Structural failure

Structural failure is defined as the loss of the load-carrying capacity of a component or member within a structure or of the structure itself. Structural failure is initiated when the materials in a structure are stressed beyond their tolerance limit, thus causing fracture or excessive deformations that lead to failure. Organizations are very similar to actual mechanical structures because they too must have a foundation that will tolerate the structure that is created.

Albertans have witnessed successive governments that have failed under the excessive load of poor policies and misguided legislation, that have originated from political party structures that neglect the tolerance of what the foundation will accept. The failings are many and well documented. Health care, education, infrastructure, and the overall finances of Alberta, have been in chaos for the better part of the last decade.

Those failures are something that every party leader in Alberta has in common. They all acknowledge the problem; where they differ is who is they choose to blame for those failures. While the endless finger-pointing continues, progress is impossible and Albertans are no closer to any form of a solution.

The undemocratic way in which majority government’s wield power, has virtually eliminated the checks and balances that most people expect from a democratic process. As a member of the official opposition for the last seven years, time and again it has become clear that when a government policy is tabled, it will inevitably get passed despite any opposition or reasoning. Its passage is assured due to the fact that there is literally no mechanism in place to impede the progress of a determined majority government.

Albertans have witnessed the power of a majority government and their ability to compromise the compatibility of the structure and the foundation. For example, people from across the province protested in large, boisterous numbers against Bill 6 – Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act, as well as Bill 20 – the Climate Leadership Implementation Act (A.K.A. the Carbon Tax), which seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Time and again, the NDP MLAs in the house, ignored the voices of their own constituents in favor of the wishes of their beloved party. The structural (party) failure in the Alberta Legislature has neglected the limits of what the foundation can or will tolerate. Policies that have caused protest and outrage with the average Albertan, have become all too frequent.

The foundation of democracy is constructed from the will of the people. The democratic rights of all Albertans can only be returned if they can become unshackled from party politics that demands compliance and submission. Political parties often make the claim they are internally democratic but yet compel their members to willingly and knowingly vote in a manner that goes against the wishes of the people they represent.

The consequences of elected party members that remove the shackles, is well documented throughout Canada. Most recently, we’ve seen former Attorney General of Canada, Jody Wilson Raybould, defy the wishes of her party. We’ve also seen her expulsion from the Liberal party of Canada, along with her fellow Minister and supporter, Jane Philpott, for shedding the party shackles of silence.

The structure is failing in party politics because the shackles are designed to remove the democratic rights of the foundation, and the foundation is no longer willing or able to accept it. Representatives that aren’t shackled by the structure of a political party (an independent), that exceeds the tolerance of the foundation, have an opportunity to bring those, they represent closer to the decision-making, in other words, a more direct form of democracy.

The myth of vote splitting

With the election call for April 16, the campaigning has begun. With the deluge of commentary, it’s hard to discern facts from the fiction. Its amazing how much misinformation is manufactured and how much information is misunderstood.

In the Drumheller Stettler constituency there is one particular term that is being thrown around that could not be further from the truth. The term I’m referring to is “vote splitting.” In this case, the concept is based on conservatives splitting the vote, resulting in the NDP winning the Legislative seat. However, the actual numbers tell a much different story and nothing could be further from the truth.

Vote splitting is based on the premise that distribution of votes among multiple similar candidates, reduces the chance of winning for any of the similar candidates, and increases the chance of winning for a dissimilar candidate.

One of the oldest electioneering tactics we see employed, is creating fear, that has no basis in fact meant to herd voters into voting a certain way. The suggestion that conservative vote splitting in Drumheller Stettler will mean an NDP win epitomizes the very essence of fear mongering. The vote splitting myth is exactly that, according to historical numbers from past elections.

Voting numbers in the 2015 provincial election for the three registered candidates were as follows¹:

Strankman, Wildrose           7,570 – 47.7%

Hayden, PC                          5,388 – 33.9%

Shannon, NDP                     2,927 – 18.4%

Between the Wildrose candidate and the PC candidate (both considered conservative) they accounted for 81.6% of the votes cast; while the NDP candidate accounts for 18.4%. Regardless of how you split 81.6% of the vote between the conservative candidates, one or both of them will have greater than 18.4% of the vote.

