Pages

Monday, November 30, 2009

Reboot Alberta Launch and What's Next for the Progressive Movement in Alberta .

I have done a blog post on some of my thoughts out of the weekend launch of Reboot Alberta on that blog.
There is a way for you to join the Reboot Alberta movement too by going to http://www.rebootalberta.org/

I will be doing a post on as many blog posts on the Reboot Alberta that I can gather.  One interesting place to start getting aware of the reaction going into and coming out of Reboot Alberta is though the imaginate post of Mastermaq.  He has already collected a number of blog posts links and has done a Wordle cloud on the Tweets and some blogs about Reboot Alberta.  Here is the link to his post.  More blog posts are coming and will be linked from http://www.rebootalberta.wordpress.com/ as they emerge.

There are lots of Reboot Alberta related links in Mack's post so if you are courious about Reboot Alberta, get a coffee first and take the time to read and reflect on the buzz.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Reboot Alberta About to Kick Off & How to Connect to It!.

This weekend is promising to be significant for the 90 progressive Albertans who are attending.  What will come out of it is anybody's guess but the energy and enthusiasm going in is impressive and encouraging.

The Twitter hashtag to follow Tweets about Reboot Alberta is #rebootab.  The bloggers who will be there will be posting to their own sites.  Most of them can be found in the blog roll links on http://www.rebootalberta.wordpress.com/.  They will also be putting links to blog posts on Twitter with the #rebootab hashtag.  Twitter users can connect that way too and find the blog posts about the event.

If you are not on Twitter but want to keep current on the conversations - and even participate by submitting your own comments - you can keep track by going to http://www.rebootalbertalive.com/  That will have all the #rebootab tagged content on a real time basis.  This site is live now.

Saturday 9-12 and afternoon plus Sunday morning from 9-11 am will be prime time. 

If you a progressive thinking Alberta who is disillusioned, despairing and despondent about Alberta politics, Reboot Alberta may be the place to help you revive your interest in citizenship and the need to change from politics as usual.  Check it out and let us know what you think.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Guest Post on Reboot Alberta Worth a Read

I have not asked for guest posts on the blog but I am happy to publish this one.  The author wishes to remain anonymnous but I know who they are.  Some people attending Reboot Alberta have been hesitant to give permisson to release their contact information electronicaly for reasons of their own. 

I believe that must be respected but they will be obviously known to other attendees who we anticipate will repsect their perceived need for some privacy.   At the Reboot Alberta blog we decided there would be no anonymous posts or comments.  As a result this post will not appear at Reboot Alberta.  However, I thought the post itself ought to be given an audience.  So I have posted it here. 

Regular readers of this blog know a rail against anonymous commenters, expecially the trite and unsubstantiated kind.  This is not really an anonynmous post, at least not to me. but I will respect the request for privacy.  Here is the guest post and I hope you agree this voice is worth hearing even if it must be from a private source for practical reasons.

Ken,

I certainly appreciate all the interesting ideas and themes that participants are bringing up regarding social media, voter apathy, citizen engagement, new politics, youth engagement, etc., but I strongly believe that before we get into any of these topics, if the crux of this conference is to discuss how we can reengage progressives so that we are again an influential force in political and public policy discussions, then, respectfully, we need to start way higher level and plan strategically. I think a large part of the failure of progressives to connect with people and to form an influential movement is because we’re too dispersed and haven’t been strategic enough.

We can blame the party in power, and criticize the process and the system – and we do so not without cause – but doing so really doesn’t move us along. We’re not organized and calculated enough. If we want to have a real impact on public discourse, in political parties, as non-partisan advocates, and in government, then we need to think, act, and speak strategically. And we don’t. Progressives in this province (and this includes me as I, too, often make this error) often assume a position of moral and intellectual superiority. And I think this makes sense to a certain extent. I think we are smart people and our principles and values are just. But starting the conversation from a position of presumed superiority (even if it is legitimate) isn’t helpful.

