Archive for May, 2010

Tick surveillance project starts

May 31, 2010

Canada has many ticks.

Name your tick!

Canadians, have you got a tick?

Name it: Poor service, unaccountable politician, latest ripoff, a certain product, or a government policy?

Tick of the week: DANIELLE SMITH


My tick of the week: Danielle Smith, leader of the Alberta Wildrose Alliance Party, who has not answered the question, “Does your party currently pay you?”  It’s Day 17 and counting.

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Alberta gives charity to the oil industry

May 30, 2010

by Government of Alberta, edited by J.L.

Calgary – In the tradition of giving alms to the poor, the Alberta government unveiled initiatives to accelerate new technologies to encourage development of Alberta’s vast unconventional and deep resource pools and finalized royalty curves for conventional oil and gas.

Min. Ron Lieperts has a very nice tie

“This initiative to unlock Alberta’s unconventional resources offers the potential for decades of employment and community benefits” said Energy Minister Ron Liepert. “The final adjustments to royalty formulas will help industry make important investment decisions for the fall and winter drilling season and maintain Alberta as a competitive jurisdiction for investment.”

Building on the work of government and industry that resulted in the release of Energizing Investment in March, the Emerging Resources and Technologies Initiative modifies the royalty rate for wells that require use of high-cost technologies.

This welfare program strengthens a producer’s ability to invest in additional wells, as well as well research and development of wells, well and above normal well subsidization. Stimulating application of new technologies in resources that have not been tapped is expected to increase overall production, resulting in increased economic activity and secure long-term royalty revenue from new resource discoveries.

“These rate modifications are a long-term investment in Alberta’s future,” added Liepert. In all, energy development in Alberta represents almost 30 per cent of the province’s total gross domestic product and directly or indirectly supports almost one in every seven jobs.

Over the next 25 years the Canadian Energy Research Institute forecasts that oil and gas development in Alberta has the potential to add $2.5 trillion in new economic activity. More economic activity means more opportunity and more jobs for Albertans. Rural residents and climate change advocates be damned.

The Emerging Resource and Technologies Initiative will be reviewed in 2014 and the Alberta government has committed to providing three years notice to industry at that time if it decides to discontinue the initiative. The government is also initiating two studies to expand the mapping, geological and resource knowledge of shale gas in Alberta and the enhanced oil recovery potential of conventional oil pools in Alberta.

While no studies are being initiated to discover how much the Premier of Alberta receives from the oil industry via the PC Association of Alberta, the gas studies will provide important data to help industry make better-informed investment decisions and help guide future government policy development.

More government cant can be had at: http://alberta.ca/ACN/201005/28441DB838B27-0336-BB5C-D5EDFEDE158ED1F6.html

Ethics office fails to disclose income information

May 28, 2010

Helena Guergis

You can’t govern effectively without trust. And there can be no trust without integrity and transparency.
– Prime Minister Stephen Harper, April 20, 2006.

The federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Office has admitted it does not disclose federal MPs annual income, despite the Members’ Conflict of Interest Code insists the watchdog body should report the source and nature of members’ income.

The Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons is administered by Commissioner Mary Dawson whose role is to administer transparency, oversight and accountability.

Recently, her office fined Helena Guergis $100 for failure to disclose details of a home mortgage.

Now the tables have turned. Ms. Guergis may have a valid reason to complain about the Conflict of Interest office.

The code states the Commissioner is to provide the public with summaries of members’ “income, assets and liabilities.” However, the conflict of interest office does not disclose this information.

“The summary shall… set out the source and nature, but not the value, of the income, assets and liabilities referred to in the Member’s statement,” says the code.

In an email communication, Margot Booth, Manager, Communications and Outreach for the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner of Canada confirms a portion of the commissioner’s duties.

“The Act (section 25) does not require public disclosure of income,” writes Ms. Booth.

While Ms. Booth is correct that the law does not require disclosure of amounts, the law makes it clear that the source and nature of the income are to be disclosed annually. To date this information has been kept secret.

Fascists wear the nicest neckties

May 25, 2010

Premier Ed Stelmach and Mr. Naoki Kuorda, President, INPEX Corporation exchange fondnesses.

TOKYO, Alberta – There is a new phrase that has been added to the lexicon Albertasis: Government trade.

Government trade is a political ideology that seeks to trade government of the people for corporatist perspectives, values, and systems.
On Premier Stelmach’s recent Asia trip Government trade was everywhere. But answers to previously posed questions were not to be found.

Before Premier Stelmach discloses the total amount he receives in soft handshakes from the PC Association of Alberta, it was nice to see him basking in the warm clutch of Japanese friendship with Naoki Kuorda of INPEX, an Asian oil giant.

(If Jerry Bellikka(Stelmach’s communications director) is reading, I still await the information requested. Don’t rush. Another 2 weeks won’t hurt.)

