Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Stelmach Touches the Brakes and Shifts Gears At the Same Time

So Premier Stelmach has once again exercised a bit of political muscle. He first did it over Alberta teacher’s unfunded pension liability and set the wheels in motion to resolve that problem when the old attitudes of the Klein – Dr. Oberg regime threatened to derail doing the right thing for all Albertans again.

Now with Stelmach’s personal intervention to reverse the Dr. Morton decision to allow seismic testing on Marie Lake he has shown that there is a way to "touch the brakes" and not mess with the market place. You do that by accepting that the environment is the trump card in all long and short term planning decisions. Stelmach did and he led yesterday and played the eco-logical trump card last night. Stopping any testing on Marie Lake is touching the brakes for reasons more significant than the sanctity of the marketplace. It was about sound stewardship and nothing less than an overarching concern about the sustainability of the biosphere.

He also personally intervened on the big cities infrastructure funding issues. The need to provide assured long-term, flexibility for sustaining intelligent planned growth in Edmonton and Calgary is a no-brainer. What ever political forces that came into play to put a great urban infrastructure policy initiative in jeopardy have been culled by Stelmach. By cutting the Municipal Sustainability Initiative strings for the big cities yesterday he set another smart political direction and reassured Albertan of a good governance stance going forward.

Marie Lake and the plight of Alberta’s municipalities, especially the two big cities, have emerged as symbols of what as been out of whack in the governing principles of Alberta in the past decade. Economic growth at any cost is not sustainable. The messy inefficient but largely effective policy tools of the free marketplace and democracy are sometimes blunt instruments to resolve complex issues.

As a good friend once told me “Sometimes you have to put away your principles and do the right thing.” Ed Stelmach believes in the free marketplace but he also knows it has its place and it alone cannot solve all of society’s ills. He also believes in democracy but he also knows it can sometime result in pooled ignorance instead of collective wisdom. When the blunt instruments are found wanting to resolve issues or to achieve the common ends of the society, that is when the sound judgement of quality leadership comes into play.

Growth has a cost and demands investment and planning – long range integrated planning. Short-sighted incrementalism is not good enough any more. Integrated sustainable approaches with full life-cycle cost-benefit analysis are what we need to embrace in our governing principles from now on. Ed Stelmach showed yesterday that he understands that and he is starting to act accordingly.

P.S. Congratulations to MLA Denis Ducharme for his good work on Marie Lake and to Mayor Mandel of Edmonton and Mayor Bronconnier of Calgary for their efforts on the MSI policy changes too.