Friday, February 29, 2008

memo to Martin, Isaac, Vandermeer

If you haven't been bombarded by campaigns calling you, you don't live in Edmonton Beverly - Clareview. I have heard multiple complaints on doorsteps from riding residents saying they have been interrupted so many times by politicians they are simply sick of it. The phone calls are the worst: "I am in the middle of something important and I get a phone call and it is about nothing. It's just 'will you support us'?" Another woman today told me that Dawit Isaac had knocked on her door twice and his campaign had called her three times. "After the last time I told them straight, 'stop calling me!!'" Apparently this is why Dawit Isaac tells me he doesn't have the time for an all-candidates forum and debate where we could listen to constituent concerns in an environment of their choosing: he's too busy making unsolicited, interruptive contacts five times! (not that Martin is any better: I've been bombarded by redundant NDP literature and received no response at all when I sent him an e-mail about collaborating to hold a forum (apparently he can't provide his phone number on his stuff like I do). I myself was called by both Isaac's and Vandermeer's campaigns and both times was simply asked if they could "count on my support". How do these calls make for better public policy?

Dropping something off in a mailbox or electronic communication is non-intrusive. Door-knocks have their place IF the candidate is doing it him or herself because it provides face - to - face contact. I have not asked any of my volunteers to door-knock for me since I don't see what the advantage is over a less disruptive literature drop. There have been some cases when a volunteer has door-knocked for me because the homeowner's property was prime for a sign and in the absence of signs for other campaigns, or in the presence of signs for multiple, competing campaigns, perhaps the person would be interested in a Wildrose Alliance sign and could therefore be asked in person. But those have been very limited situations.

I do door-knock myself BUT prefer to meet people in their driveways or on the street. I am also reluctant to door-knock if there is a flicker around the living room curtains that suggests a person is enjoying an evening in front of the TV. I am more likely to door-knock when there is something that suggests a brochure would not be welcome (without first asking politely) like a "no flyers! save a tree!" sticker on the mailbox. After all, it does save (a small fraction of) a tree if all a voter would like to know about me can be provided orally or visually (e.g. "I vote NDP [and your "Wildrose Alliance" tag suggests you are not the NDP candidate]." No problem, sir, sorry for the interruption, bye!) Finally, I don't door-knock homes that appear to have requested a lawn sign from another campaign. Not only am I likely wasting my time with such a decided voter, I am interrupting them to waste their time too!

The right of voters to determine their level of involvement in politics means politicians should be accommodating of their right to be let alone. When contact is made, it should only be to better inform the voter and particularly with the information that the voter requests. Multiple times I have dropped a brochure to be called later that evening for a 20 minute discussion. The difference there is that my initial contact was nonintrusive and the decision to follow-up was the voter's decision, not mine.

At the moment, my riding is getting one of the worst reputations for disrespecting this.

From the Edmonton Sun:

Roy Buckingham, 56, said in the days leading up to Thursday's leadership debate, he received phone calls on behalf of the Progressive Conservative, New Democrat and Liberal candidates in his riding of Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview.
The undecided voter asked each caller what their candidate's stance was on the two issues he is most concerned with - health-care premiums and oil royalties - and found that none could answer his questions.
"They didn't know anything. They just make phone calls," he said.
When pushed, the caller representing Liberal candidate Dawit Isaac admitted he didn't know anything about the campaign because he lived in Ontario.

Since I'm on the subject of appropriate campaigning, I'll regale you with two more anecdotes. Today I ran into P"C" campaign workers dropping "Sorry I missed you, Tony" cards into mailboxes. Change "Tony" to "Tony's campaign worker" and you'll be telling it like it is! Earlier this week, I called the Emmanuel Home (for seniors) and asked if I could come by some time to meet the residents. "You should contact the Recreation Director instead of just dropping in". Fine. How about Saturday? "The Recreation Director is not available Saturday." Anytime Friday will do. "The Premier is going to be here Friday". I could come before or after the Premier, whatever you think is more appropriate. "Uh... leave a message with the Rec Director and maybe she can do something for you." I left a message with my contact info and have never been contacted. Meanwhile, the RO (who, by the way, is a P"C" party man by his own account, which may go to some length in explaining why he not only refuses to give me official donation receipts and maps that taxpayers have already paid for and the other candidates already have but refuses to pass on to Elections Alberta this candidate's feedback that that particular decision should perhaps be reconsidered next election) is sending a mobile poll into the Emmanuel Home on Monday, the very place that apparently only the Premier can enter.

Now cue these gentlemen to provide their rebuttal! You, dear reader, are just hearing my side of the story! Remember, the comment thread is open to all!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tony Vandermeer runs on Wildrose Alliance platform

The most interesting thing in the Edmonton Examiner article is the PC candidate's call to raise the basic exemption to $20 000 and eliminate health care premiums immediately.

Apparently my argument that these moves would promply put almost $1000 in the pocket of a person making just $21 000 a year has won a convert!

There is only one problem here, Tony. The party that supports those policies is mine, not yours!

Brian Dell in the media

What surprises me is are the minor errors. The Edmonton Journal:

... enthusiasm was high Wednesday night at a Wildrose Alliance Party rally in Mill Woods. ... they yelled in response to Edmonton Highlands-Norwood candidate Brian Dell's question. 'What do we want?', he prodded. 'Change,' they replied. People who are tired of the Tories but can't stomach the Liberals or NDP have a place to park their vote, Dell said. 'We need another alternative that won't spend even more money than the Conservatives.'

Great piece (although I should have never called this bloated government of ours "Conservative" lest people be misled into thinking it's conservative). But Highlands - Norwood?

The Edmonton Examiner cites my photo as "Bryan Dell". It also says I have three masters degrees. Since a law degree in the United States (a Juris Doctor or JD) is considered a full graduate degree it is easy to conclude that a law degree in the Commonwealth is as well, but in fact a LLB is technically an undergraduate degree.

Minor errors, then.

I was rather concerned about the Examiner piece because I was interviewed on the phone and off the top of my head I went to economic issues and figured I came off sounding too pro-business, at least for this riding. But the article ended up devoting a good chunk to my criticism of the Tory plan for addressing the medical staff shortage so fortunately I didn't come across as obsessed with the concerns of business to the exclusion of issues like healthcare (which would be fine if that were accurate but sincerely don't believe it is). The order also helped me, because it went Martin (NDP), myself, Isaac (Liberal), Vandermeer (PC), and then Pivot (Green) and Porteous (SC).

Ed Stelmach the economist

Tailoring his message to the audience, Stalemach went on Rutherford to attack the "Trudeau Liberals" and note that "[Mr. Chretien said] these resources are Canada’s. They’re not yours Albertans. They’re Canada’s... That worries me more than anything."

You would think that if Eddie was truly being kept up at night by the threats to Alberta's sovereignty, he'd actually speak out with respect to the demands in the rest of the country for Alberta's money. Ontario premier McGuinty and Newfoundland premier Danny Williams have just been two of the loudest voices calling for more federal money that could only come from Alberta. How difficult would it be for Stelmach to simply say Alberta does not support equalization that props up Ontario's failing auto industry? Apparently Ed is more concerned about the threat from someone in the grave. Alberta is also effectively subsidizing the rest of the country by not having our own pension plan, given our younger demographic. Yet only my party has proposed an Alberta Pension Plan.

"The other parties want to control our economy," claims Ed. Right. That's why his only significant tax move is to raise taxes on business and his spending policies are crowding out the private sector.

But most absurd of all is his contention that a vote for anyone other than Ed is going to lead to "22% interest rates". Interest rate levels are driven overwhelmingly by monetary policy, not fiscal policy. If you want to blame someone for 22% rates, blame Paul Volcker, Chairman of the US Fed, who made the decision to raise those rates, although the real villian in this piece would be the Fed of the 70s who increased the money supply and forced Volcker's hand. But to the extent that interest rate levels are influenced by fiscal policy, lower interest rates are made possible by lower inflation, and lower inflation means less spending. Stelmach's fiscal policy is the exact opposite: it is stimulatory like never before.

The bottom line is that when it comes to the economy, Ed does not know what he is talking about. His fiscal policy is aggravating the shortages and his tax policies are discouraging an increase in supply. When he says he is going to stand up against high interest rates, he's entered the sublime levels of absurdity. Interest rates are determined by the Bank of Canada, which in turn has to follow the US central bank to a large degree, and to the very limited extent that he has the power to bring them down, his tool is cutting back government spending in the province. If Ed can't find this tool, perhaps he could look under his dust-gathering tax cut tool..