Moreover, we really do get bogged down with the issues and we don’t focus nearly often enough on the global outcomes we want to achieve. I think part of this is because people who are socially and politically active on the progressive side of the equation are social and political activists. I’m not trying to be tautological here. I’m serious. We get involved because there’s an issue or a cause that we’re passionate about. We get our hands dirty and work on the frontlines, and this is a good thing, don’t get me wrong. But issues-driven activism does not translate to good strategic planning, good policy development, or ultimately, to forward-thinking governance. Another reason why we find it so hard to conceptualize and plan the big picture is because we’re not a single, unified movement.

And again, this isn’t a bad thing at all. But we do need to leverage our diversity and use it to our advantage. How do we do this? I don’t know, but I it’s a damn good question for discussion. I do think though, that because we are such a diverse group, hammering out a synthesis of common ideas and principles would be a helpful focusing exercise.

We need to talk about the common beliefs that unite us as progressives and the things that divide us (or, to put it in a more nuanced manner, the things that illustrate our diversity). I don’t see progressive thought as a monolithic movement, but surely we share common fundamental beliefs and values. At the start of the conference, I think we should work out principles and/or a framework to guide the weekend’s conversations. Certainly, I would hope that all discussions are authentic and organic, but well facilitated and thoughtfully guided conversation is much more valuable than scattered, ‘schizophrenic’ discussion. We’re way too often shrill, negative, and defensive in our approach and language. I can understand this too. The progressive voice has been marginalized and ostracized for a long time now in Alberta, so I get that people are frustrated.

My point is that the topics that have been suggested are good and important tactical conversations that we should have. But before we even get to tactics, we need to have a strategic, and very candid ‘come to Jesus’ discussion about the state of progressive politics in Alberta right now, what we’re doing right, what we can improve, what we believe in, what we want to accomplish in the near-, medium, and long-terms, and how we intend to accomplish our goals. Surely, a group of thoughtful, intelligent, and engaged citizens can come together to develop a strategy that encapsulates our commonality and defines our values but also celebrates our diversity. We need to start high level; develop a framework for progressive politics; set goals, timelines, and expectations; figure out what we want to do; and then we can drill down and talk tactically.

Otherwise, all that’s going to happen over the course of the weekend is that a number of people will get together to have novel but trivial conversations. We will fail to seize the opportunity before us to galvanize a large body of people to go back to and galvanize their progressive networks and communities in order to start a broad-based, motivated, and ‘densely populated’ movement that can effect true socially progressive and fiscally compassionate public policy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Green Oil Author Satya Das on Al Gore and Oil Sands.

Satya Das has a Green Oil blog post on Al Gore comments on the oilsands from Toronto the other day. Definitely worth a read. http://greenoilbook.com/the-blog/1-green-oil-blog/24-we-can-meet-mr-gores-challenge

I see Leo de Bever the CEO of AIMCo is talking  in the Edmonton Journal today about the lack of producitvity and high costs in the Alberta energy sector. I wonder if the energy sector is still holding out for return of ridiculously high commodity prices to justify high costs. If our sector can't compete on costs, perhaps we need to get the Alberta energy look at sharpening their pencils.

We also need to sharpen our literacy skills too. Cambridge Strategies just co-sponsored a series of meetings with Literacy Alberta. New research shows that Alberta can't continue to compete with the same old approach. In some professions we have over skilled people under-utilized. What a waste of the education dollars we spent on them. Other sectors have under skilled people who have literacy challenges that hinder their ability to do the jobs. Think productivity, competitiveness and also safety.

Once I have been through Reboot Alberta (http://www.rebootalberta.wordpress.com/) this weekend I will be very active on this blog on the literacy needs of Albertans.

The work I was doing a while back to support community based agencies serving persons with developmental disabilities is heating up too. I expect a major expose to be coming out on how the provincial policy and funding systems is jeopardizing our collective social duty to these vulnerable citizens too. More on that soon as well.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"When Was the Last Time You De-Learned?"

Thinking about leadership and how different the challenges of the 21st century are from the 20th. Here is a piece I ran across from the Harvard Business Review that made me think even more. We have a vacuum in wise political leadership for sure in so many ways and at so many levels.


