PC Government deserves a ZERO for not doing their job

Sometimes, it’s difficult to be a PC supporter.  Reading stories about rampant corruption within our healthcare system are hard to stomach, especially considering the sub-par care my mother received in her dying days only a few years ago.  It took 3 months of doctor appointments (in her last 6 months of life) to get a diagnosis in our monopolistic system, yet when we flew to the US and paid for a diagnosis in a private clinic we got the diagnosis in 1 day.  After she was diagnosed here in Canada, our shitty healthcare system failed to provide her with homecare; somebody forgot to order it for her.  She died in emergency because there wasn’t enough space in the hospital for her.  It was a horrendous experience that left me very upset.

But I didn’t blame the PC government for that.  I understand that MLAs don’t run the healthcare system and I don’t think it’s a good idea for them to.  The healthcare system should be run by health professionals, which for the most part, it is in Alberta.

It is the job of MLAs and Ministers to broadly oversee the system and to make adjustments when those who run the system day to day make mistakes.  This is why Premier Redford took decisive action when the Merali story broke and why she is implementing more transparency in the way government officials report expenses.

The no zero policy story, which concluded yesterday with the firing of a high school teacher with 30+ years of experience is something I can’t believe our elected officials would allow to happen.  The Redford Government deserves a zero for not stepping in to stop this.

I agree that our Education Minister should not get involved in the day to day decisions made within our education system.  We have Trustees, Superintendents and other education professionals who are better suited to run our system at the local level.

But firing a teacher for giving HIGH SCHOOL students who don’t complete assignments zeros is far more offensive and egregious than any story of corruption or misuse of public dollars.  And the fact that Alberta’s Education Minister is not planning to step in to correct this is shocking and unacceptable.

The no zero issue is about far more than a teacher who isn’t following policies or a local firing decision as the Minister has suggested. It’s about teaching values and principles.  In a province where small business is the backbone of our economy and where our big businesses are global leaders, the values we teach with a no zeros policy is unacceptable.  Failing is one of the most important components of success and teaching our future leaders about consequences is one of the best ways we can prepare them for the competitive and cruel world.

Like I previously said, it’s the job of MLAs and Ministers to broadly oversee the system and to make adjustments when those who run the system day to day make mistakes.  A man lost his income because he would not follow the offensive no zero policy and the PC Government needs to make this right, just like they did recently regarding the expense claims of health officials.

Otherwise Albertans might decide to teach them that there are, in fact, consequences for not doing their work.

PP

A PC Party Make Work Project

I am a card carrying PC – you know that – and most of you know I’ve been one for years. I’ve held plenty of positions within the Party including my most recent stint as the Deputy Campaign Manager during the general election. I love my Party. I’m dedicated to its principles and core values. I’m a true Progressive Conservative.

Many of you will also remember that I am a true champion for #changefromwithin in the PC Party. What does this mean? It means renewal. It means doing things differently to ensure everyone is engaged – and by everyone I’m including brand spanking new PCs. #changefromwithin means communicating and including. It means transparency and ensuring there is a seat at the table for all PC Party members before a decision is made and a motion is passed.

I volunteered (along with @ppilarski) as Alison Redford’s GOTV Chair on her leadership campaign because I believe she was the healthy change this party needed. I took a leave of absence from my day job during the campaign to work on the PC campaign’s core team. Proud accomplishments of mine for many reasons – including the fact that I saw #changefromwithin become a reality in both circumstances. I remain a proud PC because of our strong leader and our strong roster of true, PC candidates that were elected this past April.

Do I like what Premier Redford is doing in Alberta? You bet! Family Care Clinics, public consultation, long term plans, quick action on previously ignored files (like Highway 63), no fear in doing things differently … all things I’m proud of. All things I believe represent a modern day Alberta and modern day Albertans. Changes necessary to move our province forward.

Do I believe #changefromwithin is alive and well in our Party? It’s getting there … but the fight is not over.

The PC Party’s latest “make work” project is the perfect example of my continued frustration over the Party’s focus.

Formal documentation of our Party’s political roots? What?! This sounds like a good MA thesis for a passionate young conservative … not a project you pay a consultant to do. Maybe a cool project for the PCYA wing of our Party as well not something we spend resources on. Let’s practice fiscal responsibility.

Did we not just fight the hardest election battle since 1993 in this province? We were victorious but we have plenty of lessons to learn as a Party that shouldn’t include prioritizing the documentation of our history.

What does need to be documented?
How about a debrief from the election campaign that involves all stakeholders and constituencies? Let’s learn the lessons of our political battles from the people who were on the frontlines of the campaign. Priorities should be already preparing for the next election, considering a four year strategy and learning from the mistakes of the past 4 years. Now, I expect the powers that be will tell me that they ARE doing these things. That’s wonderful – but if no one knows about it then does it really matter? Are you operating in your silos (something Redford has been passionate about breaking down in government)? Are you engaging your membership (all those campaign managers, cluster coaches, regional desks?)? How can you expect to strategize if you aren’t including the membership who fought the battle?

