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Friday, September 29, 2006

To Renew or Not to Renew...How Best to State the Question

I have been asked/invited to "join" the group of bloggers on Renewingtheonepartystate. I am intrigued but have to say I have trouble associating with anonymous bloggers...especially those who have not had much to say recently of any significance . The RTOPS folks have apparently been keen to get back to relevance, as opposed to the current predominant site culture of shallow shots sans substance. Too much of what I have recently read on RTOPS is merely reproducing traditional newspaper stories text with an intro quip at best. What is this lack of content and context, not to mention absence of commentary all about? Laziness? Maybe! Trite and superficial - much too often.

I am not really interested in the actual renewal of the ONE party state. I am keen on relevant, inclusive, diverse, curious, welcoming and engaging authentic political parties - regardless of political ideology. I see most parties today being run by backroom bullies, bullshit artists or wannabe backslappers. The overarching common characteristic of such people is institutional anonymity. They get others to do the overt dirty work while they engineer the action behind the scenes in Oz-like "cover."

That said the more communication and open discourse of informed and engaged opinion that is accessible by real citizens who are keen on contributing significantly to the comon good...I am in. I believe political parties need reforming as much as the old Soviet Bloc did. Walls have to be torn down. They can't continue the way they are and they have to find the means to become relevant and meaningful again. The internet is so citizen accommodating and so capable of serving this purpose. But blogger anonymity suggest they live in fear. Pity them or discount them or join them...that is my question.

RTOPS is has potential to help political parties become people-centred political places again. I just don't understand the need for pseudonyms or the bloggers need to be behind their masks. Blogger bravado that is nothing more than de facto timidity is just a "poulet feces" way to "make a point."'

So - gentle readers, check out RTOPS site. Let me know what you think of this idea. Ought I accept or reject the invite... unconditionally, or conditionally? Is it reasonable to ask the contributors to be obvious and overt about who they are as much as they are obvious and overt about their opinions?

I see a real opportunity here but is it better seen as a "Groucho Marx" opportunity where I ought to decline any "club" that would have me as a member? Let me know your thoughts.

Good for Garry Rohr...and Who is He?

Finally the social extremists like Garry Rohr, are "coming out" and overtly engaging in the political process to influence the PC leadership campaign outcome - and Ted Morton is their man. My sentiments are summed up by Adlai Stevenson (I think) who said, "I disagree with everything you are saying but will defended with my life your right to say it." Just Google Garry Rohr to get a sense of who he is and how he operates. In the Richard Nixon style of "I am not a crook" Rohr is quoted as saying, "We've been painted in the media as extremists, but we're really not that extreme." "...not that extreme...." Boy is that comforting!

These are the folks that made Stephen Harper "scary" in 2004 and my guess (hope of hopes) is they do the same for Ted Morton. Drs. Morton and Oberg are on the same page here. Morton is reported as being committed as Premier to reintroduce his anti-gay legislation to discriminate and deny certain people the fairness and the freedom to marry. Even Victor Doerksen isn't going there and notes it is a federal issue according to the same Edmonton Journal report.

The tactics are the same old "set up" survey questionnaire of the "gotcha" playbook of political tricks. These groups used them in the last two provincial elections. I wonder which of his profusion of advocacy fronts and factions he will use this time. Will it be the Canada Family Action Coalition, or his Family Life Coalition, or Families for Day (yes that's Stockwell Day we're talking about here). These are just a few of his political action "vehicles."

These organizations are large groups of people, not like the phoney grassroots cabal that took on Deb Gray a few years back. They proved to be loud and media savvy but in the end, they had a membership about as big as a half empty phone booth. Rohr has a huge membership base and claims an e-mail list of 50,000 names. That is more than enough to make a difference in the PC leadership. In fact it could determine the end result if everyone else sits on the cynical sidelines.

I have posted before on Dr. Morton (August 22, 27) and Victor Doerksen (Aug 16) if you want more context on them and their issues. For serious citizens participation in this PC leadership is not an option.

The world is run by those who show up and Garry Rohr and his people are determined to show up. Good on them. That is what democracy is all about. What about the rest of us? Will we show up or simply sit back and settle for an outcome determined by others?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Which Way Are We Going?

The plot thickens on the "issues" between myself, the Hancock guy, and William McBeath, the Morton guy, and the speculation about if Albertans will go progressive or conservative in their choice of the new PC leader and "pro tem" Premier.

Duncan Wojtaszek posts an analysis of sweet reason and gives us great insight on this question. His answer? It is Yes...it could go either way. And he gives a good myth-busting review of history, events and possible trends to show how it could go either way this time.

He invites us to think larger and deeper than the sound bite candidates would wish for us. I think every PC member should read this posting. Take your time. It demands reflection. It is also a wake up call to the the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta.

In November will we pick a new direction and definition of Alberta? Or will we look for a renewed Lougheed, or a Klein Clone, or a Paul Martin facsimile or a reconditioned Aberhart? If that is all we do I fear we forfeit the future of the province. The new "leader" may well, blow the next election and turn into a Harry Strom and destroy the entire Party as well.

The bottom line...be careful who you elect. Not just now but always.

Thx Duncan.

A Swift Kick in the "Rebut" From McBeath

Fellow Blogger Will McBeath’s (Noise From the Right) recent posting gives me a swift kick in the “Rebut.” Is Alberta more Progressive or Conservative and where are we going anyway? His answer: Alberta is on its way to a Conservative Heaven. I presume with a hand basket that is chock full of Alberta-only money.

He gives us real numbers on real election results to prove his thesis. He admits to some issues with his earlier numbers explaining them to be “hyperbole to illustrate my point.” Ah yes lies, damn lies and statistics.

I applaud Will’s analysis and accept its accuracy on faith because I trust him. I don’t need to double check the data. Because, frankly, the data is mere fact! In politics, facts, while interesting are almost entirely irrelevant. In politics it is more about how you frame the issues and how you activate value drivers about what people believe to be important. That makes the difference in how a citizen decides who to trust with his or her vote.

Election results taken out of context are essentially meaningless stats. The rational positivists really believe tomorrow will reflect yesterday and the world is static and people are predictable. Any student of human nature knows just how wrong that is.

So I don’t argue with Will’s data on past election results. I say so what! Does it matter? What difference do the past stats make in today’s reality? Trends are not destiny. I do know that campaigns matter and they do make a difference. For example in 2004 the Liberals convinced the voting public that Harper was “scary” based on comments coming from his ultra-conservative far-right religious supporters. Harper lost. Value drivers, not data made the difference. In the 2006 election Harper engineered a no-confidence vote and convinced those people who made him “scary” to keep quiet during the campaign. They did. This campaign had Gomery in full bloom and the RCMP publicly announcing investigations on an alleged leak about something called Income Trusts. The values drives kick in and the new “non-scary” Harper gets to be PM.

The moral of the story? Campaigns matter. Just ask Harper. Context is king. Kings are made by context. Counting old ballots is not context is just a bunch of old data. Nice work “Noise” in collecting the data - but in reality, it signifies nothing.

