Thursday, September 30, 2004

Reveal Thyself!

Many of you have asked me who Kaitlyn is. Well, what can I say about Kaitlyn? She's a random crackpot who links to people's blogs.


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

You know the way to stop me,
But you don't have the discipline

So, Michael Cooper responded to my e-mail with admirable promptness. His reply:

Please refer to my brochure in which I identify "4 key issues for St.
Albert". I think that should satisfy your interest.

Best regards,

Michael Cooper

(His brochure did not satisfy my interest. I suspect that I'll not be voting for him.)

In other news, the sparsity of posts recently has been partly due to this, as soon to be seen in the Saint City News (unless that guy was lying to me).

You loved me as a loser,
But now you're worried that I just might win



Tuesday, September 21, 2004

I hate young people

Hot on the heels of today's interview with Canada Now about another blog to which I contribute, I arrived home this evening to find that our household had received its first piece of campaign literature, from none other than noted twenty year old dogmatic twit and candidate for St. Albert Council Michael Cooper.

Sitting on my place, the flyer had two lines highlighted by my sister: "committed to the completion of the western bypass by 2006", and "work to ensure that green spaces are protected and enhanced". She also attached to it a Post It note, reading "I have concluded that Michael Cooper is a stupid poop head." While my initial inclination would certainly be to agree (on the basis of past experience), I've decided to give him the opportunity to respond to the following e-mail:

Dear Mr. Cooper,

I am a St. Albert voter. Having seen you in action on a few different occasions during the last few years, I have always had the impression that you would rather recite the policy of the Conservative Party (formerly the Canadian Alliance) than actually do any thinking on your own.

Later on, once I manage to accumulate contact information for many more candidates, I will be sending out an e-mail with some questions specific to municipal politics. In the meantime, however, I would like to give you the opportunity to refute my first impressions of you. With that in mind, would you name, say, three areas on which you disagree with Conservative Party policy? Please note that I don't particularily care about what these are, because this isn't a federal election; rather, I'm only trying to ascertain whether or not you have any positions that are distinct from Conservative Party policy.

Finally, please note that I will consider anything you write in response to be public.


Steve Smith

In other news, the mayoral race in St. Albert has expanded to five. In addition to previously-announced candidates Richard Plain (incumbent), Paul Chalifoux (Plain's predecessor, defeated in 2001), and Lynda Moffat (current Councillor, elected under the slogan "Moffat Means It"), Dave Burkhart and John Smith entered the fray as nomination day surprises. The latter will be familiar to regular readers of my municipal politics posts (Ha! I wish!) as the fellow who announced in 2001 that he was running for alderman, didn't put up any signs, missed the forum, and finished a distant fifteenth - apparently, he decided that the time is now ripe for a run at the top job. Burkhart's a little more intriguing - he's been a prominent and active opponent of the West Road and marijuana criminalization. He'd be a longshot (he's one of a group that includes Elke Blodgett and Stuart Loomis who are widely perceived as being bitter and unwilling to accept that they've lost), but in a race with three very credible pro-road candidates, maybe a vote split. . . nah, who am I kidding? Besides, he'll probably get my vote, which is the kiss of death.


Monday, September 20, 2004

The French Connection

Zita Dubé has started a blog! Three months ago! And has posted on it thrice! Awesome!

In other news Mark Jess and Scott Abbey have each been given time off my "Missing and Presumed Dead" section for good behaviour, in this case good behaviour amounting to updating their blogs. Welcome back to the world of the living, gents.

I can forgive many things; the lack of a sense of irony is not among them

Oh dear.

The real reason Bush is unfit to govern

He can't even hire somebody to make a proper flash game.

(Whenever you click "Against", even if that's the right answer, it tells you that it's actually the wrong answer. Flip flops, indeed.)


Sunday, September 19, 2004

Everybody knows the war is over,
Everybody knows the good guys lost

So, since my last update on St. Albert municipal politics, the number of candidates for St. Albert Aldertype has increased to a whopping seventeen, making this election still more hotly contested than the affair of three years ago, when there were fifteen such candidates. Combined with three mayoral candidates, this means that there are, as yet, twenty people announced for the October election.

