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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Alberta Needs More Politicians Like Doug Griffiths

It was great to see Doug Griffiths at Reboot3.0 last weekend. I was disappointed I did not get much time to talk with him and catch up on how the progressives are doing in the Progressive Conservative Party.    Based on Troy Wason’s presentation at the Reboot3.0 political panel update on the State of the Notion of Progressive Politics in Alberta, the PC Party has started returning to a more moderate, less radical right-wing approach.  That is encouraging since they are in government.

Doug is the kind of thoughtful and courageous politician we need these days.  He is not afraid of engaging in meaningful and focused conversations with citizens.  His widely acclaimed and often sought presentation and now new book on “13 Ways to Kill Your Community” is but one example.  You can connect to the content on Doug’s blog www.douggriffiths.ca for more.  I strongly suggest you buy the book but from a local bookseller to ensure you don’t miss some of the points about supporting local enterprises.

I have read the informative and helpful column by Graham Thomson in today’s Edmonton Journal on Doug’s suggesting we have a public discussion on a consumption (a.k.a. Sales Tax) tax in Alberta.  Graham really positions Doug Griffiths as the kind of progressive, forward thinking and consciousness raising kind of politician we need in Alberta.  We need his kind of courage to speak up and create conversation spaces to overcome the democratic deficit induced by partisan and preservation politics that dominate these days.

According to Thomson, Doug is “…one of the bright lights in the Conservative caucus, not to mention one of the most idealistic.  Perhaps he is the most idealistic.”  We need politicians who are seriously into servant-leadership and dedicated to responsible fiscal management coupled with a personal character that is all about caring and compassion and personal responsibility.  Doug’s persistence in living his values with integrity is characterized in his determination to create a conversation space for a public discourse to explore a consumption tax in Alberta.  You have to read Graham’s column today to see the consequences of character coming up against the ignorance of mythology, ideology and a bit of the hypocrisy surrounding the subject of an Alberta sales tax.

There is a larger concern behind the issue of a consumption tax of not for Alberta. It goes to the definition and the health of our democracy.  George Lakoff (author of "The Political Mind" and other books) recently noted in a public lecture in Edmonton that government is there to protect and empower citizens.  Progressive values that define that sense of democracy are founded on empathy and responsibility, based on a belief of freedom and fairness for all.  That sentiment is at the root of Doug’s call for a conversation to explore how we make Alberta’s tax system more honest, accountable, transparent and fair.  

Sales or consumption tax aside, there is also another larger issue at stake here.  That is the current political struggle as to who will write the new operating narrative for the next Alberta.  Will we be progressive and forward thinking society or will we be more conservative and regress into the patriarchy of the past?  

My vote goes to a progressive, creative and forward thinking narrative for our future.  To do that we need more progressive politicians like Doug Griffiths, who believe in a positive generative role for government instead of seeing government as the problem.  We need to have progressive politicians who see a role for the marketplace but know that the competitive approach it is not always a substitute for good government – even in Alberta.   

Doug is not the only Alberta politician with these progressive qualities and values.  They exist in all political parties, including the Wildrose Alliance Party. For the record, I use Heather Forsythe as an example of a progressive in the Wildrose Party.  The problem is progressive politicians are far from being a majority.  They are also marginalized and far from the levers of real power in our provincial politics.  Like most Albertans these day, they are not listened to and their opinions don't account for much in setting public policy. 

We need to realize it is about more than politicians.  We we also have a duty as citizens to be informed voters but between elections we must be vigilant stewards of our democracy, freedoms, rights and responsibilities.  That includes pushing for and protecting the environment, the vulnerable in our society and leaving a positive legacy for future generations.  If citizens are not engaged in preserving, promoting and protecting democratic freedoms we forfeit any hope of good progressive government by giving away our political power to others. 

All of this political discussion is grounded in a set of moral issues.  All of politics is grounded in a set of moral issues.  Our values research provided insight on what Albertans use to measure, guide and drive the political morality of ourselves and our politicians.  The moral values we want to see in our politicians and ourselves are integrity, honestly, accountability, transparency, fiscal and personal responsibility and environmental stewardship.  Not a bad set of values to measure our political and personal morality as a society and as citizens if you ask me. 

How are we doing in measuring up to our values?  Not too well if you ask me – personally or politically.  But I am optimistic based on the successes of progressive candidates and increased citizen participation in the recent municipal and school board elections all over Alberta. A lot of incumbents lost in these elections.  Political change is happening and gaining momentum in Alberta these days. There is much more to do but I get the feeling that progressives are tired of being apathetic. Progressives also are coming to see a real and present danger to their sense of democracy if they continue to be disengaged in the political culture of our times.  Here’s hoping I am right!

So lead on Doug.  Keep up the good fight and keep the conversations going.