election

Top 10 Reasons to Vote Conservative

I’ll admit it, I’m a pretty staunch critic of the reigning Conservative Party of Canada and the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some pretty compelling reasons to vote for them. And given that they’re recently down significantly in the polls, they could use the shot in the arm. So without further ado, the Top 10 reasons why you might want to vote Conservative on October 19th.

10. You like your  government “edgy”.

As in, always on the edge (and sometimes over the damn edge) of legal. You like it when your MP gets fined $14,000 for robo-calls. Means they’re walking that fine line of grey, and don’t let ethics get in the way of winning.

9. You hate water. And fish.

More specifically, you hate freshwater and the idea of protecting it. Which is why you applauded when the Conservatives gutted the Fisheries Act. Fish. Who needs em?

8. Speaking of water…

You applaud the fact the the Conservatives tried to shut down the Experimental Lakes Area. Because you would have preferred that acid rain go on, unfettered by scientists tracing it back to chemicals in our factory smokestacks.

7. You like your government to be tough on crime.

Even if, statistically, there’s less crime to go around these days. Still though, bring on the mandatory minimum sentences…because you don’t govern on statistics. Obviously.

6. Lies, damned lies. And statistics.

Information. Such a pain in the ass, right? Which is why, for you, getting rid of the long form census was the right move. Because who wants their decision makers to have the best information possible when faced with actually making decisions?

5. And it’s not just gathering information that you hate…

It’s keeping it around. So dismantling some of the best scientific libraries in the world, built by taxpayer funded researchers over decades, seems like a good call. Keep shredding those reports!

4. Caring about the environment and animals is, well, a little extreme.

So it’s a good thing that a lot of those groups made their way onto the extremist threat list. Because protesting is an awful lot like free speech, which…hang on…no, we like free speech. Except when we disagree with what’s being said.

3. And caring about people is over-rated.

Which is why it was no big deal for you when the United Nations called us out for ignoring hunger within our own borders. It’s not like we’ve spent most of our history priding ourselves on being world leaders with humanitarian and peacekeeping endeavours.

2. But that’s what food banks are for, right?

You’re not too concerned about those hungry people, after all, that’s why we have food banks (which have seen incredible growth in usage lately) and other charitable organizations, right? And speaking of charities, we should really be auditing them a little more intensely…

1. And the number one reason to vote Conservative this year?

Because pulling your head out from the sand and realizing how far the Conservatives have fallen off of the moral high-ground they supposedly occupied (into something a lot more like a dingy basement apartment with bad lighting and a funny smell) might be just a bit too painful.

There you have it, my Top 10 List of Reasons to Vote Conservative this October. But just in case you were leaning in the direction of voting for anyone but the Conservatives, I’ll include my #1 Reason to do just that.

1. They’re not the Conservatives*.

*And if you’re reading this in the fine riding of Banff-Airdrie, I strongly urge you to check out Marlo Raynolds (Liberal candidate), who would make the finest MP this riding could hope for. And has never been fined 14K for robo-calling, just to keep the record straight.

 

Dear Jim; An Open Letter to Alberta’s Premier

Dear Jim,

I like you. I really do. I think that your first couple of months in office, after officially winning a seat in the legislature, have seen some movements in the right direction (#Bill10 notwithstanding). Of course, all you’ve really done is reverse or deal with a lot of the bad decisions made by your predecessors. From selling off the air fleet to reversing the decision on the Michener Center, you’ve had your hands full of messes to clean up.

Of course, along with cleaning up The Party’s act, there have been some political feathers in your cap. Winning the four by-elections and assisting Danielle Smith with the neutering of her own official opposition are certainly a testament to your growing political capital and obvious prowess.

I like you, so here’s some (obviously) unsolicited advice, in the form of a Top 5 Top 6 List.

Number 1: Stop calling me (and every other Albertan) a taxpayer. We’re not cows to be milked. I’m a taxpayer once every two weeks when my paycheque gets cut. Every other moment I’m a father, husband, employee, boss, son, neighbour, volunteer…and most importantly, a concerned citizen of this province. Concerned that every damn conversation boils down to what the “taxpayers” are going to think. Try asking me as a father instead sometime.

Number 2: Don’t just slaughter some sacred cows, fire up the grill. Progressive income tax, revenue neutral carbon taxes, provincial sales tax, oil & gas royalties…you name it, we better be moving on it. Alberta could, and Alberta should.

