What’s up?

What’s up? A popular phone answer phrase my son likes to use. In a recent, widely read agriculture publication, numerical prairie grain stats were quoted. Off farm deliveries were 28% higher than historical values. The formerly stagnant system would be plugged from prairie to port with approaching 6 million tonnes instead of a now reported 2.67.

Question period in the Alberta Legislature is an opportunity to ask the Premier and her Ministers questions that affect the constituents of our ridings and the province. On Wednesday, October 31st, I used that opportunity to ask the Agriculture Minister about the NDP party’s stated intention, to “formally examine the impact to Canada’s international reputation that has resulted from the changes to Canada’s grain marketing storage and handling system.”

The question I posed to the Minister was as follows;

 Minister, in all your travels I have never heard you publicly say that Canada’s reputation and, by extension, Alberta’s grain growers have somehow been diminished by any recent changes in that federal policy. Have you?

As Albertans have come to expect, the answer was nothing more than bafflegab and misdirection that avoided the question completely.

As producers successfully move on with their marketing abilities, the NDP’s want to revisit the government control of grain handling and marketing.

What’s up? Exports of American wheat products were down 15% for soft wheat and 49% for hard red! What’s up? Canadian, net to producer prices, Vancouver freight discounted, is equal or above American, exchange calculated prices. Fortunately, what the Chicken Little Canadian Wheat Board loyalists were crying was wrong, that being, grain cost would have monopolistic pricing powers.

It was then that I followed with the following supplemental question;

Given that that resolution goes on to recommend, and I quote, “to put into place any additional government oversight needed to ensure that Canada’s grain marketing, storage, and handling system, works efficiently to the mutual benefit of all,” Minister, to this third generation son of a rich farmer it sure sounds like your party is advocating that Alberta’s farmers and our friends across Canada will once again be forced into a 1943-based monopoly, formerly called the Canadian Wheat Board. Is that your government’s intention?

And again the question was met with a non-answer that for the most part completely avoided the actual question.

My final question on this subject was aimed at the Minister’s intention going forward;

Given that several farmers, including myself, were thrown into jail for daring to take our own property, our commodity, wheat and barley grown by us, into the U.S.A. and giving it to a 4-H club; Minister, is this how your government would like to rebuild the tattered relationships with rural Alberta farmers and ranchers going forward into 2019?

Again the actual question was not addressed.

What’s up? Why was the Agriculture Minister avoiding the question? Is this another intention the NDP has that they don’t want to reveal? If I recall prior to the 2015 provincial election there was no mention of their job-killing carbon tax; is this what Albertans can expect?

What’s up? It seems to me that only Albertans can answer that question and they will have the opportunity to do just that in a polling booth during the next provincial election!!

It’s only money

Alberta’s premier is calling on the federal government to buy more rail cars to ship our oil to market. After years of participating in activities that hindered this very thing, it seems somewhat odd that only now the Premier understands how important our energy industry is to this provinces financial well-being.

Once again a lack of fiscal understanding is getting in the way of coherent decision-making by the Alberta government. Adding additional railcars to the system will only increase the investment that taxpayers will unnecessarily be making, to accomplish what private industry has been trying to do for years, get their product to market. For years, private energy companies have been attempting to build pipelines but have been prevented by a narrow ideological mentality that now sees Alberta’s Oilsands landlocked.

In recent years, we’ve seen the consequences of displacing products that cannot be moved by pipeline in favour of petroleum products that can be. For every railcar that carries oil, it takes the place of the grain cars agricultural producers’ count on to move their product.

The suggestion is that the government should further invest in industrial infrastructure will only create a further dependence on taxpayer’s funding for private industry. When you realize that private industry was fully prepared to invest in and build the Trans Mountain Pipeline, it becomes clear that the need for government intervention is unnecessary and completely unproductive.

If the federal government is going to invest taxpayer’s money in infrastructure, the life of that infrastructure has to be considered. An example of how this was not done is the approach being taken with Alberta’s power plants. The early decommissioning of power plants will cost Albertans billions of dollars and only contributes to an already out of control provincial debt.

