Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Stelmach Says Environment Trumps Economy - It is About Time.

You can’t blame Albertans for being confused when you read the reporting on Ed Stelmach’s alleged response(s) to the CEMA letter calling for a partial moratorium on further oil sands leases so conservation issues can be addressed.

I think the Edmonton Journal front page headline repeats Stelmach from over a year ago saying “No Brakes on Oil Sands” and the Globe and Mail has Stelmach saying “Environment Trumps Economy.” I think both stories are accurate but you have to wonder at the framing of the issue and why the PC policy position is not clearer and more consistent. It can change over time and I applaud that it does. But whoda thunk Ed Stelmach was so post-modern! Well, me for one because I know a bit about the man. I know his sense of ecological stewardship and the respect he has for the free enterprise system. However the role of government is to ensure and enhance both aspects of our lives and for the greater common good, not just the accumulation of private wealth.

I have to spend some time reflecting on how to square this circle. The best I can do so far is to express my own feelings and beliefs. The environment has to trump the economy –every time. And the economy has to serve the interests of society –every time and not the other way around as it has been in Alberta as of late.

Government has a duty to regulate and protect the environment. And there are economic consequences in the government's job in exercising that stewardship responsibility. Progress is measured by building on strengths and avoiding or mitigating weaknesses. On the weakness side I want a government that first avoids and, if necessary, fixed screw ups and one that seizes opportunities that present themselves.

On the strength side I want a government who takes responsibility for those things we need to care about as a society, including the natural and social capital deficits we have in Alberta today. I want a government that takes its role of managing our resources seriously and responsibly - including collecting royalty payments owned when due.

Finally I want a government that has a leadership group, like a Cabinet, that can listen, learn and adapt – effectively, quickly and appropriately. That is the real biggie going forward. We need to enhance our ecological integrity in this province. We need to enhance our social cohesion and capacity show caring and compassion for our vulnerable citizens form children, to seniors to the disabled. We need to vastly improve our decision making procedures and capacity.

So Ed, Kevin, Brian, Paul and George, that is what I want my next government to be capable of. The rest is detail that I will trust you, as my Premier, if you are in power after Monday, to work out in a way that is open, transparent and accountable. No pressure!