Stampede week was a good week for Special Ed. He flipped flap-jacks, gave some big bucks to the Stampede (15 million) along with Bush's pal Steve Harper who gave another 15 mil out of the Feds' coffers. His new lady minister from Calgary got some ink about the depleting assistance fund for renters, and that she would fight for more. Even some of the Herald and Sun columnists who have been beating on him for some time seemed to go easy on him. "Ah, shucks," as Eddie and his classy pals at the Stampede Board would say, "It's Stampede time. Everybody should get a break during Stampede." So Special Ed got his break.
However, this week is a new week. Special Ed is back at work. And - too bad for him - he and his good ol' boys are up to their usual standard of ineptitude. This time it is Special Ed government's largely non-response to some proposals from the Minister's Council on Municipal Sustainability. The Council's report was submitted by Mayors Mandel of Edmonton and Bronco of Calgary, together with the heads of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties. The report contained specific proposals designed to help Alberta cities, towns, villages and municipal districts financially meet the public needs of their residents.
First of all, the government, whose spokesman was Municipal Affairs Minister Ray Danyluk, turned down the request of the municipalities to receive some portion of oil and gas royalties to meet their infrastructure needs. No matter that in many places in Alberta the roads and bridges are beaten up by oil and gas heavy equipment and trucks, Special Ed's boys said no dice. The royalty rates - some of the most generous of any jurisdiction in the world - would remain the same, and remain within the exclusive domain of the Province.
However, to show Albertans how generous they may be with the people's money, Danyluk said they would graciously look to giving municipalities the right to raise more taxes from their own residents - through an amusement tax perhaps, or a tourism tax, etc. - but that would take more study and consideration. So, as far as royalties were concerned, Alberta towns and villages were told, "Get lost!" As far as other sources of revenue are concerned, "Well, we're still thinking about ways that you can stick it to your own residents."
One good thing was announced by Danyluk - the return of the Regional Planning Boards, to settle disputes between municipalities and to bring more coherence to planning respecting adjacent municipalities.
Regional Planning Boards had been mindlessly abolished in 1995 by the Klein government as part of its attack on deficits and debt. For the same reason at about the same time, Klein combined the Public Utilities Board together with the Energy Resources Conservation Board under one roof - the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (EUB). Prior to that, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) was concerned with regulating the orderly development and transmission of electrical power and the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), with regulating the orderly development and transportation of oil and gas resources. With the Klein measures the EUB dealt with both.
The result of these reckless moves in the case of the abolition of Regional Planning Boards was planning chaos, and in the case of the new EUB, more work than the Board members and their staffs could keep up with.
The government has recently announced that it would again separate the two energy functions into the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board which will now only regulate only oil and gas, and the Alberta Utilities Commission, which will handle power. And now, Danyluk announced that the Regional Planning functions would be reinstated.
So Special Ed at least has cleaned up a small part of the mess of the Klein years, in which he played so prominent a role ( see Darryl Raymaker Blog, FAST EDDIE: RALPH'S BIG STICK, January 27, 2007). Too little, too late.