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

campaign tactics

I may be giving away some "competitive intelligence" here, but since my object isn't just to win but to serve my community in running, I'll tell you about some of my tactical decisions which you may find interesting.

The spreadsheet that Canada Post sends on request for Beverly - Clareview has some serious errors in it and might be full of errors for all I know. They've got a bunch of T5Y letter carrier routes on there that are supposed to be 100% in the riding but when I checked the LC route maps elsewhere I noticed they were 100% outside the riding! So when their spreadsheet tells me there are X number of houses in the riding and Y number of apartments, I know that that number is overcounting a lot of houses unless there are counterbalancing un-included LC routes that should have been included. Now I'd tell you what X and Y are, but Canada Post says their data is "confidential" and "use restricted to preparing mail for Canada Post delivery".

But even if their number is off, fact is I still only have enough brochures to hit perhaps a quarter of all residences. For the rest, I am more or less dependent on people hearing about my party in the media or seeing my signs and then googling my name or my party's name. I do have on there but that's only going to be picked up by pedestrian traffic.

So the question becomes, who do I hit with my flyers and, of them, who should be mailed and who hand-delivered? I doorknocked a bit without brochures early in the campaign but that was only about 100 to 150 homes. Avoiding overlap with those homes is not a major concern.

Doorknocking houses is obviously easier than apartments. It is faster once you are in an apartment, but unless it is a really big or high end complex such that you've got a custodian consistently available to buzz and lecture about how the Elections Act requires allowing my entry between 9 and 9 each day, you are unable to get in just anytime. Also, even if the custodian lets you in, you'll occasionally be asked by a resident who let you in. After all, apartment dwellers do not frequently have guests who have not buzzed them in advance. These facts suggest that apartments and condos should be mailed.

And mail them I did, having decided to send half of my brochures on the three different letter carrier routes that were 90% or more in-riding and with the highest proportion of apartments.

But this means some houses will get no brochures. My official agent argued that people in apartments don't vote. Having done some doorknocking in apartments and lower end townhouses I'd have to agree the level of interest in politics is lower than houses, which says a lot given that interest from house-dwellers is pretty limited already. But the counter-argument is that the polling I've seen and my experience in the streets indicates our party skews young in terms of who is more open to us. If a 20-something is living in a house it is probably his or her parents! To hit those younger voters and what I also suspect are also more undecided voters I figured I needed to hit apartments and condos. I also reckoned that my literature would face less competition because the other parties would go light on apartments unless they had the money to burn.

Part of my thinking was also that after the election, I could look at the individual poll results and try and estimate what sort of return I got from the apartment complexes I brochured through the mail vs the houses I brochured on foot. This election will help me learn for next time. Now it might not be a fair comparison because while on foot I often have personal contact with people in their driveway or on the sidewalk, and I also ring the doorbell when there is reason to believe that someone is both in the house and likely to answer the door quickly. In addition, I skip houses with solely Liberal or solely NDP lawn signs when the location suggests that the homeowner requested the sign as opposed to the sign being pushed on them by partisan campaign workers coveting their sign friendly location. That skipping likely improves my "on foot yield" since placed brochures are less likely to be going to voters I can't turn. I believe I can control for this, however, by comparing what I brochured myself against what a volunteer has brochured for me.

Bev Dahlby study supports corporate tax cut

U of Alberta prof Bev Dahlby finds a direct connection between lowering corporate tax rates and increasing economic growth. His analysis of corporate tax cuts in B.C. moreover showed that the government didn't lose any income over the long term, because of the increased economic activity.

I note that this simply further supports Jack Mintz' work.

Yet the only initative out of the Stelmach govt on business taxation is to raise them. And the Liberals and NDP simply want to raise them even more.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

post-forum comments

After receiving the wrong address for the forum tonight (and posting the wrong address on this blog...) I walked into the local police station in the hopes the cops would have a directory. I eventually did find the forum location just off 97th street but walked in about 20 minutes late. Evidently they waited for me.

Some other Wildrose candidates were there (unnecessarily I thought because two in particular had small children who probably didn't want to be there, although I appreciated the idea of coming out to support me), and when I saw John Baloun I asked him if he didn't want to end up front because he is a more experienced politician and knows how to keep his messaging crisp. I'm a team player in that if we have a better rabble rouser around, give that guy or girl in the spotlight.

The NDP representative came across as your neighborhood library lady, which left room for the young Liberal guy, Brad Smith, to pick up the guantlet in a more punchy, unscripted way for some leftish causes like supporting rent controls, trade restrictions, and a grab bag of other issues. I'm sure he'd rather be trying to knock me off than Brian Mason. It seems he'd checked out my online presence because he made a reference to me when he took a shot at what he called "textbook answers" that don't address real problems in the real world. That gave me a chance to respond, although I didn't respond like I should have.

How should have I responded? By simply providing, in a loud and clear voice, that quote by the Vietnamese minister about how the Americans couldn't destroy Hanoi but their rent controls did. When I went into detail I lost people. After the forum an older member of the audience regaled me with that old chestnut of how Demosthenes improved his elocution by practicing with a mouthful of stones.

Both the PC and Liberals guys received some hostile questions: one person demanded that the Liberal explain his "arrogance" and another person blurted "that's an affront!" to a particular dig by the PC guy.

At one point we got a question about proportional representation. Having just read today an Edmonton Journal report that my party's leader supports first-past-the-post, I said that PR is ultimately a means to an end, with the end being have a voice for a group of Albertans who deserve an advocate, and so if that voice can be heard without my having a seat, so be it. The Liberal was able to give one of his best answers here by ticking off pros and cons on the issue.

Afterwards the Liberal guy and I agreed we should catch up sometime after election day, and talking with the PC candidates there one gets the impression that they have some pretty competent candidates. A large part of that, of course, is that many PC nomination battles crown a MLA so the winners of those battles should be stronger than what typically comes out of an lightly or uncontested nomination. That doesn't help much, though, when these people would just end up backbenchers in the top-down Tory organization.

Paul McLaughlin on CBC National

Speaking to CBC HQ in Toronto:
I know you have an image of Alberta as an island of fiscal conservatism, but it's just not true. It's been taken over by red Tories who are spending like mad. In that context, the interesting performance of [debate] night was by Paul Hinman, who spoke directly to the fiscal conservatives and said 'Your [PC] party has abandoned you.' [Hinman] did very, very well.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Come out and meet and hear Edmonton area Wildrose Alliance candidates Wednesday evening! We are going to get together at #106A, 2603 Hewes Way this Feb 27 at 7pm. Note that this is very close to Millwoods Town Centre. See attached map. I'm told that #106A is an office in the back of the building (the parking lot wraps around at the north side of the building.)

Refreshments should be available. Anyone needing a ride should contact me and I'll see what I can arrange.

Edmonton area All Candidates Forum Tuesday at 7 pm

Unfortunately there will be no all candidates forum for Beverly - Clareview unless the other candidates cooperate (one has already declined and another has not responded to me) so I have agreed to attend one for the general Edmonton area tomorrow at 7 pm. It will be held at St Josephat's Parish Hall, 10637 - 108 Ave, just a couple blocks south of the Royal Alex Hospital.

When a forum isn't focused on a riding it is typically hosted by a community organization and the questions will focus on issues of interest to that community. This one is being put on by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress so obviously this will be of particular interest to Ukrainian Albertans. Although I have been to the Ukraine and look forward to some focused discussion, I expect that questions from the floor will cover the full range of issues that concern Albertans hence don't be afraid to come out even if you are not Ukrainian! It appears this will be your one chance to put a question to me in a situation like this during this election.

The other candidates attending are:
Debbie Cavaliere (Liberal) - Edmonton Meadowlark
Bill Donahue (PC) - Edmonton Centre
Hana Razga (NDP) - Edmonton Whitemud

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Liberal HQ gave up on Beverly - Clareview last time?

Looking back at the campaign expenditures in my riding last election, I noticed that, although the Liberals receive funding for having official party status that we don't, Liberal Sam Parmar received $855 from the Alberta Liberal Party and his constituency association.