The confusion here seems to be that if we’re moving forward with a pipeline, as the Premier claims, then why the need for more rail cars? Let’s assume we end up owning a bunch of rail cars and let’s also assume that the pipeline is completed in a timely fashion; does this mean taxpayers will be left with billions more in wasted assets?

As a conservative, I believe strongly in smaller government, which also includes less government involvement in private industry. As a rule, if something is financially viable and worthwhile, private investors will usually make it happen on their own. This belief that nothing worthwhile can happen without the government there to backstop it, couldn’t be farther from reality. What makes anyone believe that unnecessary government involvement will fix a problem that the government created?

When we look at this situation from a broader point of view, it’s then that we realize that we are the proud owners’ of a pipeline that doesn’t exist and has yet to have a definite start date. Premier Notley was one of the loudest voices in favour of purchasing Trans Mountain and now she wants to put more of your money towards another asset that will end up on the junk pile.

Oh well it’s only money, your taxpayer money.

No right way to do the wrong thing

The last article stated “It’s never the right time to do the wrong thing,”¹ the timing of doing something you know is wrong is just as futile as thinking that there’s an actual right way to do the wrong thing. A shining example of attempting to do the wrong thing the right way is the carbon taxes implemented by both the Federal and Provincial governments.

The Alberta version of the carbon tax has made businesses less competitive simply by increasing input costs to these wealth creators, regardless of how you look at taxation, it does not create wealth. The Federal carbon tax set to take effect January 1st, 2019 is already creating financial uneasiness within some industries.

In a letter sent to three federal Ministers, the National Airlines Council of Canada is warning that “A carbon tax is probably the worst tool that you can envisage for aviation if you want to reduce emissions.”² They also went on to say that it would result in price increases and possibly even a reduction in service.

It’s not only the airline industry that has to worry about business being driven outside the jurisdictional carbon taxation boundaries; this is a burden that seriously affects the competitiveness of every business in Alberta and Canada. The unintended consequences of trying to do the wrong thing the right way is inevitably going to show up on the balance sheets of businesses across Alberta and Canada.

Convinced that the economy does not work the way it does, the Alberta government increased minimum wage forcing many small businesses into no-win situations. The recent increase prompted one small business owner to post a sign asking his patrons which would they rather see – a raise in prices or a decrease in staff? I can assure you no business owner wants to face a dilemma like this but it’s the new reality of poor policies that promote the wrong things.

As a lifelong conservative, I feel that the best way to create wealth is to leave as much as you can in the hands of the innovators and wealth creators. The notion that wealth can be created through taxation has debunked itself throughout history. Sir Winston Churchill summed it up best saying, “I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”

If we conducted a poll on the amount we pay in taxes, I’m sure you’d agree that the majority of people would say taxes are too high. So exactly how is the right way to implement a tax that the vast majority of Albertans would most definitely say is unnecessary?

Regardless of how you do the wrong thing, the end result is inevitably a negative one; which I guess you could say would be difficult if not impossible to do the right way.

¹ http://www.rickstrankman.ca/2018/10/17/its-never-the-right-time-to-do-the-wrong-thing/

² https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/airlines-carbon-tax-1.4870808

 

It’s never the right time to do the wrong thing!

A good friend of mine once said “It’s never the right time to do the wrong thing!” The first time he made the statement it struck a chord, but after having time to reflect on the deeper meaning, it becomes profound. Most of us live under the shadow of the consequences that naturally come from governments that choose to knowingly put people who will do harm in sensitive positions.

The Premier made such a choice with the appointment of Tzeporah Berman to the Oilsands advisory group. She knowingly put an individual who actively has shown Albertans that she will disrupt any prospective pipelines that will get product from Alberta’s Oilsands to the world market. That decision and decisions like this have resulted in the situation Alberta finds itself in today.