Number 3: Stick to the laws your own government enacted, particularly the one about the next election being held sometime in the spring of 2016. I (and many fellow Albertans) are pretty much done with your party playing political games and running this place like it’s a little #PCCA fiefdom. It’s not like there’s a shortage of work to be done in the next year.

Number 4: The Environment. You know, that big ol’ place that provides food, water, air, etcetera…it’s suffering. In a big way. For far too long we’ve sacrificed our relationship with our natural spaces in the name of frenetic and unsustainable economic growth. From fracking to clear-cutting, rampant off-highway vehicle use in our headwaters to the oil sands, turning the corner on environmental issues and bringing some reverence back into our relationship with the earth should be a top priority.

Number 5: Last, but definitely not least, get out a little bit more. And I don’t mean down to the Superbowl to stump for the Keystone XL pipeline. Get out of your party’s vested interest in the status quo. Get out of the mindset that Albertan’s won’t tolerate some needed change around here. Get out and talk to people who haven’t spent their entire careers amplifying the issues that we now face.

Number 6: Finally, if you’re hell-bent on balancing the budget through spending cuts, which you seem to be (as opposed to the very good advice in Number 2), don’t do it on the backs of vulnerable people and children. Our educational system is already maxed out. I visited a local elementary school earlier this year and there were classrooms in the hallways. Classrooms in the staff room. Classrooms in the gym. I’ve got a 3 1/2 year old son and I’m more than a little anxious about the quality of his education in the coming years. As for the vulnerable, if there’s one thing that Albertan’s will tolerate less than a tax-system overhaul, it’s the further dismantling and degrading of an already fragmented and incomplete support system for vulnerable people. Albertan’s, as you know, are the kind of people that do what it takes to make sure their neighbours are cared for…look no further than the overwhelming response to the floods of 2013. Speaking of the floods, if you’re looking for something to cut, let’s start with golf courses.

I like you, Jim. I really do. I think you’ve got what it takes to help create a true Alberta Advantage…not one that’s been built on years of over-spending, under-saving and pillaging our natural resources.

I like you…but I’m probably not going to vote for you.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me for 40 years?

Time to Vote.

Well, it’s getting to that season in Cochrane. Voting season. Time to establish a new council and mayor into the role of steering this dynamic and growing community. In an effort to help people access relevant information on all the candidates, I’ve compiled them here (with links to their websites/Facebook pages where possible). And yes, another long blog post, with lots of words.

And because I’m not a newspaper, I do get to make endorsements. Keep in mind these are my opinions and as such don’t represent anyone else.

Let’s start with the candidates for Mayor.

Keep in mind that although I’m ranking them, they ALL have a shared love for this community and would in all likelihood do well in the job.

My Pick: Joann Churchill. Solid track record on council, very engaged citizen, strong view of a sustainable Cochrane. A few miss-steps over the years on a couple of issues, but she’s learnt from them and carried on well.

Close second: David Smith. A bit of a dark horse coming into this election, he’s got a great platform, a solid support base and a view of the town and issues that seems to align well with reality. He’s talking about some issues that no one else has, and he wants to expand the Cochrane Sustainability Plan to include targets on sewer and energy reduction for transportation. Awesome stuff.

Third: Ivan Brooker. Having served two terms as a councillor, Ivan certainly has the experience on council to contend for the Mayor’s job. I’ve found myself disagreeing with numerous ways that he’s voted on some key issues, so from a policy perspective I have a difficult time supporting him.

And the Councillor’s

There are 13 PEOPLE vying to be on council this term. Crazy. Similarly to the Mayoral candidates, it seems that people have a lot of passion for the community, which is great. My picks are going to be based on a balanced council, track records in the community, and platforms. The following 6 candidates are my pick;

Ross Watson. Thoughtful, articulate, genuine and informed. A top pick for sure.

Tara McFadden. Of all the current members of council, Tara has consistently done the best job of communicating what’s happening up at the RancheHouse. She’s active on social media platforms and sends out a great e-news update on council meetings (subscribe if you haven’t already). Another top pick.

Gaynor Levisky. She’s got a good platform focused on Environment, Parks and Rec and Protection/Safety. She also seems to be well grounded in the issues facing families, a large segment of the Cochrane population.

Jeff Toews. I know what you’re thinking…haven’t you blogged a lot about disagreeing with Jeff Toews on a lot of issues? Yes. I have. And I’ll probably continue to disagree with him on a number of issues. But this election isn’t about MY view of Cochrane, it’s about OUR view of Cochrane. And Jeff brings a different perspective to the table, and I feel that he’s done a lot of learning about the complexities of the issues over the past term, and he’ll continue to learn and grow in the role.