What, you ask (unconsciously reciting this blog's title), is the point of this story? Well, of these twenty candidates, guess how many are advocating even revisiting the question of the West Road's location? Two - Bob Russell and Frances Badrock. This issue, sadly, has been resolved. We lost.


Saturday, September 18, 2004

The Return of the King

How did I know it was time to return to blogging? Consider the following exchange between Students' Union Chief Returning Officer Dane Bullerwell and I over Webboard (Dane, I know you never gave me permission to publish these conversations, but I think there's a valuable lesson at play here - to wit, I'm an unscrupulous weasel), in reference to my continued use of the word "Webboard" in place of "the Webboard":

Dane: I think we need a policy about the usage of definite articles before nouns.
Steve: The ommission is deliberate. Webboard is a proper noun. Webboard is my girlfriend. Why would I attach a definite article to my girlfriend, Dane?
Dane: Steve, I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but... Webboard dumped you. She left last July, while you were cheating on her with Blog. I suggest you pay more attention to Blog, or the same thing is going to happen.

Yes, indeed, it's time that I pay more attention to those things that matter to me in life. The only question was whether I should title this entry Make haste in getting the words right, and I'll tell you what's on my mind, or Just when you thought I couldn't get any cooler, I reveal to you my secret love for Finnish folk fiddling.

Since the above paragraph probably made sense to a total of two of my readers, and only partial sense to each of them, I will close with something we can all appreciate - Roman gets burnt by the Provost!

So the situation is this: Roman and I are walking through SUB last Friday evening, and we stumble across the post-event reception for the Celebration of Teaching and Learning, featuring University Vice President (Academic) and Provost Carl Amrhein (who clearly, despite once claiming before General Faculties Council that he and I had "crossed swords on pretty well every issue that's come up this year", had no idea who I was). The following hilarity ensued:

Roman: So, Celebration of Teaching and Learning, eh? I was at one of these things eight years ago.
Carl: That would have been the first one ever.

Carl: You know you can't get tenure here as a student, right Roman?

In other news, those of you who haven't already started reading it should make your way over to Super Fun Happy Amazing Hour!!! In Crisis!. It features cats.


Thursday, September 09, 2004

My One Hundred and Seventy-Sixth Post

Important: my e-mail address, for those foolish folk who believe that there are methods of successfully communicating with me besides my comments section, has changed to sarcasticidealist@gmail.com. My MSN Messenger account remains steve.smith@ualberta.ca.

Go Team Journalistic Fuckwit!

So the St. Albert Gazette, at the end of a story announcing that Curtis Stewart and Doug Ritzen won't seek re-election, states that "there are now 12 candidates for the six aldermanic seats" which, if you're counting, represents a fifty percent increase in the number since their last report, on Saturday. I search the whole issue, though, and nary a mention to be found of these four new candidates.

I love how my blog is now the world's most reliable news source for St. Albert election coverage.


Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Advertise your stuff for sale here! Hockey cards, cars, houses etc.

You ever wonder what happened to former Marijuana Party candidate for Edmonton-Strathcona Dave Dowling? Me neither. But I was talking to Paul Welke today, and wouldn't you know it, he's running for Mayor (Dave is, I mean; Paul's running for Councilor)!

Dowling's campaign site is one of the most beautiful and unintentionally hilarious things that I have ever seen. Consider, for example, the post by his campaign manager on his discussion forums entitled Dave makes spelling mistakes! Lots of them!. Actually, read the forums in their entirety - they're all pretty good. Or consider his flyer, in Word format, which courteously underlines in green all of its grammatical errors. Or his photo page. Or his rants page.

Oh, what the hell: I'd vote for him.

Back in Hack

I made my return to Webboard today.

It's good to be back on campus.


Monday, September 06, 2004

The Ballad of the Courtesy Clerk

Now gather round me, those with ready ear,
Gather round me, to a story hear
Gather round me, to my tale receive
About a depressed economy and an unemployed hero named Steve.

