Saturday, 28 November 2015

Alberta's "Health" Mafia at it Again!

Alberta Health Service’s decision to terminate the contract of Airdrie’s beloved physician & head of Airdrie Urgent Care, Dr. Julian Kyne, was not a personnel decision as AHS claims. 

Image result for dr. julian kyne
Dr, Julian Kyne - Airdrie's Head of Urgent Care
It was a mafia-style hit job of an individual who has advocated tirelessly for a 24-hour urgent care centre for Airdrie.

Earlier this year AHS brass were furious when Dr. Kyne, Mayor Brown, a group of local philanthropists and investors, the Airdrie Health Foundation and yours truly, went around the heel draggers at AHS to secure the commitment of government support (including a $4 million down payment) for a new 24-hour health centre. Then Health Minister Stephen Mandel was entirely committed to the project and had the political muscle to ensure it happened.

Big-hearted local family, Hugh and Loreen Hamilton, recently donated the land to the project and everything seemed set to go.

Image result for dr. julian kyne
Dr. Kyne, Minister Mandel, Mayor Brown, AHF chair Michelle Bates
and yours truly announcing 24-hour health centre for Airdrie last Spring
One problem, a few months ago the voters elected an NDP government, and all of a sudden Dr. Kyne no longer had political cover from a supportive minister, mayor and MLA in government.
That is when AHS took its revenge on Dr. Kyne.

AHS will of course deny this, but they are lying. And they should be ashamed. 

*Published in the Airdrie Echo and Airdrie City View (November 2015)

Sunday, 22 November 2015

NDP's Anti-Capitalist Ideology Trumping People's Health

When the NDP won the last election, the thinking went that since we were in Alberta after all, the Notley Government would be smart enough to realize that if they were to succeed long term, they had better govern pragmatically rather than inhabit the outer realms of reality that so many New Democratic faithful seem to live in including various ideological dogmas such as “corporations grow their money on special trees fertilized by the remains of abused workers” and “we can power our cars with unicorn farts”, etc, etc.

Well, it hasn’t turned out that way thus far.

The latest example of NDP ideology trumping logic is our health minister, Ms. Sarah Hoffman’s recent meltdown on the Airdrie 24-hour health care file.

As many of you know, the Airdrie Health Foundation, City Council, local health professionals, generous philanthropists, entrepreneurs and hundreds of community stakeholders and volunteers have been working relentlessly towards establishing a 24-hour urgent care centre for Airdrie. Earlier this year, our community broke through and secured the agreement of the provincial government to partner with local philanthropists and businessman to build a 3-floor health centre that would include 24-hour care, dozens of doctor’s offices, a pharmacy and other health services.

Then voters made – shall we say – an interesting choice in the last election and voted in an NDP government. Following the election, hopes were still high the promised Airdrie health centre would continue its progress. At last month’s Airdrie Health Foundation gala, for example, over $100,000 was raised and several acres of prime real estate was donated by the Hamilton family to the cause.
However, it seems increasingly apparent the NDP may not be in the mood to assist our City of 55,000 people to obtain 24-hour health care. 

This is evidenced not only by Alberta Health Service’s new found lack of enthusiasm for the project, but by the words of the health minister herself. When asked by Airdrie MLA, Angela Pitt, regarding the status of the 24-hour health centre, our health czar bizarrely began attacking not only the project but the Hamilton family who donated the land, stating “What we’ve done is worked with Alberta Health Services to have evidence based decision-making so that we can make sure that we’ve got assurances for all Albertans, not just individuals who can afford to donate land, that they will have health care when and where they need it.”

First off, I’ve been around enough to know the blurb about “evidence based decision making” is AHS code provided to the Minister with the meaning “Airdrie isn’t big enough and is too close to Calgary to justify 24-hour health care.” 

But secondly, what in hell is Hoffman saying here? Is she inferring this donation of land is tainted because it was made by a wealthy individual who would be able to afford private care if needed? Huh…ok. Or is it a thinly veiled threat that because the actual building would be constructed privately and the main floor leased or sold to AHS – that it is therefore not worth pursuing because...gasp…private money would make the project possible? Or is Ms. Hoffman being run by her ministry and AHS bureaucrats, and frankly has no clue what is even going on here (do you miss Minister Mandel yet? I do!)  

Frankly, who knows what she’s saying? But if this “star” cabinet minister supports Airdrie’s drive for 24-hour health care, she (and AHS who she oversees) better make it a bit more clear, and soon.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Attack Ad Stupidity

You've seen it. You're at a party and some strange dude loudly declares he has a great joke to share with the room. Everyone quiets down to listen as he delivers it...and when he gets to the falls completely flat. Dude laughs and says "Get It?", while everyone cringes, groans and moves away. 

Those who know the dude needle him a bit for being such a goof. Those who don't know him, say to each other "What a Loser" and try to avoid associating with him for the rest of the evening.

