Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Lougheed Endorses Stelmach's Royalty Review Response.

The personal endorsement by Peter Lougheed of the Stelmach Royalty Review Response is a big step forward for our new Premier. Lougheed stepping up in support of the recent royalty announcement is significant. Lougheed is an influential voice all over the province and he comes from the small group of Alberta political leaders who have made such difficult decisions in the past. He knows how tough it is and his approval of Stelmach’s decision speaks volumes.

Lougheed has been openly advocating for a slow down of energy project approvals because of the damage they are inflicting due to the overheated pace of growth in Alberta. His big concerns have been damage socially and environmentally but also on fiscal pressures on the province and municipalities to meet the public infrastructure demands in this current pace of growth.

Lougheed’s advice and response is in sharp contrast to the warnings of former Premier Klein last month. Klein was commenting that the energy sector was not happy and therefore royalties were best left well enough alone. Stelmach wisely left that bit of advice alone.

So Lougheed has clarified one thing. Stelmach’s government is definitely not an extension of the Klein regime. There are some who think Stelmach's kindness, politeness and graciousness are shortcomings for the bloodsport of political leadership. They see him as still having the potential to be a Harry Strom, especially if he were to trip up in the pending election.

So what does this tell us about the governing philosophy of a Stelmach governed Alberta? To me it is more evidence of a Stelmach government embracing a progressive social political philosophy. He is about to engage in a more conservationist approach too as we shall see the roll out of some new environmental initiatives and the start up of an integrated land use management strategy.

The fact that a commitment to deal with homelessness as the follow up policy initiative right after the royalty decision is further proof of this shift away from the former neo-con fiscal and social policy agenda. Today in Alberta we have a spending problem due to a premium cost for public infrastructure in this over heated economy. We also now have a revenue problem too – as pointed out by the Auditor General.

Alberta's Auditor General Fred Dunn said some past Ministers of Energy were not collecting all of the energy royalties that were due - even in the old model. In fact those same Ministers of Energy seemed to be even uninterested in doing their duty of ensuring the appropriate royalty revenues due to Albertans were actually being realized.

I think that is about to change - big time - and we will see Premier Ed Stelmach as his own man and with his own style of leadership. Yes, he is not be the slick and polished veneer pre-packaged politician. He is not the product of the professional media trainers the mainstream media is so used to. Yes - he is no orator either...and while he can't "lift the words off the page," he has shown that he can bring clarity to complex issues like royalty regimes.

But no one can doubt Ed Stelmach’s capacity for caring, nor his compassion nor his sincere commitment to Alberta and her people. He is also different because his focus is not just the Alberta of today…or basking in the glory of an Alberta of yesterday. He has a much broader and longer vision of the province and how it should be governed.

Now the lingering question is – is Stelmach capable of doing the job of Premier to the satisfaction of Albertans? He has been on the job for 11 months already and that question is still being asked. Well my guess is we are about 100 days or so away from an election. Those 100 days is more than enough time for Albertans to come to know Ed Stelmach for who he is – as his own man and with his own style of leadership.

Once the election is called it will be up to Albertans to decide if Ed Stelmach can do the job of Premier – and if they want him to do that job. Remember campaigns matter and it is not how they start, but how they finish that really counts.

Besides, Peter Lougheed obviously likes him and that goes a long way in my books.