Pages

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Why Are We Giving Away More Royalty Rents?

The most critical decision Premier Stelmach has had to face since winning the PC leadership will be the pending Cabinet shuffle expected around January 11.  Now we have the added opportunity to give away more royalty rents to the energy sector.

The writing on the wall, based on past reactions, is the Stelmach brain trust will make Cabinet recommendations that will move the government more to the right to respond to the rising Wildrose influence. The loss of Ron Stevens as Deputy Premier and the run of royalty retreats has not appeased the Calgary oil patch. Stelmach can't even buy love in Cowtown...using taxpayer money to boot.

Now we see even more royalty giveaways and industry subsidies be contemplated by the Stelmach government. An Energy Department lead review of natural gas royalties that is driven by anticipation of US shale gas extraction providing competition for Alberta gas supplies.

Here is a key quote for the Calgary Herald story today: "Premier Ed Stelmach has vowed his government will make further changes to energy royalties -- hinting major restructuring is coming on the natural gas side -- something battered producers and the man overseeing part of the review said is desperately needed.

"There's a whole bunch of stu will have to be addressed," said former Nexen Inc. vice-president Roger Thomas, who is heading the fiscal side of the study with former Royal Bank of Canada investment banker Chris Fong.

"You don't want to give the farm away, but you've got to be positioning yourself with like companies to remain competitive. Ultimately, you've got to be at the top of the list of competitive jurisdictions," said Thomas.


This is more political squandering of a non-renewable resource rents and perfecting the past instead of ploanning for the future.  Natural gas prices were soft in 2009 falling form a January high of $6.07 per million BTUs to $2.51 in September and averaging about $4 over the year.  Market conditions should dictate here, pure and simple.  A foregone royalty now cannot be recovered later and it is a waste of the birthright of future generations to allow our government to forego a fair rent.   Prices came off extreme peaks as the recession reduced demand, there was lots of inventory supply and service costs were  high and out of cntrol coming out of the overheated market of the prior years. 

Cost have come down about 30% off the peak but is that enough to comply with market realities?  What are costs now compared to say 2004 and 2005 before the spike in gas commodity prices?  Those were hardly hardship years for the energy sector.  My bet is they are still out of line.

Natural gas prices today are in the $6 range and that is not shabby.  Things are improving  and that again is the magic of the supply and demand interplay of the free markeplace.  Sharper industry pencils on costs and a reasonable rate of return, not windfalls, are acceptable.  Albertans already have given over $2B of royalty relief last year, and that is too  much to my mind.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Where is Reboot Alberta & How to Get Involved.


I have spent some of the holiday time thinking about the next steps for Reboot Alberta.  It is launched and getting some traction and momentum as a community of progressive-minded Albertans.  Coming out of the first gathering in late November was a request that some time and effort be spent framing the concept of what it meant to be a Progressive in the context of a 21st century Alberta.  That work is well underway. 

A number of people have shared their thoughts on the “What is a Progressive” link at www.rebootalberta.org website.  I encourage you to read and comment on the contributions so far.
The other outcome of the Reboot Alberta launch was the emergence of four identifiable theme streams for Progressives to use going forward as they press for change in Alberta politics, policy and democracy. The two themes with the most participation were to start a new political party with a different approach to politics, namely public service not just getting or retaining power as the focus.  The other strong theme, based on participation levels, was the civil society approach to pressing for change.   This theme sees using existing the power and influence of existing organizations and institutions as a means to make the major changes needed to put a progressive policy approach and political agenda forward for Alberta. 

The other two themes had a smaller numbers of Reboot Alberta participants but no less enthusiasm for the cause.  Some people who wanted to use their membership and influence in existing political parties to bring a more progressive approach to Alberta politics.   Others saw themselves as ordinary citizens who wanted to make their progressive voices heard in the policy development of the province but were not interested in typical political organizations of partisanship as the way for them to press for change.
All four theme streams are alive, well and growing within the progressive Reboot Alberta community.

There was another overarching feeling I got from listening at the launch of Reboot Alberta is that the existing political and policy development system is not working and may even be broken.  The cynicism and indifference posture of past progressive thinking in Alberta is no longer an option.  In fact it is dangerous to the wellbeing of the province given the political options we are being offered are a far-rightwing or an even farther rightwing alternative.  The general dissatisfaction with the other conventional opposition parties is almost unconscious but they are simply not seen as viable governing solutions.

One thing every politically active or reactive Albertan seems to agree on now is that Alberta’s politics are volatile and vibrant…for the first time in a long time.  For those of us who what to press for progressive political and democratic change, that is a good thing.
So what is next for Reboot Alberta and progressives in light of all of this flux?  At the base is an emerging movement for a re-engaged and reinvigorated sense of citizenship by progressives.  Now progressives are starting to find each other, starting to connect, share and collaborate about creating common causes and reaching common goals.  The website at www.rebootalberta.org is where this emerging progressive political community in Alberta is congregating.  

