Member Statement on the 2012 Fall Session.

The end of the Fall Session is fast approaching. It has been one of the most acrimonious in recent history. The government is threatening to end the session early, by invoking closure. It is doing so because it can no longer face opposition scrutiny of its actions. Indeed, the legislature has become dysfunctional. This is not because of “opposition antics” as some would suggest, but because the government has thwarted legitimate debate and questioning. It has raised avoiding accountability to a fine art.

Questions about illegal election donations are not answered, and when complaints are made to the Chief Electoral Officer, investigations are kept secret, along with any findings or penalties that might be imposed. The government’s so-called reforms will shroud any offenses more than three years old in permanent secrecy, including several high-profile cases. Questions about potential conflicts of interest have been ignored or prevented outright. The answers that are given contradict documentary evidence, with no repercussions.

Vital election finance legislation has been drafted with no input from the political parties directly affected, except of course the Progressive Conservatives. The Chief Electoral Officer provided advice directly to the government but not to opposition MLAs, despite his mandate as an officer of the Legislature.

The Whistleblower Protection Act does more to protect the government from whistleblowers than the other way around. All 29 opposition amendments to Bill 4 were defeated, many with no one from the government even getting up to speak. Opposition parties have so far presented 106 amendments to government legislation, and the government has voted down all but 2.

From the outset of the fall session, the government has pushed legislation through the assembly, regularly sitting past midnight. Finally, the government has put a motion forward to impose closure on Bill 7, a critically important piece of legislation affecting the financing of provincial and municipal elections. If the government limits debate to 2 hours in committee and 2 hours at third reading, they ensure that many opposition amendments cannot even be made, and that debate is severely limited.

The government’s arrogance and disdain for the democratic traditions of the Legislative Assembly have predictably generated much frustration on the part of opposition MLAs. This government has set the tone, but civility can be restored if the government begins to show more respect for the Assembly and the public it represents.

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Before the Debate …

As I prepare for the Leaders Debate tonight, my thoughts are on the issues that matter to ordinary Albertans.

In this election Albertans have a choice – they can vote for conservative parties that keep Alberta’s wealth for their CEO and lobbyist friends, or New Democrats and our vision to makeAlberta’s prosperity work for everyone. 

This election for me and for the New Democrats has been all about showing Albertans that it’s possible to see our prosperity benefit everyone.

I believe that if we act to make sure thatAlberta’s wealth belongs to each and every Albertan:

  • we can provide quality publicly delivered health care
  • deliver affordable electricity
  • help young Albertans succeed
  • sustain a clean, healthy environment, and
  • make oil sands prosperity work for all Albertans by getting a fair return on our     resources.

The Conservative government has been in power for half a lifetime.  And the people of Alberta in this election have clearly been saying that’s too long.  But as all Albertans think about how to move our province forward, we can’t look to the Wildrose Party. 

Neither of these conservative parties can be trusted with our essential public services, with our health care, our education, or with our environment. Instead, they’re committed to looking for opportunities for their friends in the boardrooms to make a profit.  That means privatized healthcare, cuts to services, and unfairly low taxes for the wealthiest Albertans and corporations, and the lowest royalties in the world. 

The Alberta New Democrats is the party that’s committed to strengthening public health care, delivering electricity that is affordable for families, helping young Albertans succeed in and out of the classroom, maintaining our environment, and ensuring that the resource wealth from our oil sands benefits all Albertans.  We want Alberta to be a place where ordinary people and working and middle-income families are important again. 

Our platform makes a difference for ordinary in every corner and community in this province. It’s a plan that’s focused on improving the everyday lives of ordinary people, not benefitting people of one ideology or another. 

There’s such momentum building behind the New Democrats in this election.  And I’m excited about what April 23 will bring. 

I believe that Alberta belongs to all of us.  And that’s what the Alberta New Democrats will fight for every day in the next four years.

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An Open letter to Albertans

My fellow Albertans,

Our publicly funded and publicly delivered healthcare system and the principle of universal access to quality care have come under attack in this election.

Albertans, like all Canadians, place great value on the idea that all citizens deserve the best possible care, regardless of income or status. Stories of families losing homes to pay for medical bills are not limited to the United States. Many older Canadians can still recall the same thing happening right here in Canada.

It is almost incomprehensible that some people want to lead us back to those days. Yet recent proposals of Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Party do just that. The creation of a two-tier private health system, where wealthy individuals can pay to get better treatment, and get it sooner, is the foot in the door for American-style private healthcare. Allowing taxpayers money to be used to subsidize preferential, private health care just adds insult to injury.

We can’t count on Allison Redford’s PCs to stand up for public healthcare. In fact, the Conservatives have created chaos in our health system through constant reorganizations and repeated attempts to introduce more privatization.

They mislead voters about their real intentions before elections, only to reveal new health care “reforms” after being safely re-elected. Remember Ralph Klein’s “Third Way” plan for two-tier private health care after the 2004 election? Or the bed closures and nurse layoffs of Ron Liepert’s disastrous corporate style reorganization after the 2008 election?

Allison Redford wants to hand new senior’s care facilities over to private developers who will charge seniors more for daily living costs. She is careful to say that the Conservatives stand for “publicly funded” health care, but what she means is taxpayer support for private, for-profit health services. We just can’t trust the Conservatives to stand up for public healthcare.

In this election, the future of our healthcare system is on the line. What the Wildrose is publicly proclaiming they will do, the Conservatives will continue to try to accomplish by stealth.