INPEX Timor Sea Ltd. project

Incidentally, INPEX Corporation is a partner with Talisman Energy of Calgary in the Kitan Oil Field Australian off-shore project. An environmentally-responsible project that may include an under ocean pipeline. Just what the world needs.

Alberta, INPEX, Talisman. It is nice to see that what goes around comes around.

In other news, Premier Jean Charest

Quebec's fleurdelisé

has suggested that if he retires, he will no longer accept the $75,000 backdoor pourboire from the Liberal Party of Quebec. It’s good to know that global warming hasn’t impacted political slush.

Canada’s become a crabapple republic

May 24, 2010

by J.L.

Obamas share a recipe for success

The best jelly makers share their recipes. The worst politicians hide their pecadilloes. This is making Canada a crabapple republic.

As reported here in Like Pulling Bears’ Teeth(May 17, 2010), the office of the premier of Alberta is slow to disclose his yearly stipend from the PC Association of Alberta. I’d suggest Alberta consider changing its official song from Mary Kieftenbeld’s Alberta to: Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlatan.

Silent singer Premier Ed Stelmach

Likewise, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s last financial summary disclosure posted on the federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner’s website shows a date of November 27, 2007(Harper harpooned by own ethics harpoon, May 21, 2010.)

Compare this with United States President Barack Obama, who posted his personal income tax online.

You have to salute Mr. Obama for his integrity.

Canada salutes Obama, we just don't follow his lead

In April 2010, the president and first lady disclosed their income tax returns to the world. Capital gains and losses, their wages, salary, business income, and tips. Taxable income, business deductions, they are all there for the world to see. No false modesty. Gifts to charities, $329,100. It is all there.

Book sales pushed their net earnings from self-employment to $4,777,983. There is no shame in becoming comfortable. Only shame in shading the truth.

They have their affairs in order, man! Bless their accountants, Wineberg Solheim Howell and Shain, Inc. Sixty-five pages of boring information. Beautiful.

And so the gauntlet is thrown down, Mr. Harper and Mr. Stelmach. You have a choice.

BP’s Deepwater Horizon Oil Eruption

May 23, 2010

by Jack Locke

No words can remedy the disaster currently occurring in the Gulf of Mexico. Yet, words are the path to the solution. And the assurances of BP’s chief executive are hardly assuring. The villanelle below is my take on the situation.

“We are committed to providing the American people with the information they need to understand the environmental impact from the spill and the response steps that have been taken,” said BP’s chief executive Tony Hayward.

BP Chief executive Tony Hayward, © BP p.l.c.

You Murder The Sea When You Drive Your Car

You murder the sea when you drive your car
You pillage our Earth to feed your hungry dream
You are a son of a worm, you are.

In a gulf as pure as the eye sees far
With coral and plants and fish supreme
You murder the sea when you drive your car.

Go swim, swim under the light of a star
And reflect on glow of fallen moonbeam
You are a son of a worm, you are.

You have stolen our future, drunk in a bar
You and your highly motivated team
You murder the sea when you drive your car.

Liberty polluted sinks shame below par
Revisit youth when you sat by clear stream
You are a son of a worm, you are.

A fish does not swim with gills clogged by tar
A bird does not retire on pensions and cream
You murder the sea when you drive your car
You are a son of a worm, you are.

Harper harpooned by own ethics harpoon

May 21, 2010

by Jack Locke

Prime Minister Harper appears to be in violation of his own federal conflict of interest and ethics code that was put in place to ensure government accountability.

The code was introduced in parliament by Mr. Harper’s government in February 2006.

Government records show that the prime minister has not filed an annual summary public disclosure statement listing his private interests since 2007. Yet, the code mandates federal public office holders must file annual disclosure statements.

“A Member shall, within 60 days after the notice of his or her election to the House of Commons is published in the Canada Gazette, and annually on or before a date established by the Commissioner, file with the Commissioner a full statement disclosing the Member’s private interests and the private interests of the members of the Member’s family,” stipulates the code.

The code was introduced to bring forward a degree of accountability to federal politicians and senior civil servants and to allow for transparency.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson

The communications manager for the federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics office says all information filed is available for public review on the government’s website.

“The information you requested is not available in a form that I can email. You can, however, access all information available in the public registry under the Conflict of Interest Act on our website: http://ciec-ccie.gc.ca/PublicSearch.aspx explained Margot Booth, Conflict of Interest and Ethics spokesperson, in an email.

The website indicates the prime minister’s last summary statement was disclosed on November 27, 2007. This is in marked contrast with other members of Mr. Harper’s cabinet.

Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General Rob Nicholson’s last disclosure summary was filed July 2, 2009. Likewise, Jay Hill, government house leader has a disclosure summary on record filed this year on April 14.