While the virtual community is forming, Renew Alberta is moving forward in establishing a new political party.  It is likely this new party will be influenced and informed by the efforts of the civil society theme stream within Reboot Alberta.  This input will be vital as Renew Alberta works out what it stands for, what it wants to achieve, how will it be different from the status quo parties and what issues will it see as in need of political/ policy attention and change.

From some of the reading I have been doing on Paul Ray’s work on the New Political Compass, I see a strong correlation between the Cultural Creatives and the New Progressives, as he calls them (us?).  This correlation is growing into political subculture based on values with concerns around certain central issues.  Issues like resilient and vibrant communities, the ecological health of the planet, concerns over social cohesion as the rich get richer and even the working poor get poorer.  There is a rejection of the old adversarial thinking based on “us versus them” approach particularly relating to social differences and in personal relationship. There is a grave and growing concern amongst Progressives about what kind of future are we leaving our children.  And a deepening distrust of effectiveness of conventional partisan culture conflict of Left versus Right.

If these thoughts resonate with you I encourage you to take some personal action.  Go to this link and see if you are a Cultural Creative.  If so, then explore the writings at the new website for progressive Albertan at www.rebootalberta.org. I recommend you read and follow the offerings in the blog roll posts at the Reboot website.  Spend some time reading the contributions to “What is a Progressive” as well.

If after all that, if you think you too might want to dust off your citizenship and start to revive those rights and responsibilities you have, then become part this progressive movement.  You can make a contribution to help change Alberta’s politics and reform our democracy to become a more progressive political culture.  You can register on the Reboot Alberta site and send me an email (ken@cambridgestrategies.com) and ask to be put on the “In-the-Loop” email list.  Plan to attend the next face-to-face gathering of the progressive Alberta community, Reboot Alberta 2.0.  It is happening at the Delta Lodge in Kananaskis Feb 26-28.  More details on that event will be coming out next week here and on the Reboot Alberta website.

Dissatisfaction and disillusionment do not generate hope or change.  However, reviving your sense of responsible citizenship and re-engaging in the political culture of Alberta can create hope and change.  It is vital that Alberta’s progressives start showing up and making their voices heard about our aspirations for the future of this province.  The world is run by those who show up.  In a democracy we always get the government we deserve. That is especially true now when we are at a threshold of enormous political change in our Alberta.  

Anti-Smoking laws Cited as a "Great Stride in Medicine"

Interesting feature in the Edmonton Journal this morning on "Great Strides in Medicine."  It quotes Axel Meisen of the Alberta Research Council and includes the ban of smoking in public and work places as one of the "Great Strides" accomplishments.

"Anti-smoking laws and campaigns reduce public smoking""A clear understanding and acceptance of the link between smoking and health led to the banning of smoking in most public spaces. It's a global phenomenon, Meisen says.
'In the past, smoking was seen as a personal right, but knowing it endangers the lives of others has made most smokers more careful.'"

I helped make this happen in Alberta.  I was assisting a coalition of public health advocacy and professional groups in the lobbying effort.  The Libertarians hate this law but the common good has to trump individual sovereignty on occasion. This was one of them. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Alberta Developmental Disability Sector Takes a Stand

Most people start gearing down and shift into holiday mode for Christmas.  The people working and cared for in the developmental disability sector of our social safety net are suiting up and shifing into a higher gear.  They are organizing to protect themselves from more shortsighted, meanspirited and frankly unnecessary budget cuts by the government of Alberta.  I am advising these people now on a pro bono and volunteer basis.

I have done a lot of professional work with this sector recently, including help negotiate new contract templates so the GOA could meet their goal of a "more business-like relationship" with the sector.  Well that was accomplished and contracts, not grants are the way the sector is not funded.  But the government seems to think they can merely intimidate community-based volunteer agencies into funding cuts now and going forward regardless of the "business-like" relationship. 

Service providers are facing intimidation, innuendos and pressures to comply with this so-called  "voluntary" request for "in-year adjustments." The Regional PDD Boards knew they were going ot be short of funds last April 1 based on the government funding.  Why have they ignored that reality until now and why are they squeezing the service providers and caregivers as a "solution?"

Well the Minister in charge can do exactly that.  She can unilaterally cut budgets and change the contracts.  It is a term the government insisted stay in the agreements called Ministerial Directives.  If the Minister wants to claw back more money and put vulnerable people at risk then that is her prerogative under the contracts.  But that is a political decision not a management decision.  Such matters of budget cuts are always political and not management, as the government is trying to finesse the facts these days.

