Thursday, January 01, 2009

Some Political Predictions and Observations for Canada and Alberta

I have been challenged by some friends and regular readers of this Blog to make some bold predictions for 2009. They come a bit easier if you look at the future through a values lens and not just an events lens. Based on some of our research on Albertan’s value drivers and with an extrapolation of those findings here are a few predictions for 2009.

YES ANOTHER FEDERAL ELECTION IN 2009. It will be early June or in the fall, depending on if Harper can move beyond his personal agenda and get serious about governing the country. The ballot question will be which leader you distrust the least to govern. If Harper fails to get a majority he is toast, just butter him.

I think Harper is past his prime and he will get a notably lower popular vote next election especially in Quebec and Ontario. Iggy benefits as a result of the Harper fatigue that is growing in the land. Iggy will be given a shot at leading the country but will only get yet another minority government. It will be our 4th in a row as Canada tries to work out its future direction and design its destiny. A Liberal coalition with the NDP will happen and not require the Bloc to participate to be viable. A coalition government will be seen by many electoral reform types as an experiment of what governing in a proportional representation voting model would be like.''

There is no Harper successor in the conservative wings, other than Prentice, who is the most obvious. But Prentice is not a natural replacement because he would be the 4th leader in a row from Alberta. That is not likely to happen take over unless the membership, in what has become Harper Party, evaporates in the Maritimes and Ontario and if only the west shows up to select a new leader.

A SEA CHANGE IN THE PUBLIC MOOD: There is a sea change in the national mood coming as well in 2009. It will be most dramatic in the form of a move away from the destructive and tiresome Bush league neo-republican political tactics that defined the Harper style and regime. His demise however will leave Canada without any strong and substantive federal political parties in this critical time. The political parties will come through the next election all lacking modern organizational capacity, enough money, strategic campaign capacity and effective and definitive leadership.

I see some dangerous times ahead for Canadian democracy as we try, as a country, to work our way through a serious and game-changing recession and the implications of the economic power shift to Alberta. Drift and confusion will prevail as partisans dive into desperate searches for new style political saviour/leaders that they (and we) can trust to govern not just win elections. We will long for new leaders who have ability, energy and enthusiasm for the job of governing and who also understand the nature and essence of the country. We will latch on to an effective leader who can communicate with a personal resonance and activating and invigorating vision for the country.

INDIFFERENCE TURNS TO ANGER AND ANXIETY: Citizen’s indifference towards politics in 2008 will turn to fear and anxiety in 2009 as a sense of foreboding and uncertainty sets the political mood. Such attitudes will colour the policy agenda as we wait for a miraculous leadership messiah to deliver us and perhaps help us adapt to the new world order. If we don’t see this new style leader emerging, Canadians will emotionally align with Obama. He will come to be seen as the best Prime Minister Canada never had as we will shift our focus on new American policy and governing models in a search for meaning in Canada.

WITHER ALBERTA? Alberta will feel the pain of the rest of Canada but we will weather the global recession better than anywhere else in the country. We will see people migrating here in droves again in the second half of 2009 looking for work as oil prices recover and stabilize in the $50-80 range. People will come to Alberta wanting jobs so they can pay taxes. They are not going to be coming just because Alberta taxes are low.

THE ALBERTA "BRAND" Alberta will be seen increasingly as the unrepentant bad-boy on the environment as carbon concerns accelerate and climate change becomes personal. This is especially going to be true if Alberta’s government pursues a counter-attack policy of spending $25million for a paid advertising campaign. This foolishness appears to be based on old-style “branding” techniques using messaging and positioning instead of sound policy and effective mitigation action. The rise of Web 2.0 and social media proliferation will make such old school approaches look and be laughable.

We Albertans have already lost the credibility battle on the emotional framing of oil sands versus tar sands in the world's consciousness and consequences of this very important energy resource. A slick and glossy paid media campaign aimed at getting out a countervailing “message” will be seen as a green wash and erode our credibility even further. Albertans want to be proud of how they are responsibly and sustainably developing the oil sands for wealth creation now and for future generations. Green washing old school attempts to buy media manufactured messaging will embarrass us.

LEADERSHIP SHORTFALLS: Alberta policy makers have yet to show that they get it. "It" is a clear and demonstrated consciousness about the intertwined nature of economy and environment and how it is best used to serve and reflect the social needs and values of the citizens. “It” is an integrated triple bottom line comprehensive and long term view of wise and responsible oil sands development.

As Premier Stelmach said in the last Alberta election, and I paraphrase: "...the environment trumps economic development and leadership trumps issues (management). I have seen some, but not enough, evidence of sound public policy on the ground that shows me this insight is an operational governing conviction and not election rhetoric.

In political Alberta and political Canada I will be looking for signs of leadership based on lessons learned from past mistakes, earned public trust, obvious character and intellectual integrity with demonstrated authenticity and a commitment to renewal. These are the key political, business and community leadership talismans I will be watching for in the coming year.

In my heart I remain cautiously optimistic in spite of the dire tone of this post. 2009 is here and it promises not to be pretty. We will have to change many things and in many ways as a result of unregulated and condoned greed and abuses. We should not try to come out of this recession by merely aspiring to replicate the kind of society, economy and eco-consciousness we were going in. We will all be better for the lessons learned leading up to the recession and new learnings and experiences we will have coming out of it.
(Photo credit dgwallick1 from Flickr)