Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue at 4 a.m., as imagined by Ric McIver, would-be Tory leader and premier. Actual Alberta street scenes are unlikely ever to be as described with regard to the availability of taxicabs. Below: Mr. McIver, candidates Jim Prentice and Thomas Lukaszuk.

Well, no one can say that Ric McIver hasn’t set himself apart from the other two candidates for the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party leadership.

While frontrunner Jim Prentice and tail gunner Thomas Lukaszuk have each offered five largely meaningless anodyne platitudes as their priorities, Mr. McIver has been right out there with some fairly definitive ideas.

Not good ideas, mind you. And they’d be bound to be highly controversial if anyone except me thought he had any chance of winning. So if I’m right, and everyone else is wrong, this could end up making a lot of people very unhappy.

I’m not talking, by the way, about Mr. McIver’s March for Jesus faux pas, in which he claimed not to have noticed the extremely homophobic views of a religious group whose annual Calgary parade he’s made a practice of marching in, an association that might actually help him sell memberships.

And I’m not talking about his placement – if we believe in guilt by association, at any rate – at the embarrassingly socially conservative end of the conservative movement.

Rather, this is about his views on speed enforcement, liquor sales and the treatment of inmates in (and out of) Alberta’s provincial jails.

Last Friday, Mr. McIver announced that, as far as he’s concerned, speed-on-green-light radar cameras are nothing but tax-collection devices.

“‘Speed-on-green’ cameras don’t control speed,” the former infrastructure minister said in his “justice policy,” released Friday. “A Ric McIver government will ban the use of speed-on-green cameras in Alberta.”

I’m not sure I understand his logic when he says speeding is bad and needs to be enforced, but it’s OK if you happen to be speeding through an intersection. He cites statistics from Calgary that, as far as I can see, neither support his case nor indicate anything other than the fact more people speed through green lights than drive through red lights – which ought not to be a revelation.

I can tell you this: Speed-on-green lights have made the highway that runs through my Edmonton bedroom suburb significantly safer, and it would be unfortunate if the province banned a safety measure that apparently works. What about local democracy?

Mr. McIver also thinks it would be just dandy if patrons in Alberta’s bars were able to drink for two more hours, until 4 a.m., before they drive home. Not, of course, that he will say that they should be driving, but it’s a certainty that some of them will – with their judgment and their driving abilities that much more impaired.

Mr. McIver’s argument is that if everyone has to go home at 2 a.m., as they technically do now, there aren’t enough cabs and some folks are tempted to drive drunk, whereas if they have to go home at 4 a.m., they’ll have plenty of time to share the available cabs around. There’s a flaw with this plan, since it assumes lots of die-hard drinkers will leave the bar between 2 and 4 a.m. instead of just sticking around and getting boiled as owls, as somebody is bound to learn hard way in the wee hours if Mr. McIver has his way.

It’s an interesting observation that when Alison Redford became premier 2011, the first thing she tried to do was make it harder to drive drunk, and if Mr. McIver becomes premier the first thing he wants to do is make it easier to get a drink at an hour when the temptation to drive will prove irresistible to many.

As an aside, it’s a wonderment to me how social conservatives like Mr. McIver and the Wildrose Party activists who are anxious to control what we smoke and whom we marry take such exception to regulating the nexus of booze and automobiles. I must be missing something.

Getting back to Mr. McIver’s ideas about justice, as stated last Friday, the candidate offered a vague idea about putting prisoners in provincial jails to work – outside jails. At first glance, this sounded suspiciously like former Ralph Klein minister Steve West’s Mississippi-style highway-cleanup chain gangs, a national embarrassment that has thankfully disappeared from Alberta’s highways.

But Mr. McIver says the inmates would be asked to volunteer for this duty – which, presumably, they would do if they wanted more fresh air or planned to escape and needed to be close to a place suitable for helicopter landings. It wasn’t clear where they would work, but it occurs to me that if they could bake donuts and run a cash register, this might be the solution to Ottawa’s currently controversial Temporary Foreign Workers Program.

I wonder how the Chamber of Commerce would react to an Alberta Temporary Incarcerated Workers Program? You don’t have to pay them anything, but heaven only knows what they might do to the burgers when you aren’t looking!