The consequences of the violation are left to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to assess. Current commissioner Mary Elizabeth Dawson will only review cases upon receiving a request to investigate. In cases where she finds a violation, she may levy no penalty or may “recommend appropriate sanctions.”

The main purpose of the code according to its stated goal is to “maintain and enhance public confidence and trust in the integrity of Members as well as the respect and confidence that society places in the House of Commons as an institution.”

© Jack Locke 2010

Premier Williams seals his reputation

May 20, 2010

Premier Danny Williams of Newfoundland and Labrador

While Premier Ed Stelmach of Alberta has yet to answer questions regarding his pay and its sources, another premier has been soft and direct when asked the same set of questions.

Maybe that soft baby seal fur is genetically prevalent on the east coast? In any case, what follows is the dialogue between one intrepid reporter and Premier Danny Williams.

From: Jack Locke
Sent: Friday, May 07, 2010 5:56 PM
To: Premier Danny Williams, Newfoundland and Labrador

DEAR PREMIER WILLIAMS,

I AM A JOURNALIST WORKING ON A STORY ABOUT THE PAYMENT OF MONEY BY PROVINCIAL POLITICAL PARTIES TO THEIR LEADERS/PREMIERS. CAN YOU PLEASE ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS? I THANK YOU IN ADVANCE FOR YOUR REPLIES.

1. CAN YOU PLEASE CONFIRM WHETHER YOU DO, OR DO NOT, RECEIVE FUNDS FROM YOUR PARTY?

2. IF YES, WHEN DID YOU FIRST RECEIVED SUCH PAYMENTS?

3. IF YES, HOW MUCH YOU RECEIVE ANNUALLY FROM YOUR PARTY?

4. HOW MUCH DOES THE PREMIER OF NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR RECEIVE ANNUALLY IN HIS ROLE AS PREMIER BY THE GOVERNMENT?

5. CAN YOU PLEASE PROVIDE A QUOTE IN EXPLANATION OF WHY YOUR PARTY PAYS THE PREMIER, WHY YOU ACCEPT, OR WHY THIS PRACTICE IS NOT FOLLOWED.

I REQUEST ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS AT YOUR EARLIEST CONVENIENCE. AGAIN, I THANK YOU FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE.

from Elizabeth Matthews, Director of Communications
Office of the Premier, Government of NL
to Jack Locke
date Mon, May 10, 2010 at 8:24 AM

The Premier does not receive a salary from the Provincial Party. As for his government salary, he donates that to charity. Would you mind sharing which sharing which media outlet you work for? Thank you.

from Jack Locke
to Elizabeth Matthews
date Mon, May 10, 2010 at 1:51 PM

Thank you for your swift reply.

I must say, Premier Williams situation is rather remarkable, and honourable.

As for my media outlet, I am a freelancer. I will be pitching a story as it gets further along.

Lastly, just for the record, may I ask what amount Premier Williams is paid(which is donated to charity)?

from Elizabeth Matthews
to Jack Locke
date Mon, May 10, 2010 at 2:54 PM

The Premier receives a salary of $74,823 as Premier and $95,356 an MHA (Member of the House of Assembly) for a total of approx. $170,180. He donates this salary to the Williams’ Family Foundation which primarily provides funding to sick children and some other charities. This is a registered charitable organization. Thanks.

That’s it, that’s all. Within 3 days all questions posed to Premier Danny Williams were answered. Our next post will look at Alberta’s other opposition political leaders: David Swann, Danielle Smith, and maybe even Brian Mason.

Like pulling bears’ teeth

May 17, 2010

Efforts to gain information from certain government sources can be a grizzly task. Recently, I sought information from the office of Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach.

In my effort to gather specific information, I first sent a query via the premier’s website.

What follows is the thread of emails between myself and

Stelmach’s director of communications, Jerry Bellikka. Our perspectives are polar.

To date, my questions have not been answered. As you’ll see…

1. May 8, 2010

Honestly Ed!

Dear Premier Stelmach,

I am a journalist working on a story about the payment of money by provincial political parties to their leaders/premiers. Can you please answer the following questions? I thank you in advance for your replies.

1. Can you please confirm whether you do, or do not, receive funds from your party?

2. If yes, when did you first receive such payments?

3. If yes, how much do you receive annually from your party?

4. How much do you receive annually in your role as Premier from the government of Alberta?

5. Can you please provide a quote in explanation of why your party pays you, why you accept, or why this practice is not followed.

If you do not wish to answer any of the prior questions, can you please provide a reason why you choose not to answer the questions. Again, I thank you for your assistance.

Sincerely,

Jack Locke

2. Mon, May 10, 2010 at 6:04 PM

from: Jerry Bellikka, Director of Media Relations Office of the Premier of Alberta

to: Jack Locke

I understand you are looking for information about salary paid to Premier Ed Stelmach. I would be happy to try and assist you with information. I can be contacted at… (the Premier’s office).

