseas trips and then is part of a government who then turns around and then milks the taxpayer with 59 tax increases.  This garbage has to stop.

And it will stop, Mr. Scott.  In less than two weeks, this accountability thing is going to come back to bite you.  You will be held to account on election day.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Meet and Greet with Brian Jean

So a couple of posts ago I mentioned that I wasn't planning on blogging much about the provincial election unless things got strange.  And in some ways they have.....from an NDP candidate getting arrested while campaigning in Medicine Hat to members of a PC riding association resigning after questionable nomination practices.  Even your wife's home-made apple pie wasn't safe.

The coup de grace came a couple of days ago while I was browsing a newspaper at work and saw a photo on the front page.  It was a photo of Wildrose leader Brian Jean and a young lady that looked oddly familiar.  She looked just like one of my tenants who, like me holds a keen interest in politics and has been closely following the campaign.  My initial thought was to wonder how she had managed to score a photo with Jean that ended up on the front page AND how I had apparently missed that he was in town as I tend to devour political news the moment it hits the press.

As it turned out, the young lady in question wasn't my tenant but rather her sister, who is actually a candidate in Grande Prairie-Wapiti.  Turns out my tenant has known the Jean family pretty much their whole lives, she told me.  And by the way, she was going to a "meet and greet" at the local legion.  If I wanted to come along she was more than willing to introduce me to him.

It was a novel experience to meet someone you often only seen on television....and with no huge crowds or media in sight.  I'll save my political thoughts here since for those who know me, they tend be rather evident.  I will say that I found Jean to be very approachable and laid back....and very interested in what people had to say.  Not only is Jean our local candidate but as leader of his party, he could potentially be the province's next Leader of the Opposition or Premier, depending on how election day plays out.  I honestly never thought I'd find myself in a situation where I could vote directly for a party leader.  If I could travel back in time, I know the university version of myself would be insanely jealous.

I appreciated the time he took for a photo as I knew he had had many long days on the campaign trail....14 communities in the past two days and he was back in town before flying off to High Prairie today.  My tenant had me all embarrassed as she introduced me as "the landlord" who was keenly interested in the election and hoping for a quick photo.  I demurred as I knew he must be very tired and I'm sure he gets asked that question a millions times.  But Brian was adamant.  "It's okay, Darcy.  Let's do this."  And so I ended up with my little photo.

On the way home, my tenant mentioned that she had invited Jean to dinner next time he was in town.  "Oh, that's cool,"  I responded. "Where were you planning to go?"
"Well, your house.  If you're okay with it, that is."
Of course, I couldn't say no.

Yes, it's been an interesting campaign.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Fire in Abasand

My heart dropped today when I was asked at work if I had heard about the fire in Abasand late last night that destroyed 4 homes along with 3 garages and 3 vehicles.  It brought me back to my early teen years when the old wooden house next door burnt to the ground resulting in one man breaking a few bones and a second man who sadly lost his life.  I remember sitting silently at the kitchen table with my coat along with my two younger sisters ready to leave immediately should the need arise.  While that event took place almost 30 years ago, it's still an event that crops up in family conversation from time to time.  A million thoughts went through my head at the time.  It was all so surreal.  While our century-old house was brick, the fire took place before my parents renovated the attic which at the time was full of old wood and insulation.  Now that I own my own home, I realize just how fortunate we were that night.

It saddens me that last night in our city a few families and individuals were not so fortunate.  While firefighters arrived quickly, last night's strong winds no doubt played a big role in how the fire was able to spread no doubt causing more damage than otherwise may have been caused.  Coming as this does following the price of oil tanking and all the economic anxiety that brings, this is a huge kick in the pants.  It's a miracle that no one was seriously injured or killed.  The few photos I've seen so far look like the homes were hit with a bomb.  I don't mean to sound melodramatic but really, that's the only thing I can really compare it to.

I was heartened to hear that a Go Fund Me site has been set up to raise money for those affected by last nights events.  Despite what some may read in certain media, we are a community here and this city has always struck me with its generous spirit when it comes to supporting those in need.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

And Here We Go.....Again.

In what is easily the biggest non-secret in recent days, Premier Prentice kicked off an anticipated election campaign yesterday.  Anticipated but not necessarily wanted.  I don't see the need for an election when the government already holds a super majority of seats and find it odd that the Premier has been preaching fiscal prudence but will now hand us a bill for what is reportedly the most expensive election campaign in Alberta history.  It doesn't make much sense for Prentice to be seeking a mandate for his budget when the reality is that each Opposition MLA could vote 3 or 4 times over and the government could still get its budget passed in the Legislature.  But it is what it is.  We head to the polls May 5th.

It didn't take long for candidates to hit the bricks here as I noticed quite a number of PC and NDP election signs along the route home from work yesterday evening.  While the PC's winning yet another majority isn't in question, it will be interesting to see how many seats the Wildrose Party and the NDP can pick up. I've made up my mind long ago on how I will be voting so I won't be subjecting myself to long bouts of campaigners at my door with long-winded speeches.

