At Home: Alberta votes 2008
On March 3, Albertans are due to hit the polls again and ultimately to elect Progressive Conservative leader Ed Stelmach. Let’s face it, Alberta isn’t known for its close political races. The only real excitement this time around comes from the Edmonton-Castle Downs race, where in 2004 Progressive Conservative candidate Thomas Lucaszuk won by a mere three votes over his Liberal opponent Chris Kibermanis. The result of the election was delayed by two months, and after three recounts, Kibermanis was understandably disappointed. Nevertheless, the loss spurred him to dedicate his efforts to the upcoming 2008 election.
Alberta is decidedly a Progressive Conservative province, with 47.07 per cent of the overall votes going to the PCs in 2004; the Liberals were the runner up by a long shot with 29.05 per cent, and the NDP trailed with 9.79 per cent. Edmonton is clearly the most atypical of the Albertan cities, having elected four New Democratic Party representatives as well as 12 of the total 17 Liberals in the entire province. Only two PC representatives were elected in the Edmonton jurisdiction, contrasting sharply with voting results from Calgary and especially the rural ridings, where PC support rose to more than 50 per cent.
This time around we’ve got Ed Stelmach (current premier) leading the Conservatives, Kevin Taft leading the Liberals, Brian Mason leading the NDP, and Paul Hinman in charge of the newly minted Wildrose Alliance Party. The Wildrose Alliance Party is the result of a January merger between Alberta Alliance and the Wildrose Party; the Party should be expected to pick up rural votes by ultra-conservatives who have become disenfranchised with the centre leanings of the modern PCs.
To ensure your name is on the voter registry list, call Elections Alberta at either 780-427-7191 or 1-877-422-8683.
In Foreign News: Norway opens Arctic seed vault to preserve crop diversity from climate change and war
February 26 saw the official grand opening of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, about 300 kilometres from the country’s mainland in the frozen Arctic. After less than a year of construction, funded by the Norwegian government, the vault has been stockpiled with a quarter of a million seed samples that are estimated to number more than 10 million seeds. The purpose of the vault is to protect these diverse crop seeds, used as staples in many different parts of the world, and thereby protect agricultural diversity if need be.
Construction of the vault cost Norway’s government more than £4 million (nearly $8 million CAD), and maintenance fees are being supplied by the United Kingdom. The vault, designed not only to withstand natural disasters like earthquakes but also a nuclear strike, has been built to keep crop seeds safe in its isolated position. The enormous space, near the town of Svalbard, is basically a man-made cave inside a mountain, in which freezers have been installed to keep the temperature around -20 degrees Celsius. Designers say that in the event of a power failure, the mountain temperature will still remain below 0 degrees.
Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, says that the crop seeds housed within Svalbard are ?the most valuable natural resource on Earth,? and other professionals working on the project agree that the vault is key to sustaining agricultural diversity throughout the world. One of the most damaging factors to crop diversity is war; the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have destroyed those countries? seed banks and it is disasters like this that the Svalbard vault will help alleviate.
Currently, one man stands guard at the entrance of the vault, armed with a rifle. He claims to be protecting the seed bank from polar bears.