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Sunday, July 30, 2006

What Albertans Want From Their Next Premier

In May 2003 I helped commission a Discrete Choice Modelling (DCM) survey to determine what would be the most postive and negative values and attributes Albertans would be looking for in their next leader/premier. We asked a scientifically valid sample about what preparation a person should have for the task, somethings about a vision for Alberta, the level of education required, some personal qualities, communications skills and attibutes about a leader as change agent. I think the results are likely still valid today.

This research technique is not opinion polling. It is a Nobel Prize winning technique that measures relative preferences in values and attributes. We all make trade offs in competing values and hold some values and beliefs more intensly than others. DCM measures those aspects. The results of the attributes we tested we can show what a candidate should be - or not be - to best align with the preferred or less optimal values we tested in the survey.

To start let me give you the survey's least optimal attributes for the next leader of Alberta. If they are academic, focused on Alberta only, are very assertive and self confident, perceived as "media savvy" and a mouth piece following the lead of others, they are not fitting the preferred mould as a positive choice for Alberta's next leader. What candidate best fits this discription?

We will soon be putting these complete survey results on The Policy Channel (www.policychannel.com) for people to view. Check out the Policy Channel interview with Dr. Earle Snider on the limitations of opinion polling too. Google the DCM technique if you want to know more about it.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Premier Morton - Get Used to It!

I do not support Ted Morton for leader of the PC Party. But I am practical and pragmatic about his chances. He has a large support base that is quiet, committed, disciplined and quite capable of crowning Dr. Morton as Alberta's PROGRESSIVE conservative party leader - and our pro tem Premier for the next 2 years. Some irony makes you laugh while others make you cry.

Professor Morton's views are well known from his numerous op-ed pieces and speeches. He is a signatory to the famous Firewall letter. He comments often against the feds, even with a Harper government. In Morton's view Alberta needs a Firewall to protect us from Canada. He has changed a bit. His new "a" word is adoption not abortion (sic) but there is still no" gaiety" in his heart for homosexuals. I could go on but you get the picture.

The past Reform/Alliance/Federal PC wars over leadership and power has created a large and well organized socially conservative political force in Alberta. My sources tell me that Stockwell Day had 32,000 Alberta based votes in his last leadership bid. Those voters are quietly positioned and poised to support Professor Morton and push him over the top. With those numbers in his camp it could be enough - if history has any relevance to the present.

In the 1992 leadership, front runners, Ralph and Nancy had just under 32,800 total votes between them; 16,393 for Nancy and 16,392 for Ralph - proving every vote counts. 32,000 voters for Ted is pretty impressive in this context.

The second ballot total vote in 1992 increased 48%. Nancy was endorsed by every other candidate and doubled her support to 31,722. Ralph's team went to work that week and blew her out of the water with 46,245. That dramatic voter turnout and turnaround on the second ballot is reassuring. It proves citizens can get motivated and they will participate in decisions about who should govern them - if they have a good reason. Otherwise it's "don't worry - be happy." The frog sits contentedly while the water warms.

Morton's social conservatives are motivated and they will participate in this leadership contest and good on them. As for the rest of us who decide to be no-shows, it was never truer than now, in a democracy, we always get the government we deserve.

Premier Morton! Get involved or get used to it!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Where's the Arrogance?

It was interesting to read the Edmonton Journal letters to the editor about Gary McPherson's suggestion about purchasing a PC membership because the party leadership will be decided by 1 person 1 vote. The winner will have 2 years left on the mandate and that is plenty of time to road test the new "Premier." It is also long enough to do some serious damage to Alberta if the wrong person is chosen.

Gary was merely making a suggestion about being strategic as a citizen in this leadership contest. To claim this is arrogance by the PC Party seems a bit over the top. For $5 bucks anyone who wants to, can have a direct say in the outcome. This is an open opportunity to participate in a decision that will impact all of us. Hardly the stuff of arrogance. It's the epitome of openness and inclusiveness to my mind. No one is forcing anyone to join the PC party, but those who do, and show up to vote, will determine the next party leader and the next Premier of Alberta.