His resume out to employers of all kind
He only got one callback, not what he had in mind
The job was not ideal, but he needed work
And so Steve became. . .
A Courtesy Clerk.

His jaw was square, his uniform still squarer
His skin was fair, his collective agreement still fairer
Keeping quarters from stray buggies was the job’s major perq
But Steve laboured on. . .
As a Courtesy Clerk.

Customers who wish to buy soup, bread, or berries,
May be told “I’m sorry, Sir, milk we do not carry”
Departing from the store, they ask “Who was that apron’d jerk?”
For they’d been served by. . .
A Courtesy Clerk.

To bag cold with cold, to not crush the bread
To perform carry-outs, though they fill your heart with dread
To eradicate wet spills, to one’s duty never shirk
The credo of. . .
The Courtesy Clerk.

Now Steve’s term of service was at an end
His c.v. it was time to mend
And in whatever professions he may in the future lurk
He’ll not forget his time. . .
As a Courtesy Clerk.

Into every sunset must a hero ride
But hear this, Earth’s people far and wide:
Be you from Mogadishu, a Cambodian or a Turk,
Your groceries will be bagged by. . .
A Courtesy Clerk.


Friday, September 03, 2004

How Steve Plans on Getting his Groove Back

So, I was reading through some of my archive pages (because I'm a Big Important Person with so many important things to do), and I noticed that this blog seems to be in decline. It's been a while since I've dropped in a brilliantly witty post, it's been even longer since I've put together a really strong rant, and my posting frequency has been dismal. All of this has a way of affecting my traffic, too - August saw fewer hits than any other full month of this space's existence.

So, looking at the problem, I've come to the following conclusion: I need to spend the next two months talking about nothing but St. Albert municipal politics. I mean, what could be more enthralling than the civic governance of a city in which the vast majority of my readership doesn't even reside? Besides, if nothing else, I'm hoping that mentioning some local quasi-celebrities who may not have a lot of web mentions will get me some Googling hits.

If I'm going to make this as interesting for you as it is for me, though, you're going to need some background, which is why it is my pleasure to present this

Brief History of St. Albert's Politics

First the Earth's crust cooled, and then single-celled life appeared, and then debate began on whether or not to build a bypass around the area where the Sturgeon River (a double misnomer because it neither resembles a river nor contains Sturgeon) exits Big Lake (a double misnomer because it neither resembles a lake nor is big, at least not by the standards of things that resemble lakes).

Groundwork for the so-called "West Bypass" began in the mid-seventies, when the mayor of St. Albert was a gentleman by the name of Dr. Richard Plain, a University of Alberta health economist and a partisan Progressive Conservative (which he remains to this day, though he has been publicly critical of the Klein government on both health policy and municipal affairs). For the next twenty-five or so years, subsequent Councils vascillate and delay on the issue - piling a Royal Commission on a Royal Commission, to use the phrase of a Canadian poet whose name presently escapes me. Passions continued to run high, however - the situation is reminiscent of the "powder keg" in the Balkans, where Serbs, Croats, and Muslims teeter constantly on the brink of war over the question of whether to build a bridge over the Sturgeon River.

Fast-forward to 1998, after City Council, led by Mayor Anita Ratchinsky (who had, in 1989, succeeded popular mayor Richard Fowler after the latter had gone on to become the Progressive Conservative MLA for St. Albert) had finally decided, firmly, to take action on the road in the form of building the West Bypass. Finally, after nearly thirty years of controversy and infighting, the road was getting built.

Just kidding. At this point, a group of Concerned Citizens, led by local artist and potter Elke Blodgett and local engineer John Shaw, organized, in a matter of weeks, an anti-Bypass petition drive that managed to gather 11,000 signatures, one of them mine. Council relented, and there was a tense atmosphere as it became clear that the 1998 civic election would be a plebiscite of sorts on the bypass.

