Thursday, February 21, 2008

Stelmach Responds to the Misleading Attack Ads...Good For Him!

I applaud the more aggressive TV campaign ads from the Stelmach team. If you don’t define yourself in politics others will do it for you. The union consortium that is sponsoring the attack ads on Stelmach is trying to tie into the Klein admission that he did not have a plan. Nothing could be further from the truth. Stelmach has done more forward thinking planning and policy implementation in a year than was done in the prior 7 years altogether. Ed is not Ralph, and while some may lament that, I don’t. Ralph was great for Alberta in his time but that time has passed.

Getting the math right around debt and deficit was not easy but it was not nearly as difficult as the much larger and more significant governance and policy challenges that Alberta has to grapple with today. We need leadership that is more reflective, thoughtful, compassionate, adaptive and integrated. Toughness, decisiveness and discipline are still important qualities today too but only in the context of a practical long view integrated planning consciousness. These are the realities of the next Premier of the province.

I have worked on various projects where Stelmach was a key Minister. I know him to be careful but also creative, decisive and forward thinking. As Minister of both Infrastructure and Transportation he brought the kind of capacity to the department and that resulted in his recent introduction of the 20 Capital Plan for Alberta. The new royalty structure will provide certainty for the Alberta energy industry for a decade at a time when the issues are more complex and more critical and uncertain than ever before. To get the Edmonton Capital Region Plan moving and to institute an Oil Sands Strategic Planning and Management group in government are more examples of long range, big impact and strategic planning decisions that are hallmarks of Stelmach’s leadership.

The Stelmach settlement of the teachers' unfunded pension liability was an issue that was ignored for years. He dealt with quickly and conclusively. He also let the ATA and the various school boards ultimately decide if they wanted the deal. To me this is showing he is not just a prescriptive top down dictatorial leader. If a better idea came forth from the ATA locals and school boards, I am sure he would have changed things to improve the package.

The Stelmach story about how he cares, how he sees Alberta’s natural, human and public resources being used for the common good needs to be told loudly and clearly. The Stelmach view of the role of responsibility of accountable government needs to be told loudly and clearly too. There have been a few hiccups under Stelmach’s watch but nothing that can’t be fixed effectively and quickly. There is a much broader integrated policy agenda that must be addressed for the next Alberta. That expanded integrated policy agenda must include our environmental responsibilities and social well challenges have to be given at least equal prominence as our economic wellbeing.

The Progressive and Conservative model of governance is the best approach to deal with this broader more integrated long view sustainable policy agenda for the next Alberta. Ed Stelmach’s leadership of the province will change the context of what progressive conservative governance will become. He will be more socially progressive and compassionate about the human capital potential for all Albertans. He will put conservation back on the agenda in terms of Alberta’s natural capital stewardship and development of infrastructure and other physical capital demands. He will ensure that future generations of Albertans interests and needs are considered as he moves to conserve more of our one-time natural resource revenues as well.

The other personal quality I admire in Ed Stelmach is his proven capacity to learn, adapt and to embrace new ideas and approaches to solve problems. The most important challenge facing the next Alberta is going to be our individual and collective ability to learn and adapt quickly, effectively and appropriately. We all have to be able to anticipate and respond to the challenges and changes to the new normal of the next Alberta. It trust Ed Stelmach to show us the way and to be a model of how we undertake the greater opportunities and responsibilities of being Albertan moving forward.