Steve Grossick. I don’t actually know Steve, but he’s got a Code of Ethics on his website. And experience with politics, business and volunteering in the community (including being the current President of the Cochrane and Area Victim Services Society). A solid choice.

And unfortunately that only leaves one more seat in my “slate”. And there are several candidates worthy of the spot, but my vote is for Kaitee Del Pra. Born and raised in Cochrane, and only 23 years old, what she might lack in political experience is made up for by the sheer fact that she’s running for council. I think she’d bring a much needed perspective to the table.

Of course, that leaves out some worthy people, and I’ll outline them here.

Jamie Kleinstuber. Active community member, strong environmental ethic. Supports transit. It’s actually really hard to see him not on my list above. Maybe we can have 7 councillors this time around?

Shana Bruder. A long time Cochrane resident, Shana’s also been actively involved in the community (including the Cochrane Foundation, the Community Awards and Light Up committees).

Morgan Nagel. Another representative from the “youth” division, Morgan has some strong political experience and a firm focus on the “small town, family feel”.

Dan Cunin. Has a comprehensive platform that includes some great initiatives. And he came out of the gate and announced his candidacy in JANUARY. Eager and passionate.

Marty Lee. All I could find this morning was his Facebook feed, and will admit to not knowing much about his platform and how it might differ from the rest of the candidates. Has been in Cochrane for 14 years, and seems to have been reasonably well involved throughout.

Mary Lou Davis. A Google search turned up no campaign information, so I wonder if she’s doing it the old fashioned way (door-knocking and coffee drinking). Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just makes it hard to pin down her stance on things when you’re writing a blog post. She did serve on council during a pretty controversial period of time (2004-07), where a lot of development decisions were being made that we’re just now feeling the repercussions of.

Jim Uffelmann. Jim has been a champion for increased public engagement on a variety of issues (namely transit and the dog park). He appears to be running on a “keep taxes low” platform. I’ve had numerous Facebook conversations with Jim where I ended up leaving the conversation due to the negative tone of it. That said, he’s running for council and is obviously passionate about a couple of community issues.

And there it is…my thoughts on the 16 people running for Town Council this go-around in Cochrane. Agree with me or not, get the heck out there and vote!

Advance polls: Cochrane RancheHouse. TODAY from 4-8pm, Friday from 4-8pm and Saturday from 10-4pm. Election day is Monday, October 21st and polls are open at various stations from 7AM to 8PM. Info here: http://www.cochrane.ca/election

Rodeo Grounds

I forgot one of the apparently most sacred of cows in Cochrane these days, and that is the Lion’s Rodeo Grounds in Glenbow (just below the current pool/Boys & Girls Club/curling rink). There’s been a lot of interesting discussion about what should happen with that piece of property when the lease is up in 2019.

So here’s my thoughts.

First, we have a purpose built agricultural complex on the NW corner of town, with tons of parking, an indoor arena, a few different outdoor arenas/tracks and numerous other amenities. Does a town of 18,000 need two rodeo grounds?

Second, what’s the usage and economic impact of the rodeo grounds for Cochrane? I live in Glenbow so have a fairly good handle on how much it’s being used. Between Summer and Winterfest, the labor day rodeo and a few other events, it’d be generous to say that it’s utilized 6 weekends out of the year (aside from slow-pitch tournaments on the 2 fields). And I do understand that the Lions contribute greatly to this community (~4 million in the last 11 years), but my sense is that a good portion of that is raised at things other than the rodeo.

Third, given that the pool and curling rink are being relocated to Spray Lakes Leisure Center in the next couple of years, it’s safe to say the upper tier is going to need redevelopment. Is a rodeo ground that gets used sparingly the best use of that prime real estate? It’s tough to say.

Proponents say that it’s a very unique feature of a small town to have the rodeo right in the heart of the community. And I’m certainly not one to disagree on the cultural aspect of that argument.

Of course, as a taxpayer and someone generally interested in the fiscal sustainability of this community, it’s a hard stretch for me to see us not getting the maximum amount we can for that property, and allocating that money to some of the other big-ticket items that this rapidly growing community needs.

All nostalgia aside, it might be time to take a step back and look at the big picture on this one.

Cochrane’s Sacred Cows

Warning: This post is longer than most and contains a lot of words.

Well, we’re heading into the homestretch of the “silly season” in municipal politics, that time when the papers and facebook feeds are full of familiar promises. More amenities! Lower taxes! Small town feel! Transit! To name just a few.

