Run Griff Run ….

Something happened on Facebook and Twitter this weekend, which has me personally very excited – a campaign started to show Battle River – Wainwright MLA, Doug Griffiths, that he has support if he were to take a run at the Progressive Conservative leadership contest.

Griffiths, who at the young age of 38 already has nine years of experience as a PC MLA, is a potential candidate that would stand out as someone who is truly different from the rest.  Doug is very bright, charismatic and engaging.  He is a typical Albertan who resonates with corporate leaders just as much as rural landowners. He comfortably fits on a ranch, on a motorcycle, in rush hour, or on a weekend of self imposed survivor in the elements with his friends and family.

What is most exciting about Doug is that he transcends traditional political party lines.  In fact, for the past 6 months, the Alberta Party has been courting him to cross the floor and give them the boost they are trying to find.  For the six months before that it was the Wildrose Alliance Party trying to capture his attention.  Being a man of principle, however, Doug stayed with the PC Party and was instead seriously contemplating not running in the next election.  Almost a week later, his serious contemplations are of a very different and far more exciting type!

Several years ago I had the good fortune of working as Doug’s assistant when Premier Klein promoted him to the position of Chair of the Standing Policy Committee on Energy and the Environment.  At the time, he was also the Chair of Rural Development.

Doug is the best boss I have ever had (and I have worked for some very impressive people).  He’s a hands-on mentor who works collaboratively with his staff.  His constant reminder to me was that I didn’t work for him, I worked with him and while it wasn’t technically true, he certainly made me feel that way every single day.  Doug’s approach is collaboration and empowerment, but he will always be the first to roll up his sleeves and get to work – an approach I’m confident Alberta would get behind.

Doug is a big picture thinker with a passion for philosophy; he is an ideas guy who likes to spend his time thinking way outside the box, yet has an impressive capacity for detail.  His tremendous skills as an orator, creator and communicator make him an excellent choice for leader. He is inspirational.

When I worked for Doug we travelled throughout rural Alberta, where we went from town to town delivering his now famous 13 Ways to Kill Your Community speech and talking to Albertans about rural development and any other topic they wanted to discuss.  The speech has morphed into a popular book and series of videos on the internet – I never got tired of watching him give that speech and loved watching people nod their heads in agreement as they went from “aha” moment to “aha” moment.

Because he was the Chair of Rural Development and because so many Albertans wanted to hear his 13 Ways speech, I’m confident Doug has visited and talked to more people in rural Alberta than any other elected official in the province. He is also Alberta’s political leader in using social media to engage constituents. I think you would be hard pressed to find a politician who has a better grasp on the desires of the electorate.

If he decides to run for Leader, he will have to get better acquainted Edmonton and Calgary, as well as what he calls Alberta’s five other “bright lights” – Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Peace River, Grand Prairie and Fort McMurray.

Not that he is an unknown in the cities – he has served as the Parliamentary Assistant to the Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security as well as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance – but he will be competing for attention with some better known urban MLAs vying for the job.

Winning will take a huge effort and will require a truly grassroots campaign.  But if anyone in the PC Caucus can pull this off, it’s Doug Griffiths.  As a political animal that has been paying close attention to politics in Alberta for my entire adult life, I can see that Albertans are looking for something truly transformational and different.  The people within the PC Party I have talked to consistently tell me that its time for something fundamentally new.

It my view that the Alberta PC Party can give the electorate the new and different they are looking for in this leadership race or take our chances in the next election, and I am completely confident that Doug Griffiths is the right man for the job.

Run Griff run!!!

PP

Stories Are Gifts

I bought @ppilarski and me these mugs from Starbucks today. They are cute and got my attention. I was working on my thesis (which I can’t wait to share with all of you … be patient with me and keep sending me good vibes so I can finish asap), and noticed these mugs to my right. Cute little festive Christmas mugs that said “Stories are Gifts .. Share”. Wow. It got me thinking … and it also got me motivated to keep telling the story of my thesis and to keep blogging.

