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Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Eyes of the World Are On Alberta's Oil Sands

Here is a link to yet another excellent Sunday Reader feature in the Edmonton Journal by Sheila Pratt on what it might take to get a reconciliation between industry the environmentalists and our governments on what is appropriate oil sands development approaches.  I was interviewed by Sheila for this piece and pleased to participate.

What we need now is an adult conversation in Alberta and by Albertans on how we want to see our oil sands resources developed.  The basis for that conversation should be framed from the findings of our resent research at Cambridge Strategies Inc. on the values Albertan's want to see guide and drive oil sands development was done in collaboration with OSRIN (Oil Sands Research and Information Network)

The citizens of Alberta need to create the place and space for that conversation to take place.  That can be in community meetings, church basements, coffee shops, service clubs, business groups, union halls, educational institutions, political gatherings and kitchen tables, just to name a few.  That conversation can begin where ever  one Albertan takes the time to asks another about what they want to see done to assure us that our natural resource is being responsibly developed so we can be proud of all the outcomes.

I am quoted in the Edmonton Journal story saying Albertans are starting to lose pride in the province.  I believe this to be true partly because our research shows only 31% of Albertans believe the oil sands resource in being managed well.  The Influentials in the province are at the forefront of this emerging sense of a loss of pride in being Albertan.  When asked if they tell others great things about living in Alberta only 51% of Influentials agreed or strongly agreed and only 45% of them would strongly recommend living in Alberta to a friend.

UPDATE:  REX MURPHY ASKS WHY AREN'T WE PROUD OF THE OIL SANDS?  This industry also needs a human face and not just the nice folks who work in the industry that populate the full page colour newspaper ads the industry is wasting money on - as if that would persuade us of authenticity, trustworthiness and integrity

The reason the opinions of Influentials are so important is because they are trend setters and opinion leaders.  These are the people the rest of the population relies on to help form our own thoughts on issues, ideas and many of the decisions we make in our lives.  Some have suggested what Influentials think today is what the general population will be thinking in 12 to 18 months from now.

That is why government and industry better start a more meaningful, serious and adult conversation with Albertans about what we want to see happening with the development of our resource.  After all it is Albertans who own the oil sands.  Industry is a mere tenant that depends on public confidence to gain and sustain a social license to operate their businesses be it forests, oil and gas or oil sands.

As for government their equivalent of a social license it to be seen worthy of the citizen's consent to govern.  Right now all of the political parties and their leaders in are seen to be less than adequate to the task of effectively managing the growth of Alberta.  When Albertans were asked who did they think was best able to responsibly manage Alberta's growth the results were astonishing.  Premier Ed Stelmach was the choice of 23%, Danielle Smith garnered 19%, David Swann had 9% and Brian Mason only 4%.  None of the Above was the assessment of 45% of the 1032 Albertans who were in the random survey done last May.

Change is in the air and alternatives are needed based on this survey result. If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at www.rebootalberta.org