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Friday, November 24, 2006

It is Now in the Hands of Albertans

So the political punditry is all but past and who the next Premier of Alberta is going to be in the hands of the public, if not tomorrow then next Saturday for sure.

Not a great many of the public are going to make this decision by the looks of things. Those political die-hard will show up for sure. Those other citizens who have been able to overcome their philosophical and personal resistances to joining a political party will participate too. We owe all of them a debt of gratitude for taking the time to be part of this process and for ultimately making the decision.

They have seen the opportunity, and the threat, inherent in this party leadership contest and how it can impact the future of Alberta. Many have had to overcome some serious angst in order to becoming a political party member. that has been a barrier to many but the reality of the next PC leader also being the provincial Premier has had an impact on their decision I suspect.

Others who have risen to the occasion by showing real leadership and engagement on policy issues must be acknowledged too. They have become effective activists in promoting causes where they want to affect policy changes. The most successful and effective of these have been those citizens involved in the full range of disability issues and services. Thank you for your superior citizenship.

This process has been open and democratic but not as transparent as it needs to be, especially around disclosure and tactics used for soliciting campaign contributions. It has been too long a campaign in some ways but the extra time has given people, and candidates, more time to identify and understand the issues. Albertans have had the time to get more informed about the character and capabilities of the various candidates.

We are being offered two clear and different visions for Alberta’s future. We have a social progressive agenda within a fiscal conservative overlay that demands value for taxpayer’s dollars. This vision is represented by Hancock and Dinning. Alternatively we have social conservatives coupled with a fiscal attitude that sees government as a necessary evil. They believe more tax cuts, the marketplace and individual initiative is the best way to run a society. This vision is represented by Morton and Oberg.

Alberta is going to see a dramatic change of political direction, if not now, then at the next provincial election for sure. Neither of these two alternative are extensions of the current status quo. Each represents a significant change of direction from the past 5 years of the "cruise-control" Klein government.

The different approaches and the outcome of this leadership campaign is either the change itself, a prelude of the change to come, or if the PC party gets it wrong, about which party forms the next government. No small stakes are at issue here!

Just like no one knows the leadership outcome today, we will have to wait to see what Albertans want their future to be like and what principles and values will drive the direction of their next Alberta. Albertans know we are living in interesting, scary and uncertain times but we have great opportunity and a good reason for a sense of optimism - but some things have to change. Times of change demand wise leadership from politicians with real depth, significant experience and, above all, quality characters of the highest order.

So Alberta – bundle up, show up and vote carefully tomorrow – your future will depend on the choices that are being made. Those choices will be made by you - or by others "for you." Again, no small stakes. It is your choice, your values and your future that is at issue at the ballot box.