Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Road Less Traveled By

Just over two years ago (Nov 8, 2004) I wrote a Guest Column published in the Edmonton Journal in anticipation of the provincial election, entitled “The Providence of Alberta.”

In it I talked about some of Alberta’s accomplishments past and present and offered some ideas for future feats we might want to tackle. I begged the question about our readiness to meet the new complex challenges before us. Did we have the commitment and discipline to realize our full potential? Were we too flush with cash and conceit to truly concern ourselves with the responsibilities we have to each other, the environment and future generations? Were we so busy making money that we are willfully blind to the social and environmental consequences of how we live, work and grow our energy based economy? Those same questions are still relevant today.

The 2004 election campaign results were not a disaster but they were not good either. Albertans were sending a wake up call to the PC Party and the Klein government. The Klein government seemed to not heed the call. It stayed on "cruise control" and went back to throwing money at problems. The party membership had had enough and responded last April 1st, when they forced the current leadership selection campaign.

If we are to believe the polls, only 30% of the PC party “base” members are intending to vote in the selection of their new leader. I hope that proves to be wrong because we need a re-engagement of socially progressive and fiscally conservative people who will “come to the aid of the party.”

We are entering the end of the "regular season" of this campaign with the looming November 25th first ballot. I think it is timely for Albertans to sit back and quietly reflect for a moment on what is really going on in this leadership selection campaign and what they want to emerge out of it at the end of the day. Sure it is a partisan event. But it is more than that. It is a chance for citizens to send a message about the kind of Alberta they want. Fundamental shifts in direction are needed and clear options are before us, given the kind of candidates and the policy options they are offering.

We can shift hard right to a more socially conservative society with the “Holy Trinity” of Morton, Oberg and Doerksen. Or we can move forward with a socially progressive and fiscally conservative “Wholesome Triumvirate” of Hancock, Stelmach and Dinning. The end result of the second ballot on December 2nd will decide the direction our government will be taking for the two years to the next election.

Do we, as a province, want to go hard to the Right or do we decide to move Progressively forward? The new Leader/Premier will be the one who get to define and decide the goals and the new destination for the province too. The outcome of this leadership process significantly impacts all of us in our daily lives...whether you voted or not.

No new Leader/Premier, will be able to govern alone, Stephen Harper notwithstanding. The next Leader/Premier will have to seek out support from like minded candidates to be allies. One of these two groupings of candidates will emerge December 2nd, depending on who we select as our next Leader/Premier. If you, as a citizen, decide to “sit this one out” that means you are prepared to entrust to others to make that decision for you. That is your right but take some time to understand and appreciate the potential consequences of such indifference.

There is one week left in this campaign. Participation in our democratic processes and institutions is dangerously low. Exercising ones right to vote, showing up to be part of the decision and not “siting this one out” is the road less traveled by…and that, my fellow Albertans, can make all the difference.

It is about your values, your choices and your future.