Now you’ll say “but Christina, they are engaging members in this project”. Let’s engage members by asking how to be battle ready and how to better represent the people of this province … and communicate that we actually are. Let’s ask them for a debrief of the election this year. Let’s engage them in fundraising, membership drives, etc. And what about engaging the thousands of new PCs our party gained after the leadership and after the 2012 election – this latest project is certainly not one they can buy into. Finally, let’s engage the PCYA in this project if it is really deemed as something that needs to be completed in the interim.

I’m disappointed. Not because we are documenting our history and asking members to get involved. I too have warm and fuzzy stories I can add to the collection – stories I’m proud of and stories that have kept me engaged as a member. I’m disappointed that this project has taken center stage and is what the party is currently highlighting.

What about the governance review? What about constitutional review? What about fundraising (some boards are in major need of support after the election)? What about board support (new MLAs, new volunteers that need backing … not to mention some serious communication breakdowns that need to be addressed in a number of boards across this province)? What about connecting the various constituency association executives so we can start collaborating? What about learning to communicate as an association – not just sharing what government is doing? Or just communicating in general?

I’m angry – I’m ranting. But most importantly I’m still waiting for #changefromwithin in the PCAA.

Because by pushing out make work projects we continually show Albertans we aren’t listening as a Party.

The leader (I’m so very proud to support) and our (capable, smart, next generation) caucus members need to stand up and get the PCAA train back on the tracks. Another 40 years is ours … but only if we learn from past mistakes and move Alberta into the future – not spend our resources and money on documenting the past and further glorifying it.

Take a step back – what do you think the average Albertan cares about? Long term planning or a historical document of how great we used to be? I stand by Premier Redford because she campaigned on stable, long term planning for our province – let’s take a hint and do the same for the party. Remember when the tables turned in the election – when Albertans started to realize Wildrose wanted to move Alberta backwards and that the PCs were capable of moving Alberta forwards. Let’s not lose that mandate. You may remember a few of my tweets during the election … “never trust a party that offers you the past” …

Thank goodness government is listening – hoping for a trickledown effect asap.

And, yes, these are qualities I will be looking for in the next PC President. The race is on. Who represents the face of #changefromwithin?

CR

Canada’s Building Trade Unions Support is Suspicious

Canada’s Building Trades Unions (BTU) came out publically the other day supporting the Government of Canada’s decision to allow the reversal of Enbridge Line 9 between Hamilton and Sarnia.  In their release, Director of Canadian Affairs, Robert Blakely, says that they work with energy producers on a daily basis to ensure that Canada’s energy projects “achieve all of their potential” and that “it’s refreshing to have a federal government that also grasps this economic reality.”  Blakley goes on to say that “with measures like an improved regulatory process, their commitment to apprenticeship and now this – the Harper Government is demonstrating its knowledge of, and commitment to, our industry.”

Taken at face value, such strong support of Prime Minister Harper’s Government and policies are no doubt helpful to the Prime Minister and to the energy industry as a whole.  Had the BTU sent this news release and focused only on the great nation building work of Prime Minister Harper, the BTU would have come across genuinely.

Instead they went on to express their concern about the “unintended, negative consequences of Bill C-377, which endangers the ability of Canadian workers to participate in large scale nation building energy and resource projects”

WHAT???  How??? Huh???

Bill C-377 is a federal Private Members Bill that would require unions to make public their finances, including assets, liabilities, expenses, and salaries of officials.  It’s a necessary piece of legislation in a world that is becoming increasingly open and transparent.

In his news release, Blakely goes as far as threatening that if Harper’s government moves forward with Bill C-377 it will “add considerable costs to the bottom line of large-scale energy projects” while at the same time stating the legislation would actually “duplicate processes that are already in place to provide accountability and transparency”.

If unions already have systems in place to provide accountability and transparency then they will be able to comply with Bill C-377 with little or no additional cost.  You can’t say on the one hand that you already provide full financial disclosure to members and on the other that it would cost you a fortune to provide public financial disclosure.  There is no logic to that argument.  It simply doesn’t make sense.  We know, for example, that when the US brought in union disclosure legislation the cost of compliance to unions was nominal.

Blakely also states that building trade unions are private sector unions and that “unlike charities and political parties, they (we) receive no public sector subsidies”.  The fact of the matter is, however, that unions enjoy special status under our tax laws and receive approximately $400 million worth of tax benefits every year.  Furthermore, union dues are mandatory which means that unions effectively have the ability to tax their members without any requirements to be transparent or accountable.