We also have a vacuum in business leadership too as elites become more distant and disconnected from the daily reality of ordinary people.

We need a renewed sense of citizenship and leaders with skills to deal with a more integrated consciousness so our institutions, society and culture can begin to cope with the complexity and growing urgency of the human and ecological condition.

Our institutions are anemic and we are dragged into diversions like the circuses of celebrity culture and the stylized rituals of reality show silliness. This is what our culture is offering us as a substitute and distraction so we can avoid facing up to the serious challenges of being human.

I am haunted by Chris Hedges words in his enormously provocative book "Empire of Illusion" when he says: "A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, which fails to understand the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death."

How much will we have to de-learn about the modernist and traditionalist mindset of our conventional culture before we can begin to grasp these progressive imperative for survival not merely sustainability?

Jared Diamond in his book “Collapse” list many contributing factors to social decay but what resonated with me was the dislocation between the short term interests of elites and the longer term concerns and needs of a society. Albertans are seeing a general rise in casual corruption, mismanagement and political inertia in the business and political elites in the province. Be it resource royalties or reclamation resistance by the energy sector or the indifference and ineptness of government to have the political will to enact and enforce laws for the greater good with a long-view politically.

Hedges notes these conditions, that are prevalent in Alberta today, “…almost always result in widespread cynicism, disengagement, apathy and finally rage. Those who suffer the consequences of this mismanagement lose any loyalty to the nation (province?) and increasingly nurse fantasies of violent revenge.”

One has to wonder just how far the average American is from this latter stage when you read headlines in the Globe and Mail Report on Business today “U.S. Housing Crises Hits New Levels.” Almost 1 of every 7 home owners in the States faces foreclosure, including many with good credit ratings.

This is happening while the Wall Street elites are back on the bonus track, gorging themselves using borrowed taxpayer money to pay the bonuses. Labour is still shedding jobs on Main Street. Politicians act like they are immune for a few years, until the next election. And companies like Goldman Sachs are on “image-repair missions.” They cancelled their Christmas Party this year to show their sincerity.

Such futile superficial gestures will do nothing to stop the criticism of Wall Street or to mitigate against the image of pure greed that still seems to be the primary motivation for the elites of the US financial sector.

According to Hedges this “…collapse is more than an economic and political collapse. It is a crisis of faith.” I wonder how this reality will play out in Canada and in Alberta in particular.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reboot Alberta is Building Momentum-Will it Press for Change?

The "sister site" to this Blog at http://www.rebootalberta.wordpress.com/ is getting attention and attracting readers. Reboot Alberta is part of a movement amongst progressive Albertans who are concerned about the direction and destination of Alberta.


There are some interesting and thought-provoking blog posts at Reboot Alberta that I recommend you read and reflect upon. There is a growing sense amongst progressive thought leaders that Alberta is not living up to its potential economically, its responsibilities environmentally and it duty socially.

Don Schurman's Reboot Alberta post today talks about accepting personal responsibility for change and you can't press for change if you only "empower someone else to change it for you." He calls for a more informed and active sense of citizenship to come from individual Albertans.

Michael Brechtel's Reboot Alberta post sees change coming but believes in Alberta "The Glass is Definitely Half Full." He also points out that many Albertans "... disengaged from their citizenship." He takes the view that "...the current political climate is the chance we've been waiting for." He calls upon Albertans to re-engage and actually create "a culture of engagement" in the politics of the times.

Dave King's Reboot Alberta post poses the question of "What's the Way Forward for Alberta's Politics." Dave is darker in his POV. He believes Albertans are "living on exhausted and toxic political soil." He calls for a rejection of "the politics of fear, confrontation and intimidation."

Alberta, like the rest of the world, is coping with turbulent economic times. But our future promises that we will continue to grow. The question is will Albertans emerge from this recession with the capacity and goal to adapt to the new economic, environmental and societal realities and responsibilities? Or will we simply fall back into the same-old unsustainable and irresponsible behaviours that brought us to these debacles?

Some Albertans what to change course. They see the danger in the current trajectory of the province. Where to go, what to do and how to redefine and redesign progress for a more responsible, equitable and sustainable future are big questions. They will be part the discussions happening at Reboot Alberta as 88 thought-leaders from across the province gather together in Red Deer for Reboot Alberta.