He had to raise the rest of his financing from friends, family, and donations. Winning NDP candidate Ray Martin, meanwhile, received $20 000. Parmar's situation is similar to mine, although it is possible that the Parmar clan is wealthy such that there was little burden on them. But even so, Martin outspent Sam Parmar several-fold.

I don't expect the Martin money machine to be any less powerful this time, especially when the NDP, the party that is going to "take big $$$ out of politics", have announced a $140 000 TV ad campaign targeted at Edmonton.

Interestingly, I'd say the Liberals have a bigger campaign presence than the NDP this time around, so I wonder if Liberal HQ thinks Ray Martin is vulnerable.

On an unrelated note, thanks to those who honked approvingly while I was putting out my campaign signs. That, and comments like Jimmy's to my post below, make me feel that I am doing the right thing.

the royalties issue

Economists agree that corporate and investment taxes are the worst taxes to raise. So how could the Alberta Royalty Review panel end up recommending just that, when a respected economist like Andre Plourde is on the panel?

Because the operating assumption of the whole analysis was changed such that all that research on business taxation didn't apply:

...when a govt designs a tax system, it must justify every dollar ... it takes away from wage earners and business... [However,] Alberta's natural resources belong to Albertans, and this is a different proposition. The design of a royalty and tax system for energy resources therefore must justify every dollar that does not go to the owners.

You see? "this is a different proposition", such that every cent that remains in private hands is ripping off the Alberta government unless proven otherwise. Never mind the fact that the value added by these private hands is 100% (and thus akin to every other form of economic output) if one recognizes that the value of oil and gas that remains forever in the ground is no greater than its surrounding rock.

Another problem with positing a massive royalty increase as the consensus of experts is that it implies that Judith Dwarkin, PhD, and all those CFA charter holders who have spent every working day for YEARS examining and reporting on the every last detail of the cost structures and business models of energy firms (you know, the same financial analysts who circulating memos to their clients comparing Stelmach to Hugo Chavez and applauding Saskatchewan's premier for his province's royalty policy) are NOT experts.

Some facts:
- the Panel did not have the Energy Dept's memos.
- they relied on dated and erroneous information (supplied by an American consultant) and incomplete cost models
- they considered jurisdictions like Texas comparable when in fact initial production rates over the last 3 years have been three times higher there than Alberta
- they proposed to increase the govt take from deep high impact gas wells, which will promote the lowest-quality reservoirs with highest chance of success while discouraging exploration for deep high-impact gas pools. Don't even think about developing technology or taking risks to pluck the high-hanging fruit, in other words; this expert panel wants you pick over the low-hanging a second time!
- Encana, CNRL, and Talisman have announced significant cutbacks to their 2008 investment plans in Alberta and many others are cutting back quietly to avoid criticism of our one party rule govt
- the bi-weekly sales of Crown land are the lowest in almost a decade, which cuts into current govt revenue AND means lower royalty revenue in the future. Royalties and land sales are like a see-saw, push the former up and the latter goes down. Oil companies have paid billions to govt for land sales, yet this seems to count for little in popular perception.

For, not to put too fine a point on it, the royalty review was to the oilpatch what BSE was to the beef industry. It's the kind of dumb thing that happens when there aren't enough people around who know a drill-bit from a blowout preventer, that among the gushers, there's always a dry hole, or that in this game your good name is your most valuable asset -- something Hinman alluded to in Thursday's debate.
- Calgary Herald, Feb 23

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Calgary Herald's Leger poll indicates TV debate good for Wildrose Alliance

Saturday, Feb 23:

"Most people who changed their votes as a result of the debate moved away from the Stelmach and the Conservatives. The largest number of switchers went to Paul Hinman of the Wildrose Alliance.... In overall impression of debate performance, the poll shows one surprising gainer - Paul Hinman of the Wildrose Alliance. His approval rating rose by a remarkable 10 per cent."

miscellaneous observations

I canvassed a bit around the Transit Hotel and spoke with a number of aboriginals in another part of the riding. I quite enjoyed this as I really liked the way they were open and engaging. I bet that if I hung around the Transit Hotel next Saturday night and slapped some hard working backs I'd pick up a bunch of votes and have a good time doing it. I think they appreciate a politician actually wanting to listen to them, as opposed to those who are too busy expressing concern for them to listen. I heard aboriginals describe life on the reserve as "communism". It wasn't something I was expecting to hear. The immigrants also appreciate a politician's attention. When I mention something about their home country they are pleased that an Albertan was interested enough in the rest of the world to visit their country or at least learn something about it.

On another note, I noticed how people can be more accomodating on the door step in their talk than they really are. A woman who said she planned to vote Wildrose the first time I was there now has a SoCred sign on her lawn and wouldn't take mine. Another guy who said he voted P"C" in the past but thought they did nothing was today sporting what appeared to be the biggest P"C" sign in the riding on his lawn, and this on a side street. The rudest people may in fact be the most honest.

sign team in action

Election HQ was buzzing (relatively) today as we ramped up the campaign. It is shame we don't have another two weeks!

Friday, February 22, 2008

calling all Edmonton area volunteers

After many frustrating delays I've FINALLY got a shipment of signs and brochures arriving tonight.

John Baloun, who is one of our best candidates in the Edmonton area, and I are trying to get people together tomorrow to assemble and deploy our campaign signs. I should also note that we are extremely limited in terms of financial resources and a small donation (which would garner you a 75% tax credit) would help with such small things we are scraping around for like stakes for our signs. Please send a note to Brian.Dell (at) if you can spare a couple hours tomorrow or otherwise assist.


Thanks David S, Jon B, and Ben O!

National Post assesses campaign to date

Click here for link.

post-debate comments part II

Having told you what I liked about Hinman's message, what didn't I like?

Hinman wrapped up by describing our party as the "True Conservative Alternative". My problem with this is that this messaging clashes with the post-ideological messaging of efficiency and innovation. At the end of the day, conservative policy options are generally efficiency and innovation-friendly. But I'd rather lead people there with the reasoning process than jump there. Voters respect a politician that stakes out his turf clearly and simply but I don't think that simplification that helps people along to making an easy judgment is an unalloyed good.

My other criticism would be that our child care policy should emphasize neutrality across methods of child rearing. I believe that was what Paul ultimately meant, but it at times the phrasing he used suggested that he viewed a parental decision to place a child in day care as less preferable to raising a child at home. If we are going to go down that road we should be quick with the supporting statistics so that it is clear that it is not "values" that drive us to that conclusion but neutral evidence. I would have gone back to what he said at other times, and that's that spending a few million in one place and a few million in another place creates winners and losers (losers being those who pay for the program without benefiting from it) in an arbitrary way and so we should choose broad-based tax relief where all parents benefit some over subsidizing a few thousand daycare spaces where the lucky few got a significant benefit and the rest get nothing.

Taft's "climate change locomotive" didn't go over well with me, and not least because I had just today read a comment somewhere online where someone equated typical CO2 abatement efforts to standing in front of a locomotive and throwing a bucket of cash at it with the idea it will suddenly come to a grinding stop. There are two ways to deal with rushing locomotives and one of them is to ADAPT to what is coming. Human beings can adapt to far more climates than most animals yet this distinguishing feature seems to have suddenly escaped us from this point forward. The analogy not only got me asking why we don't just step out of the way instead of marshalling colossal resources to stop it, but further highlighted how the rhetoric over climate change reaches a shriller level with each passing day such that voices raising other priorities become increasingly muffled. A billion dollars (assuming, with no small indulgence, that it would only be a billion) is not chump change. I bet we could clean up a lake for a billion, and and actually have something to show for it afterwards!

Stelmach's best line was when he got on about "Alberta is a beacon of hope and a beacon of prosperity". Appeals to patriotism always work better for incumbents. Get people thinking about how good they've got it instead of what they don't have or could have.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

post-debate comments part I

I went to CBC's studio downtown to get a better feel for the debate and crowd reaction.

I suppose my first observation is that one has to look at who "won" against a backdrop of how the parties are polling going into this. If the viewing audience sawed it off 25% each, then it is obviously pure gold for us because that means large numbers of people who have been telling pollsters they are voting for someone else before tonight decided that the Wildrose Alliance platform as articulated by Paul Hinman had more appeal to them tonight than the other parties' platforms as articulated by their leaders.

