Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Living With Falling Oil

By now it's no secret that the declining price of oil and introduced a certain level of economic uncertainly as we close out the year.  I won't pretend to be an expert on the economics of it all but for the curious I will say that while I find it concerning and I find myself paying careful attention to it these days, I'm not overly worried or freaking out things.  I can only give the perspective of one person working in the heart of Canada's oil patch here.  Work has slowed down in recent weeks but part of that was due of course to the Christmas holiday.  I try to keep my nose to ground and ask my higher ups for their take on things.

I'm not freaking out for a number of reasons.  Firstly of course, that doesn't really help anything and mitigates clear thinking.  I know in my trade here I'm fortunate in that as it is tied in to maintenance, it's important to the overall functioning of the plant.  Oftentimes scaffolding is needed for many of the other trades to do their jobs.  Things will pick up again in the spring as they always do with shutdowns and as a co-worker succinctly, if inelegantly, phrased it "Shit here always breaks."  So, while there might not necessarily be tons of work to do, there will always be something.

Also, while it can be expensive to live here, I seem to do ok.  Certainly there were time in the past when I was much worse off so having that sense of perspective is rather helpful.  I find that I'm just not in to buying tons of consumer goods beyond what I need for my day to day living.  I suppose I'm a marketing team's worst night mare.  It's not that I'm overly frugal or anything like that but I just don't like to be burdened down with tons of useless crap I don't really need.  I know that as an apprentice tradesman owning his own house here in Fort McMurray that that does make me a bit of an anomaly but I'll admit I take pride in that.

While having tenants can be tedious at times, in a town that is often stereotyped as a place people go to make a quick few buck before quickly leaving again, I've been fortunate to have some long-term tenants in place.  I know I could easily charge more than what I do but it has led to a level of stability that makes budgeting so much easier and I'll take that over gouging people any day.  Trading a few dollars for consistency works for me.

And finally of course, I don't worry to the point of paralysis because I know the region has gone through this before.  Housing prices were still recovering after the last bout of economic uncertainly in 2008 shortly before I moved here and things bounced back.  That's just the nature of a commodity-driven industry and you have to be able to adjust and roll with the punches.  People I know who have lived here much longer than I have don't seem to be freaking out.

Like more than a few Canadians this morning, I woke up, had my morning coffee and eagerly anticipate watching Canada's junior hockey squad square off against the US this afternoon.  Things still seem pretty normal.  Have a happy New Year everyone!


Monday, December 22, 2014

Double Cross

I've been wanting to blog about the recent changes to the political landscape here but its so bizarre that I'm still trying to wrap my head around it all.  Of course I'm talking about a recent decision on the part of Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, along with eight fellow MLA's to quit the Opposition and join the government.  I'm confident that on a per capita basis at least, Alberta politicians must lead the country in terms of "crossing the floor".  Yes, you guess correctly.  It's all left me rather cynical.

Included in the group of defectors is Rob Anderson, who initially crossed the floor from the PC's to Wildrose in 2010.  I suppose this move makes him a "double crosser".  Crossing isn't exactly new.  Winston Churchill even engaged in this.  But Anderson is hardly Churchill and I still find the practice distasteful regardless of my political leanings.  Perhaps the best solution is to simply make the practice illegal as Manitoba did in 2006.

Smith has labelled this gutting of the first real effective opposition the province has had in some time as a "victory for Wildrose" but my guess is that the more than 450 000 Albertans who voted for her party in 2012 may feel a bit differently.  It's simple political opportunism.  If you go in to a store to get something you expect to be given what you pay for.  It's a simple concept but one apparently lost on many a politician today.

Wildrose announced today that Heather Forsyth would be taking over the reigns as interim leader.  And of course Foryth is also a "floor crosser" herself, having changed from the PC's to Wildrose.  Argh.  It can all be pretty frustrating.  As for the Liberal Party, which now finds itself tied with 5 seats in the Legislature with Wildrose...well it's leader, used to be a PC.  To be fair though, he was given the boot from the PC caucus (as was our former MLA here, Boutillier) and sat as an Independent prior to becoming Liberal leader.  At any rate, we now have to Opposition parties who are now led by former PC's who will now chastise the government over this latest round of floor crossing.  It's all enough to make a person tear their hair out.

At any rate, it will be interesting to see how the government will now manage with nine new MLA's (12 really, given that 3 other WRP MLA's crossed the floor prior to this mass defection) who were just weeks earlier criticizing the very government that they are now a part of.  And since I'm at it, I suppose I can mention Rimbey-RockyMountain House-Sundre MLA Joe Anglin who quit the government to sit as an Independent and Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Mike Allen who pled guilty to soliciting undercover officers for sex, was booted out of government to sit as an Independent and then allowed back into the PC caucus via a secret vote this past July.

I've heard speculation of a possible spring election, well in advance of 2016.  All in the interest of looking out for Albertans I'm sure.

Wouldn't it be great this Christmas to have politicians with an actual spine and some integrity who will actually look out for Albertans rather than just themselves??

Friday, December 5, 2014

Alberta Schools and GSA's

With the controversy and dialogue that has emerged recently with the debate over the Alberta government's Bill 10 I thought I'd weigh in with some thoughts of my own.  Anytime you decide to mix politics and education issues you are bound to get a storm it seems.  I should start out by saying that I believe strongly in GSA's and that the Bill in its current form is utter garbage.  (For a timeline of how exactly we got into this trainwreck, this post here provides a good overview of events.)   In its original form, Bill 10 would allow students who wanted to form a GSA, but whose school boards refused, the right to appeal to the provincial human rights commission.  Yes, apparently, in this day and age, some politicians feel one must ask another group or body for some basic rights to do something.  Sad.  An amendment to the bill would have allowed students in this situation to appeal or the right to form a GSA to the Education Minister instead.  One can only imagine if that homophobe Jeff Johnston still held the education portfolio.  This amendment in my view places too much power in the hands of a single individual.  And while I'm not that familiar with our new Education Minister (as he is still new to his post) and I'm sure he is a step up from the last train wreck we had, I find the notion of placing the final decision in the hands of a single individual rather abhorrent.  In the end for me, it all boils down to issues of liberty.  If Catholic school boards are going to fight this tooth and nail, I say, fine.  Don't accept our tax money.  It's NOT your money.  It's OUR money.  Kindly, do not use my money to advance intolerant views and perpetuate the stereotype of Albertans as a bunch of regressive hicks. If you want to have your own school system and call the shots, fair enough.  I'm actually in support of that.  Just DO NOT expect me to pay for it.

Thankfully the new premier has grown a brain and decided to put the bill on hold  for further consultations.  While this will inevitably delay things, its certainly better than passing the Bill in its current form.  I've spent the last couple of days sifting the many arguments against the formation of GSA's through my head.  They really should put logic and rhetoric back in to the education system because many of the counter-arguments I've heard out there are simply facile and ridiculous.  Easy enough to mock but I won't do that here because I want to keep a serious focus on an important issue.

I suppose its easy for some politicians to downplay or ignore students who want to form such groups but really, it won't be too long before these students can vote.   Hopefully we won't have to wait that long before we get some action on this issue.  I would urge all our MLA's to think this issue through carefully and vote cautiously.   (I should add that it appears that our own MLA appears to be in support of GSA's.)  LISTEN to what STUDENTS want.  Because there is an election here in the next couple of years.  Many current students will be old enough to vote.  They WILL remember.