The Alberta Council of Disability Services, a provincial body representing most PDD sector service providers in the province sent a letter to the Premier and the Minister on Monday.  There has been some media references to it but I thought the readers of this blog would like to read the letter in its entirety. It will show you what the high road looks like.  I have been advised there is a error in the letter on page 3.  The  Edmonton PDD asked for changesby December 31, the 18th.



Honourable Ed Stelmach
Premier of Alberta

Office of the Premier

Room 307, Legislature Building

10800 - 97 Avenue

Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2B6

Dear Premier Stelmach:

Re: PDD 2009-10 Third Quarter Budget Announcements

Subject: Proposal for a Joint Solution

A collaborative partnership is essential to enable improved outcomes and sustainable solutions for individuals and families that we are contracted to support on the Ministry’s behalf. We support a partnership that honours mutual unique strengths and contributions while respecting each other’s autonomy. We support a business relationship that also has inherent rights, responsibilities and commitments. We have a common vision and goals to ensure that individuals supported through the Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) Program are able to live with dignity and safety in their communities.

Principles of a Partnership

Accountability – Recognizing that while the Ministry Seniors and Community Support, PDD Division and the Community Disability Service Providers each have separate accountabilities, collectively, they are accountable for maintaining the trust and confidence of individuals with developmental disabilities, guardians, families and all Albertans by ensuring transparency, high standards of conduct, and sound management in their work together, and by monitoring and reporting the results of this work. Independence – Respect the autonomy of the Ministry and Service Providers, recognizing that each has unique strengths, expertise and separate accountabilities. This is not an employee–employer relationship. Our mutual independence supports and promotes many different solutions and policy actions. Interdependence – The actions by either the Ministry or Service Provider directly or indirectly affect the other; a collaborative relationship is important with us and with individuals, families and community. Co-ordination and collaboration

- Page 2 of 5-

are required with all Government of Alberta Ministries that impact individuals and their families. Dialogue – We believe that the sharing of ideas, perspectives, expertise and experiences contributes to better understanding, improved identification of priorities and sound public policy. Communication, cooperation, transparency, respect and collaboration are essential to addressing areas of mutual concern and to achieve our common vision.

A Collaborative Partner

Government is facing difficult choices now – how those choices are implemented in the community, both in the short- and long-term is critical for the health of communities and vulnerable Albertans. Community Disability Service Providers are part of a valuable and essential Non-profit/Voluntary Sector in Alberta and have a long history of partnership with the Government of Alberta delivering PDD mandated services. We have made long-term commitments in our communities to support individuals with developmental disabilities and have delivered services to them for over 50 years. Many of our Service Providers were founded by families who wanted to ensure that supports were in place to meet long-term needs, many are faith based organizations committed to supporting this common mission. Our volunteer boards are connected and committed to their communities. A collaborative framework provides the opportunity for government to participate and invest in a long-term inclusive engagement with the sector on funding discussions. The far-reaching implications of the current fiscal challenge make it imperative that we work together to minimize the impact and ensure sustainable services to vulnerable Albertans.

Principals Guiding Funding:

1. To ensure sustainability and effective services support for strong and resilient communities, allocation of funding should be transparent, evidence-based, and reflect local stakeholder expertise and community knowledge and context.

2. Community programs are most effectively delivered through sustained, predictable and coordinated funding. Contractual funding arrangements should reflect and support the long-term service we provide to individuals with permanent and often complex needs. We have a record of service to this government and measured standards of service and accountability. We require the flexibility to respond and be innovative. We require predictability of funding and honouring of funding commitments to plan effectively and efficiently.

3. Government should make a priority of open communication and meaningful consultation with individuals, guardians and families. Research, impact analysis

- Page 3 of 5-

and coordinated planning with these resources and the broader community are particularly significant when changes to policies, programs or services are being considered.

4. Outcomes for people and communities can be improved through better alignment of planning, program design and service delivery within and across both government and the Community Disability Services sector.

2009-10 Third Quarter Contract Budget Adjustments

Recent third quarter budget announcements by Regional PDD Community Boards of projected Regional Board deficits and Ministry budget reduction targets have placed Service Providers and family managed contracts in an untenable position.

Northeast Regional PDD Board announced on October 23, 2009 retroactive funding reductions of 4.34% of total Service Provider and family managed contract budgets. Calgary Regional PDD Board provided formal confirmation of in-year contracted and retroactive funding reductions of approximately 2.1 %.of annual agency contract budgets to address their Regional Board deficit and the provincial deficit. The notice was issued on December 9 and December 11, 2009 with expectation that agency plans for reductions be submitted by December 18, 2009. Edmonton Regional PDD Board confirmed retroactive budget adjustments of approximately 2.3% on December 16, 2009. Agencies have been asked to submit plans and revised change forms by December 18, 2009.