The only time I really cringed hearing Paul speak was when he spoke of the "Alberta Alliance". I was never a member of that party and had no plans to join so long as Randy Thorsteinson remained a dominant force, for various reasons. Since giving up on the big spending, unimaginative nomenklatura-like P"C"s I've only been a Wildrose guy. I'm a big fan of Rob James, our key Wildrose man, so when Rob resigned as our President I had my doubts about the merger. But I figured if we could get a couple of outside (non-Alberta Alliance) professional strategist types at party HQ we could make a go of it, albeit always with a hand and a half tied behind our back because of Ed's timing of the election call. I don't mean to offend any AA people out there, I'm just acknowledging that we came from two different parties and there was a reason why there was two parties.

I know that Paul met with this little braintrust of ours prior to this debate and now that the debate's over, I'd have to say that I'm quite impressed. The analogy to buying one's groceries from 7-11 with respect to current government procurement practices was good; Alberta taxpayers need a more efficient bidding process. Expressing agreement with Mason at one point which everyone who has pigeon-holed the WRA believes impossible, also good. The strength of the efficiency theme is that what is efficient and what is not can be proved by argument and not just appeals to values (now if I could just get the Liberal candidate in my riding to cooperate and take me on in a debate...). Economists love efficiency talk and so I'm delighted to see Hinman pushing this. The innovation theme was 24 karat and something that will get serious traction across the political spectrum if we can walk the walk with it by proving that our policies support the theme. It makes us look like we not only have ideas but are looking to listen to the go-getters in our society for yet more ideas. One positive thing I can say about Taft and the Liberals is that they have ideas as well but is the second half of the previous sentence that they fall down on. If climate change is going to hit us like a freight train then it's our innovators and entrepreneurs who are going to save us and not Kevin Taft's bureaucrats. Our boy geniuses at WA HQ "get it" and Stelmach's P"C"s, for all their resources and overpaid consultants, simply don't. The real debate about Alberta's future then comes down to us vs the Liberals and we all know the Liberals will never form the government, leaving...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

what I don't get about climate change

According to,
It has long been known that the polar climate — particularly the Arctic climate — was very different from today's. Many lines of evidence indicate temperatures well above freezing, with little or no permanent land ice and infrequent or absent sea ice. Lemurs could live in Spitzbergen, and crocodiles on Hudson Bay, to name a few examples. Most evidence also points to an absence of ice in Antarctica as well. These Hothouse (or Super Greenhouse) climates have much warmer polar regions than is the case for today's climate, and winters were evidently very mild

The website also notes that "the Eocene tropical ocean may have been as warm as 35C, as compared to about 29C today".

According to Nature magazine,
The Palaeocene/Eocene thermal maximum, 55 million years ago, was a brief period of widespread, extreme climatic warming that was associated with massive atmospheric greenhouse gas input. We show that sea surface temperatures near the North Pole increased from 18°C to over 23°C during this event.

Sea surface temperatures near the North Pole were over 23 degrees? If sea temperatures at the North Pole were to rise to, I don't know, 5 degrees by the year 2100 and that would be an ecological disaster, then what to you call temperatures over 23 degrees?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

comments re NDP and Liberal calls for rent control

- page 31 in Chapter 2 of Gregory Mankiw's "Principles of Economics" 4th edition text supplies a chart which shows that 93% of economists agree with the statement: "a ceiling on rents reduces the quality and quantity of housing available". This is based not just on the theoretical models but on the empirical evidence. As someone who has worked as a professional economist, I can assure you that this is not a misrepresentation of the professional consensus.

- Besides creating a shortage and reducing quality, rent controls deter investment and raises rents on tenants who are excluded from its protections (e.g. tenants who move or arrive later).

- The expansion of a bureaucracy responsible for deciding who or or what is protected or subsidized and who or what is not will encourage what economists call rent seeking ("rent seeking occurs when an individual, organization, or firm seeks to make money by manipulating the economic and/or legal environment rather than by trade and production of wealth"). The attention of stakeholders will diverted from removing the impediments to the construction of new housing to this political football.

- There is evidence / argument that rent controls may create less affordable housing (See William Tucker's books "Zoning, Rent Control and Affordable Housing" and "The Excluded Americans: Homelessness and Housing Policies")

In a nutshell, if a price is forcibly kept low, there will be higher demand. With supply the same, a shortage is created. However, if developers are restricted in the rents they may charge, they will be less willing to construct more housing. Since supply is perpetually low, landlords also do not have to worry about tenants leaving, and so they have little or no market incentive to maintain the property.

The Americans couldn't destroy Hanoi, but we have destroyed our city by very low rents. We realized it was stupid and that we must change policy
- Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach in 1989

Alberta Greens

Despite a slow start, the Greens seemed to have been able to get a lot of nomination papers in under the wire yesterday such that now that nominations have closed it looks like they've got very close to a full slate.

My party will be fielding 61, with a significantly greater Calgary coverage than Edmonton given that we have 22 running in Calgary and 11 in Edmonton. It is notable that I'm running in Edmonton Beverly-Clareview when Edmonton area ridings like Sherwood Park and St Albert are open, ridings the NDP is not nearly so dominant in such that my party should have more potential there. So long as we don't have proportional representation, it would arguably serve the desires of Albertans better to parachute someone in there since there should be significant demand for a WA candidate. It arguably doesn't help my case either to have one of the very few Socreds running in my riding since oldtimers not interested in the three largest parties might think Socred without givng my own party, which has much more of a future than the Socreds, much thought.

But our party is only a month old as of today, and so the challenges of winning even so-called easier ridings are significant. My ties to Beverly - Clareview are greater than to St Albert or Sherwood Park and it is easier for me to get around here on foot. The object is not to get me into the Legislature. The object to is give a voice to Albertans who are not seeing their voices acknowledged by the other parties. If I can reach more people in Beverly - Clareview, where I reside, I should run here, although the importance of lots of donations and an army of volunteers is greater than I had previously thought.

Although it isn't clear what the Liberal candidate here seems to stand for (I've met him twice now while out in the riding and he seemed to say he doesn't really have an ideology and has higher priorities than helping me organize an all candidates forum), Dawit Isaac clearly has a relatively big organization and he has been door knocking like mad. This should level off the NDP and Liberal votes such that a third player has a greater chance on the outside lane than last election.

I suspect the Greens are doing better than us money wise although I do not know for certain. The Green candidate in my riding was supposed to be a Trey Capenhurst and now they've switched it to guy named Frederique Pivot. I heard their leader say that their website is doing well for them and the obstacle for getting people nominated is not the 25 signature requirement so much as costs of couriering around original forms and the $500 cash deposit. Big NGOs would be inclined to donate to the Greens while unions donate to the NDP and corporations donate to the Libs and P"C"s. I don't believe we are bringing in any big business money to speak of. If we are, then party HQ should be helping us candidates out!

I'm of two minds about the merits of scraping to run a full slate. If you run a weak candidate, it may turn people off for good. I don't know if the quality of the Alberta Alliance slate in 2004 is helping us this time around or hindering. But on the other hand, the Greens are now in a significantly better position to beat us in the province-wide vote than if we had run as many candidates. The Greens 2008 election platform has absolutely zero to say about the need to build a diversified endowment fund like the Heritage Fund and there is no indication at all that they are interested in broad-based tax relief. If our party should really fail to get any attention and the Greens come out of this election as the perceived fourth party, then we'll have four parties who intend to maintain and increase our record high spending levels, which is the worst way to manage our growth pressures.

People seem to think that our economy should be "slowed down" by tax increases, when in fact that does NOTHING to slow down demand in the province if those tax revenues are not going into an endowment fund that invests outside the province. In fact, the overheating will be made worse with a tax increase because it will likely take money out of the hands of those with a greater marginal propensity to make diversified investments and put it into the hands of those with a greater marginal propensity to consume. Workers who could otherwise be meeting private sector demand will instead be working for the government collecting these taxes from the private sector!