When Bill C-377 was first introduced, Blakely and friends complained that the Harper Government was unfairly targeting unions with this legislation.  Given that the government has required charities and first nations governments to be more transparent, these arguments have fallen on deaf ears.  Their new argument that they receive no public subsidies is also full of holes given their unique tax status and the mandatory nature of union dues collection.

Canada is far behind many other developed countries when it comes to both union financial disclosure and the ability of workers to opt out of all of some of their union dues.  Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Ireland, the U.K. and the U.S. all have some form of union financial disclosure.  Furthermore, in Canada MPs, Senators, Minister’s offices, provincial politicians and their staff, federal and provincial departments, First Nations Governments, charities and foundations, crown corporations and publically traded companies are all subject to some form of financial disclosure and transparency requirements.

So why are the building trade unions essentially threatening large scale industrial project cost escalation and an endangerment of the “ability of Canadian workers to participate in large-scale nation building energy and resource projects”?

What do big union bosses REALLY have to hide??

Until unions are subject to financial disclosure legislation, we will never really know.

What we do know is that the USA has had union financial disclosure legislation in place since 1959 and it has led to thousands of fraud convictions.  In fact, from 2001-2008, the US labor department secured more than 1,000 union fraud-related indictments and 929 convictions.

We also know that several unions provide funding and support to oil sands opponents, such as the Sierra Club (CAW, Nova Scotia Nurses Union), Environmental Defence (United Steelworkers), Parkland Institute (Canadian Union of Public Employees), the Rideau Institute (CUPE), the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CUPE, CEP), the David Suzuki Foundation (B.C. Teacher’s Federation) and the Council of Canadians (CUPE, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Hospital Employees’ Union, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, Confederation of Canadian Unions, Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, CAW, Pulp and Paper and Woodworkers of Canada, COPE, B.C. Teachers’ Federation, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers).  But we often only know about this funding because the recipients, not the unions, report it.

Over the summer, one Federal MP told me that she has never been lobbied as much as she is being lobbied by organized labour against Bill C-377.  Clearly, organized labour has chosen union financial disclosure as their preverbal hill to die on.

One has to wonder why …

It’s great that the Building Trade Unions support Prime Minister Harper’s direction on energy development and its great they believe he is moving forward with great nation building policies.  I support Prime Minister Harper’s approach as well and so does the open shop construction community, which actually represents the vast majority of construction workers in Canada.

But to tie the issues of energy development and union financial disclosure together in the same media release is dishonest and, quite frankly, embarrassing.

Canadian unions should embrace financial disclosure requirements.  And they shouldn’t tie their support for energy development to the desire of Canadians to have greater union financial transparency.

Oh ya …. I forgot to mention that Canadians support Bill C-377 – in fact, more union members want increase union financial disclosure than non-members ….

But I thought that unions already disclosed all of their finances to their members?

Right … they really don’t.

PP

Alberta Student Ministerial Internship Program – Guest Blog

Our good friend, John Hampson, has certainly left his mark on the new Alison Redford government by pitching the idea of the Alberta Student Ministerial Internship Program and seeing it come to fruition. John is a twenty-something working as Special Assistant to the Premier – and if his successful pitch story is an example of things to come in Redford’s government we can be confident that #changefromwithin is not just a pipe dream.

I’ve been so proud of all John has accomplished in his young life – and look forward to where he will go next. He wrote the blog below at our request – why did we request it? Well – Peter noticed a whole lot of young people wandering the Legislature halls during his last visit up to Edmonton and John had the answers as to why they were all there.

I hope to see more examples like this program in the near future. Hoping all the interns have a fabulous summer too!

Thanks for this guest blog John!
CR

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Alberta Student Ministerial Internship Program

Only six months into my career with the Government of Alberta, it’s become resoundingly clear that we are living in exponential times! This sentiment echoes true when we take a look at the generational shifts that exist within our provincial government administration. Four generations currently work side by side; Matures, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y. This includes people born in 1930 all the way to 2000!

At any given moment approximately 25% of the Alberta Public Service could retire.  Some may see this as cause for concern, I do not. I see this as a tremendous opportunity for Generation Y to step up to plate and think seriously about a career in the Alberta Public Service. That’s what we’re hoping to accomplish with the Alberta Student Ministerial Internship Program (ASMIP). This is a new and unique program that provides post-secondary students with the opportunity to learn about government, develop workplace skills and gain career-related experience, all while working at the Alberta Legislature within Ministerial Offices.

Recognizing the power of mentorship and the emergent need to excite our generation about the incredibly rewarding career paths offered through the Alberta Public Service, Premier Redford’s Office developed this initiative in January and moved quickly to roll out the program in time for a summer launch. The response to the competition was overwhelming. Over 350 students applied. From that, we were able to place 26 exceptional interns into Ministerial Offices with duties ranging from coordinating aspects of their Minister’s schedule, briefing their Minister on relevant issues and attending community events with their Minister. Additionally, Interns participate in an intensive learning and development seminar series, which entails weekly sessions with visionary leaders from the Alberta Public Service, further providing Interns with an even greater understanding of what the Government of Alberta is all about.