I am optimistic that at by the end of November there will be the energy and desire by a small group of individuals with a collective intention to work together and get a fresh start in this province. That is my hope for Reboot Alberta.

You too can become a part of this movement to effect and influence progressive change in our province. The world is run by those who show up. So re-engage, join the discussion and invest some of yourself and your talents into the Reboot Alberta process. If you want to know more just email me ken@cambridgestrategies.com and we will get you in the loop.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Local Governments Getting Together to Influence Alberta Government

The recent Working Protocol Agreement between the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties is a very important step in the right direction for better governance in Alberta. Congratulations are in order all around.


The local government, the so-called "third order" of governance, is the most vulnerable because of its limited revenue generating capacity and growing demands in its areas or responsibility. Paradoxically it is the order of government closest to the everyday lives of citizens but has the least governance authority of any order of government.

The senior orders of government most often overlook the municipal level unless they want to download costs and responsibilities in tough times. Not always true as seen in the federal stimulus funding finally going directly to local government and the Paul Martin direct payment of Gas Tax revenues to local government. The big boys at the province often like to put local politician in their place by pointing out that they are merely "creatures of provincial law." I always like to remind the provincial politicians that they too are creatures of statute from the federal level and refer them to The Alberta Act that created the province.

There seems to be constant battles over boundaries and services and cost sharing between municipalities and surrounding rural areas. Sometimes those can be negotiated but often a province has to dictate resolutions. The threat of a provincially imposed regional planning "solution" in the greater Edmonton areas was enough to bring the parties to the table. They worked out a mutually acceptable deal. Not perfect but better than submitting to an imposed deal by the province.

That said, here is an excerpt from the News Release that outlines the essence of the deal between the parties:

"The AUMA/AAMDC Working Protocol provides opportunities for joint political advocacy and calls for organizations to strengthen and enhance their individual business services to members. Both organizations’ boards have agreed to meet regularly to monitor the development of the Working Protocol. The protocol outlines that there will be times when the AUMA and AAMDC must take different positions on an issue. However, they have agreed that these times will not affect other positive joint efforts."

Might I suggest that one of the first projects these groups tackle together is pressing the CRTC, Alberta and Canada to require Telus to provide Albertans access to the copper wire land-based phone lines. Once that is done virtually every Albertan can have direct access to the SuperNet fibre optic system. That access is critical to rural and small town Alberta being sustainable and viable. It means time and distance are defeated and the best-of-breed SuperNet online communications network is just a click away for Albertans all over the province - at a fraction of wireless and fibre optic costs.

Reality, maturity and wisdom are all evident in this initiative. Albertans will be better served in the long run because of this collaborative approach amongst local governments. Well done!  Full disclosure: I am not currently working with either association but I have been advising a private business who is trying to convince the CRTC to require Telus to provide access to local copper wire for citizen's access to SuperNet, especially in small town and rural Alberta.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Oilsands Investments Return 1 Year After Industry Threatens to "Leave Alberta"

Interesting to see all the big oilsands players announcing that they are reinvesting billions of capital once again into oilsands projects. A year ago they were all pulling out of Alberta as the played political gamesmanship over the new royalty rates. Albertans should not forget that pure political posturing of the industry that was nothing less than bullying and bluster by some of the corporate elites in the energy sector.


They sure spooked our Premier. He folded about four times on royalties since January 2009. As a result we now collect even less money than we would have if we left the old royalty regime intact. The tenants are acting like owners and dictating the terms. Instead we need Albertans taking the responsibility to ensure our oilsands are giving future generations the benefit of the resource and that we are not "giving it away."

Speaking of "giving it away" I just returned from a great time in Austin Texas on a project. It reminded me something that Murray Smith the first Alberta Envoy, said to a meeting in Austin in 2006. I have a copy of the transcript of his remarks. Here is the most remarkable part of what he said to an American energy audience: "The model that has worked so well for us is that the royalty structure for oil sands is 'give it away' at a 1 percent royalty structure and share the risk of these great ventures and great investments. As soon as they reach payout, the royalty take goes to 25 percent of net."