The Green party's call for things like the lowest tuition in Canada doesn't appreciate what students really want and what best serves the interests of Albertans. San Jose State and Stanford are two universities both in the Bay area and I once visited both campuses in the same day. Now Stanford's tuition dwarfs San Jose State's. But the difference in facilities, never mind reputation, is even greater. Would you rather have a Stanford degree and a student loan or no loan and a San Jose State degree? I'd rather go to Stanford and I think most students would too. The point being that accessibility is a greater issue than tuition levels and public policy involves optimization of the trade-offs, not just looking at one side of the trade-off and pretending the other side doesn't exist. Speaking of accessibility, although our government loan programs will ultimately cover any in-province education, they will not cover a Stanford education without help from private sources. Why shouldn't the province make the entire world accessible to our students if they are willing to commit to returning to Alberta? Apparently because we, and in particular the Greens and Liberals, are too concerned with lowering tuition for those who don't have an accessibility problem! I am speaking here as someone with 3 in-province degrees, 1 foreign, a $25 000+ student debt at one point, and as someone who looked very seriously into Stanford but couldn't line up the money sources.

I might go further with my proposal here and say that any Oxford, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, etc grad who files five consecutive annual tax returns in Alberta should get her fifth one absolutely free, and perhaps a couple more after that as well (filing any provincial return requires provincial residency) even if she had never set foot in the province prior to graduation. We'll also try and get him or her married to locals within those years so we get these long term tax assets locked in, ha ha!

But back to the Greens. They were clearly shooting for a full slate and almost have that. Congratulations!

video introduction

Check out my YouTube debut:

Monday, February 18, 2008

How many more spending promises?

From the Edmonton Journal:

The Liberals and Progressive Conservatives are proving least accountable with public dollars when it comes to attaching price tags to their big-spending election promises, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said Wednesday.

Kevin Taft's Liberals have rolled out 40 provincial election promises (not including tax breaks) in the first nine days of the campaign that would require additional government spending, the federation said. But the party has provided cost breakdowns for only four of those promises - which alone total nearly $600 million.

Ed Stelmach's governing Tories have only made 16 spending promises so far in the four-week campaign but Stelmach was criticized for a flurry of spending announcements just before the election call. Only two Conservative commitments made during the campaign - cash for an Edmonton-area park and a Calgary science centre - have been costed out and are worth a total of $90 million.

"We have parties that go out making wild promises ... then they have to scramble to either fulfill their promises by raising taxes or going into deficit," said Scott Hennig, Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. "We need to stop rewarding parties that make wild promises." .... He noted the Tories appetite for election-time spending amounted to nearly $1.3 billion in announcements by the 12-day span leading up to the provincial election being called

Taft has made forty (40) spending promises in just 9 days. That's more than 4 a day. Keep it up and the Liberals will have made more than 124 spending promises by election day.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Innovation, the environment, the Steyn case, etc

I've added a bunch of material to my website,, covering everything from Paul Romer's endogenous growth theory, to technology commercialization, to emissions credit trading, to Mark Steyn's run-in with a human rights commission.

I even opined on the gay marriage issue. I realize that a lot of people may disagree with me. But at least I've said something. When I go to Ray Martin's website I can find absolutely zero statements by Ray Martin on anything. How are voters supposed to inform themselves? Is is right if the person who gets elected is the person who says least or speaks in the greatest generalities?

I realize that not everyone has a computer so my online material is not available to them. Unfortunately, it is going to be a challenge for me to reach every home in the riding personally. I can't emphasis enough, however, that I will personally visit every riding resident who contacts me and wishes to meet. And I hope to at least get out some printed material to those I can't meet. Which means I better sign off and get back out there!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Broadening Access to Healthcare and Enhancing Education

Although the P"C"s at least acknowledged that many Albertans have difficulty getting timely access to a physician, their solution was to graduate vastly more health professionals and, again, this just doesn't work. The long run supply curve can only be moved out slowly, as I've noted before, and that includes the supply of medical education in the province. Moreover, what is the point if the graduates leave the province?

The Wildrose Alliance Party proposes incentives for our newly minted medical professionals to remain in Alberta. We also suggest the exploration of more innovative funding approaches. As part of our universal health care plan, we would implement a pilot program in one of the smaller health regions that would be modeled after "funding follow the patient" rather than the per capita funding currently in place today. Healthcare providers would then be paid for the services they give to the customers.

Education is a priority for our party. Whereas pollution is a negative externality, education and research/innovation are positive externalities. But funding is only part of the equation. The other part is challenging our education system to be even better. We would implement a pilot project where funding follows the student. This would give parents a real choice in the schools to which they send their children.

Since we are the on the topic of externalities allow me to address research and innovation while I'm at it. I worked at the Alberta Research Council during grad school and I can't say that it struck me that the organization was accomplishing anything that the private sector could not. I'm of the conviction that the real focus should be on technology commercialization and that means developing the universities' industry liaison offices. It should also mean cross-talk between engineering and technology students and firms with business management students and firms. As someone whose U of Alberta MBA has "Specialization in Technology Commercialization" stamped on it, I think this is an area where I can really help identify the bottlenecks.

Investing in Our Community part II

An Alberta Pension Plan isn't really a taxation issue so I'm discussing it here. At the Founding Assembly of the Wildrose Party last October 27, we adopted a proposal that called for the creation of a APP and alluded to Alberta's "favourable demographics". I thought it to be a quite an informed proposal for something that just came off the floor. As you know, Alberta is a net contributor to the federal equalization program by billions. But you may not know that going forward Alberta will have also effectively subsidized the Canada Pension Plan by an enormous amount. This is because young Alberta workers will be paying for the pensions of retirees in other provinces for some time to come.

Now I have a less of a problem with that than with equalization, since equalization takes capital from where it could be profitably invested (Alberta) and sends it to places where can't be as profitably invested. As with many socialist schemes, however well-intentioned the program is, it is doubtful whether it actually helps the poor, since poor Alberta workers may be paying for what ends up being subsidies to wealthy Eastern industrialists. But I digress. At issue is whether Albertans would be better served by an Alberta Pension Plan. As noted above, the demographics say yes. That said, I've met with the CPP Investment Board as a Finance Canada official and they are very professional and sophisticated. I would be concerned about whether an Alberta investment management team would be as effective were it not for the fact that most of the AIMCo people are members of the Edmonton Financial Analysts Society and would do a very competent job, perhaps even better, since the provinces still have some control over the CPPIB whereas AIMCo is supposed to be almost entirely independent.

a specific proposal on social problems

I wouldn't be distinguishing myself from the other candidates if I just spoke about the importance of developing a sense of belonging and community in our youth. I could go on at length about the Broken Windows approach, but even that would be something of an abstract discussion.

So I have a specific proposal to suggest:

if elected MLA, I would ensure cross-reporting between animal protection agencies and social welfare agencies

Where does this proposal come from? It starts from a recognition that whatever one's view of the Young Offenders Act, criminal law is a matter of exclusive federal jurisdiction and provincial politicians looking to deal with crime and deviance must examine other tools. Now I'm not a NDP type who thinks that crime is caused by poverty instead of by criminals. But I do recognize that it is not especially innovative or reflective to not look at the sorts of social backgrounds that criminals tend to have. There seems to be solid evidence for the contention that many anti-social adults were abused as children. Certainly an abusive childhood seems to be a common marker amongst sex trade workers. Now of course everyone is against child abuse. But the question is how to stop it without having social services spying on every family. I have come across a fair bit of evidence suggesting that if children in a home are abusing animals, there is good reason to suspect there are other forms of abuse occuring in the home. If animal protection agencies or law enforcement should encounter a case of, say, a 5 year old seriously harming animals, this should raise a red flag and social services should look more closely at the family situation. Cross-reporting is already the law in California and Illinois, so this proposal is not without precedent.

having a community that one calls home

We wander in our thousands over the face of the earth, the illustrious and the obscure, earning beyond the seas our fame, our money, or only a crust of bread; but it seems to me that for each of us going home must be like going to render an account. We return to face our superiors, our kindred, our friends - those whom we obey, and those whom we love; but even they who have neither, the most free, lonely, irresponsible and bereft of ties, - even for those for whom home holds no dear face, no familiar voice, - even they have to meet the spirit that dwells within the land, under its sky, in its air, in its valleys and on its rises, in its fields, in its waters and its trees - a mute friend, judge, and inspirer. Say what you like, to get its joy, to breathe its peace, to face its truth, one must return with a clear consciousness. All this may seem to you sheer sentimentalism; and indeed very few of us have the will or the capacity to look consciously under the face of familiar emotions.
There are the girls we love, the men we look up to, the tenderness, the friendships, the opportunities, the pleasures! But the fact remains that you must touch your reward with clean hands, lest it turn to dead leaves, to thorns, in your grasp. I think it is the lonely, without a fireside or an affection they may call their own, those who return not to a dwelling but to the land itself, to meet its disembodied, eternal, and unchangeable spirit - it is those who understand best its severity, its saving power, the grace of its secular right to our fidelity, to our obedience. Yes! few of us understand, but we all feel it though, and I say all without exception, because those who do not feel do not count.
Each blade of grass has its spot on the earth whence it draws its life, its strength, and so is man rooted to the land from which he draws his faith together with his life. .... We exist only in so far as we hang together.
- Joseph Conrad, "Lord Jim"

Investing in Our Community part I

A key platform plank of the Wildrose Alliance party is that we will provide stable, reliable, and unconditional municipal funding and allow service delivery at the local and community level wherever possible.