Do as I Say, "Stay in School" - Ralph Klein

The symposium on high school completion “Your Future Starts Here” is a wrap. Some 600 delegates came, some to "admire the problem" and some offered practical ideas on how to solve it. They also got to hear Ralph Klein outline why he used to be a bad role model for the staying in school message. From high school drop out to Premier is not the usual path and not a stress-free outcome in his experience in “the school of hard knocks.”

From a Learning Commission policy target of 90% completion and a track record of only 77% means something is amiss and has to be done. Suggestions ranged from adding more guidance counsellors, improved literacy programs and more librarians in schools. The feds have just announced a $13B surplus and that they are backing out of supporting fed-prov literacy programs. Many other social support programs are being cut by the Harper government as well. So it falls on Alberta to step up - and why not. Education is provincial jurisdiction after all. Check the PC Leadership Candidates websites and see what they say about this issue.

Do you think public education is important? Take some time and let the province know what you think are of our public education system. There is an on-line survey sponsored by Public Interest Alberta at http://www.schoolsurvey.ca/. I took it and think that is a great place to start to get the provincial ball rolling.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Reality Check for the Norris "Real Plan"

Boy I thought I was being hard on Candidate Norris. Will McBeath's Blog (Noise From the Right) does a point by point “reality check” cum evisceration on Mark’s “Real Plan” policy document. It is worth a read.

Will is a committed Ted Morton guy – right to the bone. He thinks Morton’s ideological brand Republican Conservatives is the way forward for Alberta. I think Ted Morton is the Dick Cheney of Alberta politics.

McBeath is so confident in his view that the rest of us will see the light and go hard right for Dr. Morton that he uses the last federal election results as his proof. Conservatives 28. Liberals 0. Game Set and Match says our man Will. Ted should be a slam dunk.

Alberta PROGRESSIVE Conservatives are not the same as the Stockwell Day brand of Alliance/Reformers cum Republican Conservatives. Let’s look at the last Provincial election for a “Will-like proof.” PROGRESSIVE Conservatives 61. “Real” Conservatives (a.k.a Alliance) 1. Conclusion Ted is dead in the water.

What you are seeing presented by “Noise From the Right” is just that, Noise. But it is clever and tactical “noise” that frames Dr. Morton and a forgone conclusion to be the next Premier of Alberta. It is clever and pure unadulterated rhetorical bunk that is conclusive proof of nothing! You are seeing pure spin and propaganda at work here!

In this leadership selection we are talking about and making choices about the future of our province, its people, its prosperity and the place itself. Are we to be an engaged, nurturing community of fair minded and curious people? Or will we choose to be subject to a strict, disciplined, government that demands we be obedient citizens subject to and under a “greater” power…no not God – but our Republican Conservative Premier - be it Dr. Morton or Dr. Oberg. But I may be just plain wrong about the way the good Doctors would govern. But time will tell, especially if either of them gets to be the chosen one.

I believe in freedoms, particularly freedom of choice, expression and consciousness. I believe the politicians work for me, not the other way around. I vote intentionally and thoughtfully as I grant my consent to be governed. And I will revoke that consent at my will. I will live my life within the law and not be told how to run it by coercion, extortion, intimidation or threats by “the state.” I will keep my freedoms close, hold them dear and protect them aggressively – especially against any arrogant so called “higher” political power or authority.

I am a Progressive Conservative.

Hancock Stakes Out the Environment

The Hancock Campaign had just released his 13 Principles on the Protection and Enhancement of Alberta’s Environment along with an Open Letter Albertans on what he calls his “21st Century Environmental Plan for Alberta.” The stuff is all on his website http://www.davehancock.ca/. For purposes of disclosure – I have had a hand in the development of this policy. You are entitled to know that. His complete and comprehensive detailed policy platform is being released on October 4th.

It’s interesting that no candidate has staked out the environment yet. Hancock seems to be the first into the issue – and with a long term integrated comprehensive approach. He reflects the spirit and intent of Preston Manning’s writings last spring that the economy and the environment are complementary and not adversaries. We can and must see the links as synergistic and not competitive. Manning caused quite a resonant stir amongst Albertans when he made those observations in his op-ed pieces.

The feeling then (and now?) was that the population gets it and wants it to be that way but where has government’s environment political champion been? This policy position needs an effective political leader or at least an effective Cabinet Minister to make it happen? To date the old guard has been more about “Missing and Inaction.”

For example, Hancock says there are a number of significant environment plans in place (like Water for Life) or finally in process (like Integrated Landscape Management and the on again off again Oil Sands cumulative impact consultations) but they have not been implement, funded or advanced by the old government.

I think this issue has real legs. In the last federal election Alberta had the large percentage of Green Party supporters in the country outside Vancouver Island – ‘nuff said. The Greens finished second to Myron Thompson in the Bow Valley area – a distant second to be sure but who would have thunk it - second! The environment has not yet had a credible and balanced Progressive and Conservative politician take up the cause. Now it has. Give it a "boo" and let Hancock know what you think.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Hey PC Party of Alberta- Fix This

THE PC PARTY COMES THROUGH. THE STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES ARE BACK ON THE PARTY WEBSITE. KUDOS TO THE PARTY FOLKS WHO DID THIS. SEE MY POSTING OCTOBER 1 FOR MORE DETAILS.

I checked out the PC Party website to get an update on the Statement of Principles adopted by the Party in the early 1990's during Dave Hancock's term as Party President. They have been updated and ratified recently by an Annual General Meeting of the Party.

There is no sign of them on the Party website. Big error! Sure it is necesary to focus on the leadership BUT NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE PARTY!!!

There is a need to get folks involved in the Party and the leadership but don't you think they should have some background and an some ind of idea what a political party is all about...like access to the Statement of Principles of the PC Party for instance?.

Doug Graham - as Party President please fix this right away.

IN THE MEANTIME while you are waiting for that to be fixed check out the piece I recently wrote on Senate Reform in the Canada West Foundations "Dialogues" pubication "Equalize This." Hope you enjoy it. The "Gnu Government of Canada" as the federal Conservatives are insisting they now be called, even by the bureaucracy (if you like your job..but no pressure), are planning a full force incremental adjustment of the Senate. They are proposing a Bill to legislate term limits for Senators to 8 years. A start for sure and I like their pluck and wish them well. But why not tie into this Bill some equal Senate representation for the west as a quid pro quo for the equalization payments to "have not" provinces as well? The "poorer" provinces mostly have an excess of Senate seats that could be "equalized" to give us underprivileged western provinces some of the Senate seats from the fiscal "have not" provinces? Why don't we deserve equal "access" to that significnat federal public service, the Senate. Isn't that the fundamental principle behind equalization provisions in the Constitution, equal access to federal government services? Could be a fun debate.

