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Sunday, July 07, 2019

Will Big Money Manipulate Alberta Politics?

The advent of American-style big, and sometimes secret donors, coming into Alberta's political culture through Political Action Committees (PAC) is not good.  The situation isn't as bad as the American model where their Supreme Court ruled that, under free speech rights, there would be no contribution restrictions and no disclosure requirements for election supports and spending.  However what we have for rules regarding PAC contributions is far from ideal for a health for democracy or to assure trust in our political parties and politicians and fairness in our electoral processes.

The very first law passed by the new Notley government was to impose restricted levels of donations by individuals, corporation and unions directly into Alberta political campaigns. but there are no contribution limits on corporations, unions or others for PACs. In December 2017 further legislation passed to set up an Election Commissioner with power conduct elections and to receive complaints, review and discipline on matters of involved legal breaches in elections.

PACs now have to disclose donors over $250 and they must all be from Alberta and imposed limits on spending in months before an election.  We are now in constant election mode what with the hyper-partisan belligerent rivalry between the two major parties.  We have the not-so-United Right United Conservative Party under Jason Kenney and Rachel Notley's rogue Alberta NDP that is far from aligned to the Federal NDP as required by party documents.  Notley is also at loggerheads with the BC NDP over pipeline access to the west coast.

As a result we are now seeing some significant PAC advertising spending in October and November to get ahead of the December 1 deadline and to help identify and frame the issues for a party and/or leader before the 2019 election.  The laws governing PAC are still too loose, had to enforce and the actions taken by some PACs have been dodgy at best.  Now the NDP has filed a complaint with the Elections Commissioner in one such dodgy instance.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Disruptive Technologies and the Skills Revolution


As part of my work with GO Productivity I have been all over Alberta conducting workshops on the impact and implications of disruptive and emerging technologies on small and mid-sized businesses. 

Key questions we canvassed participants on was around the changing skills needed to work in a digitized and automated economy.  While many existing routine and even analytical jobs in professions like law and medicine will be lost or changed, others will be created.  There is definitely a “skills revolution” happening.  It’s in early stages but it has traction and is gaining momentum.

The new world of work and the coming skills revolution will have disruptive impact on the next generation too.  The Royal Bank of Canada has just released a report dealing with this change called “Humans Wanted, How Canadian Youth Can Thrive in the Age of Disruption.”

Here is how they frame the issue: “The next generation is entering the workforce at a time of profound economic, social and technological change. We know it. Canada’s youth know it. And we’re not doing enough about it.”

The challenge they discovered is “…a quiet crisis — of recent graduates who are overqualified for the jobs they’re in, of unemployed youth who weren’t trained for the jobs that are out there, and young Canadians everywhere who feel they aren’t ready for the future of work.”  

In response, here is the ambitious commitment from the RBC to deal with the issues: “RBC wants to change the conversation, to help Canadian youth own the 2020s — and beyond. RBC Future Launch is our 10-year commitment to that cause, to help young people prepare for and navigate a new world of work that, we believe, will fundamentally reshape Canada. For the better. If we get a few big things right.”

The RBC also puts out a related challenge to business, government and educators.  “We all bear responsibility to change that. As employers, we need to rethink the way we hire, retrain and continuously reshape our workforces. As educators, we need to think beyond degrees and certificates. 

As governments, we need to take advantage of the world of instant information to harness the coming skills revolution. And young Canadians everywhere need to seize the moment, to demand more of Canada and more of themselves.”

We are all responsible and many of us are able to respond.  As it stands now business, government and educators are all weak links in dealing with this crisis and engaging in the solutions.  It will take a collaborative, concerted and consistent effort to change how we do things, independently, and more to the point, together, solve this….and it must be solved.

The place to start is to read the RBC report and reflect on the new skills and the new mix of skills for the digitized automated Industrial Revolution 4.0.  Then look at your operations and start getting specific about what you can do to be part of the solution to our common problem.