Key Messages

The impact of these reductions over the remaining few months of the contract term will have a significant impact on direct services to clients and the ability of agencies to operate under the new contracting model which pays for services after they have already been provided. Inadequate notice and time has been given to allow agencies to properly inform their Boards, give required notice to staff, and support families, guardians and clients to develop coordinated plans to ensure the safety and well-being of the individuals. This is not sound business practice, it is not good fiscal management, and does not live up to the principles, rights and obligations of a contractual business arrangement that should be expected from government. The Ministry (PDD) has ongoing responsibility to ensure and oversee the provision of statutory programs, resources and services to adults with developmental disabilities; and has the mandate to provide services to individuals through determination of eligibility and approval of units of service

- Page 4 of 5-

that they will provide and fund. The Service Provider contracts with the Ministry to deliver these services on behalf of the Government. Communication and direction about changes and or reductions in services should most appropriately be directly between government and the client. Individuals receiving or applying for services have the right to be consulted prior to any significant decisions affecting them; and are to be informed of decisions made by the Community Board that affect them and of their right to independently appeal such decisions. The individual may then access their right to appeal decisions of PDD Program Community Boards that impact them. Program supports, or applying to receive supports, can be appealed to the Minister through the PDD Appeal Panel. Decisions of a PDD Program Community Board to enter into, amend or terminate a contract with a Service Provider on the other hand cannot be appealed. The ACDS Board appreciates the difficulties that Regional PDD Community Boards face with unanticipated cost pressures and the complex and changing needs inherent in delivering mandated human services. Our members also face these same pressures, adjust accordingly within our yearly budget and contract, and are held accountable for a balanced budget. We also appreciate the challenges of the uncertain economic climate. Many agencies already reduced their budgets by up to 5% at the beginning of the contract year in response to Ministry anticipated budget pressures, and staff received only one half of the committed wage increase as a one-time bonus. As we have done each year, for many years, we have already demonstrated our willingness to collaborate and work toward a solution. The ACDS Board understands that under the current contract with Service Providers, any amendments or changes must be mutually agreed upon by both parties and further that Service Providers should consider carefully and ensure that they take the time and steps necessary to be fully informed before agreeing to voluntarily amend the contract by agreeing to reduce services or units of service. We understand and have been advised, that even a request to voluntarily agree to an in-year adjustment may be considered an Anticipatory Breach of the contract. We would expect PDD to honour the current contracts over the next quarter. The Ministry commitment to allocate $24 million in the 2009-2010 budget to address recruitment and retention of a skilled workforce is still outstanding. The delivery of quality services to individuals with often complex needs is dependent upon sustaining a qualified workforce. While government programs and staff received wage and benefit increases, and contracted programs and staff funded by other Ministries received their 5% wage increase on April 1, 2009, PDD funded contracts received only a partial allocation of $14 million this fall to be distributed as a one-time bonus. Some Service Providers have not had the April 1, 2009 minimum wage increase addressed in their funding.

- Page 5 of 5-

Service Providers value our relationship with this Ministry. A strong collaborative relationship must be based on honouring commitments, integrity and mutual respect grounded in the fundamental principles and values that place the well-being of the individuals we support first.

Recommendation for a Joint Solution

That the Premier and Minister intervene and rescind the PDD Community Board requests for in-year budget adjustments and ensure that formal correspondence is issued clearly communicating to Service Providers and family managed contractors, that PDD fully intends to honour their contracts and that this is a voluntary request for budget reductions. That full contractual payment to Service Providers will continue and there will be no repercussions if Service Providers and family managed contractors do not voluntarily agree, or did not meet the deadline for submission of action plans and change forms for reductions in services. That Service Providers and family managed support contractors who have already submitted action plans or implemented changes be offered the opportunity to review and reconsider given this new and clear communication from the Ministry. That the Premier support the Minister to implement a full external program review and audit of the PDD Division Programs and Services. Stakeholders and families would be willing to participate in the development of the terms of reference and support this review. That PDD Community Boards be requested to communicate their intent to fully honour their contracts with families and Service Providers That PDD Community Boards be required to communicate directly to individuals and their guardians and families, any decisions that may impact services to ensure that they retain their right to appeal, and further that the timeline for filing the notice of appeal starts on the date of this communication from the PDD Boards.

Respectfully submitted,

Bob Greig

President

ACDS BOARD

cc. Honourable Mary Anne Jablonski

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What is a Progressive in a 21st Century Alberta

Part of the Reboot Alberta -The Launch was a request from participants that we start to put some content and context about what it means to be a Progressive in Alberta in the 21st century.  A number of citizens who participated in Reboot Alberta - The Launch have taken some time to write a blog post on their personal perspective on the question.