This week has been a trying one for active tweeters like me. I don’t usually like to share personal stories online. My personality is one that attempts to remain positive no matter what. But this week the online trolls almost won.

After sharing my health care experience from 5 years ago after being in a serious car accident I was told by several online that my story was insignificant and did not justify my reasoning for distracted driving legislation. I was a pedestrian struck by a car in a parking lot by an individual distracted at the wheel. This is no pitty party … I am a survivor and I am stronger after my accident than I ever was before. The accident reaffirmed who my friends were and taught me to appreciate those who love me and accept their love in whatever form they are giving it. It taught me that it was okay to count on people and that without people we are nothing. Without a story to tell we are nothing. Without our individuality we add nothing to a political party or movement. And without a story we have no authenticity on Twitter or Facebook.

Yes – my story is why I have become a strong advocate for the distracted driving legislation and why I was ecstatic that it passed in the house. The vote passed without a single member of the Wildrose Alliance Party in attendance and with the support of thousands upon thousands of Albertans – those politically engaged and those not.

Your support, or your disdain, for the legislation is about your own story. That story maybe your passion about libertarianism or about a fender bender you were in. Needless to say it is a story – one that consists of policy or one that is personal.

@ppilarski also shared a personal story this week – something out of the norm for himself as well. It was about his beautiful mother (a woman that was strong and vivacious, a survivor as well – one that I wish I could have met because I know we would have had a ball together … and she would be great assistance in distracting him during a game of cards) who passed away in an emergency room. This was no pitty party either – it was a part of his story and a part of his ER experience. In my opinion the emergency room story is a bad story for our government, but with a growing population and an ever increasing aging population it is a problem that will be one we will be fighting for a generation and I know we are trying. It is, in my opinion, a great story for the PC Party. MLA Raj Sherman spoke his mind and shared his story. I was proud after watching his speech in the legislature emergency debate. Although he did appear nervous, he did the right thing. The PC Party has evolved and voices like Raj and Doug Griffiths are valued and being listened to.

I’m proud of the stories that make @ppilarski and me who we are. It is because of our story we have this blog. It is because of our stories on the His and Her pages that we are engaged with politics.

I encourage you to think about your story – and share it with us here. I stress over and over again that the PC Party is one full of amazing individuals – each has a story.

Don’t let the online trolls get you down – they don’t have a story. Continue to stand strong and share yours. I’m going to keep at it – and I’d like to thank all of you that have been encouraging @ppilarski and I along the way. You have become a part of our stories … and “Stories are Gifts” … and I intend to keep giving.

CR xo

Will the real Doug Griffiths please stand up?

Another PCinYYC collaboration– I’ll be the one writing in italics (CR).

I just read a letter from Wildrose Alliance Party Executive Director, Vitor Marciano, which warns me that “the Stelmach PCs could force through a new Provincial Sales Tax at virtually anytime”.  The next sentence tells me they “need my donation today to mount an effective campaign against this new tax.”

Holy smokes folks, I better hand over my wallet and run for the hills – the two headed tax monster is after me and he goes by the names of Ed Stelmach and Doug Griffiths!

Wait a minute, Premier Stelmach has said several times that there will be no provincial sales tax under his leadership and Doug’s comments have been taken completely out of context.  He has advocated for a “long term fiscal framework about spending and saving … and must include a review of taxation levels and systems of taxation.”  Yes, he mused about a provincial sales tax – and the people have spoken loudly and clearly against that.  From most people’s point of view this discussion has passed and we should all move on – I share this sentiment.

I was very impressed by Premier Stelmach’s strong stance against a provincial sales tax at the PC AGM in October. Several times he was unwavering in his decision that while he was the Premier it would not be an issue up for discussion. He pointed out that we are the only province in Canada without one and the only province not in debt – we must be doing something right.

But before I am ready to move on, I want to share what I know about the ‘Real’ Doug Griffiths – the man behind the politician – because it reveals something about politics in Alberta that we need to pay attention to.