The party, in this little parable, is the 2015 Federal Election. The partiers are the national electorate. And the strange dude...the Conservatives and their utterly asinine anti-Trudeau ads.

If you haven't seen the "Job Interview" ad, it has these 3 “actors” (I use the term loosely) sitting around discussing whether they should hire Justin Trudeau as their Prime Minister. They go around the table stating how he apparently supports ISIS, has no experience and wants to legalize marijuana, among other sins. And then the punchline is some 60-something man looking at Justin's picture stating "Nice hair though" followed by the tag line "Justin Trudeau; he's just not ready." 

It's bad...real bad. Cringe worthy on so many levels. I can just see the ad's creators (likely five 20-something man-boys in short pants, laughing hysterically at their sheer brilliance).

The "Job Interview" Ad
Now let me be clear, I'm voting Conservative (I'm sure everyone is surprised). I'm like the strange dude's friend at the party who cringes at the joke, but knows that strange dude is still a good guy, even if he is a bit of a dork.

Look, nothing policy-related in the ad is incorrect (although the jab regarding ISIS is in bad taste). The reasons it is such a poor campaign ad are thus: it plays into the Harper Conservative stereotype of being a mean and unlikeable group run by childish political science majors in tight pants; it creates compassion and even a sort of defensiveness for Justin Trudeau; and most damning, it undercuts what should be a very strong Conservative record and message on the economy and international relations.     

But instead of seizing the opportunity to talk about having the strongest finances in the world, we're talking about Justin Trudeau's friggin’ hair!

There is, of course, a time to rip into the policies of Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair - and it’s a target rich environment to be sure. But there are far more effective ways to use campaign commercials to point out those policy flaws without looking like goofy teenagers intent on damaging the Conservative brand long term. Not to mention the opportunities provided by debates, effective campaign surrogates, and plain ol' fashioned earned and social media, to take the high road and demonstrate why Harper is by far the best choice for Prime Minister of the available choices. 

Conservatives are supposed to be the adults in the conversation remember? Perhaps they should start acting like it.

Rob Anderson is an Airdrie lawyer with Warnock Rathgeber & Company and Airdrie’s former MLA.

Phone: 403-948-0009

Saturday, 5 September 2015

By-election Results Prove Need for Wildrose-PC Coalition

Wildrose now has 1 of 44 urban seats... 
As the NDP continue to damage Alberta’s economy by implementing policies that breed economic uncertainty and send investment and jobs fleeing to other now more competitive jurisdictions, the question now weighing on the minds of many is this; is it time to unite the Wildrose and PC parties into one small-c conservative party capable of beating Alberta’s growing leftist parties in 2019 and restoring economic prosperity and budgetary sanity to our quickly declining province?

The media is blindly parroting the simplistic message that the Wildrose victory in the recent by-election in Calgary-Foothills is a repudiation of Ms. Notley’s NDP, and Wildrose partisans claim this is evidence as to why there is no need for the victors to consider a long term relationship with their down-on-their-collective-luck PC cousins. That assessment is wrong headed. The by-election results are the clearest indication yet of the problem Alberta conservatives are facing.

Think about it. In one of the most reliably conservative urban ridings in Alberta, in the riding where Jim Prentice quit 5 minutes after his Party lost, with the economy in dire straits, a massive budget hole, hundreds of weekly layoffs, and NDP politicians across the country caught attacking Alberta’s oilsands on a daily basis, today’s leading conservative party, the Wildrose, wins…drum roll please…38% of the vote!

The NDP, who in the Calgary-Foothills by-election one year ago won a whopping 4% of the vote, finished second with 26%; and the PCs, given up for dead and running a rookie candidate with almost no party support, unbelievably still received 22% of the vote. This is a low water mark for the PCs – with any kind of a decent leadership race, the vote split on the right will only worsen making even this ultra conservative riding vulnerable.

Are you kidding me? This should have been a blowout.

So has anything changed since the NDP tsunami of the 2015 general election? Answer: no not really.
In both the general election and the by-election, the combined Wildrose/PC vote was 60%. The winning parties just switched places. The NDP finished with about the same percentage of the vote in both elections. 

It's telling that the primary NDP message in the final days of the by-election campaign was the argument that the PCs and Wildrose were very different, and that former PC voters should vote NDP. It didn't work of course. Half of the PC voters migrated to the Wildrose giving them the victory. But pay close attention to the Legislature over the next few years. You will see the NDP bend over backwards on the allocation caucus budgets, committee memberships and in the media to keep the PC brand as alive as possible, and the vote split active for as long as possible. In their defence, the PCs did this for years with the Liberals and NDP to great effect. The 'Dippers are just returning the favour...and guess who the suckers are now?   