My input is typically tooooo loooong but if I had more time I could have made it shorter.  Here is my take.  I strongly recommend you read the others as well.  If you are moved to write your own contribution - email it to me ken@cambridgestrategies.com and we will get it posted.

In the meantime if you are a Progressive or think you are, mark your calendar for February 26-28.  Reboot Alberta 2.0 is happening at the Delta at Kananaskis.  More details tomorrow to those signed into the Reboot Alberta community.  If you want to be in that loop too, let me know your name and contact information so we can add you to the list.  Go to http://www.rebootalberta.org/ and join the movement. 

Tomorrow I will be posting the letter the developmental disability sector sent to the Premier yesterday.  It pretty much speaks for itself.  I am advising the sector on a pro bono basis becuase they don't have any money to hire me and I have already gather lots of information from the two years I did professional work for them.

Merry Christmas to one and all.   

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Don Braid on Decline of the PCs - He Gets It! Reboot Alberta Gathers Steam

In case you missed it, Don Braid's column in yesterday's Calgary Herald captures the essence of the erosion happening in and around the PC government in Alberta.  I appreciate his comments on my blog post about why I am leaving the Alberta PC Party

If the Wildrose is the viable option, we are in more trouble than we have already imagined.  We need a much different option to ensure we preserve, protect and progress in our Alberta.

Citizens are reclaiming responsiblity for how they are governed.  The growing interest in Reboot Alberta is proof of this re-emergence of informed and engaged citizenship.  I am working on my Reboot Alberta discussion paper on What is a Progressive in a 21st Century Alberta.  My theme is Citizenship=Stewardship.  I will post it here as well as on http://www.rebootalberta.org/

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why I Am Leaving the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta

I am almost joining the ranks of 97% of Canadians who do not belong to political parties. I will still hold a Federal Liberal membership but I will not renew my Alberta PC membership when it expires at year end. I have been involved in the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party from the mid-70s.' and even took an unsuccessful run at a nomination as a PC Candidate for the 1997 election. I can no longer aid, abet and accept the PCs as my political home in Alberta. There are many reasons but last straws are what people notice. My last straw has arrived.

I take my philosophical political positioning as a social progressive and a fiscal conservative. To many that is an oxymoron but to me it was a balanced and comprehensive approach to governing. That is why I was so comfortable for so many years in the PCs even through the extremes and mistakes of all Premiers since and including Lougheed.

Well the Alberta PCs who are elected to government are no longer progressive, hardly fiscally prudent and as for having a conservation consciousness – forget it. They are no longer aligned enough with my values to continue to be my political home. I know from personal discussions, emails and meetings that I share that realization with many other disillusioned PC party members. They also see the other conventional political parties as merely variation of a tired, inadequate, exclusive and clubby political culture. The Wildrose Alliance is offering an even greater and deeper sense of the tired old conventional politics of a (thankfully) by-gone time.

I see no vision or enthusiasm from the PC government. I see no capacity to respond effectively to the complex changing times in Alberta. They are merely hoping to return to the Alberta of yesterday. They are waiting for commodity prices to return so things and be “normal” again and we Albertans will get to print yet another bumper sticker asking God for yet another boom.

Danielle Smith's Wildrose Alliance Party has deep roots in social conservativism and religious fundamentalism. Stuff they don't want to talk about - until they are elected. There is an unnerving sense that they are thinking that they can win an election with one narrative and once elected, govern the future of the province with another. It is as if they want to take Alberta back to repeat a time that is even farther back into our history. They want to take us back to the conservative times of Ernest Manning and Harry Strom with the added benefits of the moral metrics of Bible Bill Aberhart himself .They want an Alberta where the old TV sitcom series “Father Knows Best” would be considered a modern-day documentary.

So, after about 35 years, I am currently politically homeless, but I have hope. Reboot Alberta is the wellspring of my hope. I see is a way to find a more just, fair, inclusive, prosperous and progressive province. Reboot Alberta is becoming a political movement that is about a new kind of citizen-based pioneering leadership, citizenship and stewardship. It is not about gaining political power. It aspires to greater goals.

I sense from the growing Reboot Alberta community that we are at the trailhead of a new journey. It is a new personally accountable path where citizens take responsibility for the new situational dynamics of being Albertans. We are discovering that the new Alberta venture is about undertaking to actively pursue how we can adapt. That adaptation includes becoming an ecological enhancing economy and an inclusive, cohesive caring society with high levels of innovation, achievement and accomplishment.

I want my Alberta to be about a proud people, with organizations, institutions, industries and communities where our living and learning go hand in hand throughout our entire lives. I want a striving society that honours and encourages different ways of thinking, that is caring, curious, inclusive and diverse. I hope for a society that honours the gifts we all have as individuals and encourages us to strive for personal accomplishment for our own benefit as well as to the greater good.