Another relevant statistic that further illustrates that vote splitting is without merit, are the current polling numbers in the Drumheller Stettler constituency which show the NDP at 16.2% support²- down 2.2% from their historical best result. With the addition of an Alberta Party candidate polling at 3.3%², that leaves 80.5% to be split between conservative candidates. If the remaining 80.5% of the vote is split between 2 conservative candidates, it is mathematically impossible for either the NDP or Alberta Party candidates to be successful.

As we’ve seen in the past decade, there are people involved in Alberta politics who intentionally mislead people with promises of financial rewards, material rewards, and even grassroots guarantees that evaporate as soon as power is achieved. Those who intend to deceive, more often than not, employ fear as their go-to tactic; in Drumheller Stettler, it appears that vote splitting is in the top shelf of that tool box.

In the 2019 provincial election, it would be advisable to analyze the actual numbers when it comes to vote splitting and to challenge anyone that uses this tactic. They show you the math, just like your grade school teacher demanded you to do on a test. If they can’t or won’t show you the math, it’s an indication there is something just not quite right.

¹Drum Stet results 2015

http://officialresults.elections.ab.ca/orResultsED.cfm?ED=57&EventId=31

²Polling numbers March 28th, 2019

http://alberta.338canada.com/districts/1059e.htm

Energy poverty

In Alberta’s diverse climate access to affordable reliable energy is essential to our daily lives. The relative cost of that energy and its affordability has a direct effect on the ability of every day Alberta families. Over the last decade, Alberta’s electrical system has gone through upgrades and changes of direction that have cost us all a great deal of money. The bad news is we are far from done paying for these changes.

Transmission charges for your electricity, which make up between 14% to 20% of the total bill, saw an increase of over 400% for rural customers from 2004 to 2018. At the same time, they’ve also seen their distribution charges double, which make up between 22% to 47% of the bill. These rate increases have progressively created severe hardship for some rural Albertans who must now decide between electricity and other necessities.

The stress these increases causes those who can`t pay the higher rates is only one disadvantage for Alberta customers. A related problem involves covering the cost for those stricken by Alberta`s self-induced energy poverty. Once again, these costs fall onto unsuspecting taxpayers who stuck paying the shortfalls.

The reckless abandon with which successive Alberta governments have vaulted our electrical system well beyond what we could afford has done little to alleviate a lack of investor confidence. Sky high utility rates have most certainly been a factor in this province’s economic slow down, which coupled with further continuing increases, are simply more than potential investors can factor into their business plans which typically should be accurate past five years.

At the end of the day, the reasoning behind the rate increases means very little to people struggling simply to keep the lights on. Adding insult to injury, a proposed overhaul of Alberta’s electricity sector could end up costing consumers as much as $1.4 billion in further unnecessary and additional costs; according to consumer groups monitoring the system.

Earlier last week, at an electricity conference in Banff, several companies in the market expressed concern that further changes will see more unnecessary increases to consumers. They went on to suggest that perhaps Alberta’s electricity revamp should tap the brakes and make changes at a more affordable pace for ratepayers.

With record unemployment and a struggling economy, the inevitability of failure has always been on the horizon. It’s unfortunate that all the unintended consequences of a major system overhaul were not considered thoroughly; consequences that are all too real for some.

Energy poverty is a problem that has accelerated over the last 14 years, something that has been completely avoidable. It seems that current political thinking suggests that projects and upgrades must be done with blinding speed, rather than controlled reasoning. Or perhaps these projects must be done for a political party to use for campaigning? Nevertheless, it’s consumers and worst of all – people already struggling with making ends-meet that suffer the consequences of self-imposed energy poverty.

The term “energy poverty” should have no place whatsoever in an historical economic powerhouse like Alberta. Sadly, it now has established itself in our vocabulary.

 

The utopian world of political math

It’s said that taxation is the cost of a civil society. That analogy is hard to contest . . . unless it’s measured against what many refer to as “Tax Freedom Day.” The concept pegs a calendar date annually which benchmarks how many months and days we all work to pay all of our taxes in any given year.