That was a necessary model in the early stages of oilsands development in the late 1990's when extraction and upgrading costs and capital costs were higher than the commodity price of the product. That is not longer the case so why are we perpetuating this old model of "giving it away" when Alberta is the best place to assure secure and a safe supply of hydrocarbons?

When we charge royalties on net returns, how do we know we are not getting screwed on cost allocations within companies? When we allow royalties to be deferred until all capital costs are recovered how do we have any control on the project costs? Does this indemnity to recover costs from foregone royalty make the companies who are building the project really care that much about controlling costs?

At the record oil prices of last year controlling cost didn't seem to matter too much. Once the recession was acknowledged in September 2008 the future projects were shelved instantaneously. Well that was then and this is now and the projects are all coming back. Go figure!

BTW - Here is the link to Vue Weekly interview with Green Oil author Satya Das. Green Oil emphasizes the point that Albertans own the oilsands and have the obligation to ensure the stewardship of energy industry players who our government licenses to exploit this non-renewable resource on our behalf.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What Does the Fiscal Four Mean for the Stelmach Government?

Here it comes! The seeds of a PC caucus rebellion are planted by a group forming and publically calling themselves the Fiscal Four! Is this reminiscent of the (not so) Deep Six that Stelmach was part of as a rookie MLA? Three of them are strong social conservatives from in and around Calgary that were active in pushing the anti-gay, anti-teacher aspects of Bill 44. This will not sit well with the powers that be!


Is the Party Behind Stelmach but the Caucus, Not So Much?
This split in caucus is not a surprise. It is just coming much sooner than I expected. The 77% party support solution from the recent PC AGM was a great example of the wisdom of crowd. It was not so low that it caused a partisan panic. It was not so high that the Premier’s office could claim all was well in Ed's world regardless of evidence to the contrary.

The response from Premier Stelmach was obvious relief but too tentative in terms of articulating what he heard and what is intends to do. He says he will make changes - but slowly and on his time schedule. The delusional declaration that the PC policy is perfect and then blaming of the media for the poor communications and the head nod solution to using social media is inadequate and unimpressive. This response to the public’s resistance to the Stelmach government policy is just a “pocket full of mumbles.” That is the true communications problem.

Is Social Media Stelmach's Communications Solution?
The old-school command and control, top down, message management mentality of the PCs, and the Wildrose Alliance too, will not work in the culture of the new world order known as social media. The PCs tried to adapt to social media a year or so ago - and with some considerable effort and enthusiasm. The effort was shown with the set up of MYPCMLA site. As soon as the social media conversation started to work, the PCs enthusiasm waned and they have essentially abandoned the effort. Now a few PC MLAs still use it as well as Twitter, Facebook and personal blogs but on a cautious and inconsistent basis.

Fear of the openness of the social media world is the dominant reaction of traditionalists in political parties. This fear is because the inner circle political machinery in the Stelmach government wanted to continue to have absolute control over the messages. You can't do that in the social media world. It is too democratic for that. They are wary of joining in any authentic conversation with engaged Albertans online using social media tools.

Facing the rabble known as netizens without the usual tools of coercion and fear feigning as respect forced them PCs to retreat from the field. The rabble is talking about them anyway so it would be wiser to be involved and ensuring accuracy, understanding and context as well as the opportunity to learn and show real leadership.

So What is With the Fiscal Four?
Now we have the Fiscal Four breaking ranks and sending out their own messages. Two of them are very adroit at using social media and have substantial networks in the wired world. Is this self-anointed fiscal watch-dog group the start of the PC caucus “big tent” folding and not flourishing?

Are some of these MLAs part of the 10 closeted Wildrose floor-crossers that were rumored to exist a few weeks ago? Are they so fearful of defeat in the next election under the current leadership that this is now every man for himself - especially in Calgary? It has been that way for Edmonton PCs for decades. Or are these guys in Kris Kristofferson land and feeling a new found freedom because they have nothing left to lose?