The financial situation Alberta faces is directly related to the price for Western Canadian Select crude which fell to just $26 USD a barrel this past Thursday, while benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude closed at $71.98 USD. The combination of a rise in production and a lack of pipeline capacity and a reliance on foreign refineries have compounded an already serious price differential. According to some financial analysts, the prices being paid for Western Canadian Oilsands bitumen have fallen so far that many producers are losing money on every barrel sold.

These are the consequences that are plaguing Alberta’s already faltering finances due in large part to knowingly doing the wrong thing. Tzeporah Berman is only one of many that the Premier has surrounded herself with that she knew full well were not acting in Alberta’s best interest. Berman’s extreme anti-oil stance is documented as far back as the early 1990s and yet she was still appointed to an Oilsands advisory group. It defies logic that any person trusted to act in taxpayers best interest, could not understand that this was just plain wrong.

Everywhere I go these days it’s clear that Albertans understand that we must get our products to market if we are going to have any hope of easing the pressure of the current fiscal income crisis. Doing the right thing isn’t always clear but in this case it was crystal clear. Attempting to rationalize the appointment of Tzeporah Berman to the Oilsands advisory group is openly denying the facts.

The Legislature begins sitting on the 29th of October and rest assured, questions about how the Premier and her government knowingly did the wrong thing will be asked, and rest assured, they will dodge those questions or give answers that have nothing to do with the question that is on the floor.

A $90 billion-plus debt is evidence enough that it’s never the right time to do the wrong thing, but for those who need more evidence look no further than the billions of dollars in stranded assets that are now landlocked in Alberta. Its one thing to make a decision in good faith and have it go sideways, it’s quite another to knowingly invite the failure to the table.

“It’s never the right time to do the wrong thing!” My good friend shared this quote with me and it has stuck with me because I’ve seen how profound the consequences can be when people knowingly choose to do the wrong thing.

Regulatory change brings opportunity

When early pioneers flocked to western Canada at the turn of the century, they came because of the opportunity! The promise of opportunity outweighed the security of their homeland, customs, language, and traditions. In spite of the risk, they came. They came and built the Alberta Advantage that we once knew.

Without the luxury of grants or even a simple bank loan, the settlers quickly educated themselves about what it takes to create opportunity. The most important education a person gains in their lifetime isn’t confined to a classroom. Education is a life-long endeavor.

One of the highlights of my personal economic education came when I joined a group of agriculture producers who were determined to see real federal policy change in how and under what circumstances, we were allowed to market our own product. With the dedication and hard work of all of those who committed to our movement to defy the Wheatboard monopoly, thankfully, it created the opportunities that we as agriculture producers are still the beneficiaries of.

My experience in that activism helped me understand that real change can only happen when it starts outside the legislature. It also helped me realize that what takes place inside the Legislature, are merely the final steps in a long process that is initiated through the engagement of ordinary people just like you and me.

Recently Jason Kenney and my Colleagues, Prasad Panda and Devin Dreeshen, were criticized for their privately-funded trek to India in search of, you guessed it, opportunities that will benefit all Albertans. Time and again the NDP government has, in one way or another, hindered the advancement of Alberta’s industries, which has had a profound negative consequence to the opportunities available for Albertans.

In certain circumstances, inaction can have as much of a profound effect as actions do; such is the case with Alberta’s energy industry. The NDP have seen fit for years to denigrate Alberta’s energy industry and now with yet another delay in the Trans Mountain pipeline approval, they are only now starting to grasp how their ideological policies have hindered the progress of Alberta and eliminated countless opportunities for Albertans.

Albertans are generally resourceful people looking for a hand up, not a hand out. The goal for most is just to have an opportunity to create our own wealth. For the most part, Albertans are “can do” people that only need a regulatory path cleared for them to be successful.