The PC Party as a Means to an End

Graham Thomson makes a series of good points in his column today. Why buy a PC membership to participate in the leadership selection process? This is a fundamental question underscoring the current leadership campaign for each and every candidate and each and every eligible Albertan. I am encouraged that the Doctors are seeing the significance of this process and starting to engage. The teachers are quietly there already. The disability community is getting engaged and focused. The evangelical Christians and the Preston Manning old line Reformers are clearly in the game. Environmentalists are forming coalitions and will soon be making their move to influence the outcome. The Arts and Culture as well as Sport and Recreational people are getting their acts together wanting to be sure their agenda is given some priority. Municipalities are focused as well. Post secondary students and school boards and parents have issues and are starting to organize and are looking at ways to getting their messages out to candidates. A powerful group of community and aboriginal leaders held a new conference recently to focus on the shortcoming of the education system on aboriginal education. They will be exerting political force as well. PC Leadership Candidate Dave Hancock wa the only politician at the news conference, sad but not surprising given he the author of the Alberta Aboriginal Policy Framework.

In the end the best way to make it happen is to buy a membership, find the candidate whose platform, principles and character best aligns with your aspirations and concerns. Then help promote that candidate’s campaign by telling your friends, colleagues and contacts why you support him or her. Finally show up and cast your ballot accordingly. Everything else is theory, posturing or positioning. Voting makes it all happen.

A lot has already been said in the conventional media and political Blogs, including this one, about the significance of this “opportunity” to pick the next PC leader, a fine thing indeed. More importantly the process selects the nest Premier…someone who could have the next 2 years of Klein’s mandate to rework Alberta into his or her “own image.” There is no compelling need to for any new party leader go to an early election. Many feel it would be a waste of money and add to the political uncertainty of the province and the country. The likelihood of any perpetrator of a cynical political pre-emptive election strike, in Alberta or Canada, will result in the party who causes it, being punished at the polls. Today Graham brings it all into focus for us again…especially since the campaign has now really started and the public will begin to pay more attention.

I only quibble with Graham’s tongue-in-cheek suggestion about maybe not participating and just letting the two years lapse. The idea is to have the PC party “bash away at each other” as some kind of political sporting event until the next election. This may be fun for journalists but it is much too dangerous a strategy for our future stability and progress as a province. Albertans should engage and make a conscious and informed decision as to our future. That, to my mind, is a much more practical an enlightened approach for our own individual and collective good.

We must be vigilant and careful who we choose because who we select will, in no small way, go a long way to defining Alberta and what it means to be Albertan – at least for the remainder of this mandate A lot of good, or a lot of evil can be done in the two years until the next election.

So bring on the special interests groups and let them get involved. In a democracy we always get the kind of government we deserve because it is our individual participation in our free and open collective choices that generates the end result. The world is still run by those who show up. If you’re ready will and able to “show up” – I have memberships available at ken@cambridgestrategies.com and for $5 will be happy to facilitate your positive act of citizenship.

Norris Misses the "Mark!"

Mark Norris is reported as saying Alberta’s revenue surpluses are “due to bad budgeting and over taxation” is just plain inaccurate and imprudent. A catchy sound bite for sure and the Sun newspapers will eat it up. In the real world it is nothing short of a dangerous presumption and a supercilious operating principle for any serious aspirant to political leadership.

Government surpluses that result from program and operating functions are not “over taxation” necessarily and definitely not in every instance. It could be “bad budgeting” but in every budget certain judgment calls have to be made on all kinds of assumptions and issues around program costs and criteria. Surpluses are more likely the result of inaccurate assumptions over a actual program costs, the implementation and timing, or a mis-assessment of an actual program need, or incorrect assumption over our amount, pace, distribution and make up of our population growth (think Fort McMurray). It may be the result of a less than enthusiastic program acceptance or many many other things that depend on human judgment and assumptions.

Look at the recent Centennial matching scholarship program that apparently nobody wants to participate in. Is that causing a surplus and as a result bad budgeting? Norris “won’t tolerate it” but what will his intolerance lead him to do about it? Can we assume even more simple minded “solutions?” Could it be the program was founded on an incorrect assumption as to what people will contribute toward the future of their kid’s education in the current inflationary and volatile Alberta economy? Is it possible that young Albertans with school age kids are using the cash they have for education to meet huge school fee hikes, increases in school transportation costs, rising gasoline prices, increased electricity charges, runaway shelter costs and increased inflation? Could it be they don't feel comfortable “freezing” cash just now in a program that may or may to be needed or even sufficient for the purposes intended at some vague time in the future? Even if it is matched by government. In Mark’s world this is “bad budgeting and must not be tolerated.”

Surpluses generated by larger resource revenues resulting from higher than estimated commodity prices are not over taxation either. They are windfalls and need to be used in ways to the benefit of future generations as much, if not more, than current operational needs. Would Mark “not tolerate” this as bad budgeting as well? It is not necessarily “bad budgeting” that all these variables are estimated and assumed for overall budget calculation purposes and that they may prove inaccurate in the end.

Misleading us as to the amount of resource revenue surpluses by accounting obfuscation and fiscal trickery…now that is more than bad budgeting, it is bad government. That practice has been more common, in both the Alberta and the federal Liberal governments in recent years. That approach is just plain bad governing. That is something that really has to stop. Mark Norris "no tolerance" stance is something he could use for this issue if he is serious about changing budgeting policy and procedures. The consequences of inaccurate financial reporting and intentionally misleading fiscal messaging is a truly bad budget practice that should not be tolerated.

Norris’ media comments really shows a serious lack of insight as to the complexity, issues and the fiscal dynamics of good government and effective governing. For each and every complex governance challenge there is always a simple solution - that is usually WRONG. Norris is a nice guy but apparently does not have a very deep grasp of such thing as revenue surpluses and public sector budgeting.

Norris has been dubbed “The Klein Clone” by no less than the likes of Art Smith and Phil Klein. These gentlemen are Ralph's mentor and father respectively. They ought to know a Klein Clone personality when they see one. Haven’t we already been there and done that? Do we really need to do that again? Is repeating that set of pesonal qualities the best way to go forward for Alberta? Those are some of the questions Albertans have to ask themselves as they assess the PC leadership candidates and wanna-be Premiers.

Politically however, Mark Norris is no Ralph Klein. He aspires to the Premier's office as a relative neophyte candidate having been elected only once and then losing his seat and Cabinet postion in the last provincial election. That suggests he is not yet ready to lead or to govern. He has not yet justified the public's confidence to the point where we citizens should grant him our consent to govern. Maybe next time but not this time.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Hancock Statement on a "Retiring" Ralph Klein

Dave Hancock pays tribute to the retiring Ralph Klein and talks about what is next for a Progressive and Conservative Alberta.

Statement by Dave Hancock on the "Retiring" Ralph Klein

Edmonton, September 20, 2006 -- It has been an honour and a privilege to be a member of Premier Klein’s government since 1997. I have always been grateful for the opportunity to serve my province, my community, my home. Alberta is a more vibrant and prosperous province than it was 14 years ago and I thank Premier and Dr. Colleen Klein for their contributions and leadership.

