Monday, December 21, 2009

Alberta govt plays anti-Ottawa card again

While BC and Ontario have tried to work with federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's department on tax issues, Alberta and Quebec are trying to be as obstructionist as possible with respect to another Finance Canada initiative, namely, a national securities regulator.

I've discussed this topic before, so suffice to say that what we are seeing from the Alberta government is protectionist sentiment dressed up as putting Alberta first. It is a page from the playbook of the crowd who condemn free trade at every turn on the basis that it erodes Canadian sovereignty.

If one asks "ordinary" Albertans whether they believe securities should be regulated by Alberta or by Ottawa, of course they are going to say Alberta. It's like Canada ceding power to the UN, right? In fact, a better analogy would be the WTO, whereby governments understand that giving up the right to regulate a globalized market unilaterally is in everyone's interest. And the people to ask here are Alberta-based issuers and investors in primary offerings. The overwhelming majority of us trade on the secondary market (if we play the market at all), dependent upon a developed primary market which few of us have a close knowledge of.

On an unrelated note, how did Ken Chapman become an authority on the Wildrose Alliance? Chapman continues to insist that "Danielle Smith's Wildrose Alliance Party has deep roots in social conservativism and religious fundamentalism." Now perhaps Paul Hinman's Alberta Alliance Party had such roots. But I am at a total loss as to what Chapman's source could possibly be for what he actually said. I've been to multiple Wildrose or Wildrose Alliance AGMs and social conservative policy planks have come up again and again for a general vote and failed to be adopted by the membership. As for the leader, after an extended, wide-ranging conversation with Danielle it became apparent to me that she would not give any "dog whistle" signals to social conservatives whether she wanted to or not because she doesn't hail from that background. I asked an associate who was privy to this same interaction what his primary impression was and he said plainly, "she's not one of us [social conservatives]." What Danielle does come across as is someone who is unusually (for a politician) interested in listening, including listening to social conservatives. This is not the same as appearing to social conservatives as someone who naturally identifies with them. If I introduced her to a Promise Keepers or Alpha course group she would be well-received and in turn feel quite comfortable but her previous experience with these sort of groups would be limited.

I accordingly have to call Chapman out here and say bull****. He is misrepresenting the Wildrose Alliance as some sort of stalking horse for legislating morality, which would not be an issue were it not for the fact that the media continues to quote him as an authority. It happened with SEE Magazine and most recently with the Edmonton Journal, which cites Chapman in order to claim that Wildrose practices "old-style, top-down, party politics." There may indeed be a character or two inclined to pursue a "top-down" approach when possible, but when it comes to the leader if she has any fault it is that she is not inclined enough to practice "old-style, top-down, party politics." Again, it's a highly misleading picture that is being painted. The party has some political weaknesses that will need to be worked on, but Chapman missed the mark completely with his assertions about what those weaknesses are.

Chapman's baseless hostility should at least lay to rest one argument I've seen employed against inviting non-partisan academics to address the Wildrose membership, which is that people invited to speak to Wildrose members or host seminars need to be people connected to the party or otherwise friendly. In October Chapman was invited to give a seminar to Wildrosers on the use of social media, but if he is Wildrose-friendly (never mind a member) I can only wonder what an enemy would look like!


Ken Chapman said...

Good post as always Brian. I am no expert on the Wildrose Alliance. Nobody is. Because we are so uncertain as to what the WAP stands for. It has been a busy time for hte WAP and I have great admiration or its political successes so far. But now it is a contender so the openness, accountability and integrity concerns start to get some serious focus.

We don't know where the WAP wants to go, that hard work is being done now at the local constituency and policy development efforts as we all know. From what I know, and it is all founding principles of the founding parties, I am commenting based mostly on the social conservative history of the two merged parties.

I see nothing new on the ground, even with new leadership, to change those perceptions. In fact
for Daniele Smith to say she will not discuss publically any social conservative issues because they are "divisive" tells me the leopard has not changed its spots.

Keep up the good work. Always like to read you.

Anonymous said...

If a security regulator is needed at all -- its not, in a genuine free market, investments are subject to caveat emptor and contract law -- we need a competitive environment.

The last thing we need is an out of touch, top heavy securities regulator for, by, and about the Axis of Evil (Ottawa - Toronto - Montreal).

For Alberta and the West to mature as economies and, more importantly, to engage the growing investor class and capital of Asia Pacific, we need to be free to offer the most open capital market and the most accountable supervision of same.

It is my sincerest hope WAP will embrace the necessity of maintaining the provinces' constitutional right to this turf. In fact, Maxime Bernier was a big part of creating Quebec's defence to same.

As far as Chapman goes, I applaud you having called him out on his petty and wilfully inaccurate characterization of WAP -- his response to your post does nothing to mitigate his foolishness.

Anonymous said...

I was talking to Rob Anders the other day and he made a good point. I want to hear more hard core conservative policies from the WAP like totally abolishing PDD funding. Only then will we have a truly conservative party here.

Brian Dell said...

With respect to the need for a regulator, see this Washington Post article from March 2007:

Eight years ago, Forbes magazine described Vancouver as the "scam capital of the world." Authorities have cleaned up some of that and closed the largely unregulated Vancouver Stock Exchange, which did a Wild West trade in problem stocks. But Baines said the legacy remains. ...

When the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced "Operation Spamalot" this month, stopping trading of 35 companies at the center of spam e-mail promotions, one-third of them had connections to British Columbia...

Authorities here estimate that 500 of approximately 4,000 companies traded on the U.S. over-the-counter bulletin board and another penny stock listing service called the "Pink Sheets" can be traced back to Vancouver and British Columbia. The companies variously claim to have huge car inventories, hot mining prospects, technological breakthroughs, medical miracles, valuable real estate and other exciting assets, which often are inflated in value or nonexistent. ...

Anonymous said...
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jay said...

The social conservative label seems like a stalking horse for WRA's corporate agenda. It would be nice to know how much of Danielle Smith's secret funding base is Big Oil.

Anonymous said...

The only reason I joined the Wildrose Alliance is that it is a social conservative party much like the Reform party was under Manning in the 80's and 90's. It will succeed on this basis because Albertans are socially conservative and are not represented by the liberal-light, pro-gay marriage, pro-abortion Regressive Conservatives who have outlived their usefulness after 40 years.