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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Stelmach Wants a Triple-Bottom Line Government in Alberta

UPDATE MARCH 11, 2007: There are some interesting comments on this posting on the Blogs Canada site for the E-group section. Many of my postings are also posted there - and all of them are on the Progressive Blogger site too. They are in the link on my Blog.

The First Stelmach Throne Speech is a vast and refreshing departure from the Klein consciousness. Even a quick read of the document shows that Ed really sees a positive role for planned government engagement and his progressive social and environmental credentials shine through. His conservative fiscal values are there too but in the context of conservation and a future forward focus. That in itself differentiates him form the Klein days.

He has embraced that the government has to take an integrated triple-bottom line approach and spirit that shows the environment, social and economic concerns are all interwoven throughout the document. They all tie together and interrelate and the Stelmach Throne Speech illustrates this admirably. This is a very encouraging change to my mind. Yes I am a partisan and a Stelmach fan so what would you expect, I would applaud the speech…right? This speech is such a shift in the right directions that it also makes me feel there is now some real leadership who “gets it” about what a modern government is (and is not), in a comprehensive way I have some reservations and even some criticisms but will detail them in subsequent postings.

The Stelmach social aspects come from concern over integrity and transparency form a Lobbyist Registry to a governance review of Agencies Boards and Commissions. A concern for citizens tied to quality of life around improving primary education and better access to secondary education comes through. The focus on literacy is huge because it excludes people and also undermines our productivity and competitiveness not to mention the safety of workers. The wellness and prevention focus on health also factors into productivity and sustainability of our system and makes individuals more accountable along with the “system.”

The environment is all through the speech and again in an integrated way. The relationship between land, air and water are tied into growth pressures and the need to better steward the environment for government to be active and create certainty through a legislated basis. I was not wowed by the retreat to intensity target for GHG but it is a current reality but it has to be seen as an interim measure not the end goal. I was pleased to see the point taken than government industry and INDIVIDUALS all have to step up their game and commitment levels towards protecting the environment and incentives are in the plans.

The economic aspect was characterized by active government engagement too. The Royalty Review, land-use consultation, with the renewal of the Climate Change efforts, tied to the Water for Life Strategy being deployed are linked eco-econ efforts that add to the economic opportunity in the province within an ecological stewardship. The focus on diversifying the economy and our energy sources, (a link with the environment and the economy too) plus the commitment to address the need for municipal infrastructure ties in the economy the social and the environmental elements. Developing a comprehensive energy strategy that looks are renewables and alternatives including electricity from wind and bio-fuels shows a broader perspective about the future of Alberta is forward thinking and invites innovation. Reducing consumption, conservation and energy efficiency in an Alberta Throne Speech heralds a new consciousness in the province too.

Then you get a long term focus on sustainability and a surplus management policy and a long term strategy for technology commercialization and economic diversification with stated priority areas on energy, information and communications technology plus life sciences shows Ed is pushing adaptation.

The typical trite criticism around “lack of specifics” in throne speeches drives me crazy especially when it comes from politically sophisticated people. Throne speeches are intended to be a philosophical document about what the government sees as important and where it will put its focus. This one is no different but it is a much better document than Alberta has seen in quite some time.

Stelmach has to clean up lots of messes and bad habits left over from the last third of the Klein government. This throne Speech shows he is not only doing that but he has his own ideas and his own vision for the next Alberta. There are going to be some very interesting and exciting times in our Alberta.