We must be aware of and honour the past. We must be realistic about the present (think oilsands). And we must once again become engaged in accepting responsibility for the future and the consequences of our actions on future generations.

Reboot Alberta is going to be about citizens coming together in this spirit. Progressives will show an active intent of finding ways to empower, enhance and expand our capacity to design and deliver on a vision for better Alberta based on a more integrated, more inclusive and more accomplished society. We need to be sure our society is served by our economic endeavours and not the other way around. We must seek a better definition of responsible and sustainable growth. Growth and prosperity must accept that there are constraints of nature. We have to change how we measure success and progress. We must take a longer term view based on values, not just a quarterly accounting statement.

Integrating our economic and social growth has to be done in ways that promotes and produces adaptive self-reliant capable and confident citizens in a cohesive, creative, dynamic society. We have to constantly anticipate and adapt to find new ways to thrive within and respecting the capacity of the planet. This is to my sense the fundamental stuff of what we need for progressive politics, policy, governance and government in our Alberta.

We can’t continue to celebrate and expand our capacity to exploit as a species while continuing to ignore or try to engineer our way around realities of the natural ecological constraints of our place and the planet. Success can’t be about being a bigger “Have” place when others are destitute and dying – all too often due to our ignorance or indifference. I don’t what to merely strive for Alberta to be the best place in the world. I want it to be the best place for the world

I can't seem to find these topics of conversation happening much, if at all, in the dominant political cultures of the province these days. But I have been able to find a significant number of Albertans in the Reboot Alberta movement who are longing and yearning for those kinds of conversations. At the Reboot Alberta Launch at the end of November one of the participants called conversations "game changers." I pray that he is right. I am seeing that those conversations have started within the Reboot Alberta community. With some encouragement, tending and nurturing, they will gain traction and momentum. Then I would not have to find a new political home, I, along with others, will be building it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Do You Really Want a Wildrose Alliance Government for Alberta?

I was made aware of this Youtube set of interviews of fans of Sarah Palin done at a recent book signing somewhere in the United States.  The tip came via Chris LaBossiere on Twitter and I want to thank him for the link.

The irrational exuberanceof the folks in this clip as the supports of Sarah Palin is unnerving.  They are people who have no idea about how she would govern if she won an election and that is truly scary.  These people are mouthing speaking notes and rhetoric without any understanding or reasoning behind what they are saying.

But don't get too smug Alberta.  I expect the same kind of interview responses would happen in Alberta today if such direct questions were asked of Albertans as to why we are supporting what the Wildrose Alliance Party really stands for.  The recend Angus Reid poll says the Wildrose Alliance Party now enjoys the support of 39% of all Albertans and 44% of rural Albertans.  Based on what?  Does anyone in Alberta really know the policy platform and capacity of this new party to govern? 

The Angus Reid poll puts the Wildrose Alliance in majority government territory in Alberta but without much serious expression, information or understanding of what the Wildrose Alliance party policies are or might become once they were elected.  Dannielle Smith is no Sarah Palin.  She is much more intelligent and enormously more capable than Sarah Palin.  But that is little comfort.  In fact that may be even more discomforting for Albertans once they start to think about it.  Thank heavens there is no immediate threat of an election in Alberta.

When thoughtful and capable citizen disengage from the politics of their times, they delegate the power to choose the direction and desitination of their lives to people like those in this Sarah Palin video clip.  These people do in fact show up to vote.  Political cynicism is a luxury that progressive Albertans can no longer afford.  The world is run by those who show up.

It is time for progressive Albertans to wake up and show up - or suffer the consequences.  That waking up and showing up is already starting to happen.  Reboot Alberta is the start of that shift towards a more conscious expression of citizenship. It is the start of a revitalization and a reinstatement of a more inclusive democracy in Alberta too.

If you, as a conscientious citizen, are ready to take back some control over your provincial politics, join the Reboot Alberta movement.  If you are ready to create and support some alternatives to the old-style politics of the past, join the Reboot Alberta movement.  If you believe that we need to delete some of the outdated and harmful approaches to politics and governance in Alberta, join the Reboot Alberta movement. 

If reinvigorating your rights and responsibility as a citizen of Alberta is not something you are concerned about, then get ready to be governed by the kind of values found in this Sarah Palin video clip. These people are not disengaged.  They are joining social/political movements.  They are exercising their influence.  And they are showing up to vote and support people like Sarah Palin.

The world is run by those who show up.  Govern yourselves according Albertan

Friday, December 11, 2009

This is the Winter of Stelmach’s Disconnect

The latest Angus Reid poll putting the Alberta PCs in a second-place tie with the Liberals (25% each – ouch) will shake the confidence of the caucus and stir the cauldron of discontent that has been on a slow boil within the Stelmach government for some time now.