When everything is changing at the same time at ever accelerating rates, there is no option to watch and wait it out.  We all must take steps to be the disruptors - not the victims. Adopt, adapt and take economic advantage of the change ... or whither and die.  Stark? Yup.  True? Absolutely!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

We're Just a Bunch of Monkeys

I wanted to write something in anticipation of the inevitable Left vs Right commentary that will be forthcoming on the Alberta Budget debates. 

However, I have not really read the Budget...yet!  Pretty hard to be authoritative under those circumstances.

Still the polarized arguments and tropes from the adversaries are very easy to anticipate as they get regurgitated.

The progressive centralists in the Alberta Party are still looking for some safer, saner and sustainable solutions.  That is very much a "work in progress" and the work continues. 

In the meantime here is some "comic relief" round the Left vs Right at it relates in the States.  Except for the names and a few other changes...for Alberta the story's the same one. (apologies to Neil Diamond for ripping of his lyrics in I Am...I Said).

Now I will delve into the 2018 Budget and look for the gems of sound fiscal management and the germs of good ideas.

It would be good if you joined my in the search.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Are Alberta's Policy Makers Agile Enough for Emerging Technologies?

I have been travelling the province facilitating workshops on the the impacts and implications of emerging technologies in our economy.  These technologies are also called disruptive and exponential by some folks, depending on if you have a half empty or half full mindset.

NEW SKILLS & NEW COMPETENCIES:
The underlying motivation for these workshops is to gauge the awareness, interest, readiness,  planning and actions being taken to adopt and adapt to these transformational changes.  We have taken a special interest in the skills and competencies we humans will need to be able to work with these technologies and in spite of them.

There is a lot going on in the physical realms of autonomous vehicles, drones, robotics, automation, 3D printing for example.  It seems there is even more going on in the computational and information realms line artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented and virtual reality, quantum computing.  Then we have bio-engineering and nanotechnology happening at alarming rates too.

NEW MINDSETS NEEDED:
Alberta has a unique opportunity to engage and lead in many of these areas as a smart way to diversify our economy.  But we need to get our heads out of the incremental mindset of  conservative thinking and get seriously and creatively into an innovation mindset of progressive change.

Boldness doesn't mean recklessness or brash behaviours but it does demand leaps of imagination using ingenuity in an applied way to see things differently.  This is not a call to rely on faith as a way forward.  It is a demand  that we look at evidence and deal with facts and live as much in the question as we do in seeking the answers.

That mean we have to teach ourselves to be innovative.  We need to escape the comfort and stability of the known and consciously choose to seek out the opportunity in the uncertainty and to seek to see things differently.

RENEWING OUR INSTITUTIONS:
All of this comes into play in the collective exercise of our democracy through governance, regulation and...yes politics!  Are we citizens ready, willing and able to attract, identify and elect the kind of candidates?  Will we stay informed and engage with the policy-makers to influence and deal with these issues?  Are our institutions up the the challenge in these transformations, including political parties?

By example of policy implications, here is a brief recent backgrounder by Herman J.H. Ossthuysen on Autonomous Vehicles in Alberta.  It was originally published by the Alberta Council of Technologies as a provocation on the technological implications for policy issues for Alberta's transportation and infrastructure from autonomous vehicles in the trucking industry.

This change in approach must pervade all aspects of our lives and relationships to ourselves, to our economy, to our environment and our society.  We often define ourselves by what we "do" mostly by our work.  What if we envisaged a post-work society in the new reality of automation robotics and machine learning?  What will we use to establish our sense of worth if we are at the end of "Homo-Economicus?"

Here is a link to a Guardian Long Reads podcast on a "Post-work: the radical idea of a world without jobs."  It's about 35 minutes long so grab a cup of coffee of brew some tea and give it a listen.

The world is run by those who show up!  Passive pretentious progressivism can no longer be tolerated. I will look forward to your comments on this blog post.  After all we are all in this alone...together.