If the constituents of Drumheller Stettler see fit to have me as their representative in the Alberta Legislature, I will continue to work towards creating opportunities that will benefit all Albertans. As the United Conservative Party moves forward, Albertans, and in this case, those UCP members in Drumheller Stettler, have an important opportunity to shape their destiny as well. The intended purpose of this Democratic process of a nomination is ultimately in guiding the representatives forward, hopefully to a positive, forward-thinking direction.

A friend once said to me, “people do not understand how change occurs.” The ability to influence people happens in many ways and sometimes the result of those influences can be communicated at the polling stations. The important UCP process that is happening this week as the members go to the polls to select their representative and the opportunity to guide them on the path forward Is democratically vital!

Please do your civic and democratic duty!

Overcoming adversity

The 16th and arguably one of the greatest Presidents of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, is well known for his notable quotes. One such quote has always stood out as a measure of leadership.

“Nearly all men can stand the test of adversity, but if you really want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

With the unification of the two Alberta provincial conservative parties, there have been some rough spots! The vote to achieve a unification result was met with highly motivated member participation and a high degree of acceptance with an overwhelming 95% approval from both legacy parties.

Recently, it’s been reported in the Drumheller Stettler constituency, that the local candidate nomination committee felt it appropriate to have only two polling stations based on the geography of the riding. Feedback I received throughout the riding was opposed to this limited access to polling. After significant input, I was informed that we will now have 6 Polling stations in Provost, Coronation, Stettler, Drumheller, Oyen and Hanna.

In the second largest rural riding in the province, I too, felt it unconscionable that there would be unachievable time allocations and distance constraints for UCP members that wished to cast a ballot. In the past, I have explained how unintended consequences can be created by a lack of consideration. One such unintended consequence in this case would be the public perception and bevy of interesting questions pertaining to polling.

How could it be that in the “Drumheller Stettler” constituency there would be no polling stations in either Drumheller or Stettler? Doesn’t it seem unusual that there would not be polling stations in either of the two largest population centers in the riding? Not to mention neglecting the towns that the constituency is named after??

It raises even more questions, considering the local CA has the financial stability to allow them to have various polling locations throughout the riding. On a shoestring budget, the 2011 edition of the Wildrose Constituency Association had member voting in six different locations, in what was then a smaller constituency in both landmass and population.

For some members wishing to exercise their democratic right to vote, they will be facing even further adversity as a result of the nomination process being initiated during what is traditionally prairie harvest time. The timing being in the middle of harvest also adversely affects the ability for a significant portion of those wishing to vote to do so; as does the scheduled polling time-constraints that many members will be limited by.

All of the above aside, Albertans have historically overcome challenges and more often than not, they use the democratic power they have to be successful over the adversity they face. It’s how our province became one of the greatest places in the world to live. It’s the successful attitude that pervades here and it’s the fabric of who we are!

Most importantly, take the time to get out and vote on Sept. 27th in Provost and Coronation, on Sept. 28th in Stettler and Drumheller, and on Sept 29th in Oyen and Hanna. Exercise your democratic right to show who possesses the power!

Do your part in making Alberta great again and bring back the Alberta Advantage!!

Being prepared

The knowledge a person has comes from real life experiences that can’t be replicated in any other way. As a young boy I was involved in Scouts and came away with some very valuable lessons that I still use to this day, most notably was the Scouting motto, “Be Prepared.”

The learning curve of life continues beyond our days in school and follows us through virtually every real life experience we have. Ultimately, there is no better educational ground than that of ‘hands on’ life experiences.

Six years ago, I set out on a great learning experience that the constituents of Drumheller Stettler were so gracious to bestow upon me. The political education I’ve received has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and I thank each and every one of you for the privilege of being your representative in the Alberta Legislature.

While the educational component is important, I also view my time in office as an investment by the taxpayers. The important decision to seek the nomination for the United Conservative Party in Drumheller Stettler in order to run in the next provincial election was driven more by a need to give the constituents of Drumheller Stettler a return on their investment rather than a career move.