I have not seen the poll questions or actual results myself. I am commenting off newspaper reports. Jason Fekete wrote the front page blockbuster story and is a very good and reliable reporter. I have no reason to mistrust the facts he presents. There is always more intrigue in polling results when you take some time to dig a bit deeper. When I see the actual results I will do another post and put some political context around the numbers.

With apologies to Buffalo Springfield;” Something’s happening here? What it is ain’t exactly clear.” PC supporters must feel a bit like the day after the 1995 Referendum. The Quebec separatists lost with the thinnest of margins and Canada was “saved.” It was shocking and unnerving to many of us in the rest of Canada who realized, for the first time, how much public sentiment had shifted in Quebec.

That same unease and uncertainty is how I feel today as a progressive Albertan in the face of the Wildrose Alliance.  How can it be that they are being seen as the only potentially “viable” political option in Alberta? The question of is what is happening here is quite frankly very clear.

Here is part of what I see happening politically in Alberta these days. The PCs are clearly past their best before date. They have been around too long. They are now well beyond being tired, stale and bland. They have proven to be inept and ineffective in too many instances and appear to be chronically maladaptive. Everyone in Alberta paying attention to politics knows, or at least, senses this.

The political and policy shifts by the Stelmach government have been disconcerting to many. It started with the vacillating responses to the Royalty Review, all through the last election and the humiliating third place showing in the Glenmore by-election and the fiasco that was Bill 44 and Bill 50.  They all reinforce the growing sense of disdain by citizens towards their government.  It is a government who is not listening and showing abject indifference to legitimate concerns and objections. The PC government’s disconnect with Albertans sees them now responding defensively, using threats, intimidation and belligerence as priority “governing principles” - just to keep people in line.

The Liberals and NDP are seen as insipid and uninspiring alternatives to the comatose Conservative regime. They are not perceived as a potential primetime government in waiting. The Greens have implode and disappeared in the most bizarre of circumstances. And that leaves the Wildrose as the only possible alternative to consider – at this time? Spare us please.

The ascendance of Danielle Smith on the political scene as been covered by the traditional media with an E-Talk! level of celebrity-centric perspicacity. So much more needs to be known and understood about the Wildrose Alliance and in particular their social and environmental policies, principles and values. We don’t even know if they have people who would be the kind of candidates with character and qualities worthy of our consent to be governed.

This Angus Reid poll shows a dramatic spike in Wildrose Alliance “popularity.”  It says little, if anything, about them however. It is not very relevant to the fortunes of the Wildrose Alliance in the larger political scheme of things. At least not now given that we are so far away from any chance of a general election, currently expected in March 2012. It does, however, speak volumes about the shortcomings and disenchantment Albertans have for the other provincial political parties.

Bottom line – the Angus Reid outcome is an opinion poll. It is not a statement about a deeper judgment that citizens have to make about who will govern us when an election is actually looming. My sense is most of the Wildrose Alliance support in this poll is about sending a message to the other parties.  The message is that they are not doing the job rather than a positive choice in support of the WAP. If you added an option in this poll for “None of the Above” I’m betting they would end up being be the most popular party in Alberta today.

So take a Valium Alberta.  And in the meantime you better dust off your citizenship and park your political indifference and cynicism. They are luxuries you can no longer afford. If you don't re-engage as informed and involved citizens and WAP forms the next government you will be delegating decisions to fundamenalist, traditionalist and social conservative values throw-backs of a bygone era.  Indifference means those people will get elected and they will be making all the political and value choices for and about you, your life and your liberties.
 
Govern yourselves Accordingly Alberta!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Peter the Pathetic as Minister of Defensiveness

How much more obfuscation, evasion and denial does the Canadian public have to suffer from Peter the Pathetic? Peter MacKay has been tap dancing backwards faster and faster. He is now in retreat from is hollow assertions that Afghan detainees, under Canadian care, were never abused or tortured for about two weeks now.


The manipulation of the political process, the stifling and suppression of information and the positioning of Conservative politicians for plausible denial of facts is abhorrent to Canadian values of peace, order and good government.

As new evidence continues to come forward we see the Minister of Defensiveness moving from absolute denial to plausible denial to admission of mistakes being made but not by him. This is now so much more to all of this than an apparent "non-smoking gun" as the Harper Cons have tried to allege. We are seeing the absolute meltdown of the integrity and trustworthiness of the Harper government.  They are perpetuating the continued unfounded abuse of the public service and the manipulation of the governnance system to suppress evidence and an absolute full court press avoidance of anything close to doing the right thing.

The Harper government has and continues to be a Mini Me mirror of the former Bush-Cheney face political manipulation and machinations that only serves to destroys democracies. This detainee debacle is the Harper government self-inflicting wounds on its own integrity and veracity. It is destined to the defining drama that should be the tippping point for Canadians to realize these are not the kind of people who are worthy of our consent to govern us.