Looks like the Premier may have to fast-track identifying and making the changes he alluded to last week end in his speech after the confidence vote. To delay now will only weaken his power, his base and undermine his own effectiveness and survival. He was quick to reverse the liquor tax increase last summer because he said he "did not feel right about it." He may need to be that nimble and assertive now. For sure he will have to be more substantive and more strategic now that these caucus cracks are showing.

Is the Wildrose Alliance Worth the Risk?
Albertans have to ask ourselves why the Wildrose Alliance is the best alternative for most us...not just the wealthy elites from the Calgary oil patch. They are in many ways scarier than the old Alliance crowd because they are not open and transparent on social and environmental policies. They seem to be conniving to avoid talking about key social (gay rights, abortion) and environmental issues because they say they are "divisive." It is all about aligning with the narrow and shallow Fraser Institute culture for the Wildrose Alliance.

It is as if the Wildrose Alliance believes if we just ignore human rights abuses, the plight of the poor, the obligation to the vulnerable, like children, seniors and the disabled they will go magically to away. It is as if the goal for Albertans is to aspire to get as rich as possible and as quickly as possible regardless of environmental implications.

The Wildrose Alliance has pledged to stifle government by starving its capacity with more ill-advised tax cuts. That way the self-fulfilling prophesy of government being incapable of doings it job is assured - but that is ok because that is the world unfolding as it should in a Wildrose Alberta.

The next government can deal with social fabric breakdown fallout, the environmental and climate change disasters we are developing today through a wanton and reckless focus on only economic policy. To them it is as if that is somehow acceptable for the current narcissist generation to ignore and avoid any social or environmental responsibility to future generations.

We still don't know who funded and is hidden behind the scenes and influencing the new Wildrose leader. She has refused to disclose her funders and the reason is "because they fear reprisals" from the government. That is not good enough.

Lots to look at and much more attention needs to be directed towards the Wildrose Alliance Party by all Albertans. We need to see if they are an alternative to be trusted and worthy of our consent to govern us. And by “us” I mean all Albertans from all over the province - not just the beautiful and bountiful Albertans in the Calgary elites and the disgruntled old-school former Reformers they are currently courting.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Green Oil Author Satya Das Drops the Gauntlet

Here is a link to an interview Satya Das did with the Toronto Star that ran last Saturday in their business section. It is a strong statement that says Albertans need to start acting like owners of their resources and demanding better public policies from their government and more accountability and revenues from the energy industry.


That means the citizens of the province need to take back some political control and make demands of the political class to better represent the public interest and not just the interests of the resource industry - the tenants! The Premier promised to make some changes coming out of the 77% party support at the PC AGM last week end. Here is another area that needs some serious policy changes by the Premier - especially in royalty revenues and reclamation responsibilities.

The royalty rates for energy resources are ridiculously low compared to all other energy jurisdictions. Alberta is using non-renewable resource revenues as substitute for a responsible rate of taxation that would fund a pay-as-you go approach to the public interest. What we do now is mortgage the future of our children with social and environmental problems and precious little long term value added benefits from the oilsands in particular.

The Lougheed legacy of saving a significant portion of the resource revenues in the Heritage Trust Fund has been dishonoured for too long. It is time to take the money from royalties off the policy and political table. We should make a stretch goal to save 80% of those revenues in the Heritage Fund as our legacy to future generations. Then we need to tax ourselves at the level needed to pay for the necessary operational needs of the province that we decide are in the public interest. This is instead of the current model of constantly subsidizing the energy industry and beggaring everybody else.

The long term benefits of the Alberta energy resources are being squandered by poor planning, lax royalty collection and revenue policies that favour short term industrial growth and ignoring longer term potential benefits and turning a blind eye to the ecological and social costs of unrestrained growth.

Time to wake up Alberta. Time to dust off your citizenship and start paying attention to what is going on. Time to take on the responsibility of citizenship again. Time to get informed and involved in the politics of this province in a positive way. Indifference is a luxury Albertans can't afford any more. The world is run by those who show up.