Albertans are getting a stark reminder of how crippling the government’s carbon tax and expedited green energy plan can be to families. In recent years, it seems that every government at every level continues to fall back to taxation in one form or another to pay for things which they argue are necessities.

The NDP introduced a carbon tax which added cost to each component of every family’s essentials of life. Seemingly without a second thought they voted to close the gap between poverty and the ability to support every family. In a weak attempt to sell Albertans on their tax, the government heralded carbon tax rebates as a saving grace for those falling into lower income brackets. What they neglected to mention was that the rebate would only return a portion of–not the entire cost–of the tax that they put on everything.

Most Albertans understand that increasing taxation to support our health care, education, and infrastructure are a necessity to ensure our society functions. Unfortunately, successive governments have been unable to distinguish between what is and is not a necessity. Albertans, like most people worldwide, consider electricity a necessity. What they do not consider a necessity is retiring electrical infrastructure earlier than scheduled. Once again my offices have heard from shocked and stunned constituents who have to further tighten their belts to pay their electrical bills.

Utilities bills loaded with delivery and access charges that are often twice or even three times their actual usage are becoming common place. This creates an overwhelming burden for some families and is also jeopardizing some businesses. When people are choosing between heat, electricity, and food something is seriously wrong with that reality.

Granted, the price of oil and gas has affected Albertans in one form or another over the last few years, but adding costs to an already struggling population defies logic and common sense. The breakneck-speed at which Albertans are expected to pay for ill-timed and ill-advised projects in light of Alberta’s provincial debt and continued deficit budgets shows clearly that the ability for Alberta families and businesses to absorb this tax was not adequately considered.

It’s safe to say that most Albertans are on board with protecting the environment, however, that will not happen if their financial survival is compromised. The opposition party has backed off their commitment to repeal the carbon tax which they propose to leave in place for only big emitters.

The premise that this will alleviate the burden to average Albertans is utterly ridiculous. The carbon tax, regardless of where the tax burden is placed, is always passed down to the end user – that’s you, the taxpayer. Unlike what some would have you to believe, all input costs have to be factored into the selling price in order to remain on the positive side of profit and loss statements. In the theoretical utopian world of political financial mathematics, these costs can somehow be absorbed by the seller in some magical land where input costs evaporate between production and distribution.

NEXT COLUMN: A look at economic analytics of Alberta utility costs including rate comparisons which demonstrate accelerating costs which affect us all.

Statement by Rick Strankman MLA Drumheller Stettler

Altario, AB; March 13, 2019Independent MLA Rick Strankman, former provincial Agriculture Critic for Wildrose and United Conservatives, issued the following statement after UCP’s recent unveiling of a property rights plan.

As an independent conservative and former member of the Kenney shadow cabinet, Mr. Strankman notes the UCP caucus, in the context of their property rights plan, has brought to public focus the David and Linda Hansen case of decades-long legal abuse at the hands of successive provincial governments. This case shows clearly why defined property rights legislation and regulation needs major reform in Alberta to restore public trust on property rights. This case is similar to many of Linda Hansen’s neighbors in the eastern Alberta region known as Special Areas.

But What About the Special Areas Act?

There’s a major deficiency in the UCP’s spotlight on this case, however. The UCP neglected to properly identify the enabling legislation, the Special Areas Act which dates back to 1938, as the power source of provincial abuse which severely damaged the Hansen family through decades of legal action by Alberta governments.

This draconian Act needs to be completely modernized to deliver those defined property rights to Special Area families and property owners who lacked any protection whatsoever from overreaching provincial governments.

Section 7 of the Act states: “The Minister may in respect of special areas generally or in respect of any specified special area or any part: h) classify all lands within the special area for the purpose of utilizing them for the purpose to which they are considered by the Minister to be most adaptable” and k) “acquire, by purchase or otherwise, any property whether real or personal that is requisite or incidental to the exercise of any powers conferred by this Act.”

Reform Needed to Restore Property Rights

One cannot fully defend property rights with any degree of righteousness without opposing the 1938 Special Areas Act, with a view to comprehensive reform, and the long-term, distinct absence of personal property rights entrenched in that offensive legislation.

