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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Alberta Needs a Plan to Manage Growth

It is unnerving that the Premier admitted a lack of planning to deal with the rapid growth of the province…as if it was suddenly sprung on us as a huge surprise. How does this happen? In recent EUB testimony government official admitted they ignored joint calls from Fort McMurray community leaders, municipal politicians and industry managers to deal with the public infrastructure needs caused by oil sands project growth. They called for immediate responses and then for some on-going joint planning for the future growth that was already destined for the region. The government admitted in testimony before a quasi-judicial tribunal that they ignored that evidence. How does this happen?

A decade of getting the debt and deficit arithmetic right was applauded and rewarded politically for the Klein lead government. We asked for it as a population so we can’t just blame “the government.” But boy are we “paying” for it now. The collective past of short sightedness and the current lack of strategic planning have had serious consequences that we are all “enjoying today. Read Don Braid's column in the Calgary Herald Sept 2 for some perspective and then read Mark Lisac’s excellent survey piece on the last PC leadership in the Edmonton Journal for some background and check out former Premier Lougheed's comments in the Edmonton Journal for some real political wisdom about managing growth. Then remember George Santana’s famous quotation about those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

Alberta clearly needs a new kind of leader that has a strategic mind and who is capable, credible and independently minded enough to consider and absorb all the available evidence not the just the preferred sources of “friendlies” of the government. We need someone who can conceive and execute a longer range plan beyond the next election cycle. We need a leader who can provide significant new thinking with a coherent practical policy insight. We need someone who has real life current experience in working in a modern governance model. Top down command and control governance coupled with disingenuous “public consultations” in the face of foregone policy conclusions will not cut it any more.

Alberta clearly needs a new kind of leader. Dave Hancock is that new kind of leader. He is one Alberta’s brightest political and public policy minds who “get it.” He thinks in terms of managing our current prosperity, for now, but he also has the vision to look at ways to secure and endow significant non-renewable resource dollars for the benefit of future generations. Hancock is a leader who is serious about preserving, conserving and protecting the environment. He sees the need to advance our educational capacity to prepare our population for the perpetual learning demands in the world reality of increasing competition. Hancock can see ways to innovate and optimize the Alberta role and place in a rapidly changing globalized world order. Hancock sees Alberta in a new position of leadership within Canada but with a more mature mutually respectful federal-provincial relationship.

Alberta clearly needs a new kind of leader who is a confident, competent person of character and compassion. One who has a dedication and desire to serve the public interest and add to our collective well-being. Too often we see “leaders” emerging who seem to be in it to realize personal definitions of destiny who seem more concern with power, position and the personal perqs of office. Albertans best be careful that they also have a plan in mind as they chose the next PC leader. This leadership selection is more than mere party politics – it results in a new Premier of all of Alberta – at least until the next election two years away. Who do you plan to vote for and why? Please have a plan for a change.