Nowhere was this clearer than in the Mayoral race, where Mayor Ratchinsky was seeking a fourth consecutive term against popular alderman (and vice principal of St. Albert's largest Catholic high school) Paul Chalifoux. Ratchinsky was an unapologetic advocate for the bypass who felt that Council shouldn't have reversed itself; she hoped that the election would vindicate her stance by re-electing her as well as enough pro-Bypass aldermen to finally lay the matter to rest. Chalifoux, by contrast, was deadset against the Bypass, arguing that, while a west river crossing was needed, it didn't need to come anywhere near as close to the sensitive migratory bird populations of Big Lake as the proposed alignment did. Chalifoux won decisively (which was more than either Bob Russell, a popular alderman who challenged Ratchinsky in 1992, or Kent Davidson, a popular alderman who challegned Ratchinsky in 1995, had managed).

Things were slightly more ambiguous on the aldermanic front (St. Albert is governed by a Council consisting of a mayor and six aldermen, all elected by the electorate at large). Elected were:
Russell (a seventy-odd year old institution in St. Albert politics and former leader of the Liberal Party of Alberta. He had been on City Council continuously approximately since the beginning of time, with the exception of the three year hiatus he took after losing the Mayoral race.)
Davidson (a sometime President of the local Liberal Party constituency association, and a former alderman whose time on Council, like Russell's, had been interrupted by failed Mayoral bid)
Penny Reeves (an alderman since the 1989 election)
Margaret Plain (a long-standing alderman, later to become a member of the Capital Health Authority Board, who also happens to be married to former Mayor Richard Plain, about whom we've already heard a little and will hear much more presently)
Carol Watamaniuk (an arts advocate and long-time alderman)
Jim Starko (the owner of a St. Albert health club, and the only real newcomer to Council)

Of these, only Margaret Plain stood in overt support of the Bypass. Starko, Russell, and Reeves stood clearly against (though both Russell and Reeves had, earlier in their careers, supported the road, their minds having apparently been genuinely changed by the petition and ensuing - and concurrent - debate). Davidson and Watamaniuk made the appropriate sorts of noises about the need to re-examine the decision before making a final commitment.

This re-examination came in the form of the CityPlan commission, a collection of St. Albert residents charged with recommending a course for the future of St. Albert, of which infrastructure (including the West road) played only a part. Chaired by Matt Boiko, a political non-entity but a reasonably well-respected member of the community, it conducted public hearings, received expert submissions, and worked very hard over the course of several months. In the end, it recommended that the idea of a West Bypass be abandoned in favour of an arterial, which came to be known as Ray Gibbon Drive (after a former mayor), that would cross the Sturgeon some ways East of Big Lake. This arterial would also have run through Riel Park, a business park in St. Albert's Southwest quadrant, a fact which will become relevant later. Council, by a 5-2 vote (with Plain and Davidson as the dissenting voices) set into motion the process of building this modified road. Of course, by this time, St. Albert was about due for another election.

I have only been a resident of St. Albert for 1985, which means that I've been here for only a small part of the city's history as the longest continuously settled European settlement in Alberta, but I still feel confident in saying that the election of 2001 was probably the most heated in our history. As I advised my three or four readers in the closing a column I wrote for the St. Albert Gazette shortly before the election: "Stay tuned: this is going to be good."

In hindsight, "good" may have been a poor choice of words. Perhaps "impassioned" would have been better. At any rate, the opening volley was fired when two groups, the Riel Park Business Association and the mysterious S.E.N.S.I.B.L.E. Choice (mysterious not only because their leadership and financial backers were never revealed to the public, but also because the meaning of their apparently acronymous name remains, to this day, unknown to society at large) began to take out full-page ads in the Gazette attacking the Ray Gibbon alignment and advocating a reversion to the Bypass (these ads, which showed an inaccurate map of Ray Gibbon Drive and incorrectly stated that it would be open to truck traffic, were later declared by Advertising Standards Canada to be "false and misleading"). A side note, which is probably more interesting than relevant: S.E.N.S.I.B.L.E. Choice was fronted by Dawne Fowler, a PR professional who is married to none other than former Mayor and MLA Dick Fowler, who we met a few paragraphs back.