Section 27 of the Act declares “If any conflict arises between this Act and any other Act, this Act prevails.” One cannot submit the Hansen case as compelling evidence without repealing the Special Areas Act to remove dictatorial land controls at the Minister’s direction.

The UCP has properly concluded that the Hansens had “no constitutional right to private property when facing unfair and unjust expropriation.”

However, due to the Ministerial dictatorial nature and legal lack of any right or remedy to change the Act by any prescibed legislation empowering citizens to exercise democratic government, the Special Areas have remained unchanged over 81 years.

In Search of a Better Governing Framework

Drumheller-Stettler constitutents need accurate clarification on why the Special Areas Act was left out of the UCP property rights plan for Alberta. This insidious legislation needs to be repealed and replaced with a better democratic governing framework which completely and effectively protects citizens’ property rights in this constituency.

 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:

Rick Strankman, MLA (403) 552-2106, (780) 753-1971

Doing the right thing

In disappointed amazement, Canadians watched on February 26th as the former Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada, Jody Wilson-Raybould gave testimony that she had received pressure and veiled threats in relation to pending court cases involving SNC Lavalin.

It’s alleged that the Prime Minister and members of his staff had initiated conversations designed to influence pending court cases involving SNC Lavalin. SNC has been the subject of numerous court actions here in Canada and around the world, which has resulted in them being barred from doing business in several countries worldwide.

As the Justice Minister and Attorney General, Wilson-Raybould is prohibited from getting involved in any cases that are before the courts. To her credit, she stood on determined principle which she now claims was the motivation behind the Prime Minister’s decision to remove her from her post as Attorney General.

The shear guts shown by Wilson-Raybould, the Member of Parliament who chose to properly represent the constituency of Vancouver Granville was something elected representatives from across Canada should strongly embrace and fully endorse. At the risk of further banishment, shunning and sanctioning by her party, she pressed on through her testimony knowing full well there will likely be dire consequences for her actions.

To the astonishment of many Canadians, the Liberal members of the House of Commons Justice committee attempted to attack the character of Wilson-Raybould. Their line of questioning was a ridiculously illegitimate attempt to protect their leader and party at the expense of doing the right thing, but then again, this is nothing new. The forum itself was legitimate but the line of questioning they chose was utterly illegitimate and an attempt to assistant Wilson-Raybould’s character.

Jody Wilson-Raybould took steps that so many are hesitant or even afraid to make, putting those they represent ahead of a political party. The determination which she pressed on with through the storm of partisan protectionism from her Liberal colleagues has elevated her personal character status with average Canadians. However, if you were to ask her if she thinks she’s a hero, I’m sure she’d tell you she was only, “doing the right thing.”

The decision to do the right thing has to start with knowing what that is. In the case of an elected representative, most of us would expect that to be putting what’s best for the people they represent ahead of a party ideology or special interest group. Unfortunately, party politics dictates a different prioritization of who your representative should put first, and it is not you.

As the people of Alberta and Canada have access to more information, they become more capable of comprehending what exactly has gone wrong politically. That is how a mentality that benefits a special interest such as SNC Lavalin can take hold. Unfortunately, as we witnessed with the Liberal members on the Justice committee, some elected representatives focus their loyalty on the party while completely disregarding the people they are supposed to be serving.

Doing the right thing sounds easy enough; however, as we say with Jody Wilson-Raybould, it comes at a price. Her initial resistance to the partisan pressure she received saw her removed as Justice Minister and her subsequent testimony was further motivation for her removal as Veteran’s Affairs Minister.

Ask yourself what’s more important, protecting a political party or doing the right thing? I believe it’s a question that Jody Wilson-Raybould answered in spades.

Changing Politics- Part 5, When diminished accountability increases our democratic deficit

In today’s political world, the roles of an elected representative have become increasingly clouded and often unclear. Voters generally assume that our elected representatives have a clear understanding of their jurisdictions’ priorities. In reality, that assumption may be false as often as it is true. Further analysis of our elected representatives demands that the elected member’s personal character adds credibility to their authority as a lawmaker-not detracts from it.