Learn more about Satya's ideas for the future of Alberta in his book Green Oil

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Toronto Star Covers Sayta Das' Green Oil

TORONTO STAR Business Section gives GREEN OIL, the new book by SATYA DAS, some great coverage.

GREEN OIL on the EDMONTON JOURNAL Best Seller List fourth week in a row.  Thanks for the support Edmonton.  On Line sales at http://www.greenoilbook.com/ are growing too. 

Had the chance to introduce speakers and participate in the World Wildlife Fund "Ice and Oil" presentations by Andrew Nikiforuk and Ed Struzik in Edmonton and Calgary last week too.  Lots of people showed up and there were lots of questions.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Is Alberta About to Enter an Empire of Illusion Stage Politically?

The speculation about the PC AGM party leadership review this Saturday is just another act in the on-going political power drama in Alberta these days. The flu fiasco is a much more critical concern for the population and the politics of the province.

That does not mean these matters are not related. They are just two issues on the minds of Albertans, including the economy, the environment and our democracy. Everything is attached to everything else in our complex inter-related and interdependent world these days.

PC Leadership Review:
It is hard to imagine that PC Leader Stelmach will not get at least 80% support from the party faithful this weekend. I say the party faithful because even if you are unhappy with the job the party leader is doing, he is still Premier of Alberta. And the primary purpose of a political party is to stay in power. Why would any of the delegates take the risk of opening up a bitter leadership fight? Better to get the leader to change than change the leader.

The PC Party is not the Same as Alberta:
The thinking members of the PC party appreciate that the people of Alberta are very unhappy with the Stelmach government. The new Environics poll in the CanWest papers today proves that in spades. The horserace part of media coverage is always the main focus. But it rarely reveals the real story.

So the Wildrose is #2 and closing in on Calgary. That’s not news. At best it is old news since the Calgary Glenmore by election. What does a Wildrose Alliance far right reactionary party holding the #2 spot mean for politics in Alberta? Is that the alternative most Albertans want? If not, then what? Where does all this leave the Liberals and NDs? That is the deeper news story.

Other Interesting Poll Results:
The poll raises some interesting concerns. Like why was there a 2 week data collection period? Very strange when one considers the impact of the emerging H1N1 story. It also makes you wonder how many calls were made to get 1000 Albertans to answer the poll. Some estimates say as many a 20 calls have to be placed before someone will answer a pollster. Makes you wonder about the true randomness doesn’t it? We don’t know much about the participants either but we presume they are properly demographically distributed not just geographically.

There are more interesting results in this poll than just the top line. Top issue for me is that the PC approval rating is at 36% - a 16 year low. With 54% of Albertans saying they disapprove of the government's performance. There is not much equivocation in opinions about the quality of our governance and leadership. I remember back in the day Don Getty had a personal approval rating of 17% - just before he retired. What is Premier Stelmach’s personal approval rating? We are not told. Hope it comes out in follow up stories. Please tell me that this question was asked.

The other interesting findings are the province wide 16% of undecided Albertans. That is as big as the Wildrose Alliance support in Edmonton. The tale of two cities is another interesting story. Calgary is used to having power, access and getting its way in the province, a holdover attitude from the Klein years. They continue to send a message of displeasure by parking support with the Wildrose Alliance. But do they truly believe in the WAP or just want to send a message the Premier. Or is this all about having a Calgarian in power, regardless of party? Too early to tell but that is an interesting unanswered question.

Edmonton is a much more interesting place politically these days with the PCs (34%) and Liberals (27%) statistically tied within the margin of error. The WAP is a distant 3rd and the NDP has their strongest showing in Edmonton at 13%. Are there are at least three solitudes emerging in Alberta these days? It sure looks like it. I think south, central and northern rural Alberta has some considerable differences too but the poll samples are too small to show them.

Another curious result is the Green support at 8% in the big cities and 9% in the rest of Alberta. That party does not even exist anymore but still can garner that kind of support. The Greens are equal to NDP in Calgary and beat them in the rest of Alberta. Ouch.