Keep up the vote-splittin' boys!
The fact is that if a general province-wide election were held today, it is likely we would get roughly the same result we did 6 months ago. If the price of oil stabilizes the political gravy train, and the economy improves and settles down in 4 years…watch out folks…Ms. Notley will be celebrating an easy second term in office.

So is it time for the Wildrose and PC parties to talk a little cooperation and potential merger?

Of course it’s time! Are we to wait until the debt reaches $30 billion before getting our act together? $50 billion? $100 billion? Should we wait until Ms. Notley forever torches Gateway? Are we waiting for 10% unemployment and the energy industry becoming a shadow of its former self?

And what exactly are the current differences between the PC and Wildrose?

As someone who has been a member of both parties recently, allow me to let you in on a little secret…post Redford, there are no discernible differences.

Of course, there are those that disagree. A minority of left-leaning PC stalwarts still insist the Wildrose membership is a bunch of knuckle-dragging, hate-filled extremists.

That assertion is complete BS, and any ignoramus who still believes it needs to have their head carefully examined. 

Conversely, there are some hyper-partisans in the Wildrose who believe the entire PC Party and every member in it are corrupt, power hungry ingrates whose sole purpose is to enrich themselves on the backs of taxpayers.

Clearly there were PC entitlement issues after 40+ years of one party rule – most of which have been dealt with naturally by being defeated earlier this year. However, anyone who has met and worked with the actual human beings who have served as MLAs and volunteers in the PC Party, know full well that the vast majority are excellent people motivated by a desire to serve the province and communities they love.

The fact is the majority of members and MLAs in both parties believe in balanced budgets, low taxes, pro-energy policies that responsibly balance environmental concerns, educational choice, and a more decentralized health care system, just to name a few similarities.

Obviously, the attempted merger of last December failed. It did so for many reasons. First off, there was a power imbalance (one of the parties was the government, the other was not) which made it difficult to implement a true equal merger. Secondly and related, some of the people involved in the negotiations clearly had no intention to follow through with what was actually negotiated (such as implementing the agreed to policy document, hiring all Wildrose caucus staff, presenting a budget focused on spending cuts or waiting until 2016 to call an election…I could go on).

But the biggest reason it failed – and my single greatest regret – was a lack of transparency. The whole process, policy agreement, merger arrangement and all else should have been presented to the party memberships and Albertans to debate, alter and ultimately, to ratify. Not only would this have made the merger publicly acceptable, it would have forced all parties to act in good faith and follow through with the merger arrangement (like shareholders ratifying the negotiated merger of two companies).

The past is the past, but the future is unwritten. I hope the leaders and membership of the Wildrose and PC parties can learn from past mistakes, put aside their relatively small differences, and bring small-c conservatives together to fight for the Alberta we know and love. I fear that if we do not, we are putting the future prosperity of our children at inexcusable risk.     

Sunday, 26 July 2015

New Political Blog: The Recovering Politician

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in provincial politics. I learned a ton, worked with many quality people, did a bit of good for my community, pushed a lot of boundaries, and became well acquainted with several hard lessons in political reality.

It turns out that leaving politics after 8 years to return to the private sector as a lawyer has been a very positive decision. It has meant more time with family, an opportunity to partake in the fruits of the private sector, and importantly, the freedom to reflect and speak out on several issues without the need for a political filter.

My goal in writing this blog is simple. I will provide a no bull, politically incorrect, and hopefully helpful take on political and other relevant topics of the day from the perspective of someone who has seen inside the heart of the provincial political beast, got out of it alive and mostly intact, and am now, thankfully, entirely unreliant on it for my financial well being - thus freeing me to, shall we say, tell it like it is.

Topics will include an inside look at the cult-like practices of today's political parties, the dawning of post partisan politics, the critically needed alliance of libertarians and conservatives, how Alberta slid into a quasi-socialist state while no one was looking, and perhaps a few insights into what will go down as perhaps the most chaotic 8 years in provincial political history (2008-2015).

Our political world in this province is populated by mostly well meaning elected individuals, a similarily well meaning but sensationalist media far too preoccupied with ratings rather than the thorough reporting of facts, a legion of bureaucrats, political operatives and union leaders with an intense pecuniary interest in entrenching the status quo, and an army of political lobbyists trying desperately to assist legitimate businesses and non-profit groups to navigate through the aforementioned murky political swamp.

Its quite a mix...and it makes for some pretty good entertainment!

But don't mistake this cynicism for despair. There are thousands of very talented people and emerging movements in our political marketplace. I actually believe there is much to look forward to and work towards. But make no mistake, our best future likely won't originate out of our current provincial or federal political model - it is broken far beyond repair. It will come from regular people leading extraordinary movements independent from the fetters of political partisanship, special interests and the group think so aptly demonstrated by the mainstream media and current political parties.

It's gonna be fun to watch.                            

Rob Anderson
*the opinions expressed in this blog are not endorsed by Warnock Rathgeber & Company.