For those of you who have met Doug, you will know that what you see is what you get.  Doug is principled, articulate and visionary.  He is a father, husband and great personal friend to many, many people.  He understands complex policy, but takes a common sense and practical approach to issues.

Doug likes to cut through the politics and put all solutions on the table.  He wants to get the job done and his motivations are clear and simple – future generations – his boys and your kids.  Doing what is right because it is the right thing to do.  This is a brave stance in a turbulent political environment, but it is the only stance Doug lives for.

To me this is why the PC Party is different. We have representatives that are willing to look at all options, listen to all opinions, and speak up when necessary. Our party is cultivating a culture of engagement and discussion. It is an exciting time. I challenge you to talk to your PC MLAs one on one if you have a problem, need direction, or have a brilliant idea for our province – they listen. They live for this stuff – especially Doug. His community knows he does and respects him for it – he won the last election with79% of the vote in Battle River – Wainwright in 2008.

I have to admit that I am biased when it comes to Doug Griffiths, since I have had the opportunity to work for – or with – him.  He makes an excellent boss.  His inclusive style is always open to suggestions, questions and comments.  He listens to every angle and compares his opinion to yours; he responds after giving your position careful examination and consideration.

I’m fortunate enough to call Doug a friend. I have approached him for advice more times than I can remember. As a passionate young woman in the party it could be easy to get lost and become apathetic towards the cause, but Doug doesn’t let people like me (and you) slip through those cracks. He knows how important it is to foster the next generation of PC leaders. He will be ushering us in – and is welcoming us.

I like that whenever I go to him with my latest idea or struggle he looks at it objectively. I never expect it to be sugar coated. I expect it to be honest, caring, and upfront. His encouragement is from a thoughtful place – he meets you where you are at and puts himself in your shoes (which is hard in this case – I’m a big fan of pointy-toed heels). I am so thankful that Doug takes time to listen to me and give me calculated advice. With everything else on his plate he still makes sure to pour in to Alberta’s people.

The way that Doug has responded to Vitor Marciano’s fear campaign against the supposedly proposed sales tax speaks volumes about Doug’s true character.  Wildrose Alliance MLA, Rob Anderson, wrote a commentary defending his friend and former colleague.  Alberta Party organizer, Ken Chapman, called Doug “the kind of progressive, forward thinking and consciousness raising kind of politician we need in Alberta.” Heck, even Graham Thompson from the Edmonton Journal came to Doug’s defence.

While both these commentaries are completely accurate and more or less sincere, they are also politically motivated.  If you read between the lines, you see two new political parties trying to become or represent something Doug Griffiths embodies with a high degree of grace and ease – a true progressive conservative.

This drives me crazy, but also makes me laugh. Doug is a sought after, highly intelligent politician and he stands firm with Team PC. Of course the two latest political parties on the scene would be vying for Doug’s attention – whether that is by firing him up or flirting with him. They want people like Doug to stand firm with them … and those people are hard to find. Graceful, go-getting, gutsy people are what the PC attracted and still attracts. I am excited about those stepping up to run in the next election and I am excited that these two new parties will allow our PC candidates to define themselves even further.  

Doug is also, by all measures, a Minister-in-waiting.  He holds the title of Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance.  He has excelled in his positions, and has written a book based on his popular speech, “13 Ways to Kill Your Community”.  He holds an Honors Degree in Philosophy, specializing in Environmental Ethics.  A rural guy with urban flare!

Like I (we) said before, Doug is a principled, articulate visionary.  The kind of representative you would want as your Minister of Environment, Employment and Immigration, or Advanced Education and Technology – my top vote the latter.  He makes a great spokesman for Alberta, crosses all political and geographical lines, and raises the bar in political discourse.

Will the real Doug Griffiths please stand up?  This Progressive Conservative would like to see you take the stage, challenge those who strive to twist what this party is about, and represent the ‘real’ values the PC Party believes in and advocates for.

A real party full of real people having real discussions … what’s not to love? So proud to be a PC member, and so privileged to know I can count on leaders, like Doug, to push me to be all I can be.