Publicly funded, publicly delivered healthcare produces the best outcomes, at the lowest
cost, of any system. It also ensures fairness and equity in access to health services, something that’s critically important to Albertans. Properly funded and run, it is still the best health care system in the world. Join me in standing up for public health care, part of our heritage as Albertans and Canadians.

Yours sincerely,

Brian Mason
Leader, Alberta’s New Democrats

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Seniors deserve better!

A few weeks ago, I talked with Bev Munro, a long-term care patient at the Edmonton General Hospital. She is a woman in her 60s that gets around in a wheelchair. She spent her life working on construction sites, and she still doesn’t mince words. So when she said she’d be better off living in a ditch, she got my attention.

Of course, she was trying to make a point. A warm and comfortable place to live and be cared for is what she really wants. It’s what Alberta seniors deserve. But instead, the Conservatives have left our seniors out in the cold.

The common room on Bev’s ward is covered in tarps. So are parts of the hallways. The roof is leaking, and taking the elevator risks being trapped behind doors that won’t open.

This isn’t the kind of life people plan on when they get older. We want to know we’ll be well cared for. But the Conservatives have left us with a seniors care system that’s understaffed, underfunded, and has long waiting lists. And what is their answer? To invite private developers to build for-profit facilities, with seniors and their families paying far more for reduced levels of care.

Many families can’t afford these fees. Some family members even quit jobs to provide needed care for aged or chronically ill parents. This is unacceptable, especially in a province as well off as Alberta. We can, and must, take care of the people who raised us and who built this province. Under a New Democratic Party government, we will make it so.

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About to get started …

During the last four years, the NDP Opposition has fought for the priorities of ordinary Albertans, against a government that seems more interested in protecting the interests of large corporations, and in holding on to power at all costs. Our priorities include protecting public health care, ensuring quality accessible education, providing safe and affordable care for seniors, and affordable electricity prices. We want to ensure that Albertans get full value on the royalties for the resources we own together, and that we process these resources here in Alberta to maximize jobs for us and for future generations. Alberta belongs to all of us, not just the very wealthy.

The past four years have seen a number of victories for our caucus. The NDP caucus has successfully campaigned for restoration of the $110 million cut to the education budget, the increase in AISH payments to the disabled, an independent Children’s Advocate to stand up for children in government care, improved water monitoring in the oil sands, and fixed election dates, to name but a few.

Rachel Notley and I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve the public. Alberta is a wonderful place to live, and we believe it can be even better. Thank you.

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Christmas Curry (a non-political post)

One of my favourite non-political activities is cooking Indian food. Not that I usually have much time for it, but the holidays provide an opportunity. Facing the traditional post-Christmas fare of leftover turkey, I decided to experiment with a little holiday fusion, substituting turkey in my standard chicken curry recipe. I was pleasantly surprised by the result, so for those that still have turkey left in the fridge, here’s my recipe for Curried Turkey with Cranberry Rice.

3 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 inch piece of ginger, grated

1 tbsp Madras curry powder

1/4 tbsp paprika

1/4 tbsp garam masala

1/2 – 1 lb of leftover turkey, cut up

1 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup brown mushrooms, sliced

1/4 cup coriander (cilantro)

1 cup basmati rice

1/2 cup cranberries, chopped

 

Turkey

In a large frying pan, heat oil over medium-high heat; cook onions for 1-2 minutes until softened. Add garlic, ginger and the spices. Cook, stirring, for one minute. Add turkey. Slowly add 1 cup of water, stirring, until it boils. Turn down heat and simmer, stirring regularly. After about 10 minutes add the frozen peas and the mushrooms. Cover and continue simmering while you make the rice. Add more water as needed.

Rice

In a small sauce pan, bring the cranberries to a boil in 1 cup of water. Cook about 5 minutes or until the cranberries are soft and the water is a nice shade of pink. Strain the cranberries. Save 1/4 cup of the cooking water.

Cook the rice according to the instructions on the package. When adding water to the rice, substitute 1/4 cup of the cranberry cooking water. After removing the rice from the heat, sprinkle the cranberries on top, and let sit, covered, according the instructions. Prior to serving, stir the cranberries into the rice.

Garnish with coriander.

This is recipe is pretty mild to my taste, so if you want a little more heat, increase the curry powder and the paprika. I like to serve Indian food with Nan bread. I buy it frozen, and fry it in a large cast iron frying pan, with olive oil and a little butter. Brown it on both sides, then squeeze dry with a paper towel. Enjoy with a glass of Gewurztraminer. Tinhorn Creek in the Okanagan makes a nice one.

Cheers!

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Crude comments from the media.

Bitumen is not crude oil. Bitumen must be upgraded into synthetic crude, after which it can be further refined into gasoline, diesel, motor oil and so on. The Keystone XL pipeline expansion is intended to carry bitumen for upgrading and refining in the US. This is worth noting because media stories (CBC, Calgary Herald to name just a couple) are regularly referring to the XL line as a “crude oil” pipeline. It’s not.

It’s important because Peter Loughheed, the Canadian Energy and Paperworkers Union, the Alberta Federation of Labour and the Alberta NDP amoung others, are calling for the upgrading of bitumen at least to synthetic crude before being exported. And if people are given the wrong information about what the pipeline is intended to carry, they can’t be expected to understand critical aspects of the issue.

Upgrading bitumen requires considerable investment and creates a significant number of permanent jobs – good jobs. It is this investment and jobs that will be lost to the US if Keystone XL is built. This part of the story is being ignored.

Media seems to want to boil this down to a simple environment vs. jobs story, but there is another important dimension to the debate. By failing to report on this issue completely and accurately, they do a disservice to their audience.

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