Today, however, Alberta is at a crossroads. Albertans need to make choices. Much more than a choice between nine leadership candidates, it is a choice about the future. It is a direction that must be driven by values. What kind of province will we build? When the time comes for our children’s children to look back to our choices we want them to say "look what they did for us" not "look what they did to us."

In my travels throughout the province I have heard many ideas and many concerns from many people. We all have issues that affect us personally and it’s important to recognize that a farmer’s concerns in Provost are often different than those of a roughneck in High Level or a small business owner in Banff. There is, however, a resounding consensus that we have shared interest in planning for a healthy and prosperous future and making Alberta the best place to work, live, and visit. Albertans deserve a leader who not only listens, but involves them in creating their future.

All Albertans must have access to educational opportunities to realize their potential and succeed in Alberta's community and economy. We must focus on wellness and preventative care and use our creativity to ensure universality of quality, sustainable health care.

Environmental stewardship is the duty we owe to present and future Albertans. Non-renewable natural resource income is finite and should be invested in endowments to support future-forward thinking in areas such as education and innovation, resolutions for our social and environmental issues, and the development of our art, culture and community.

We need to foster innovation and create an environment that encourages Albertans to unleash their capacity to innovate and explore new opportunities. We need to ensure financial stewardship by providing continued balanced budgets, low taxation levels, and saving and investment strategies for our tax dollars.

I look forward discussing your values and priorities for the future as I travel the province over the next two months. I welcome the opportunity to engage with the other candidates in the upcoming leadership forums about the choices we need to make for a healthy and sustainable future. This campaign is about your values, your Alberta, and your choice for a new leader in a new era of government. I can provide that leadership. I ask for the support of all Albertans.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Premier Klein Quits Tomorrow

The official resignation letter from Premier Klein comes tomorrow afternoon and the campaign to find his successor, and the next pro tem Premier of Alberta, now starts with a vengeance.

Ralph has always been a character. An “interesting” character to be sure, who is not without his charm and not without his warts. He showed them all to us as well as all sides of his personality over the years as our party leader. He has, in the end, proven to be one of Alberta’s most successful politicians.

As I reflect on Ralph, I want to focus on some of his strengths as he prepares to pass the torch. I have worked with lots politicians over the years. What I recall of Ralph, beyond the media made mythology, was that he was one of the quickest studies on policy issues that I have met and worked with. His ability to focus and “get it in one” as they say always impressed me. I had the privilege to brief him as party leader on policy conference outcomes on a number of occasions. His gift of being able to focus on what was in front of him and to immediately grasp complex concepts and their context the to go out and speak to the political and policy implications, off the top of his head, was a gift. It was little appreciated talent that served him and the province well during his tenure.

His legendary common touch was genuine and is a fundamental and defining part of his character. He was the “glue” of the party and was able to personally appeal to the full range of political and policy perspectives within the Progressive Conservative Party.

His personal relationship with aboriginal Albertans and his understanding of their various cultures and the personal realities they faced. Ralph related to all aspects of aboriginal Albertans as a people, as individuals and as political interest groups. This personal part of Ralph developed into a special, politically effective, mutually beneficial and sustained relationship. Ralph helped other Albertans better understand the circumstances and political realities of Metis and First Nations people in Alberta and advanced their cause on many occasions.

He could be very insightful and adaptive. He sometimes had a sixth sense of what Albertans were really thinking and feeling. He connected with us as Albertans. His political antenna was not always perfect. He made mistakes but he took initiative. We all know those go hand in hand in politics and life. When he messed up he was quick to apologize and equally as quick to focused on fixing things to make them better. The issues and policy mistakes that were made around the sterilization issue and the Vriend decision are two prime examples of first getting it wrong, then realizing the mistake and immediately revising the policy to get it right.

Lots will be said in the media about Ralph’s shortcoming in his post-Premier period. Not by me though. I like him and appreciate what he has accomplished and done for Alberta. We often disagreed but never disagreeably. Our “arguments,” over a beer- or not - were always on the issues, the principles and processes – never on the goals and the purposes. He was thin skinned at times and took hurtful things personally and was often treated unfairly. Those are the realities of our adversarial competitive political culture.

Bottom line – he came into office and did what he said he would do. That alone differentiated him from the run-of-the-mill politicians so characteristic of his time. So now he retires. I want to personally thank Ralph for what he did, and sometime for what he didn’t do as our Premier. He has left Alberta a better place than when he was first elected and that, in the end, is all we can ask of any politician.

Update on Obergs 75/25 Infrastructure Solution

Interesting to see the Calgary Herald's Danielle Smith modifying her stance on Dr. Oberg's scheme to share the local property taxes between the municipalities and the local school boards. This is a device designed by an Oberg-Bronconnier alliance and only involves those two. Steele apparently liked the idea at first but is now saying "School Funding not Mayor's Role." I agree with her. The Mayor of Calgary, or any other municipality, ought not to be the person who decides where and when schools get built. Local school boards working with the province are the proper people to undertake that responsibility.

This blog was unimpressed with the Dr. Oberg 75/25 solution as well. This is fiscal burden being shifted by a leadership candidate to a level of government that can't serve its mandate now and this scheme does not solve that problem. It makes it worse. The province has responsibilities and a role to play here. The municipal and scholl infrastrucutre problems are worse because of Oberg's past delay and denial, as the Minister responsible, that public infrastructure needed attention.

Delegating a duty is one thing and may be acceptable from time to time. Abdicating a responsibility, like Dr. Oberg's infrastructure scheme, is not appropriate.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Dan MacLennan "Privatizes" Himself

Dan MacLennan just announced he is leaving as President of the AUPE, Alberta's largest union and joining the private sector. He has been one of the most successful and effective public sector representatives and a strong voices for his memberships in the anti-union environment that is Alberta.

Dan and I have met through provincial PC and federal Liberal circles. While our basic politics differ, he and I have agreed in our support for certain candidates including Ralph Klein and Anne McLellan. He is a bright, effective and one of the superior strategic thinkers and quality leaders in the province.

The AUPE new release does not say where in the private sector he is going. "Buff" (as he is known) has political aspirations. He played with the idea of running as a federal LIberal in Edmonton East last time but wisely passed. This surprise move to "privatize" himself is clearly in service of those personal political goals. If not - they ought to be. He would be a great addition to the political life of the province or the country - depending on which arena he chooses to play in.

The union movements loss it the private sector's gain. It will be better merely as a result of having access to Dan's skills and qualities.

Welcome to the dark side Dan. We have to find some time for a beer to catch up.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Political Mentor “Marks” Norris as a Klein Clone.

Media reports tell of the recent Art Smith endorsement of Mark Norris for PC leader. Art Smith was the chief cook (and sometimes bottle washer) in the Calgary based Klein Kitchen Cabinet. Over a year ago, however, Smith openly called for Ralph to step down. A few days of “clarifying damage control” ensued but with Art Smith’s musings the die was cast for the political exit of King Ralph.