Just as I don't believe that rural MLAs should dictate policy in the cities (I support a Charter for Edmonton), urban MLAs shouldn't be dictating policy in rural Alberta. Where there is a need for a one size fits all approach across the province then fine, but the operating assumption should be that nobody knows the needs of a local community like the locals who live there.

Here in Beverly- Clareview we have more social problems than many other ridings. Drug abuse, prostitution, poverty, and crime all occur here. The problems are not everywhere, some areas are relatively gentrified, in fact, but where they do occur it has a significant impact on quality of life. Abstract debates about things like tax policy are of little interest to a resident living in a troubled area.

Our local community associations are more aware of what the problems are and are in a better position to get people involved, such that residents who might otherwise be indifferent to the needs of others feel they have a stake in their community's welfare. This obviously doesn't mean the province has no role. It means the province should recognize the local assets that exist and make the most of them. Our faith communities are a great asset and politicians should not be so squeamish about church and state boundaries that they are are slow to congratulate our churches for the work they do in reaching out to those who are suffering. It is entirely possible that an old-fashioned revival would do more for our children living in troubled homes than a new government program. A young man who reads Rick Warren or Max Lucado and decides he is going to turn his life around, especially with respect to his family, might well have a greater positive impact than if made he made no changes in his life but got a government cheque. That said, I am a firm believer in fundamental principle that government should not be supporting any one religion over any other, including the choice to be non-religious. I just think that the explanatory power of anomie is significant and worth thinking about.

With the progress of science and technology, man has stopped believing in magic powers, in spirits and demons; he has lost his sense of prophecy and, above all, his sense of the sacred. Reality has become dreary, flat and utilitarian, leaving a great void in the souls of men which they seek to fill by furious activity and through various devices and substitutes.
- Max Weber

continuing with tax relief for Albertans

To return, then, to the details of the corporate tax issue, Andrew Jackson, who is on the staff of the Canadian Labour Congress, is a blogger I've found who opposes corporate tax cuts.

Unfortunately, Jackson does not address Mintz' contention that there is reason to believe a cut in the corporate rate will increase tax revenues. His target is instead the Department of Finance and its estimate of the revenue impact of the reduction in the corporate rate announced October 30. First of all, I have to complement the blogger for his audacity in challenging the collective wisdom of Finance Canada economists. I learned a number of things while working at Finance Canada and one of them was to not question the forecasting team! But no one is infallible so let's hear Mr Jackson out. One of his contentions is that the particular data he is looking at does not support the argument that corporations invest more when their rates are cut:

If corporate Canada were investing heavily, as we have been told they would do when given rate cuts, corporate tax collections would be much lower than they are today because deferred taxes would be accumulating. (Companies accumulate deferred taxes because the cost of new equipment is written off before profits are earned on the investments.)

This is not correct; if the level of deferred taxes is related to the level of investment, the author here needs to provide some empirical evidence because it certainly does not follow logically. A company accumulates a deferred tax liability when its D&A (depreciation and amortization) expense for accounting purposes is less than its CCA (capital cost allowance) deduction for tax purposes. The difference means the firm reported less taxable profit to the tax authorities than to the rest of the world in a given accounting period.

If a company's booked D&A expense is greater than the CCA it deducted, then the opposite is true and the firm accumulates a deferred tax asset. It's paying more in taxes today but should pay less in the future when it can no longer deduct D&A for accounting purposes but can still deduct CCA for tax purposes.

Jackson does not make it clear whether he is talking about deferred tax assets or deferred tax liablities being created. But it doesn't matter. Either way, these things are simply due to differences between government and accounting depreciation schedules, and there is no logical relation between the creation of these things and and the level of business investment, since there is no reason why any given investment has to move a given deferred tax asset or liability yet further in the direction its going as opposed to reversing it.

Now I'm sure you didn't find this post very exhilarting or inspirational. But I suppose that's my point: effective public policy work is not a function of how inspirational one is. It's a rather a function of how willing one is to address the details.

it's time to get serious

Although the platforms of the NDP, Liberal, and P"C" parties appear to disagree with Professor Mintz' belief that "As first order of business, Canadian and provincial governments should reduce corporate income taxes" (since I can't find it ANYWHERE in their orders of business, never mind first), it doesn't seem likely that the candidates for those parties will be jumping at the chance to take on Mintz. It doesn't serve Albertans well to hear only one side of an argument, so I've looked around elsewhere on the web for some opposition.

But before we get to that, let's ask ourselves why candidates aren't talking about policy. It seems to me that they are too busy supporting positions like "affordable housing" that nobody opposes. Or perhaps you, dear reader, support UNaffordable housing! How does announcing positions like that help inform the public policy debate? Would it be more respectful of the other candidates if I came across less challenging and said similar uncontroversial things like "I will celebrate community heroes"? Arguably, no, because for a position like that to be relevant to the question of who to elect I would have to be implying that the other candidates would NOT be doing that. OF COURSE whoever is MLA will try to identify local role models and encourage youth to "buy in" to our community so that they feel they have a stake in a crime-free, positive community and so on and so forth. That's an MLA's job, at least in my view, and the extent to which the MLA is working in the community will be more a function of his or her work ethic than his or her political platform. What distinguishes us as candidates is what you can expect of our committee work not our ribbon cutting.

The real question is what are we going to do to improve things like access to healthcare or affordable housing. Introduce rent controls? For which buildings and why? What about new residents to the riding? What about all the other costs of living? Is spending more on healthcare the only solution to that question? How about exploring more innovative methods of healthcare delivery, like my party's plan to run a pilot in a smaller health district where, as part of a universal coverage plan, funding would follow the patient instead of being modeled after the per capita funding currently in place today. Healthcare providers would then get paid for the services they give to their customers. My point is simply that it is time to get serious about this issues and we do that by considering the details.

Jack Mintz on corporate taxes and the Laffer curve

Corporate income taxes continue to be a major source of inefficiency and unfairness in the Canadian tax system. They result in highly differential effective tax rates on industries and assets. They also discourage domestic investment, which is critical to long-run growth prospects.

Moreover, there is some published evidence--and we shall provide further analysis in this report--that Canada's corporate income tax rate is on the wrong side of the "Laffer curve," the relationship between government tax rates and tax revenue.

Canada's corporate income tax rate is 6 percentage points above the revenue-maximizing corporate income tax that we estimate. As a result, Canada could reduce corporate income tax rates, possibly increasing revenue or at worst losing little. Compared to any other business tax policy, this is a "win-win" proposition--both government and the private sector would be better off.

Reductions in the current corporate rate would increase corporate tax revenues because Canadian and foreign multinationals would shift fewer costs into Canada and fewer profits out of Canada. For example, Ireland's corporate income taxes comprised a 3.4 percent share of GDP in 2005, which is similar to the corporate tax collected in Canada as a share of GDP (3.5 percent), even though Canada has a statutory corporate income tax rate that is almost three times higher than the Irish rate. The US, with one of the highest corporate income tax rates in the world at 38.5 percent, collects only 2.9 percent of GDP in corporate tax revenue, less than in Canada where corporate income tax rates are lower. ...

As first order of business, Canadian and provincial governments should reduce corporate income taxes. This study recommends a 20 percent rate, uniformly applied to large and small businesses, to minimize distortions.

- 2007 Tax Competitiveness Report: a call for comprehensive tax reform. [my emphasis]"

The Wildrose Alliance would cut the provincial corporate rate to 8%, which together with Finance Canada's plans to cut its take to 15% by 2012, would would mean a combined rate of 23% in Alberta, slightly better than the current average of 24.2% in the European Union.