So here’s my 2 cents on some of the “sacred cows” of the current municipal election, in no particular order of importance.

Aquatic Center and Curling Rink: Possibly one of the largest municipal projects ever attempted in this town, the 54 million dollar curling rink, aquatic center and associated upgrades is dominating the discussion. There seems to be general consensus that we NEED a pool, except for a few voices suggesting we show some restraint in times of economic uncertainty. Having just gone to the current pool this afternoon with my 2-year old I’m even more uncertain of this pressing need. 2$ Friday and the pool was WELL BELOW capacity. Like, we were the only ones in the hot tub for awhile.

Taxes: What would a municipal election be without promises to keep your taxes low? And would anyone be voted in on a “I’m going to raise your taxes” platform? Even though that’s pretty much an inevitable outcome? For once it’d be nice to see some honesty in a potential politician, something along the lines of “You say you want a bunch of shiny new amenities (aka a pool), but you don’t want your taxes to go up? Well, here’s your cake…feel free to eat it.”

Density: Not quite as prevalent in the conversation as the first two topics, but density is certainly flaring up in Airdrie, along with the connection to the Calgary Regional Partnership and the Calgary Metro Plan. It’s another sacred cow that needs to be examined closely. I would be highly questioning of anyone who suggests we can continue to build a bunch of single family homes with big lots and keep our taxes low. There are so many issues tied up in density targets that it’s tough to draw all the connecting dots for folks, but here’s a few;

  1. Density is more efficient. Less road, less sidewalk, less utility, less driving for the garbage truck. Theoretically less money required to service less infrastructure.
  2. Increasing density drives up the value of single family homes with big lots. Not a bad thing if you happen to be among the lucky folks who enjoy that luxury. Why pay a premium for a house with a big lot in Glenbow, when you can pay significantly less for a big house in Sunset, Fireside, Riversong, Heritage Hills, Heartland…etc.
  3. Dense developments are more affordable for young people. You know, the kinds of people that we might want to work in this town and have a family, and the ones who can’t afford those big houses right now.  They’re also the kinds of people that are going to work in those businesses that lease the 30,000sq ft in the new aquatic center…unlike the folks living in those big houses that have to drive to their job in the city to afford their mortgage in the small town!

Traffic: Ahhh…if only there was a system for moving large amounts of people quickly and efficiently on a network of roads and railways…wait….

Traffic is certainly an issue, and no, transit won’t fix it (but it certainly won’t hurt it). I’m sure there are people much smarter than I currently scratching their heads on what the hell to do about traffic in this town. Between terrible highway intersections, a railway that cuts through town, and a bunch of in/out access to large subdivisions…we’re pretty much screwed on the traffic front for the foreseeable future. Which is why I live in Glenbow, so that I can walk places. A good start would be some traffic circles…seriously. I spent a few months in New Zealand a few years ago and there were traffic circles everywhere. Way better for traffic flow than 4 way stops and signals.

Small town feel: That elusive, yet essential, quality that attracted so many of us to move to Cochrane in the first place. This might come as shocking news, but a small town feel is just that. A feeling. Whether you’re riding a bus, living in a new subdivision, swimming at a new pool or shopping for cheap plastic at Walmart, the only way to keep that “small town feel” alive and well is to act it out. Shop locally. Get to know your neighbors. Join (or start) a community association. Come out to the farmer’s market. Volunteer with a nonprofit. No town council or mayor has the power to turn you into a small town person, or to help a community keep that feeling. Sorry, this one’s up to you. Which, given how often politicians are able to keep their promises, is probably a good thing…

Local Economy: Again, this one’s being looked at by people much smarter and more in tune with economic development than I am. Certainly an 87% residential tax base isn’t very good, and we need to diversify our revenue streams. Here’s something to chew on… a lot of business owners were in favor of transit to and from Calgary. Why? Because there’s no labor market in Cochrane (or a very small one). Why? Because people who serve coffee and stock shelves can’t afford to live in this town. Why not? Because there’s a shortage of denser, affordable housing. Funny how all this is connected. And no, I don’t have any answers, other than people taking that small town feeling to heart and putting their money where their mouth is…shop local, preferably at small shops and at places that give back to the community.

There it is, the sacred cows as I see them. I have a feeling a few of them will be slaughtered shortly…it’ll be interesting to see which ones!

And stay tuned for some more in-depth analysis of various platforms, including my top picks for mayor and council, for whatever that’s worth to you.