Art Smith was the man who “made” Ralph – in more ways than one. Dr. Oberg likes to take the credit for undermining Ralph at the PC Convention last April with his “skeleton in closets” comments. Such political opportunism is typical of the Oberg hubris. It is right up there with his belief he can lead a caucus he insults and embarrasses then fails to provide any evidence to back up his allegations. Oberg’s political chicanery tarred the entire caucus to the point they expelled him.

Back to Mark! Art Smith’s immense is practically mythological in Calgary political circles and marks (sic) a major coupe or the Norris campaign. Political campaigns are about change and moving forward, looking at alternatives, testing new ideas, fixing old problems, finding fresh faces, renewed vision and choosing the leader for now and beyond.

Art Smith's endorsement captures one of the disquieting essences of Mark Norris. He is very much, as Smith notes, a Klein clone. Smith’s presence underlines another concern about Norris’ readiness to lead the next Alberta. Research shows Albertans are ready for the future and they are more then a bit anxious about what the future holds. Are things moving a bit too fast for our capacity and infrastructure right now? Is the pace of growth creating new social and environmental problems and turning the entire province into Fort McMurray?

Albertans are not at all interested repeating and perfecting the past - especially in the recent Klein model of “lazy fair” governance. Mark’s major backers are now all older establishment businessmen like Smith in Calgary and Cal Nichols in Edmonton. All are fine fellows and outstanding citizens to be sure. By their presence though, they make their 43 year old “youthful” candidate look like he needs mentoring. They tend to erode our confidence and raise the underlining and perhaps even undermining Norris question – “is he really ready for leadership?” Alberta is the fastest growing economy on the continent. With that growth comes complex problems – both old ones and newer ones emerging. Can he stand up and deal with them effectively for the next 2 years…and beyond? Norris threatens an Alberta separation. He talks recklessly about taking Alberta out of Canada. He sees royalty surpluses from non-renewable resource which are one time revenues as "over taxation." These are some examples that make me shake my head about his policy judgement and his readiness to lead.

Elder statesmen supporters who compare his capability and personality to the past andretiring leader don’t help the Norris’ candidacy and campaign much. Mark is a nice guy and I like him but if he is the reincarnate Ralph Klein, we voters have to ask ourselves some serious questions. Is that what we need now? Or as Ralph used to say "....that was then, this is now!"

How seasoned is Mark to meet modern political pressures and policy demands? Does he have the insight, acumen, proven commitment and personal capacity to deal effectively with the harsh realities of political leadership? Has he got the depth of experience, astuteness and the personal judgment capabilities we need? Is he his “own man” or is he an “owned man?” These are big questions that will not go away about Mark Norris. They will not be overcome with a “hail fellow well met” political patina. Political leaders need competent advisors and confidants. Acolytes and novitiates need elders and mentors.

Friday, September 15, 2006

“Money! Money! Money! – It’s a Rich Man’s World”

My apologies to ABBA (sic) but this title captures the key issues around disclosure of PC leadership campaign financing. The issues that are heating up including the appropriateness of out of province campaign contributions. Transparency, accountability and disclosure are all aspects of the personal integrity of any candidate for public office.

OK the shallow minded policy purists can say the PC Party is a private organization and it is not necessary to disclose donor data. That attitude won’t cut it and besides, the winner here is also the Premier of the Province, so I think we have a right to know the score. The provincial election campaign disclosure standards ought to be, at a minimum, the requirements of the PC leadership candidates. Where did you get it and how did you spend it? With no rules coming from the PC Party, this issue could be one of the key and decisive character indicators of the various candidates. It is already forming as a campaign wedge issue.

Dinning and Dr. Morton are raising money outside Alberta. Why? Because they can! But should they? Dinning is reported, in Mark Lisac’s Insight Into Government newsletter as raising – and presumably spending - $3 million on his leadership campaign. A cool $1 million more than Stephen Harper spent to become leader of the federal Conservatives. Dinning has arguably been campaigning since he left politics in 1997 – surely he has enough money by now. Dr. Morton is chasing BC bucks from “like minded people” – whatever that means - but it sounds kind of austere doesn’t it, given what we know of Dr. Morton’s mind. To the ordinary Albertan this looks like elites and special interests buying influence and access to the seat of power in Alberta. Maybe not but time will tell…if either of them wins! It sure add to citizen's cynicism...just read the Letters to the Editor in the newspapers.

Norris says he has the high road on campaign disclosure. However, why would 106 well heeled individuals cough up $10K each for what should be a non-deductible campaign contribution, but is positioned as “buying consulting services” - from a political candidate? That is the Norris campaign funding model. The scheme is designed so “donors” can deduct the money they “spend” in exchange for “consulting services” from candidate Norris. His campaign contributions are being proffered as a tax deductible expense.

Clever - don't you think? Help your candidate and pay less tax instead of making a straight up non-deductible political donation. It may be legal, I don’t know, but does it pass your “sniff test?” I like lower taxes as much as the next guy but really! I hope he got an advance tax ruling on the scheme.

Does tax deductibility also mean, in effect, we are all unwittingly contributing in some way to the Norris campaign? Our governments are getting less revenue with his tax scheme for campaign funding. Does this mean lost tax revenues get made up by other charges or by reduced government services? Beats me, but hopefully the taxman looks into these business transaction/political donations and will let us know if it is proper.

If it is an appropriate tax avoidance scheme, then are the rest of us also funding the Norris campaign? Please list my contribution as “anonymous.” Not because I don’t want people to know I am helping out Mark as a taxpayer and citizen- but because I didn’t even know I was ;-}.

Why do some donors insist on anonymity? There are a number of reasons for this. Sometime big money movers and shakers hedge their “bets” by giving to more than one candidate. They still want each individual candidate to think they have the donor’s undying loyalty. Insisting on anonymity achieves both ends. Some anonymous donations may be ethically questionable, like from people associated with government agencies, boards and commissions that are supposed to be arms length from politics. Some donors just do not want to be bothered by other requests for money and ask to be anonymous.

Candidates should just tell us how many anonymous donors and the amount of each contribution. We citizens can then judge for ourselves what that implies (or not) about the receiving candidate’s judgment and the nature of his support. Simple solution don’t you think?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Hancock Should "Get the Nod"

Props to Matt Frehner at the Gateway, the U of A student newspaper. His piece on the St. Albert PC Leadership Forum PC Convention all Steak, No Sizzle” captured much of the “meat” on many of the candidates and what they had at “stake.” For record, I am a big Hancock fan for the next party leader/Premier and am working on his campaign. I agree with Matt's comments that:

“If all of Alberta were to vote for the new Conservative leader, I would guess (or maybe hope) that Hancock would get the nod.”