PP and CR

Guest Blog by Brian Dell: Unions Flex Muscles (again)

The following blog was posted on http://briandell.blogspot.com/ by a guy named Brian Dell, whom I have never met.  As you can see, Brian is a like-minded blogger.  I would like to thank Brian for agreeing to be a guest blogger on PCinYYC.

 

Much of what I blog about is based on well research facts – Brian presents some of these facts in his blog.  Now that I have your attention, I hope that you enjoy the continued education …. PP

 

Brian’s blog starts here ….

 

Section 29 of the Alberta Labour Relations Code explicitly allows unions to demand collective agreements whereby “all the employees… are required to be members of a trade union.” Only employees who convince the Labour Relations Board that their “religious belief” prohibits them from being a union member are exempt from this coercion, in which case an employee could potentially get his or her union dues directed to a charity instead of the union.

 

When Edmonton McClung introduced its motion to bar unions from forcing Albertans to pay dues that are then used for political purposes, the constituency association noted that Alberta is one of the few jurisdictions in the world that denies individual employees the right to opt out of having to pay mandatory union dues that are then used for political messaging.

 

In early 2008, in the lead up to the March 3 provincial election, an outfit calling itself “Albertans for Change” but in fact run by union bosses ran a series of TV and radio attack ads paid for by forced union dues. When the Merit Contractors Association and the National Citizens’ Coalition called attention to the fact that this astroturf group was using mandatory dues for activities unrelated to the core union activities of collective bargaining and grievance administration, the Alberta Federation of Labour responded saying Merit Contractors and the NCC were “simply trying to further their union busting agenda” and cited a 1991 Supreme Court of Canada case, Lavigne v. OPSEU. However, Mr Lavigne was not a member of and not required to join a union, unlike the case in Alberta where union membership is often forced. Indeed, when the Canadian Civil Liberties Association intervened in the case to support the union position, the CCLA concluded that “Lavigne’s protection is in his right to join or not to join” a union. Remove that protection and the Lavigne case is distinguishable.

 

Alberta Union of Public Employees spokesman David Climenhaga trotted out the “but the courts say” argument on his personal blog after the Wildrose Alliance AGM earlier this year to contend that passing a particular “right to work” law would be “a pointless gesture.” The McClung members who proposed the motion here anticipated this sort of retort, however, by attaching a legal opinion solicited by Merit Contractors from a Calgary law firm.

 

I might add that, in specific response to blogger Ken Chapman’s claims that the facts cited by the motion’s supporters were “unsubstantiated” and in need of “proof,” the union practices at issue here are prohibited in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, and the 47 countries of the Council of Europe. While far left Canadian judges like Claire L’Heureux-Dubé have held that freedom of association implies no freedom to not associate, Article 20(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly affirms that negative right: “No one may be compelled to belong to an association.”

 

The European Council of Human Rights, perhaps the most famous of the Council of Europe’s bodies, ruled in 1981 by an 11 to 3 vote that a 1975 agreement between British Rail and three trade unions requiring union membership as a condition of employment violated Section 11 (freedom of association) of the European Convention on Human Rights (to which all Council members are a party). The 2006 case Sørensen & Rasmussen v. Denmark made it clear that a “closed shop” is still in violation even if it were made clear to a prospective job applicant in advance that union membership would be a condition of employment. “[T]here is little support in the Contracting States for the maintenance of closed shop agreements,” the Court added. The 2007 decision Evaldsson et al v. Sweden prohibited the use of union dues from non-members for non-bargaining (ie political) purposes, with the Court disapprovingly noting that “they had to pay the fees against their will to an organization with a political agenda.”

 

Although it is currently the case that in the United States unions can spend a member’s dues on politics, members have the right to opt out, a right that is currently denied in Alberta. Unions are currently in a panic about Republican gains in elections tomorrow because of fears that the GOP will change the obscure opt out procedure to an opt in requirement for dues union leaders want to spend on politics.