Inclusiveness and openness seems to be lacking in the provincial NDP party if the point by one letter writer is true. How can a party like the NDP, who pride themselves in their social justice enlightment, be so arrogant as to insist that if I were to join them then I can't belong to another political party? Where is the respect for my Chart right of freedom of association for God's sake?

Go ahead and burn the PC membership card afterwards but to claim an open offer of 1 person - 1 vote is arrogance, I don't see how that fits. Remember the world is run by those who show up!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Equalize This!

The Premiers are meeting in Newfoundland trying to come to a consensus on equalization. The overarching reality is does Stephen Harper really care if they agree or not? It is his Constitutional based proactive right to "fix" the formula and impose it on the provinces. An agreement may be nice but it is necessary? Federal-Provincial agreement is not even particularly relevant to Prime Minister Harper. Think Kelowna Accord for example.

I am not opposed to equalization, in fact I support it. I think the spirit of equalization ought to be extended beyond the vertical or horizontal fiscal "imbalance" to include the imbalance in the Senate. I recently wrote a piece for the Canada West Foundation "Dialogues" publication. Go to http://www.policychannel.com to read the piece. In it I suggest the same principles behind equalization ought to apply to equalize Senate seats. Western Canadians do not have the same standards of access to the benefit of Senate representation as do the eastern and central Canadians. Why would those who are "Senate Seat wealthy" oppose a quid pro quo equalization here as well? Surely Canada is not just about "cutting up the cash."

Senate Reform was the theme in the CWF Summer 2006 Dialogues. Lots of thoughtful commentary about senate reform at http://www.cwf.ca/ if you are interested.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Why I Write This Blog

For those who do not know, I am working on Dave Hancock's Leadership Campaign. The legitimate question of is my blog an "unofficial blog" for Hancock came up when I send the link to Larry Johnsrude of the Edmonton Journal. Here is our email exchange on the point.

Hi Ken,
Thanks for the link. It promises to be a lively forum for opinion and
arguments.
I'm wondering, since many Conservative bloggers are doing unofficial blogs
for a candidate, whether yours will be an unofficial blog for Dave Hancock.
Is that part of your plan at all?
Larry

HERE IS MY REPLY

Hi Larry - that is a legitimate question and the answer is no. Dave and his campaign have nothing to do with this blog. I am doing it because there are serious issues confronting Alberta on many fronts but the official discussion seems to me to be very cautious and guarded. The Internet is the kind of place where freedom of expression and where new ideas can be shared amongst citizens - and mostly unmediated and most effectively.

I can't stop people from making that kind of connection because I have been an ardent Hancock supporter and am a volunteer on his campaign. But this is me talking - NOT HIM. I have not talked about this initiative with Dave or the campaign team. Why would I? It seems to me those "unofficial blog" efforts are done anonymously. I am not doing this anonymously and not restricting myself to the PC leadership.

Consider that I have also supported Stephane Dion for Federal Liberal leader very overtly in this Blog. I simply see him as the best candidate for the Liberal leadership and chose to say so with my reasons. Would it be assumed therefore that I am an "unofficial blog" for Dion?

This "voice" in this blog is more like when I did the Political Panel on CBC radio for 8 years. I was just a PC party member commenting on political issues and events as I saw them. The NDP and Liberal participants on the program were also party members doing the same thing. We were not the official or even the "unofficial" representative of our parties. I am in the same context and neither the official nor unofficial blog for the Hancock campaign.

I hope what I have to say from, time to time, will resonate, perhaps inform and possibly motivate other citizens.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Ted Morton and the Calgary Mafia

Interesting media reactions to Calgary's Ted Morton and his comment about the backroom influence on the PC Party by the so called Calgary Mafia. Consider the future of Alberta - all Alberta, if the Prime Minister comes from Calgary, the Premier comes from Calgary and Mayor Bronconnier - of Calgary - takes over the Liberal leadership...a highly expected probability in many circles. With so much power concentrated in three men in one city are we doing ourselves and a functioning representative democracy any favours?

Calgary is a great city but it is not all of Alberta, just as Alberta is not all of Canada. We already have a Toronto - we don't need another one or a replacement for that matter. What if the prevailing attitude in Calgary turned it into a "metropolitan David Dingwall" and they started to believe they "were entitled to their entitlements." With so much concentrated power, what is to stop that possibility? What good would it do? Prevention is possible. A cure may not be found before some serious damage is done to our society and representative democracy. There is more than one method to piss away a boom. Citizen's cynicism and indifference are amongst them.