Unfortunately hoping or guessing is not a reasonable method or strategy to select a new party leader and our next Premier. There is 2 years left on the current mandate and there is no need for any new leader to call a quickie election. For $5 any one 16 years old and an Albertan for 6 month can show up and actually make a difference as to who the next “Premier pro tem” will be.
The outcome of this PC Leadership campaign means we ordinary citizens can actually look at “leasing” and can “test drive” the next Premier for the next 2 years. We can see if we what to continue the relationship at the end of the “lease period” - or turn him back in and elect someone else. It’s a little like having a Premier on probation…they better show up and account for themselves and what they are doing on a regular basis - or the consequences will be conclusive and swift at the next election.

So many serious citizens will simply have to hold their noses and buy a PC membership. Then take some time to educate themselves on the candidates. Then make up their own minds as who best fits their sense of where Alberta ought to be headed and how to get there. Finally they have to show up and vote – even if they feel they are choosing between the best of a bad lot.

In a democracy we always get the kind of government we deserve. It would be a pity if we let any special interest control this leadership outcome because the rest of us “couldn’t be bothered” or we settle for a “passive aggressive approach” as a personal political choice. There is just too much at stake (sic) for progressive citizens not to participate in this leadership-premiership selection process.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Media Takes and Forum Updates

Paul McLoughlin from the Alberta Scan newsletter has an interesting take on the September 12th PC Leadership Forum. This audio clip from CBC Radio in Calgary is worth a listen. Paul is one of the more astute political media commentators in my opinion. It is nine minutes long so be forewarned. Hyperactive blog readers may get a bit fidgety being mouse-passive that long. Paul's insights are worth it.

Nicole Martel - one of my favorite Liberals - has been checking out my suspicion about Calgary Mayor Bronconnier's provincial political ambitions. I mentioned this idea in an earlier posting about an Oberg-Bronconnier alliance I think they have formed to undermine Dinning's overwhelming support in Calgary. Nic has apparently uncovered some affirmative rumblings consisting with my suggestion. She may be moving her perception about my Bronconnier proposal from "hypothetical" to "mildly curious." Time will tell.

The mainline and blogosphere media consensus today seems to be that Jim Dinning's performance last night did not justify his reputation as the front runner. Jim has recently said that "positioning" has been media made and is not necessarily justified. The fact remains that Jim is the front runner. A number of opinion polls have place him in the lead but not that far ahead inspite of the last two months of intensive Dinning focused media coverage.

Today's media reporting, pundit and blog chatter confirms Jim's self assessment...and his advice not to presume he is way ahead in this thing. I agree with Jim...he may be way ahead in cash and MLA commitments but this is far from over. He is clearly ahead but not so far that he can't be caught. Campaigns matter and this one has barely started. The "dogs" have all just been shown the rabbit and they are just now starting to run - and we can expect all of them will be picking up speed.

Candidate Consensus to Solve Teacher Pension Issue

I made a mistake in the entry below. In fact Dr. Oberg's UPL proposal on the teacher's unfunded pension liability did not include a "total wage freeze" for a decade. What he proposed was that teachers accept the same compensation adjustments as MLAs receive. That provides for an automatic increase every year based on the average of the total wage and salary increases of all working Albertans.

Sorry for the mistake. The correct information was sent to me from the teacher side of the issue.

The answer to a question from the floor at last nights PC Forum was surprising to me. There was almost full candidate consensus that the outstanding teacher’s unfunded pension liability (UPL) was still a debt of the province and it had to be addressed.

Some candidates were vaguer than others on how they would tackle the issues but there was still a broad consensus that it is an outstanding issue that must be dealt with. Gary McPherson said it best…”I guess the province is not yet out of debt.”

Oberg said last night that he offered a solution “years ago but it was rejected” - by both Caucus and the teachers, I might add. Oberg was dealing with the UPL at the time of 2002 teacher’s strike – which he caused by the way. What he proposed then was the province pick up the UPL if the teachers would agree to a total wage freeze and not have the right to strike for 10 years. The impracticality of that was evident to the Caucus and the teachers. Just look how much Alberta’s labour situation has changed in the past 4 years.

If we use his scheme, with frozen wages and no contract negotiations for a decade for teacher’s and their pay does not stay competitive they leave the profession and maybe even leave the province. What is worse Oberg’s policy straight-jacket discourages young people from even entering the profession. And Oberg wants to freeze the wages of every teacher in Alberta for an entire decade and ensure they have no other contract negotiations either. Our teacher population is aging and we need all the new blood and continuing talent we can attract and keep in this profession. That is vital to realizing the province’s future potential. What Dr. Oberg is suggesting is neither smart politics nor a strategic policy initiative– especially in a booming and growing province like Alberta – especially now that we are also experiencing a growing baby boom.

We need a new Premier who gets the big picture, who thinks systemically past the next election cycle and can see beyond his nose. Education is emerging as one of the leading issues in the PC leadership race. It is pretty obvious the Oberg “dog” of a proposal for solving the teacher’s UPL just won’t hunt. Nevertheless Oberg says he will try it again. Caucus has recently kicked him out and I don’t think the teachers attitudes towards Oberg have softened since 2002. Given his past, he is clearly not the right guy to be solving anything to do with the future education – including the teacher’s unfunded pension liability issues.

Jim Dinning also responded to the teacher pension issues. He was the candidate with the most significantly different perspective on the issue. He said he knew teachers saw the unfunded pension liability issue “as a problem but he was not sure as Premier that is where he would put $6B." To be sure $6B is a big number. Strange reaction though I thought, especially from a proven and competent former Provincial Treasurer. Dinning undoubtedly understands that if we don’t deal with it now the liability balloons over time to over $46B. Isn’t an ounce of prudent prevention still worth a pound of painful cure in a fiscally conservative world?

If we merely designated a part of the Heritage Fund and use that investment revenue we solve the problem. Isn’t the Heritage Fund all about helping to meet the future needs of the province? Isn’t the unfunded pension liability all about the future needs of the province? How hard is that?

Hancock and Morton Draw Battle Lines

Last night at the PC Leadership Forum drew a big crowd and a clear distinction between the Hancock and Morton world views. The difference is not as simple as Red Tory versus Blue Tory. It is more complex and turns more on how differently they each see the roles and responsibility of government and styles of governance.

It was never clearer than during their comments on crime. Former Justice Minister Dave Hancock says government can’t ignore the root causes of crime like drug addiction, poverty and mental health and believes they have to be dealt with as part of a modern crime policy. Ted Morton says who cares about root causes. His government would only deal with punishment and consequences of crime – full stop.

Morton says if “Klein says there is no plan – then there is no plan” and he bemoans the fact. Hancock says there is a plan and points to the 20 Year Strategic Plan for Alberta which he wrote and cabinet accepted. It is now being used by the government as the framework for future planning.

Morton wants to isolate Alberta behind a firewall from the rest of Canada. He laments that “Albertans sent $15B in income taxes to Ottawa last year” and says “Alberta will never be able to build the schools and hospitals it needs if it keeps sending its money to central Canada.” Hancock says we need to show how the growing wealth of Alberta benefits the entire country and we should be finding ways Alberta can exert more influence and show some national leadership.