Meanwhile as for Messrs. Prentice and Lukaszuk, there’s not much to separate their five policy points. They say they stand for:

  • Sound conservative principles (Prentice) and fiscally conservative principles (Lukaszuk)
  • Ending entitlements and restoring trust (Prentice) and open, trustworthy government (Lukaszuk)
  • Planning for our economic future (Lukaszuk) and maximizing the value of our natural resources and respecting property rights (Prentice)
  • Increasing access to basic health and education services (Lukaszuk) and ensuring Alberta leads the way on health care and education training (Prentice)
  • Being an environmental leader (Prentice)
  • Encouraging new ideas (Lukaszuk)

In fairness, Mr. Prentice is a little more specific in gatherings with his supporters – I’ve heard him promise no end to the flat tax, no changes to Alberta’s petroleum royalty structure, “choice” in education (i.e., more tax funding for private schools) and “pipelines in every direction” at recent meetings.

But I doubt either Mr. McIver or Mr. Lukaszuk would disagree with him on any of that stuff.

Apparently they’ve all fallen in love with LRT lines too, although you have to wonder how long that’ll last once they start competing seriously with the fiscal conservatives in the Wildrose Party.

On the grounds it’s a good thing to actually know where your leaders stand out there on the fringes, kudos to Mr. McIver. I guess.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

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  1. I spent some months driving around the American south (Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana….) and almost every pickup truck had a shotgun rack mounted in the rear window. I also saw chain gangs, dressed in traditional white with black striped uniforms, working on highways, patrolled by armed guards. In one town, I even went to a VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) dance, and won the night’s draw (ironically, a bottle of Canadian Club),

    Heck, I’m ramblin’ on here. My point is, will the Alberta PC leadership candidates adopt a policy of shotguns in pickup trucks for all law abidin’ Albertans? I can tell you, there ain’t nothin’ better than the feelin’ of havin’ yer shotgun by yer side when drivin’ drunk at high speed through an intersection at four in the morning.

  2. A legitimate concern about remote control speed enforcement like speed-on-green, red-light cameras and photo radar in all its permutations, is whether the three-to-four week delay in receiving the ticket in the mail (law enforcement dependent on Canada Post…wise?) has any impact on driver behaviour. IMHO, nothing beats actually pulling the errant motorist over, thereby imposing a roadside delay likely longer than the advantage gained by driving faster than the speed limit. The offender also has to deal with demerit points and potential increased insurance costs, penalties not imposed by remote ticketing processes. There is also the added benefit of catching more serious offences, like impaired drivers, unlicensed drivers, unregistered and uninsured vehicles, and “wants and warrants”, when the police pull someone over.

    That said, there are times and places where traditional traffic law enforcement is potentially unsafe. In those circumstances, I feel there is still a role for photo radar and other remote enforcement technologies; however, I do not feel they should be the preferred method.

    However, I reject the assertion that photo radar etc. are a “tax grab”; instead, I feel they are a false economy, imposed by aggressive public spending cost cutters trying to do law enforcement on the cheap. My recommendation? Put enough cops on the street; have them catch speeders, red light runners, crosswalks infringers, and other violators of the law. Save lives and reduce the carnage on our roads.

    1. Yes, the impact of being pulled over and getting a ticket and points right at the moment of the offence has a powerful teaching effect. But you’re making more money than I do if getting a ticket in the mail for $100 or more doesn’t remind you to slow the heck down the next time you’re on that stretch of road. Consider the difference between the Deerfoot Trail in Calgary and the Queensway in Ottawa. After close to 20 years of photo radar, traffic on the Deerfoot mostly moves at a responsible pace. Without it, the Queensway is a menace, with about 10 to 15 percent of the traffic weaving in and out at 40 or 50 km/h above the average speed. If you can’t pay the fine then don’t try to make time!

  3. “Boiled as owls”? Who boils owls, and why? Wouldn’t they be better spit-roasted?

      1. Maybe they boil owls up there in St Albert, David, and maybe you see one on occasion yourself. But in Calgary I strolled up and down the Red Mile after Flames games and saw nary a one, at least the winged variety. But I spotted many a hockey fan so boiled they didn’t know whether to hoot or squawk.

  4. Well, in BC we had a horrendously expensive, unpopular speeding camera system introduced by the NDP government, which contributed to its defeat, and was scrapped by the Liberals. Still it sounds like you have a much smaller, more local program which may be much more reasonable.

    I was surprised to find liquor stores all open till 2am in Edmonton, I’m used to them closing at 11pm.

    Having inmates do agricultural work to food and reduce costs to the prison system is a good idea, where feasible. We had the Burnaby Prison Farm in BC in the past.

    Unrelated to this post, but I hope none of the leadership candidates seriously thinks it’s a good idea to bring back regional health authorities in Alberta. We have them in BC and it’s a nightmare of balkanized bureaucracy; if only we could get rid of them.

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