Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hunter's Royalty Review Is a Tipping Point for Political Change In Alberta!

The Hunter Royalty Review Report is catching fire in the media and in the consciousness of Albertans, with industry and now with politicians. It has captured the attention of Albertans and is about to reach a tipping point where it commands and dominates the primary focus and attention of the Alberta citizenry It will not be the ballot question in the next election but it will be the context setting concern around which the ballot questions are decided in the pending spring election.

Albertans want see some serious changes…including in their government, how it operates and what it pays attention. That is partly the reason Stelmach won the PC Leadership last December. That desire for change has not yet crystallized or coalesced behind an issue or an event that usually tips the politics of change a swell.

I have been waiting to see what will be or moment that captures essence of the concerns of Albertans. Would it be around the quality of life, managing growth or the ecological angst that is raging just below the surface of so many Albertans?

I think we have this political changing tipping point/crystallizing moment with the release Hunter Panel’s work on the royalty review. As proof consider the MSM and Blogosphere response, the letters to the Editors and the open-line radio show coverage. Then realize that in the almost 6 months of the RRR consultation they had 56000 hits on their website. In the four days following the report’s release they had 210,000 hits…and it is still growing. That is not an indication of a merely passive interest by Albertans.

The last such crystallizing moment that triggered massive political changes in Alberta was in 1993. That was when Laurence Decore as Leader of the Opposition stood up in the Legislature in Question Period and held his wallet high above his head. He asked the then rookie Premier, Ralph Klein, when the government was going to get its spending under control? The emotional context was if we did not do this we would not be able to face our children and grandchildren because of the crippling financial burden we would have left them. The political result was not if and when cost cutting would happen. It was about if the cuts would be “massive or brutal.” They were both - and done way too fast for effective planning and sustainable development – which Klein has admitted – was non-existent in his tenure as Premier.

To be fair there was a long term Strategic Plan prepared and presented to Caucus and for full disclosure I had a hand in its preparation. But Klein was a one-man show leader (kind of like Harper today). As Premier he not prepared to engage and push it we ended up with drift and decline to the point the PC Party had to push him out of leadership.

IN the early 90's Albertans knew uncontrolled government spending was a serious problem and at that wallet raising moment the politicians finally caught on too. Today we Albertans know uncontrolled growth is a problem. Now we also have the Royalty Review Reports as evidence that the government has not been doing its most fundamental of jobs. Our government has breached its trustee role where we expect it to protect the best interests of Albertans. We can see form the Review findings that our government’s trustee role both in collecting and accounting for resource revenues and the responsible sustainable development of our non-renewable energy resources is wanting…very wanting indeed.

Will the rookie Premier Stelmach catch on and be as decisive, determined and disciplined as the early days of the rookie Premier Klein was in dealing with this fundamental concern of Albertans?

Whose government is it anyway? Albertans are about to let the political class - regardless of partisan affiliation - know in, no uncertain terms, the unequivocal answer to that question. Changes could once again be massive or brutal - or both and fast.