Character counts in making candidate choices. Morton must be brought to task. He misleads us in how he frames the fed-prov taxation issue. Individual Albertans and our corporations pay the federal income tax. The provincial government’s tax and royalty money does not go to the federal government - as he implies. Hospitals and schools are a provincial responsibility. The federal income taxes Albertans pay as Canadians does not impede the province of Alberta’s capacity, in any way, to meet these responsibilities.

Albertans make more money than other Canadians and therefore we pay relatively more federal taxes. Duh! Klein, you may recall, once took the same fed bashing position, claiming individual taxes paid by Albertans to Canada was therefore money not available to meet local provincial needs. He was roundly chastised in the media and accused of being either woefully ignorant on the issue or badly briefed.

Dr. Morton is a knowledgeable and respected political scientist. Fed bashing is good sport and sometimes necessary. It ought to be done however, with some intellectual integrity. Morton’s postulating misses both the factual and intellectual integrity mark. His fed bashing misdirects and misleads us - and he knows better.

Hancock and Morton are offering Albertans clear choices about the future of the province. That should generate some serious interest and engagement amongst citizens in this leadership campaign. Remember you are selecting more than a party leader. You are selecting a Premier.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Devil is in the Dynamics

There was another Ipsos Reid poll on the PC Leadership done for the Calgary Herald last week. Bloggers like Daveberta are “having at it” now.

Most of the comments on the poll results are valid but there is more to consider in any results analysis. For example the poll does not ask respondents if they are PC party members or if they intend to become one. William McBeath of the Morton campaign correctly comments on Daveberta saying who cares what non-party members say – they will not be making the final choices.

True enough but these results still have some inherent strategic value. One of the big ballot questions for PC members will about the elect-ability of the next leader. Ipsos Reid gives us some indication of the candidate elect-ability perceptions of Albertans. They do not predict by show some relative candidate preferences and perceptions.

To the public, this leadership campaign is just starting and we know campaigns do make a difference. Look at the changes in public perceptions between the “scary” Harper of 2004 vs. the 2006 guy who was seen worthy of taking a chance on. Mulroney lead the federal PC to largest majority in the history of the country and left a party able to retrain only two seats one election later. The last provincial election saw tens of thousands of PC supporters stay home and about 70,000 others voter for the Alliance Party. Campaigns matter. In election campaigns the devil is in the dynamics as much as the details

We can glean of some possible voter dynamics by comparing the two related Ipsos Reid polls of September 6 and June 23, 2006. Let’s look at the front runners and some of the results differences from both polls. The first number for each candidate is for September then June and the difference.

Favourables:
Dinning 54% 54% 0
Oberg 48% 48% 0
Hancock 44% 39% +5%

Who would do the Best Job as Premier?
Dinning 26% 28% -2
Oberg 21% 23% -2
Hancock 06% 09% -3

None of the Above
Or Don’t Know 29% 27% +2

The “best job” candidate confidence level actually falls for all three of the top choices and the uncertainty level grows to exceed any one candidate. Dinning and Oberg have been in the media virtually every day between June and September but show no growth in favourable perceptions. Hancock has been comparatively invisible in the media by comparison but his favourable perceptions jump 5 points.

One has to ask if all the hype, media fawning and big money of Dinning and Oberg are doing them any good. Apparently, not comparing these results! But two poll results do not make a trend line obviously. We know the Alberta voter is grumpy and potentially very volatile. They can, and do, turn quickly and can change dramatically. Look at the last Edmonton civic election when the distant third place long shot, Stephen Mandel come out winning handily against the two presumptive front runners. We can’t predict a damn thing on these current polls results. We can sense that change is in the air, campaigns matter - and this campaign is far from over.

Remembering 911

This has some very sobering pictures about 911 and it is worth watching. It takes a few minutes so don't start it unless you have about 10 minutes to reflect.

I picked this up off of Conservative MP - Garth Truner's site tonight - remembering today is the 5th anniversary of 911 - do you remember where you where that day?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Oberg – Bronconnier Alliance: Synergy or Symbiosis?

Is the unusually prompt, synchronous and enthusiastic response of Calgary Mayor Bronconnier’s to Dr. Oberg’s education policy announcement last week his first step towards taking over the provincial Liberal Party leadership? Looking at the politics of this Oberg-Bronconnier alliance, one has to ask is it synergy or symbiosis? If it is synergy then the total outcome for Alberta ought to be bigger and better than the ambitions of the individuals involved? If it is symbiosis, then is the alliance more about personal political ambitions? A sidebar question around the symbiosis alternative is who is the parasite and who is the host ;-> In the end the nature of the alliance really doesn’t matter. What matters is the soundness of the Oberg education policy.

Oberg’s solution to education in Alberta is to distribute the education portion of local property taxes between municipalities and school boards 75/25 – in favour of municipalities. The idea has already been vetted within the PC party caucus when Oberg was the Learning Minister. It was rejected - and for good reason. Now he says as Premier he would still do it. No wonder Oberg was kicked out of Caucus. For every complex problem this is always a simple solution – that is terribly wrong.

Mayor Bronconnier gets to be the champion of getting more municipal powers and credit for growing the funding base. He is reported to want to use Calgary as the “pilot project” for the Oberg scheme. Does that mean the rest of Alberta has to wait until the Calgary project is complete before they see any implementation benefits of the policy? That dog won't hunt!

Dr. Oberg’ policy proposal also puts one more nail in the coffin of local school boards. He is setting them up to fail by allocating insufficient dollars to do the job assigned to them. He openly dislikes teachers – remember the teacher’s strike he caused? With this policy he proves he has little respect for local school boards too. It is a nice policy set up though if you want to undermine both groups under a guise that just shifts the burden for schools off the province and to the municipalities and school boards and with no implementation framework for them to work with. Sweet!

Bronconnier and Oberg both benefit from working together because they get to use this idea to cut into the Dinning Calgary dominance. This serves both personal political agendas. I have no problem with that. We are into a political process here. Oberg has mere weeks left to cut into Dinning’s Calgary support base if he is to win. Bronconnier gets to keep his provincial aspirations quiet, his political options open and “his powder dry.” He has to move on the Taft leadership in the spring of 2007 however to be ready as “the new alternative for Alberta” in time for the next election.

Bronconnier’s support for Oberg has to be because he believes it will all be easier to beat the PCs if Oberg (or Morton) wins the leadership. A win by either of them will do irreparable damage to the unity of the PC party and then easier to topple in the next election. If we get a Hancock or Dinning win, party unity will be an issue but not an insurmountable one. Then Bronconnier has to win the next election – not just wait for the PCs to lose it.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

"Oil Fuels Alberta Separatists"

Saturday - Sept 9, 2006: I posted a blog entry on the Roger Gibbins essay on big oil and Alberta separation on August 23, 2006. The Edmonton Journal political columnist, Graham Thomson has picked up on it and also comments on Roger's perspective. He has added some of his own comments and perspectives on how difficult it must be for Jim Dinning - the "big oil company candidate" running for PC leadership, to deal with these sensitive and linked political-social-economic issues. Check out Graham's column in the Edmonton Journal Saturday September 9, 2006 - it is a prime example of his usually sharp political insight. KJC

The Toronto Star recently published an op-ed piece by Roger Gibbins, the President and CEO of the Canada West Foundation entitled “Oil Fuels Alberta Separatists.” Roger tells me it is proving to be quite controversial. That pleases me because it is an invitation to engage citizens and politicians to start thinking strategically and longer term.