By voting we consent to be governed by leaders and politicians who we select as a matter of choice. Failing, refusing or neglecting to participate in elections and party leadership selections is not granting an informed citizen's consent. Consenting to be governed by default due to citizen's indifference can have dire consequences...for everyone. The "chosen ones" to govern have an enormous concentration of power over our lives. Indifference is a luxury citizens cannot afford.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Dinner with Dion

Last week I had the chance to have dinner with Stephane Dion and some of his Alberta campaign team. The next day my business partner interviewed him on www.policychannel.com. The interview is almost ready for posting on that site - likely early next week. Check it out. We spent quite a bit of time together and I gotta tell you - he grows on you.

I have watched the Liberal leadership with passive agressive amusement. The characters are fascinting. Ignatiaff - a "Trudeauesq wannabe" expat American who is "fawning in love" with Canada, "honestly." (sic) And Bob Rae, "please forgive my past sins Ontario," and please believe me Canada that I have changed, "really." Then there is Volpe who a candidate with a guiltless guile, leading a Children's Cash Crusade, marching merrily towards yesterday. Those principles and values make him akin to a Groupaction mimic. I could go on but you get my drift.

Dion on the other hand is refreshing. He has intellectual heft, a commitment to a united Canada, a constant curiosity along with a conviction to do things differently. He has an appreciation for complexity and a suspicion of simple answers to the crucial questions. He could turn out to be a truly great 21st century leader. Here is a candidate talking intelligently and forcefully about the country, the environment and social justice. Here is a guy who understands the marketplace and its place. He also understands the role of good governance in creating the common good.

I like him at a number of levels. He has a serious agenda that is a challenge for all Canadians to consider. He has a message we ought to take seriously. He is someone worth watching as this campaign evolves. Progressives will find Dion to be their kind of candidate and they should get behind him now.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Don't Call Me Minister - Just the Local MLA

I have just read the July 20, 2006 EUB transcript of Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Guy Boutilier's testimony. Please do not confuse him with the Honourable Guy Boutilier, Minister of Environment for Alberta. Media quotes indicate he claims to have "turned off that half of his brain" - at least for these proceedings.

First he read his Resume into the record. Did he think no one would believe he really was the MLA for the Region?" Then he read a stump speech, even admitting he was not there to talk about the actual application that was before the EUB. So why was he there? Why did he want to intervene in the dying days of the hearing? What was so urgent that required his testimony, as the "MLA." Why was he granted intervener status as an exception to the rules? What exactly did he submit that was so critical and vital to the hearing. What compelled a Minister of the Crown, under the guise of "just being the local MLA," to personally intervene in a quasi-judicial regulatory process? Did he not understand, as a Harvard grad with a Masters degree in Public Administration, the potential risk and recklessness of his actions? Did he not consider that his request might be seen as political interference with the independence of the regulatory hearing process - even with his Minister's brain turned off. Did he seek any legal advice about the possible legal consequeces of his actions?

The locals will no doubt be asking themselves what he has accomplished for the Region since 1997, when he was first elected as their "local MLA" and the Fort McMurray growth explosion started to take off. In the hour or so he took to read in his resume, give his political speech and face two short cross examinations - he repeats that he is the local MLA 83 times. Too bad getting results has not been big on the local MLA's agenda too. One can only hope the EUB got the message... and can help get some results for Wood Buffalo.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Alberta is "Republican"

So Premier Klein was recently in Washington reassuring the White House that Alberta is as "Republican" as it gets in Canada. Strong political rhetoric but short on reality. According to the social values research that Environics does, the most conservative social values in Canada are not in Alberta. The most conservative social values come from Saskatchewan and Manitoba, provinces with NDP governments. Go Figure.

In fact Alberta is 20% more progressive on some key social value measures than the most "liberal" American states like New York and Massachusetts. People are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. I am tired of the red-neck reputation of Alberta that has become the "truth." It is unfounded - the Reform/Alliance consciousness we send to Ottawa notwithstanding.

For more political truths visit http://www.policychannel.com