Electoral recall is a policy that has been used in recent years as a political gimmick. Many incarnations of Recall have been floated in front of voters only to discover that the conditions of the proposed policy make it unrealistic for citizens and voters to enact in any effective way. Gridlock checkmates Recall over and over again until voters advance a better idea. .

Unfortunately, our Westminster-based parliamentary system has changed very little since 1848–171 years ago—when it was first implemented in Britain and subsequently in each of the provinces entering the Canadian federation. Legislative authority without necessary checks and balances comes with a host of consequences that have been costly to Albertans. Prior to the 2015 election, and including the campaign itself, the first-ever-in-Alberta NDP government did NOT tell Albertans about their intended carbon tax. Yet shortly after taking power, the NDP levied this new tax on Albertans to the tune of $1.34 billion in 2018 approximately $500 annual per family of four, increasing annually with higher taxation per tonne of carbon emissions.

In any system of direct democracy, no government has the right to impose taxes or policies which contradict direction by a majority of citizens and voters. In a system of consensus government such as that used in the NorthWest Territories, any member of the Legislature can table a motion to remove a Cabinet Minister or the Premier from their position upon approval of the majority of members. If such a system of government ruled in Alberta, the carbon tax advanced by an NDP Cabinet would have been defeated. Further, those politicians advancing that despised legislation would have been subject to recall in short order.

Direct democracy is not a system of government that is defined by a 12-hour window at election time once every four years. Alberta’s political system has not kept pace with the technological and democratic needs of the province. Many, many Albertans are already convinced it’s time for real political change to a new, more democratic structure that puts power back into the hands of citizens and voters BETWEEN elections.

Changing Politics- Part 4, The Northwest Territories democratic advantage

In part 1 of this series, reference was made to a more direct form of democratic representation that puts the people ahead of political parties. The example used was the NorthWest Territories consensus government, in which all members are Independent Members and do not belong to a political party caucus. This form of government has been in place for over 40 years.

Unlike the party system, the consensus governing style provides a clearer path in the political decision-making and formation of policy. There is more co-operation and communications between regular Members of the NWT Legislature and Cabinet, which is generally strained in the Alberta Legislature.

This communication and co-operation allows all legislation, major policies, and proposed budgets, to pass through the Regular Members’ standing committees before it is tabled in the House. This process gives Members consistent access to make changes after consulting with their constituents on initiatives, before they’re even made public. This is simply not a standard practice in the adversarial party system we have in Alberta.

Members of the NWT Legislature have advance knowledge of the legislation. However, they at liberty to divulge the actual legislation to their constituents. Never the less this does not preclude them from aggregating constituent’s opinions on the subject matter of the proposed legislation.

In the business world there’s a decided advantage when you identify the needs of your customer and fill those needs. The same can be said for democratic representation; the best way to find out what your constituents want is to ask and then carry those wishes forward and act on them. In that spirit, some Members of the NWT Legislature do not accept Cabinet positions, choosing instead to sit as regular Members. As a regular Member they have the ability to ask tough questions of Cabinet and the various standing committees.

In another political twist, the Northwest Territories Legislature has provisions that allow the Members to directly remove the Premier and/or Cabinet Minister by passing a motion of non-confidence, although this rarely happens. There is a less extreme measure called a motion of censure that can put the Premier or Minister under greater public scrutiny. You could say that without a majority government to hide behind, the representatives become more acutely visible and accountable to taxpayers.

Albertans believe trust must be earned. However in traditional Canadian political systems too often faceless party bureaucrats become the power brokers. Elected representatives become chair-fillers for the power struggle of government. The primacy of grassroots democracy is thrown out like bait, only to have it jerked away when it appears we may actually achieve it.

Over the last few decades Alberta has gone from Canada’s success story to a province falling on hard times due to wasted potential at the hands of a provincial political dynasty. Now that Alberta has tried another party with more less than impressive results, perhaps it’s time to change the way we do politics rather than just which team we elect?

The Northwest Territories system offers the advantage of constructive early engagement of grassroots democrats who demand direct democracy.

***Rick Strankman to run as an Independent Candidate in the next Provincial Election***

STETTLER February 18: Drumheller Stettler MLA Rick Strankman, an Independent member of the Legislature for the remainder of this term of government after leaving UCP, has a better idea for representing his constituents in the coming election.