We know that the NDP is not interested in this sort of study. But the Liberals of Kevin Taft at least try to give the impression of being interested in this sort of debate. So where are they?

Real Tax Relief for Albertans part II

Under Kevin Lynch, probably the most influential man in Canada you've never heard of, the Federal Department of Finance did what it could as a part of the civil service to push for lower corporate taxes.

While it is true that the civil service is non-partisan, the fact remains that there are right and wrong answers to certain economic questions (or at least answers that are better supported by evidence and theory) and reductions of corporate taxes are now widely recognized as being amongst the most effective policies for stimulating economic growth.

The popular prejudice against corporations is overwhelming, and if the first policy I were to mention while meeting riding residents was a plan to reduce corporate taxes, I would be promptly tuned out. It is strange, in a way, because corporations don't get a vote, so how are politicians in their pocket? It is true that corporations donate to political campaigns, but both the PC and Liberal parties have received hundreds of thousands more in corporate donations than my party.

The fact of the matter is that there is little or no evidence that increases in corporate taxes are paid by the "rich". It is difficult to determine the extent to which suppliers, consumers, shareholders, and employees share the burden. Of particular note, however, is the fact that at the federal level, tax revenues from corporations have RISEN despite cuts in the nominal statutory rate. This may be due to the Laffer curve effect, where due to the law of diminishing returns, the incentivizing benefit of lower taxes outweighs the lower rate of taxation, and thus leading to a counterintuitive higher realization of tax revenue. See Iceland for an example. As an aside, I'll link to Wikipedia for a lot of this issues not because Wikipedia is an authoritative source but because it will provide some introduction without getting into the issue of which (non-Wikipedia) expert one should cite.

Now I'll turn the microphone over to Jack Mintz.

Friday, February 15, 2008

other Wildrose Alliance candidates

Krista Leddy, WA candidate in Edmonton Ellerslie, is also writing a blog. As a young mother, that fact alone will inform some of her perspectives just as my particular background will inform mine.

But if there is one thing that Krista and I have in common it is that we can pretty much comment on anything. I would surprised if the NDP, Liberal, and PC parties give free rein to their candidates to blog. Somebody, somewhere, is going to say something off message. One of these days Krista or I will say something that's going to alienate a swing voter. But the alternative is politician speak and do people really want that?

surveys of candidate opinions

Various groups (would it be prejudicial to call them "interest groups" or "lobbyists"?) send out surveys to candidates prior to an election and I've received several of them.

Although these surveys are supposed to help inform voters, I suggest voters view the results of the surveys with a critical eye.

In a survey I completed today, I was asked if I believed that
A. Market forces should decide the rate of oil sands development
B. Government should manage the rate of oil sands development to meet the long term interests of Albertans

What I happen to believe is that oil sands development should meet the long term interests of Albertans PERIOD. If the government does this best, then the government should do it. And, indeed, there are what economists call externalities such that market forces alone may fail to generate an efficient level of investment in environmental protection. Hence IF there is a negative externality and IF government acts in the interests of Albertans as opposed to the interests of government, then I'd choose B. But those are very big "if"s. Generally, free markets have done more for human welfare than governments ever have and I accordingly chose A. But choice A presumes the opposite, that the conditions of the "if"s are not satisfied, and my point is that they are open questions to be discussed. In sum, you can't squeeze all the complexities of public policy into a convenient pigeon hole.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

the campaign trail

Apparently another candidate, Liberal Laura Shutiak, has launched a blog. I'll link to her with the idea that perhaps other bloggers will link to me. It serves the interest of Albertans to be as informed as possible about their candidates. I don't know if Laura's blog is terribly informative, since so far it seems to be more about her personal experiences that what she thinks about rent controls, tax policies, encouraging innovation, the Heritage Fund, nuclear energy, or what you.

But it is ungracious to be critical and it may be interest to you all to hear some personal anecdotes from me on occasion as well.

This is my first campaign and door-knocking is truly an "all over the map" experience. You get people who
- peek at you through the dining room window and won't come to the door.
- don't speak English but invite you in anyway (fortunately, my French was good enough to keep a conversation going, albeit basic)
- try and hold a conversation through the glass
- make up some story to get rid of you
- tell me they are not going to consider anything but the PCs because they are "hard core, ex-military, do it all on my own" "conservatives" ???
- express surprise that there is an election coming
- say it is against their religion to vote
- ask me what I'm going to do about their back pain, if elected
- suggest we tax the oil sands companies according to the water they use (interesting idea, actually!)
- run into a competing candidate and hear him say he's simply with the party he is because one has to have a party to become MLA (full marks for non-partisanship, I suppose!)
- give you an enthusiastic, bubbly welcome and wish you all the best

Surprisingly, I have yet to hear someone tell me they are voting NDP or for Ray Martin. This in a riding where Ray Martin took 50% of the vote. I'm not sure what to make of that. Perhaps it's just where I've been so far. Or perhaps these are the people who give me the brush-off before we ever really get to talking.

If I had to generalize, I'd say the newer the building and / or the younger the person at the door, the better the reception I get. It IS a pain in the buttinski to not run for a party that doesn't have much money and can't help me out a whole lot financially. I have no brochure to give them, so if they don't have a computer (which seems to be rather often) what are they supposed to do? I should have some brochures by next week, however. People DO seem to appreciate I'm the candidate himself and not a campaign worker.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Real Tax Relief for Albertans part I

A Wildrose Alliance government would

- eliminate health care premiums within 30 days of being elected

- raise the basic personal exemption amount to $20 000

- cut the provincial corporate rate from 10% to 8%

- built the Heritage Trust Fund to the point where the investment revenue can replace personal tax revenue

These four principles, together with our call to restrain spending growth to levels more comparable to other Canadian jurisdictions (the P"C" govt is currently spending almost 40% more per person than big government Quebec), form the core of the Wildrose Alliance economic plan, and it is so defensible I believe even Paul Krugman, the most able and articulate of the "left leaning" economists (there aren't many), would approve of it.

The immediate elimination of health care premiums and the raising of the basic personal exemption amount would mean that an individual earning $21 000 a year would save $528 a year in health care premiums and $456.50 in taxes. That's $984.50.

Ladies and gentlemen, $1000 in savings makes a serious difference to someone making $21 000 a year. I know because I've been there. My first degree majored in philosphy (minor: ancient history) and after graduation employers weren't exactly beating down my door to give me a cushy job (I believe demand for philosophers follows a long wave Kondratiev cycle: every 2000 years everyone's got a have one on the payroll, but the late 1990s was not such a time!) I took a job at a sheet metal shop, and after faithfully showing up every weekday at 7 AM for a year I asked for and got a raise from $8 to $8.50 an hour. I'd totaled my car just a couple months after graduation and had to get a new one in order to get to work so had car payments on top of my rent to deal with. It wasn't easy. I couldn't even rustle up the $100 I needed to apply to Stanford Business School. If I had been certain to be admitted, then, yes, I could have begged for, borrowed, or stolen $100. But I didn't feel I could justify it if my probability of admission was 10%, and it wasn't until I got my GMAT score in March (too late for Stanford) that it become apparent my chances would have likely been better than 50% (I scored 770, or 99th percentile in the quant AND 99th percentile in the verbal).

All the above to say that another grand would have made a huge difference in my life. A bigger difference than anything the NDP has to offer. The Alberta NDP say they are going to take "big $$$" out of politics (except for union $$$, of course) and implement their green plan. I think back to when I was struggling financially and ask myself whether I would rather have those NDP promises or $1000 in hand and I don't think I'm unusual in picking the cash! Today, it isn't even an either/or, since free market supporting economists readily concede the need for government environment measures (an argument I'll get to later) and as for "big $$$", the politician in my riding who can't scrape enough money together to get his message out is most certainly not Ray Martin! I'd say I'm running my campaign out of the back of my car, except that I don't even have a car!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Comments welcome

Comment threads can so often turn into bickering, partisan, foul rants that I doubted it would raise the level of public discourse to enable such a forum, particularly when I'm a candidate. If Ed Stelmach had a blog that allowed anonymous comments it would surely be a gong show! However, apparently there IS another Alberta politician with comments turned on: Liberal David Swann in Calgary Mountain View. So behooves me to do one better and allow any and all comments.