 

At this weekend’s PC Alberta AGM, union supporters tried to shout down opponents. When the vote was taken, it appeared close enough that some called for a count, a contention supported by the Edmonton Journal which described the margin as “narrow”, but the moderator dismissed a count as unnecessary and the union supporters declared victory. According to CTV, “[d]ozens of people, apparently union members, bought party memberships specifically for that vote and defeated the motion much to the dismay of many long-time party members.” The number of “Ten Minute Tories” might well have been significantly higher. In 2006, the Journal reported that a coalition of unions “apparently plans to buy as many as 10,000 Tory memberships” to get their man into the premier’s chair. As it is, the current chair of the government caucus, Robin Campbell, is a former union boss. South of the border in New Jersey, the AFL-CIO spends a quarter million per year running a “candidate school” to get their (Manchurian) candidates elected, and with considerable success given that this union school “has groomed more than 160 current officeholders.”

 

I nonetheless take some comfort in the fact a few grassroots PC members came to the AGM prepared to get their battle on against this economic phenomenon known as a labour supply monopoly or, in popular parlance, a union.

 

 

At the Wildrose Alliance AGM during the summer, there was essentially no floor battle to speak of since the unions had, in effect, pulled off an inside job. After cordial meetings with Alberta unions during the months leading up to the AGM, floor-crossing MLAs Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth spent essentially all of their microphone time on the convention floor lobbying for closed shops and the killing of party planks like the one that protected “the democratic right to a secret ballot,” thus precluding the need for more transparently union-affiliated speakers to make the case. Party leader Danielle Smith, who had previously had her own tête à tête with AUPE’s boss (photo above at right), told media outside the convention room that the union coddling constituted a display of “sophistication.”

 

I relate the disturbing ties between the Wildrose caucus and union lobbyists in order to note that apparently every elected politician is either running scared from the unions or in their pocket. In the US, the Associated Builders and Contractors (a merit shop coalition) noted a study last year that found that union slush funds had contributed more than $1 billion to contract bidding schemes that increased the cost of construction projects for taxpayers. The equivalent slush funds in Alberta, known as MERFs or “Stab funds, were finally targeted by the Alberta government in 2008 by Bill 26, which also aimed to put a stop to the union practice of “salting” (having their people respond to hiring ads and then, after having been hired just in time to vote to unionize, walking off the job to leave the employer both short manpower and unionized). The schemes Bill 26 corrected were so outrageous the union bosses knew they could not organize popular protests against the bill, but provincial lawmakers were still so afraid of union muscle they passed the bill as the very last measure of the spring 2008 sitting and at 3:15 AM in the morning. Legislature personnel were furthermore so intimidated that security guards at the Leg were placed on high alert.

 

There are four major political parties in the province (five if you include the Alberta Party) and the leadership and/or caucus of none of them seems prepared to make an issue out of the fact that Alberta tolerates closed shops where Europeans do not, and that provincial legislation adds insult to injury by allowing unions to pile mandatory dues to be used for political lobbying on top of mandatory membership. The PC members who voted against the McClung proposal giving workers a right to opt out of having mandatory dues used to fund leftist causes are ultimately traitors when you consider the fact that in 2008 such money was used to fund a media assault on the PC Party, but “traitor” implies an allegiance that can be betrayed.

 

Albertans are entitled to a political alternative. The NDP accordingly has a good excuse for, say, not supporting the 29 Old Dutch employees whom the UFCW union and the Alberta Labour Relations Board say should be fired for refusing to pay union dues. For 38 years the UFCW and Old Dutch collective bargaining agreement provided for a voluntary dues check off. In the wake of a lengthy labour dispute, however, UFCW demanded that the dues be made mandatory.

 

Even though mandatory dues are virtually cost free to employers, Old Dutch did not agree. The obvious solution in the union’s view then became getting the government to step in and amend the Alberta Labour Code. This summer, the Stelmach government indicated that it would side against the 29 workers. Perhaps the Wildrose Alliance could have said something about this instead of going on about legal disputes in other provinces.