The Politics of the Poll:
The PC Party and the Premier’s office will see the timing of this CanWest sponsored poll coming out just before the leadership review on Saturday, as mischievous at best. Not that such manipulative and mischievous media messaging ever emanates from government. Remember the phony beach ads and the $25 million taxpayer paid slick ad campaign of the government to respond to dirty oil and the ugly Albertan? Whatever happened to that campaign?

This tradition of political and governance mis-messaging is exactly what will happen in coming weeks if the PC party leader gets over 80% support in the review process. The official line will be to ignore these poll results. They will say: Hey, we won the PC leadership when we were not supposed to. We won the election when we were not supposed to - and we got a larger majority too. Now we have the overwhelming endorsement of the party. There is a recession going on so what is the problem? The conclusion will be that there isn’t a problem. Things are just fine. The message will be that leader’s hand is on the rudder, the direction is clear and the government is on the right path. Steady as she goes and there is no need to change a thing. With that level of support they will promise to “stay the course.”

That attitude will likely be confirmation of an accelerated end of dominance of the Alberta PC political brand. Will it result in the demise of the dynasty that was created and nurtured by Peter Lougheed over 40 years ago?

“People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.”

That is a James Baldwin quote from “Empire of Illusion – the End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” by Pulitzer Prize Winner Chris Hedges.

Time will tell but will the clock be ticking for Premier Stelmach starting Saturday?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

What is the Way Forward for Alberta's Politics?

There is a new guest blog posted today on Reboot Alberta by Dave King.  Dave is one of the founders and organizers on the gathering of Progressives that is happening in late November.  Dave says "We need to reject the politics of fear, confrontation and intimidation." 

With the current and coming budget pressures, many citizens, civil society organizations and community- based service provider agencies are feeling fearful.  They fear their funders and if they will have the resouces needed to do their jobs for some of the most vulnerable in our society.  There is significant anticipation of a confrontation attitude and personal intimidation from the provincial government as it promises to cut $2B next fiscal to deal with its expected budget shortfall of $7B. 

Part of that stated $7B budget anticipated shortfall seems to be made up of some smoke and mirrors.  It includes the paper losses from stock price declines in the Heritage Savings and Trust investment portfolio.  Those losses are not real or crystalized, as the Accountants like to say, unless the equities are sold out of the fund.  That is not happening or likely to happen any time soon.  Those capital devaluations not cash drains on the Alberta Treasury but they are made to appear that way in the messaging doming out of government.   It appears to be a tactic to enable the province to return to fiscal folly of the mid 90's of massive versus brutal cuts as Stelmach has decided to shift farther right fiscally in response to the Wildrose Alliance Party.

The market has recovered significantly since that last deficit calculation was done.  It will be interesting to see what the Third QTR numbers will show for Alberta's budget status as at the end of December.  We will know in January 2010 so pay attention Alberta to what the next deficit calculation is and how they arrive at it.
 
King also says "We are not well served by the politics of selfishness, exclusivity, immediate gratification and harsh judgement."  He calls for a new politics of "...hope, cooperation and respect...(based on) community and the public, incluson and diversity, the long term and affirmation." 

This made me think of the astonishing immorality of the Calgary Flames Hockey team jumping the H1N1 flu shot que. It was well known the flushot clinics were being shut down just as the players, teams executives all got private preference for flu shots.  They must have known of the vaccine supply shortages and the well publicized preferential needs of  pregnant women and young children who run the greatest H1N1 risk.  Where was the sense of community and cooperation by the team management and leadership when they showed such a misplaced sense of entitlement that they get to ignore the greater good?   How did this get past the provincial government and will we ever see some accountability for this deplorable behaviour?  There is lots of blame to go around and Albertans can't let it be swept under the political carpet.

There is so much more thoughtful commentary in Dave's blog post. I highly recommend you read it.  Here is the link.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Right Call Column - Alberta Venture Magazine

I was so busy writing the Society's Child series on the contempt of court issues that I neglected to provide you with the link to the September version of The Right Call.  This is the column I do along with Fil Fraser and other contributors. 

This edition is on social media in the workplace.  A very timely issue for business http://www.albertaventure.com/the-right-call/time-waster-or-tool/?year=2009