As an aside, according to Swann he is "not allowed" to update his blog during the campaign, which can only mean that he can't blog without billing the Alberta taxpayer. Is there anything a Liberal politician can do without billing the taxpayer? Having said that, David Swann does appear to have a impressively powerful passion for social justice. I don't believe that passion actually ends up helping the disadvantaged; and to take an example of that I'd point to rent controls, something Swann advocates. The benefits and costs of rent controls are distributed arbitrarily, and are unsustainable in the long term, as economists can explain. But he's sensitive, which is worth a lot when acting a private citizen.

I may not respond to all comments. That does not mean your opinion is not valued and considered!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Reforming Government and Restoring Accountability

Some of the Liberal leaning bloggers like Calgarygrit have called enough attention to things like the P"C"s' use of the civil service for partisan purposes that I shouldn't have to. But fixed election dates constitute another item in this category that the Liberal and NDP parties, for unknown reasons, don't seem to be much interested in.

I have a lot of respect for Peter Lougheed, one of our most accomplished citizens and distinguished premiers. But I cannot agree with his position on fixed election dates. Last month Lougheed spoke to law students at the U of A:

I can remember a particular day, going into the legislature, where some civil servant in northwest Alberta, in the department there, fed dog food to a young child, And of course we're hit by that in the legislature.

Lougheed then said that he and the social services minister "had to come up to speed on an issue that could have hurt the prospects of a government facing re-election at the end of a fixed term," according to the Edmonton Journal.

Now I fully appreciate Lougheed's point that fixed election dates can prove inconvenient for the government. But that's precisely the point! Why should they inconvenience the opposition instead? The timing of this election has been enormously inconvenient for my party (despite being very discriminating about who we feed dog food to). So inconvenient, in fact, that Rob James' musing last fall that "perhaps we should sit this one out" may yet prove to be wise counsel.

But there's another public policy argument for fixed election dates and that's that a wider range of candidates can then run. As it stands now, only people who are prepared to suddenly drop everything are in a position to run. With fixed election dates, prospective candidates, campaign workers, and other interested parties could plan their affairs accordingly.


Apparently the Liberals do support fixed election dates. Interestingly, "Work towards equal representation of women and men in the Alberta Legislature," and "Work towards equal representation of women and men in the Legislative Assembly" are separate line items. That's what I call a fine distinction!

Our 5 point plan

- Reforming Government and Restoring Accountability
- Real Tax Relief for Albertans
- Investing in Communities
- Broadening Access to Healthcare
- Enhancing Education

I'll be addressing each of the points in turn to provide more detail.

the full Wildrose Alliance platform part II

I'll concede right now that if the secret of government is to protect it from the daily mob, someone hasn't told the Wildrose Alliance.

But I hope voters ask a few criticial questions when the attack dogs from the other parties, whose platforms were written in smoky backrooms and run through the spin-cycle of consultants and focus groups, shine their spotlights on a few choice planks. For one, is the Wildrose Alliance headlining that plank as well? Has the leader spoken on it? Is it a point in the party's 5 point plan? If not, do these shots raise the level of public discourse?

Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty has been demanding that the federal government subsidize Ontario's auto industry. This is an issue that affects Alberta since the money for this is obviously not coming from Ontario. Anyone waiting for Alberta's P"C" government to speak out for our province's interests, however, had better stopping holding their breath. But I digress. At issue here is whether the fundamental question of whether government should redistribute capital in the economy like this instead of the private sector was the headline ballot question of the last Ontario election or not.

If the people of Ontario had said, yes, we want the government to step in and take money from one part of the economy that is growing in order to prop up another part that is in decline, then fine, that's democracy. But the fact is that the Liberal party's corporate welfare policies were hardly on the radar screen last election. Rather, it was religious schools. John Tory wrong-footed himself on the issue of public funding for sectarian schools and so the Liberal party "changed the channel" to that narrow point and at the end of the day Ontarians got a government whose agenda features soliciting handouts for big business, and not just big business, but big failing business. Ever heard of the phrase "throwing good money after bad?" I guess if its Alberta's money, Ontarians weren't quite so ill served. But I wonder if the citizens of that province got the public policy debate that they really wanted.

the full Wildrose Alliance platform part I

In the post below I'm trying to get a little goodnatured dig in at Mr Flanagan, but don't get me wrong here. Even if I find Mr Flanagan's theories about taxation a little dubious, fact is he's published some stuff. Not in an referreed academic journal perhaps, but published nonetheless, and I'm more impressed with a politician who has expressed a position on 1000 issues, a dozen of which are questionable, than a politician who has a position on just 10 uncontroversial issues.

If you are too scared to put a foot wrong, then don't go anywhere!

The Wildrose Alliance isn't scared. We've got our full platform on our website, and the odds of any given reader being in 100% agreement with every single plank is exceedingly low. Fact is, I voted against the inclusion of a number of them at our last convention. But the other fact is that I had a chance to propose planks, speak on them, and vote on them. If I don't like one of them, is the solution to go to another party where any policy convention for ordinary members is purely for show? I believe the platform is largely from the Wildrose side of the Wildrose Alliance, and the Wildrose Party was so small last year that I doubt that there were much more than 100 voters present at the last policy convention. Instead of expecting the party to subtract someone else's voice, why not add your own?

why the Liberals can't cut your taxes

... people may work less, or save and invest less if taxes go down because it is easier to attain a desired amount of wealth.
-Calgary Liberal candidate Greg Flanagan

and we all know we can't have that! I mean, people getting so rich they not only stop working, they stop investing too! My fellow Albertans, a Wildrose Alliance government will worry about that problem once we get there and not before!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Leaders Debate will be Thursday, Feb 21

The leaders of the NDP, P"C", Liberal, and Wildrose Alliance parties will be sharing the stage a week from this coming Thursday.

I met Paul Hinman for the first time yesterday, and my impression of him was largely in line with what one would garner from the Calgary Herald article of this weekend.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

what happened to the Heritage Fund anyway?

Short answer:
The Progressive "Conservative" govt blew it, and is blowing it, on consumption. And I'm not the only one to have issues with the spending spree:

[Albertans] want a government that's going to deal with the basics instead of of spending, spending, spending
- Alberta Liberal leader, 24 Jan 2008

... with all the spending they've been doing, I don't think the budget is going to be pretty.
- NDP MLA, 24 Jan 2008

When even the Liberals and the NDP are raising their eyebrows at the spending, one wonders how long our P"C" supporters can remain in denial about their party's addiction to big government.

But even if the government contributions were anemic, wouldn't the fund's natural growth have made it larger than it is?

Sadly, not only were contributions anemic, but your Progressive "Conservative" govt added insult to injury by frequently raiding our long term nest egg to fund current spending.

Which brings us to the Wildrose Alliance's platform:

A Wildrose Alliance Government will limit withdrawals from the Heritage Savings and Trust Fund for government purposes by requiring authorization via a binding referendum on all such withdrawals.

A Wildrose Alliance Government will institute a policy of depositing a set percentage of government natural resource income each year into the Heritage Savings and Trust Fund.

A Wildrose Alliance Government will build up the value of the Heritage Savings and Trust Fund with the goal of using a portion of the interest earned by the fund to eliminate Alberta personal income taxes.

Monday, February 4, 2008

some statistics for today

line 1: Name of sovereign wealth fund
line 2: year founded
line 3: value per citizen(2007)

Abu Dhabi Investment Authority

Qatar Investment Authority

Govt of Singapore Investment Corp

GP Fund of Norway

Alaska Permanent Fund

Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund
less than $5K

It shouldn't surprise anyone that Alberta's current consumer inflation rate is well in excess of Norway's given our government's relative propensity for consume, should it...

your Wildrose Alliance candidate for Beverly - Clareview

I'm running under the Wildrose Alliance banner in the north-east Edmonton riding of Beverly - Clareview. Election day is March 3!

The NDP won the riding with more than 50% of the vote in 2004, as the PCs managed just less than 30% and the Liberals 11%. In 2001, however, the NDP polled less than 20%, with the Liberals more than 30% and the PCs more than 45%.

Although this is my first run for public office, I have an extensive background in public policy, having worked as an economist in the Financial Markets Division of Finance Canada during the tenures of Ministers Martin, Manley, Goodale, and Flaherty. I have a MBA and a law degree from the University of Alberta, as well as a Master of European Affairs from Lund University in Sweden. I enjoy travelling, having lived in Paris and Leipzig as well as Sweden and having visted more than 50 countries.