Anyway, with the battleground thus laid (The RPBA and S.E.N.S.I.B.L.E. Choice vs. the City Council and, to an extent, the Big Lake Environmental Support Society - a Society which had been designated by the Alberta Government as steward of the Big Lake area), the election campaign kicked off. While St. Albert does not conduct its municipal politics partisanly, the pro- anti-bypass forces were aligned into as close a thing to parties as had been seen in St. Albert's history. The candidates were:


Paul Chalifoux - seeking a second consecutive term. Pro-Ray Gibbon.
Richard Plain - remember him? Former mayor, health economist, etc.? Pro-Bypass.
John Shaw - co-organizer of the 11,000 name petition of several paragraphs back. Pro-Ray Gibbon.


Matt Boiko - chair of CityPlan Committee. Pro-Ray Gibbon.
Len Bracko - Alderman from 1986 to 1989, and Liberal MLA for the riding of St. Albert from 1993 (when, for those of you keeping score at home, he defeated incumbent Conservative and former Mayor Dick Fowler) to 1997 (when he was himself defeated, by Conservative Mary O'Neill, who plays no further role in our drama). Pro-Ray Gibbon.
James Burrows - financial manager, and defeated aldermanic candidate in 1998. Pro-West Bypass.
Bob Coulter - chair of the City's Affordable Housing Advisory Committee. Pro-West Bypass.
Larry Dick - High School English teacher, and resident of Deer Ridge, a Northern subdivision that would benefit greatly from the construction of the West Bypass. "Hours of research" nevertheless led him to reluctantly conclude the Ray Gibbon Drive was the better alignment. Pro-Ray Gibbon.
Kerry Kinseshanko - Former teacher, and new resident of St. Albert. Pro-West Bypass.
Al Henry - neighbour of mine, advocating neither the Bypass nor Ray Gibbon, but rather an Eastern Bypass.
Neil Korotash - 21 year old student. Pro-West Bypass.
Lynda Moffat - business owner and former President of the Chamber of Commerce. Noteworthy for running under what was perhaps the most insipid slogan in the history of St. Albert politics, "Moffat Means It". Pro-West Bypass.
Penny Reeves - incumbent Alderman. Pro-Ray Gibbon.
Doug Ritzen - partner in local law firm, and prominent member of the Chamber of Commerce. Pro-West Bypass.
Bob Russell - incumbent Alderman. Pro-Ray Gibbon.
John Smith - Resident of the Heritage Lakes subdivision who was pissed off about the level of development going on in his neighbourhood. He declared his candidacy early, and then neglected to show up to forums or put up signs. Pro-Ray Gibbon.
Jim Starko - incumbent Alderman. Pro-Ray Gibbon.
Curtis Stewart - accountant, used to work for Report Newsmagazine. Pro-West Bypass.

It's important to note (for reasons that will become apparent later on) at this point that not a single candidate came out explicitly in favour of the Bypass - all of them favoured either a plebiscite on the issue or the striking of some sort of commission for further study, while acknowledging that in their opinion the West Bypass was the best option thus far presented.

Anyway, the tension reached a head during the final two weeks before the election, at which time S.E.N.S.I.B.L.E. Choice, in their false and misleading newspaper ads (which had not yet been designated as such), began to include endorsements of Plain, Burrows, Korotash, Moffat, Ritzen, and Stewart. Allegations that the group and its anonymous backers had essentially "bought" the election became more impassioned when the results came in, revealing that these five, along with Bracko, were going to make up the new Council (my own votes, for those who were wondering, went to Shaw, Boiko, Bracko, Dick, Henry, Russell, Starko, with Reeves and Coulter narrowly missing the cut).

Roughly a month after the election, the new Council, by a vote of 4-2, decided to proceed with the west road without benefit of either a plebiscite or further study. The dissenting votes belonged to Plain and Korotash, who advocated the plebiscite on which they had been elected. Bracko, for his part, was out of the country. Ironically, the claims made by the four alderman voting on the prevailing side included that the election had essentially functioned as a plebiscite, the same argument that proponents of Ray Gibbon had been making about the 1998 election. The hypocrisy was palpable (whatever that means).