Going towards the next provincial election one thing is abundantly clear; to repair the damage done to Alberta by the NDP, we will need to most certainly be prepared and have all experienced hands on deck. If the United Conservative Party earns the right to be government in Alberta, the caucus may be comprised mostly of inexperienced MLA’s that will have a sharp learning curve that every new MLA faces.

In order for a UCP government to hit the ground running and gain back the advantage we all once knew in Alberta, every ounce of legislative experience we can muster will be needed. That is why I am offering my experience and integrity for another term. Every good or bad experience is a kind of education; some of those experiences are unique and simply cannot be duplicated in a classroom.

The unique education that I have gained over my time in the Alberta Legislature is as valuable as the education I gained while engaging in positive activism as a private citizen. Throughout my entire life, I have been a strong advocate for positive agricultural development that is spurred by incentive, rather than corporate welfare or ‘special’ hand-outs.

Facilitating sound economic development and wealth creation is something that I strongly believe is more fruitful when it is done legislatively or through policies that create positive market opportunities. The move away from government picking winners and losers is something that will also eliminate selective funding to support special interests and the entitled.

As we approach the next provincial election the focus for all of us should be, to learn from Alberta’s recent past, set a new course, and most importantly, use our depth of experience to make the changes necessary to bring back the Alberta Advantage!

It’s a serious responsibility

The freedom Canadians enjoy came at a cost, a cost that is often overlooked. Many young Canadians paid the ultimate price so that you have the ability to choose who acts in your best interests, in the different levels of government that ultimately affect your life directly. Many view their ability to vote as a right rather than the duty and responsibility we owe to those that fought for us to have this great privilege.

In the next year many serious political decisions have to be made by Albertans.  These are decisions that will best be made from a point of knowledge rather than emotion and self interest. Going forward, we are faced with a very rough road that is paved with poor legislation and ill-advised policies, at the hands of the current NDP government.

The role we all play in democracy is as important as the roles we play in life. Some feel that their vote doesn’t matter and that it won’t make a bit of difference; nothing could be further from the truth! Your vote is only part of the equation that is merely the final action of a process. The process begins with educating yourself on the issues that matter to the larger picture that you are a part of.

Your opinion does matter and you need to express it! It has been my goal from the beginning of my first term in office to make myself available to the people I swore to represent. That still stands today, if you have a political issue you feel strongly about please do not hesitate to reach out to me through my campaign manager Lorne (403) 819-4170, regardless of your political affiliation.

The decisions we make or don’t make today can have long lasting and sometimes profound consequences for all of us. Statistics reveal that the decision to take part in our democratic process is often taken for granted. In Alberta’s last provincial election 53% of those eligible voted, meaning that 47% did not participate in a decision that directly affects their everyday life¹.

The United Conservative party has opened the nomination contest in the Drumheller Stettler riding. This is part of the democratic process that decides which candidate will represent the party in the next provincial election. The nomination is yet another way that you can be a part of the democratic process that decides the direction Alberta will go.

The decision to partake in yet another nomination was made without hesitation. The constituents of Drumheller Stettler have invested 6 years in my political education; it’s time for me to put that education to good use on your behalf. The road will be rough but I hope to make it just a little bit smoother by drawing on my experience to help get Alberta back the advantage we once had.

In past columns I have talked about consequences, some intended, some unintended. It’s important that when we vote we consider that what we do often has consequences that go far into the future and many extend beyond our time. It’s a serious responsibility.

¹ http://officialresults.elections.ab.ca/orResultsPGE.cfm?EventId=31

 

It’s time for Grassroots democracy

The United Conservative Party has opened the nomination contest in the riding of Drumheller Stettler. The exact dates for the close of membership sales and voting dates and locations have not been confirmed.

A nomination process is when a party has an internal constituency election to determine who will be the candidate for the next provincial election. Voting takes place at predetermined locations over a short period of time to ensure that all members have an equal opportunity to exercise their democratic right to vote.

Since the adjournment of the Legislature on June 7th my campaign team and I have been widely traveling the constituency selling memberships and letting people know that in order for us to continue the work we have been doing for the last 6 years we must be successful in the current nomination.