At the end of the day, we’re so excited about this incredible learning opportunity for students and the amazing potential for us to inspire the next generation of Alberta leaders to look to the public service as they plan their career path!

John Hampson

5 Questions with NGC Online Presence Sub-Committee Chair, Christina Rontynen

My first Calgary Stampede blog post of the year. Enjoy everyone!

5 Questions with NGC Online Presence Sub-Committee Chair,
Christina Rontynen

You can call it Stampede love – or just plain old Calgary love. I couldn’t resist interviewing Christina Rontynen for this blog. We recently got engaged. We didn’t meet through the Stampede but we are on the same Stampede Committee and we have many fun Stampede memories.

When we met we clicked because our passions were the same – including getting people engaged with their communities. That’s why the Next Generation Committee (NGC) was such a great fit for us. The NGC is all about engaging Calgarians with the Stampede!

The NGC is made up of two sub-committees: Project Execution and Online Presence. Christina is the chair of the Online Presence sub-committee.

Here is my interview:                                      

1. What is the Next Generation Committee all about?

The NGC is all about engaging new audiences with the Calgary Stampede. It isn’t just about engaging young Calgarians but all Calgarians. In the past we have targeted 18-30 year olds, brand new Canadians, young families from Calgary’s suburbs, and this year we are targeting Calgarians in 100 years through our very cool Time Capsule project. If you have Twitter you can follow along with Time Capsule project through our #CSTimeCapsule hashtag.

2. What one item would you put in the NGC Time Capsule if you could stand to part with it?

I have this amazing belt buckle from my Dad. He used to wear it when he was a little boy playing cowboys with his friends. It has a bunch of little guns on it and is completely vintage and awesome. It is the perfect Stamepde accessory and it, to me, speaks to the fact that the Stampede is generational. It’s a family affair.

People can propose their own Time Capsule ideas by emailing the NGC. If you have something you’d like included in the Time Capsule and it has a neat story behind it please email us at: calgarystampede.ngc@gmail.com

3. What is your ideal Stampede day?

Best Stampede day is always Parade Day! Wake up early, find the perfect spot and watch the energy and excitement of Stampede come alive. After that it’s about finding a pancake breakfast – and putting lots and lots of syrup on the pancakes (of course)! Then a trip down to Stampede Grounds – I love making sure I’m there for the Rodeo and of course a greasy, yummy dinner at a kiosk afterwards. Then it is playing some Midway Games, enjoying the Coke Stage, and waiting until the fireworks show.

4. Who are you most looking forward to Stampeding with this year?

Well you of course Peter!! Our first Stampede being engaged! Very fun.

But I’m also looking forward to hopefully bringing your niece and nephew! Seeing the Stampede through the eyes of kids is the best!

5. What is your favorite Stampede treat?

Gosh – this is a hard one. I love the classic mini donuts but this year I will not leave without trying all the new food for 2012; including deep fried wagon wheels, sausage on a stick and those deep fried veggies.

Thanks for playing along Christina!

Happy Almost Stampede Everyone!
PP

Originally Posted on the Calgary Stampede Blog on May 23, 2012 – found here.

Next Generation Committee Wants to Tell Your Story … in 100 Years

I just posted on the Calgary Stampede blog about an awesome project that Peter and I are taken part in this Stampede. The Stampede Time Capsule (#CSTimeCapsule) will be telling the Stampede’s story from the last 100 years to Calgarians 100 years from now. It’s pretty exciting stuff … and there are plenty of opportunities for all Calgarians to leave their mark on the time capsule.

Here’s my post ….

Last weekend I had that pleasure of attending the Stampede 4 Corner Event in southeast Calgary. I was there with my fellow Next Generation Committee team members not only promoting our latest project but as a Calgarian getting excited for Stampede.

The smell of pancake breakfast, the western garb, the smiling faces, the country music … I had tingles on the back of my neck as soon as the event started. It really marked the start of Stampede season for me.

The 4 Corners events are the perfect blend of Stampede and community. The community crowd was gathering not only for the free Stampede breakfast but also to support local community organizations and cheer on community entertainment.

It really is the perfect event to tell Calgary about the Next Generation Committee’s time capsule. You haven’t heard of the time capsule? Check out the news release for more information, but in a sentence the time capsule is the Next Generation Committee’s way to captured the first 100 years of the Stampede and share it with the Calgary 100 years from now. Pretty exciting actually!

How exciting? Well I watched a child no more than 6 drop in her favorite Stampede memento into our time capsule at the 4 Corners event. Her eyes were wide as she exclaimed, “off to the future!!” Now that’s exciting!

Click to read more.

– CR xo