I am most impressed with the continuing quality coverage by the Globe and Mail on these issues and event. I am grateful to the 50 or so former Canadian Ambassadors who are reproaching the Harper government for the unfounded personal attacks on Richard Colvin for merely doing his job. This is starting to look like a Canadian Watergate where the rot in the political culture seems to have spread to the highest offices in the land.

Harper’s political free ride is over. His “success” is a function of an ineffectual opposition, a public disinterest in another election anytime soon and a low public expectation of Harper and his party. Anyone in Canada who values Peace Order and Good Government has to now realize that Mr. Harper and his partisans are not good for Canada in any way.

We need a public inquiry to get to the bottom of this and to restore Canadians faith in its government.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Alberta Oil Magazine Article on "Green Oil"

Here is a link to an article by Patrycja Romanowska in this months edition of Alberta Oil magazine on the book Green Oil by Satya Das.  Most every regular reader of this blog knows Satya is my business partner and the book is a project of our company Cambridge Strategies Inc. but full disclosure is a constant duty.

You can read more about the concept behind the book at http://www.greenoilbook.com/ and join in the growing conversation amongst Albertans who are coming to the realization that we need to start acting like owners of the oilsands.  That means taking responsibility for the stewardship duty around how the oil sands are exploited.  We also have to ensure we get a good return on these non-renewable resource for now and to also protect the birthright and benefits of this massive resource for future generations.

Our government is nowhere near being even adequate on either of these two fundamental issues for protecting and adding value for Albertans as owners of the resource.  Citizens of Alberta are coming to the conclusion that have to re-engage in the politics of the times if they are to ensure this happens.  That does not mean coming back to politics as usual either.  There is ample evidence that the status quo is not working at so many levels.

There is a response happening to politics as ususal.  It is in the form of a new and emerging movement to reestablish the rights and responsibilities of  citizenship amongst progressive Albertans.  It is called Reboot Alberta.  Check it out here and here

Join in if you are inclined.  If you need to know more, visit these sites and follow the folks and bloggers who are engaged in this progressive political movement.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

I Have Been Busy

I have been really busy with Reboot Alberta and the Reboot Alberta Blog for the past while and not keeping up with the many issues I would like to write about on the blog.

The Right Call column I do for Alberta Venture magazine with Fil Fraser, Janert Keeping and others is up in the new issue.

As well I did a book review for Alberta Views magazine on Rich Vivone's book on the Klein era "Ralph Could Have Been a Superstar." It is a timely read as we once again have a government in Alberta telling us the economic sky is falling and the only solution is program cuts.  Can we learn from the excesses of "brutal" government cuts without concern for the consequences other than getting the budget math right?  I hope the Stelmach government reads Rich's book and learns from past mistakes in developing Budget 2010-11.  Not much evidence of any such learning so far.

Then I have been working on promoting our own book at Cambridge Strategies "Green Oil" and encouraging Albertans to see themselves as owners of the energy reserves of the province - and begining to act accordingly.

I have been asked to be interviewed by the panel reviewing issues in Alberta Children's Services next week and that will take of preparation and should be interesting.

Another big concern will be the planning of the next stage of Reboot Alberta and get a handle on the principles, values and issues that animate and delineate what is means to be a progressive Albertan in the 21st century.  If you are interested in finding out more about progressive Albertans go to http://www.rebootalberta.org/ and become part of the movement.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Daveberta Reflects on Reboot Alberta

Dave Cournoyer, (a.k.a. Daveberta) is the gold standard of political bloggers to my mind. I am not alone in those sentiments. In the 2007 Canadian Blog Awards he was voted First in "Best Political Blog," Best Progressive Blog," and "Best Blogosphere Citizen." Since then he has grown both in experience and astuteness.

I have learned a great deal from knowing and reading Dave over the past 3 year.  As one of the "elder statesmen" of social media in Alberta I like to say most of my mentors are under 30.  It is true and Dave Cournoyer is one of them. 

Dave was at the Reboot Alberta launch this past weekend and by all accounts, he valued the experience. He was also not alone in that sentiment if you have been checking out the posts of the other Bloggers who were at the Reboot Alberta launch.  You can find links to these Bloggers through the blog poll at  http://www.rebootalberta.wordpress.com/.

His blog post on Reboot Alberta is a typical example of his thoughtful and reflective commentary on politics, democracy and public policy in Alberta.   This guy gets it when it comes to expressing the frustration and feelings of so many Albertans about poltics in our province.  Here is the link to his blog post on Reboot Alberta.

If you are a progressive Albertan and want to reinvigorate your citizenship, personally re-engage and take back some responsibility for politics and public policy in alberta come to http://www.rebootalberta.org/ to learn more and get involved.