With harvest getting into full swing this is perhaps not the most opportune time to be holding an event that requires members to take time away but we will try to give you the information in the timeliest fashion so arrangements can be made to participate in the voting.

In October of 2011 I was nominated as the candidate for the Wildrose party, during that nomination contest there were 6 polls or nomination events (Stettler, Castor, Consort, Oyen, Drumheller and Hanna) where members could go and easily cast their ballot. With the expansion of the riding we anticipate that there will be additional polls/events added to the list of locations, likely in Provost and/or Acadia Valley.

This internal party process can be rather confusing because it does not determine who will be the MLA after the next provincial election is called; this process determines which person will have their name on the ballot for the United Conservative Party. The UCP believes that the grassroots, the rank and file members, should determine who their candidate will be as opposed to a top down selection being made by the management of the party.

This is an important time for you as an Albertan to get involved in the process of deciding who you believe will best represent you and your values in the Alberta Legislature. As the dates move closer we will do our best to reach out to all members and constituents of the Drumheller Stettler riding to keep you informed. You can reach out through my Facebook page if there are any questions you have.

In the meantime, we will continue to sell memberships, knock on doors and answer questions to anyone interested in having a democratic say in the nomination race and build a solid base of supporters.

Thank you to everyone who has purchased a membership in the new Drumheller Stettler riding. If you have not yet and would like to become a member you can reach us at LorneMurfitt@telus.net or 403-819-4170, Lorne Murfitt.

 

It’s who you know, not what you know

An “old boys club” is an informal closed loop system by which money and power are retained by those who are politically connected or through incestuous business relationships that benefit a select few. It isn’t necessarily purposeful or malicious but the “club” can prevent ambitious people who are not connected to the network from success in spite of how hard they work.

The term “old boys club” originates from the British civil service who would rarely open opportunities to those who were not lifelong associates of the inner circle they’d known from their earliest days. The phrase “its’ not what you know, it’s who you know” is attributed to that repressive old boys club tradition , born out of the small inner circle of special interest and selfishness.

In modern days it is not gender specific, however these arrangements still entail establishing mutually advantageous relationships much of the time with little more than a wink and a nod. These are arrangements from which perceived outsiders are excluded and thus not privy to the truly serious business transactions or conversations.

It’s always been my belief that Alberta needs a clear vision for the future. The way forward is aimless if the path is without a principled growth oriented course that benefits everyone. Recently, Alberta has been wandering through a maze of aimless misdirection and unpleasant financial surprises such as the govts tax on everything, affectionately called a carbon tax.

So who does a carbon tax help? (Since being implemented on January 1st of 2017 not one shred of quantifiable evidence has been presented to the Albertans it claims to benefit.)?? Typically when an opposition member broaches the subject of accountability of the carbon tax we’re met with ridicule and name calling from government Ministers. Judging by what we’ve seen in the Legislature, any questions that challenge the accountability of the carbon tax, without fail, elicits a reaction from the Premier and her Ministers that reminiscent of a dentist finding a raw nerve without anesthetic.

The benefits of the carbon tax that the NDP claim appear to be reserved for the people in their very own old boy’s club. The NDP’s favorite Oilsands advisory appointee and radical environmentalist, Tzeporah Berman most certainly gained financially from whom she knew to the tune of about $23,000; a transaction that saw Alberta get nothing for the investment. Her recommendations were little more than a reiteration of her continuous calls for the Oilsands to be shut down, completely regardless of the economic calamity it would cause to Alberta’s economy. Considering the source, this begs the question, what were they expecting her to recommend?

In Hanna, the shut down of Alberta’s coal industry is turning out to be yet another example of how who you know can reap substantial benefit for the few while the many pay the price. Unfortunately for average Albertans we know that this rushed and needless early conversion away from coal will come at an unreasonable cost, but it isn’t what we know that matters, it’s who we know.