Many residents - on both sides of the debate - viewed this as a betrayal (as did the Saint City News, which set the stage for a newspaper war between it and the Gazette, whose editorial policy had, for many years, been resolutely pro-Bypass). It also prompted me to write what probably remains my most venom-filled Gazette Editorial of all time, in which I took the perspective of a teacher trying to teach "Democracy 101" to the four alderman who had voted in favour (it included the line "What's that, Mr. Ritzen? No, you're right, campaign promises aren't legally binding", a line which Ritzen never actually uttered, but which was attributed to him in subsequent letters to the editor by both Boiko and Starko - my attempt to issue a clarification in a subsequent column was edited out by the Gazette for reasons that remain unclear to me).

BLESS, around this time, began to take a much more aggressive approach to its opposition to the road, which eventually led Plain to suggest to the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency that the group should, by reason of its political activities, lose its charitable status (a claim that was found baseless by CCRA, since virtually none of BLESS's budget was spent on these activities). This newfound radicalism probably had something to do with the addition of Bob Russell to the BLESS executive.

Not long after this key vote, Plain, Korotash, and Bracko all dropped their resistances to moving forward, and all subsequent road-related votes were unanimous. The road cleared one of its final hurdles in August of 2004, when the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans cleared it as having an acceptably small environmental impact. Moffat, who had by this time declared her candidacy for Mayor, blamed the delays in this approval (and the accompanying costs to the city), on BLESS.

In addition to Moffat, Plain and Chalifoux have also each announced that they would like to serve as Mayor again, setting the stage for a rematch of the bitter 2001 campaign, except that this time Chalifoux has decided that he will support the West Road. For alderman, Russell has announced that he will run again, as will fellow road opponent and activist Frances Badrock. On the side of the Bypass, Burrows, Bracko, and Korotash are all seeking re-election, Kineshanko is making another attempt, and newcomers Nolan Crouse (a former general manager of the St. Albert Merchants and coach of the Fort Saskatchewan Traders hockey teams), and Michael Cooper (a pompous 20 year old twit whose primary claims to fame include being elected to the Canadian Alliance National Executive at the age of eighteen and serving as co-chair of Stockwell Day's failed leadership retention campaign in Alberta). Stewart will not run for re-election, as he is likely to be busy with being the CEO of the newly-launched Official CFL Magazine, and speculation is that Ritzen will also not be. Rumour has it that Boiko will also be making another attempt.

This about covers the recent history of St. Albert as seen through the prism of The Road. Subsequent posts will provide background on other issues, such as the construction of a multi-purpose recreation centre, the stormy relations between St. Albert and the neighbouring Sturgeon County, the smoking bylaw, and the loss of the AJHL St. Albert Saints to Spruce Grove.


Wednesday, September 01, 2004

No wonder Hollinger's upset

1. From a Canadian Press story on the Conrad Black issue today: "The dinner party held at New York's La Grenouille restaurant - held for Barbara [Amiel]'s 60th birthday in December 2000 - cost the company $42,870, the committee claims. The 80 guests in attendance enjoyed dinner at $212 a plate, including Beluga caviar. . ." I wonder how much Hollinger money he spent on snake oil. . .

2. Nobody who has ever heard "Man in Black" sung by the Man In Black could possibly believe that he was a Bush supporter. Therefore: Defend Johnny Cash!

3. Ask, and Paul Welke shall receive.

Ask not what this blog can do for you, but what you can do for me

So here's the situation: a (male) friend of mine (who actually isn't really that close a friend, but who used to throw almanacs at me whenever he saw me and refer to me as "the Antichrist", both for reasons that remain not entirely clear to me) is dating a girl who is, basically, insane. Several of my friends and I want to break them up. Any advice, oh wise readership?

Also, from the lips of Sam Power: "Is it sad that I get to my own blog through yours?"


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