Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wake Up Alberta and Get Ready for a February Election Call

The darkening clouds of an American recession and the presumed pending elections in Alberta and Canada means we cynical citizens have to take our heads out of the sand and start to look seriously about how we want to be governed and by whom.

Our dollar parity and the greed machine stupidity of the now world-side Us inspired sub prime mortgage fiasco, the US housing market mess, yet another BSE animal, more US soft wood protectionism and the approaching American Primaries adds to the "fun." Inflation is taking hold in Alberta and the cost of living is gettign out of control, especially for newcomers, to the point where more people are now leaving Alberta than coming here. It all helps to create a miasma of economic uncertainty going into election times.

I will spend the weeks leading up to an election focusing this blog, in part, on some of the big picture the issues and policy concerns of Albertans as we ponder the forthcoming election(s). The lack of any plan or the lack of believing we even needed one during the last half of the Klein regime has left Alberta with some seriously complicated and significantly critical issues to handle.

Commodity prices are high except for natural gas and that is masking some other economic concerns like the consequences of high costs, labour shortages, inflation, affordable housing and social services breakdowns just to name a few. I have not even touched on the environmental concerns which is becoming the new #1 issue for Alberta.

All this complexity demands experienced, effective, nimble and adaptive political and business leadership. We need more focused and activist leadership to jump into these issues and with the ability to design some comprehensive plans for serious long term solutions. Then the leadership must have the ability to focus and execute those plans.

There is not much time left for citizens of Alberta to get serious about deciding what they want changed in their government and governors. Elections are all about change and my best guess is we can expect an Alberta election writ in February. I have three date ranges in mind as to when I think that election call will happen. Feb 6 or 7 is very likely because they are the days immediately after the Throne Speech.

This is a defining opportunity for Stelmach to show once and for all he is no Klein clone. He has already effectively distanced himself from Ralph on a number of significant policy issues. The Throne Speech will be a winner if it aligns and resonates with the hopes of Albertans and helps show how we can fulfill the providence of this province. It must also addresses the fears of Albertans, and there are fears out there.

Next likely election call timing is Feb 12 or 13 which is just before the scheduled Valentines Day Budget Speech. If we get an election call instead of a Budget Speech then we can expect the “budget” to be official PC party policy and rolled out in the election campaign. This will reinforce Premier Stelmach as his own man and with a real plan and a realistic focus for the future. This pre- budget election call has happened many times before. It is not a new idea and one that may happen again.

Finally, if they let Oberg read the Budget Speech and table the Budget the rules require a certain number of days of debate. Then the writ would be dropped likely during the week of Feb 25. My instincts tell me Stelmach would like the election to be over before Easter which comes early this year, March 23 to be exact. That is why this late date post Budget timing is the least likely election call by my speculations.

So that means early or mid February election call. Putting Christmas aside, that leaves 4-6 weeks for Albertans to get their heads around what kind of government they want going forward and who they will entrust to lead us. In the meantime we have the chance to let our politicians know what we expect by way of a preferred future. I recommend direct citizen action by personal political lobbying and an aggressive citizen's action pre-campaign communications plan aimed directly at all Alberta politicians of all stripes.

So get busy Alberta and fill up the the politicians mail boxes, email in-boxes, radio call-ins and Letters to the Editors in January. Let the powers that be, and those who aspire to power, know your ideas and demands for a better Alberta. Many Alberta are coming into this election disinterested, distrusting and disgusted with how our province (and our country) has been run as of late, especially in the later days of the Klein regime and the second year of the Harper government. Cynicism, skepticism and passive hoping is not a method for effective change.

I smell democracy in the air and a desire for change. That is a potent combination that usually means change is coming. The big question is does Progressive Conservative Ed Stelmach, Alberta Liberal Kevin Taft, NDP Brian Mason or Green George Reid represents the kind of change we want and which one will best meet the future forward needs of Alberta? Albertans will be answering that question very shortly as we go to the polls with an election starting well before February is over.