I do hope that our region and the province improves it's dismal voter turnout.  Our riding here is known to be pretty bad.  I suspect there will be a lot of focus on this riding anyway and not just because of economic issues after the price of oil tanked.  The NDP has never really been much of a factor here so the real choice comes to one between a sitting cabinet minister, Don Scott, and a newly minted party leader, Brian Jean, who could potentially be the next Leader of the Opposition or perhaps the province's next Premier depending on how election night unfolds.  I would have thought Jean would have ran in the other Fort McMurray riding against controversial PC MLA Mike Allen as Allen is much more vulnerable but the race here should be a very interesting one and many in the province here will no doubt be focused on it.

Clearly, the PC's have no choice to run on the spring budget rather than their past record.  Running on a record fraught with scandal, corruption allegations and a seemingly incurable desire to spend every single cent they can ring out of the taxpayers clearly isn't politically palatable.  I don't plan on blogging a great deal during the campaign unless something really weird happens (and weird things have happened in Alberta politics in recent months so you never know).  As I said, I know how I'm voting and that won't change.  I do hope that Albertans get out and vote.  For all the sticks and arrows that have been hurled at this budget at least it seems to have gotten people talking about it.  It's my hope that this talk translates in to people actually wanting to vote on election day.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Honestly, Who Labels a Label Maker?!

Initially, I hadn't planned on writing on this topic but I decided to go ahead anyway now that a few days have passed and calm has been restored.  I don't often write about being a landlord here, primarily because its just a part of my life that I'm used to and I didn't really think it would make for interesting reading.  I will preface this by saying that overall, it has been a very positive experience.  Aside from the obvious financial benefit I get toward paying the mortgage and expenses, I've met people from many parts of the country.  One fellow proved extremely helpful when I updated my bathroom a couple years ago and no doubt saved me from putting some unnecessary holes in the floor.  He was also a big help when my furnace decided to crap out on me during a very cold morning last month.  Other tenants I've had grew up here and have given me great insights on what life is like growing up in such a unique place and answered my many questions about the region.  One tenant is quite outspoken politically and I love engaging in political debates, though we do tend to agree on a lot of things so there are times we just sound off our frustrations on each other on some of the issues of the day.

Unfortunately, given the nature of work here and the people that are looking for a place to stay, you occasionally end up with someone who is, shall we say, a bit more "difficult".  Such was the situation last Thursday when I had to effectively evict a tenant.  This was only the second time I've had to do this.  The first time was almost 3 years ago and that went quite smoothly.  This time not so much.

I had had the one tenant for at least a couple years and while disagreements and frustrations will arise when living with different people, things took a turn for the worse in recent months when a new tenant arrived.  It seemed the slightest little situation could set off fireworks so I knew things were coming to a head as one tenant would monopolize the kitchen, the bathroom, the television  etc..  At one point, she bought a label maker and I came home from work to find every shelf in my two kitchen closets labelled.  I quipped that I was a bit confused as to why she had designated a shelf to me since in reality I own all the shelves, the closet and the house that contained them.  But it got weirder as she labeled the shelves in my fridge, her toaster, her coffee maker, her laptop....and to top it all off, she labeled the label maker.  I swear I'm am not making this up.  Yes, things were getting weird.

To cut a long story short, I was awoken at 3 am last Thursday after this tenant decided it was okay to come home rather intoxicated and bring along a friend, thus breaking two cardinal house rules.  I don't really care if someone drinks as long as they don't come home at some god forsaken hour and wake me or other tenants up.    I've never understood the urge to drink yourself stupid but I figure, its their body. Just don't make it a problem that becomes my problem.  And I have no issues with guests provided I get a heads up and they aren't here at some odd hour, particularly when I have to work.

Clearly in this case, a line had been crossed.  I'm pleased I remained so calm even though inside, I was positively fuming.  I do have enough experience dealing with intoxicated people to know what and what not to do.  When I calmly informed the tenant that the situation was unacceptable and the guest would have to leave as their delightful conversation had awoken me and another tenant...well, it didn't go over so well as the tenant in question yelled in my face that me waking up in my OWN HOUSE because of HER actions was in actuality MY problem.  I'm still working out the logic behind that.  Rather than inflame the situation,  I simply informed the tenant that if it was indeed my problem I would  deal with calling the RCMP.  I was then dared to do so.  Challenge accepted.

Let's just say that seeing a drunk 43-year old woman being arrested in a housecoat and slippers in my kitchen wasn't exactly something I would have put money on seeing when I woke up that morning.  Anyhow, it's a done deal now and calm has returned to the house.  I did have to take a day off work which I was not happy about in the least but clearly after the stress of the situation and the late hour I decided that it wasn't a good idea to head in to work tired and stressed.  All was not lost though.  The nice thing is that last month I rented out a room to a guy from work whom I've known for 3 years now so rent-wise I wasn't really losing out.  And even if I was, there are times when extra money isn't worth your sanity over one idiot tenant.

Six days later and I know I made a wise decision.  The calm in the house now is almost tangible.  Pure bliss.