“At the urging of many constituents, friends and family, I have decided to contest the upcoming provincial election as an Independent candidate,” Mr. Strankman told a room full of grassroots direct democracy advocates in Stettler today. “After nearly seven years as an MLA shackled with Party-first priorities, it is clear that Alberta’s party system of government has stripped effective representation and across-the-board best interests from Alberta’s citizens. Running for election and winning office as an Independent will enable me to restore the priorities of all Drumheller Stettler citizens to the front lines of the Legislature and advance their priorities for resurrecting Alberta’s prosperity.” he said.

PRIORITIES AS AN INDEPENDENT MLA

Legislature independence will open avenues of progress in the next term of government. Strankman outlined some of those initiatives.

One is to continue the battle begun by Farmers for Justice dating back to 1995, resulting in the dissolution of the Canadian Wheat Board and establishing the rights of grain producers to market and sell their products where they benefit the most. “The goal now is to entrench requisite property rights for all Albertans,” Strankman explained.

Second

Advancing a new irrigation project for the Special Areas, along with other infrastructure initiatives, are important priorities to help accelerate Drumheller Stettler economic development and elevate local prosperity.

Third

Reducing the tax load is overdue. This relief needs to be delivered to the constituency’s young people, families, companies which are both employers and job creators, innovators, entrepreneurs and seniors. Alberta needs a better solution to global warming impacts than a carbon tax. In addition, current issues important to Alberta’s young generations need attention, ranging from environmental priorities and improved job creation to targeted advances in education and community development.

MAKING YOUR VOICES HEARD IN EDMONTON

“Central to all of these initiatives is a grassroots direct democracy model for input into these, and other provincial initiatives that must respect and reflect the priorities and opinions of all the citizens of Drumheller Stettler. Like all of you, I want your voices heard in Edmonton,” Strankman said. “my helpers and I will conduct regular community consultations across the constituency on issues important to our people.”

For more information please contact;

Don Reimer, (403) 888-4614

Changing Politics – Part 3 “For the people, by the people”

One of the most quotable U.S. Presidents in history was their 16th and arguably greatest ever, Abraham Lincoln. One of his most iconic quotes came during what is known as the Gettysburg Address which he delivered as the American Civil War turned in favor of Union forces.

“That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Quoted by leaders worldwide, this nugget of political genius has become an iconic endorsement of liberty and democracy that has transcended the borders of the United States into the consciousness of populations across the free world.

In recent years, Albertans have seen a substantial erosion of democratic decision-making by our Legislators. Policies have been imposed on Albertans at the hands of a long succession of majority governments that chose their own priorities and direction over the will of the people. Case in point in Alberta: the Carbon Tax.

Prior to the 2015 Provincial election, the current Alberta government under Rachel Notley did not inform Albertans the NDP intention to impose a tax on all fossil fuel usage in the form of a carbon tax. Consequently, if Albertans did not know that this was the NDP intention as a government, how could their votes deliver either consent or a mandate to impose the tax?

Time and again majority governments justify their actions by making claims that they have a mandate from the people, for hidden agendas at election time.

Here’s the fundamental flaw in that massive deception. First, as voters, we know that new governing parties do not put all of their intentions as a government on the table before elections. Second, we know that global and national economic, social and environmental conditions can change citizens’ priorities long before the expiration of any government’s four-year term, demanding that majority governments consult regularly and conscientiously with the people. The net result demonstrates that majority governments do not have the democratic authority to follow their own objectives and direction without the continuous input and direction from citizens and voters. When that model replaces our old majority government traditions, Albertans will have a true government “for the people.”

Somewhere along the way governments in Canada have lost their way. Today, those governments replace the will of the people with their own priorities to win and retain governing power. “Grassroots democracy” have become buzzwords used to bait voters to attract support. Then, the words are quickly dismissed by old parties—and new parties—as they approach elections.

Abraham Lincoln understood that government which respects the on-going and consistent democratic rights of people would seek and carry out the will of those people, first and foremost. In order to enable and empower government of the people, by the people and for the people, government must be continuously accountable to the people, between elections.