3. Tue, May 11, 2010 at 7:46 AM

from: Jack Locke

to: Jerry Bellikka

Dear Jerry Bellikka,

Thank you for your reply.

1. By my calculations, Premier Ed Stelmach receives $159,450 pay per year from the Alberta government. Can you confirm this is accurate?

2. I also seek the amount the Premier receives from the PC Association of Alberta; and

3. Whether he receives any other amount in his political capacity, from other sources. Thank you for your assistance.

Sincerely,

Jack Locke

4. Tue, May 11, 2010 at 8:37 AM

from: Jerry Bellikka

to: Jack Locke

I’m not aware of any payments from the PC Association. I can get you some contact information over there, for someone who can provide that information. As far as other income is concerned, Alberta has a policy of publicly releasing the MLA Renumeration report every year (on the Legislative Assembly website) as well as the Payments to MLA’s and their Families report, which is available on the Dept of Finance and Enterprise website at http://www.finance.alberta.ca

When is your article being published, and in which media outlet will I find it?

5. Wed, May 12, 2010 at 10:17 AM

from: Jack Locke

to: Jerry Bellikka

Hi Jerry,

I’ve sent an email to the PC Association, haven’t heard back yet. If you have a contact, that would be helpful.

The Premier’s latest Disclosure Report is available through: Parliamentary Counsel Office 8th Floor, Legislature Annex Edmonton, Alberta T5K 1E4 Phone: (780) 422-4837

I suspect the Premier’s office has a copy and I wish to obtain a copy. I know this material is sensitive, though public.

If you are able or willing to secure a copy for me and willing to forward it as a .pdf, I would be grateful. Do let me know if you can get me a copy. Thanks.

As for your question of where and when this might show up, I’ve not yet put out a pitch. It’s totally speculative. A very difficult way to make a living, as nothing is confirmed.

Sincerely,

Jack Locke

6. Wed, May 12, 2010 at 10:56 AM

from: Jerry Bellikka

to: Jack Locke

I don’t have a copy of the Premier’s disclosure report on file, but the Parliamentary Counsel or the Legislature Library should certainly have public copies available. Is this a story about the compensation for all Premiers across Canada, or specifically focused on Alberta?

7. Wed, May 12, 2010 at 3:19 PM

from: Jack Locke

to: Jerry Bellikka

Hello Jerry Bellikka,

All I really need is a confirmation whether the Premier receives money from the PC Association, and the quantum or amount. If he is willing to provide a quote, that would help explain his side.

I am not certain of the scope of the story. It largely depends on what confirmed information I can gather. I would hate for the details to be published with inaccuracies. It would not serve anyone, especially Premier Stelmach.

Thanks for any information you can confirm.

Sincerely,

Jack Locke

8. Wed, May 12, 2010 at 4:56 PM

from: Jerry Bellikka

to: Jack Locke

I don’t have any direct knowledge of whether Premier receives additional remuneration from the PC party of Alberta.

I have no problem providing information that is publicly available, but I’m still struggling to understand what the story is about. Is this a story focused on Premier Stelmach, or is this some sort of province-by-province comparison?

What’s the story angle?

9. Fri, May 14, 2010 at 9:46 AM

from: Jack Locke

to: Jerry Bellikka

Dear Jerry Bellikka, Communications officer for the Premier of Alberta,

Lordy! All I want is a simple answer. I did not ask whether YOU had direct knowledge. I simply wanted confirmation of whether the Premier receives $200,000 per year from the PC Association of Alberta? I want the facts, just the facts.

As for my angle, I might want to determine whether Premier Stelmach discloses this income on his income tax. Please confirm. If he does not, I may have an angle.

But I suspect Premier Stelmach fully discloses his income. After all, I understand he is a choir member in his church.

As a freelance writer, I do not presently know what angle I will pursue, or what information might constitute a story. Without receiving information which I have requested four times, my angle may be “how difficult it is to get a straight answer from Alberta politicians.”

Respectfully yours,

Jack Locke

10. Fri, May 14, 2010 at 10:08 AM

from: Jerry Bellikka

to: Jack Locke

Jack, I’m not trying to be difficult, I’m just trying to do my job and point you to the right information. I have invited you to call me, several times, and you don’t seem willing to do that. I have asked you several times who you are writing for, and you don’t seem willing to provide that.

Open information sharing is a two way street.

11. Mon, May 17, 2010 at 6:12 P.M.
from: Jack Locke
to: Jerry Bellikka

Oh? Really?

Leonard Cohen You’re Our Man

May 6, 2010

A book to support the Leonard Cohen Poet-In-Residence program at Westmount High. Printing graciously donated by Friesens Corporation.

Click here to buy the book