He does not predict. Instead he does a bit of scenario based foresight projection and suggests with the Clarity Act in place, that Alberta – not Quebec - could be the first province to separate. I have also suggested that as a possibility in many forums since the Clarity Act was passed.

Lots of folks will see his commentary as a prediction. It is not. It is more foresight based on trend analysis and the implications from certain trends. It is a powerful narrative of what can happen to Alberta and Canada if we do not learn how to manage prosperity and be more inclusive as a province. Trends are not destiny unless we become benign and blind to them.

His presumptions are that with $70 oil and there are likely even higher prices coming. He notes that Ontario is faltering and about to fail as a “have” province. That means Alberta is the only reliable “have” province left. The wealth discrepancy has been “masked” for quite a while but natural resource commodity prices may not normalize, given global events. Alberta’s wealth then becomes%2

Showered, Shaved and Smelling Sweet (again).

Just back home from about 2 weeks in Tofino - days just chock full of listening to the ocean, day and night, watching the sky change throughout the day and marvelling at the stars at night, reading, walking even a bit of jogging on Chesterman Beach. This flurry of activity was interrupted by occasional whale watching and a terrific experience in a traditional canoe excursion paddling to Meares Island to visit some old growth forest.

Here is a teriffic success story. Two young aboriginal women run this operation - for about 5 years now...where you can be guided around old growth forest, introduced to the aboriginal history and perspectives of the Tofino area and paddle the journey in a traditional cedar dugout canoes that have been carved by their father. Added bonus, our guide, Simca, sang traditional songs of her people to entertain but it also help with the paddling. I highly recommend it to anyone who can use a paddle and wants a profound experience that is definitely not a tourist trap.

The Tofino water crisis, that made international headlines, was real but a perfect example of ineptness coupled with over reaction and pure political incompetence. Locals told us this water crisis has been brewing in Tofino for a decade. Not enough political will, leadership and courage to get the water issues dealt with coupled with process lags and decision delay and one day you get real disaster. Sounds a lot like Fort McMurray to me.

We stayed throughout the event. We boiled water, used salt water and "limited the use toilets" and showered "sparingly" like once in 5 days. I learned just how much water we waste in our day-to-day lives and how much we take plenty of clean safe water for granted. I wonder if I will change my habits and attitudes as a result of the Tofino experience. Time will tell.

So I will also be back to more disciplined and regular blogging entries now that things are back to "normal." Lots to catch up on in the various leadership campaigns and the politics that are in play.

ONE MORE holiday comment. We all seem to love to "dis" the airlines and airports - but at least one woman in the Edmonton International airport security system stands out as a paragon of customer service. My wife brought a small vial of her favorite perfume with her to the airport for some inexplicable reason. Forfeiting it was not in the cards...this wonder of a woman sized up "the situation" - took it and kept it in her personal locker and had the Air Canada folks notified person and over 2 weeks later so it could be easily retrived even after she was off shift. She had everything organized to retreive the "valuables." I can join the scoffers - perfume vs. luggage vs. personal safety - give me a break...but that is not the issue. The point is that on this day one woman stood out, went the extra mile and personally solved a customer problem - that I am sure is not in the training manual. Good deeds should not go "unpunished" and so for privacy reasons I will not divulge her name but suffice to tell you we need more of her type in the world today deaing with the really big issues of our times.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Addled and Idled in Victoria

I am on vacation well rested and well ensconced in a lovely room on a sunny balcony overlooking the Victoria harbour and just letting my mind wander and wonder. I have just finished an excellent Globe and Mail piece on Stephane Dion “Straight Shooter Looks to Lead” by Tu Thann Ha. It confirms my support for Dion and reassures me of the soundness of my decision.

I go from Dion to Mary Woodard’s Fact and Arguments first person piece in the same paper. Her sub title grabs my attention: “When the mediocre is accepted as excellent discouragement is the only appropriate response.” Dion is the antithesis of mediocre. He has an excellent mind and a committed Canadian who is politically experienced, strong willed yet wise enough to actually lead this country based on sound principles and nurturing values.

I think that there will always be values trade-off made in the real world. They require sound judgment and wisdom and must never be done for purposes of expedient compromise. Such “compromises” are too driven by intimidation and coercion from faceless powerbrokers and special interests that lurk in backrooms. I think (again) that Alberta needs a Lobbyist Registry. More wonder and wandering.

Then I switched over the Daveberta’s Blog and read his understandable disillusion with party politics. I share some of his despair, having been active for over a decade in grassroots policy development at the party level of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party. Revisiting the Globe I see Stephen Lewis commenting on what he sees as a ‘renaissance amongst young people’ noting that youth in Canada today seem to him to have “a real interest in what is going on in other parts of the world, an no cynicism associated with if, just a wish to be engaged and involved.” I make a note to let Daveberta know of this thought…maybe it will cheer him up a little. I still remain optimistic about the positive potential of political parties provided they are open, locally based and accepting of new ideas in a respectful and intelligent way.

All that said my wandering eye catches another news piece and “grounds” (sic) my fleeting optimism in reality. Buried in the Globe A6 notes the federal Conservative are being sued by a grassroots member who dared to seek the CPC Alberta Wild Rose constituency nomination from MP Myron Thompson. Clearly someone must consider Myron Thompson candidacy sacrosanct. He must be considered a great asset for the federal Conservative Party. I have commented on this disturbing turn of events in the CPC party before - see my August 14th entry.

For the third time, the story says another CPC party member intent on serving their country, in what purports to be an open grassroots party in a “representative” democracy, has had their candidacy rejected. This time the accusation is because the sitting MP handpicked the nominating committee from amongst his supporters. There is much to be done to reform political parties as there is a need to “fix” government transparency, enhance political accountability and reconfiguring the concept of the role of government…just to name a few. “Whither” democracy ;->.

And we scoff at the ineptitude and “integrity” of the last US Presidential election decisions and look down our noses at the fiasco that is the recent Mexican presidential elections. Both outcomes were “finally” decided by “activists” judges who ironically selected the conservative candidate in each case. Where was the call from the far right denouncing such inappropriate judicial interference with the “legitimate” political role of the electoral system? Three cheers for hypocrisy…or is that too harsh?

So dear reader, I hope you see some cohesion and thread of order to this stream of consciousness entry. I can but only because of my addled and idled vacation-mode “mind set.”

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.