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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

AHS Superboard Released Its $11B Alberta Health Budget

Last May I did this blog post suggesting the Alberta Health Services Superboard should go...(along with regional PDD and Children's Service boards).

The $11Billlion budget is out and if it passed without a debate or even a question about that much money being spent by appointed people, where is the due diligence, the oversight and the responsibility to public duty of such an entity.  Don Braid of the Calgary Herald covers some of these concern rather well in his column.

I have no trouble with the quality and character of the people on the Superboard. I just don't know what value they add to solving the concerns around health care in Alberta.  Those should be handled by the government itself.  It seems like the disbanding of the regional boards for political reasons and the set up of the Superboard, for other political reasons, was just another Liepert induced level of bureaucracy that distances political policy makers from the problems. 

This structure is confusing about who is in charge.  It does not enhance transparency, accountability or assure citizens of integrity and fiscal responsibility for our tax dollars. It does not help health care providers or the government meet their responsibility to provide health care for Albertans. 

Time has come to disband the Superboard and make the Minister and his administration directly accountable.  The evidence is that since Gene Zwozdesky took over they are very capable of doing the job and don't need or want an buffer from the realities and challenges.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Daveberta Disagrees With Me on Danielle and I Respond

HI Dave - good to have you comment. But I have to stand by my concerns over the Wildrose Alliance Party being a scary alternative and not open to open political debate and good governance.

Of course the WAP AGM as a well produced and well-managed event -but that is not the point. The reporting on the event was that is was more like "stage managed" to ensure only certain and deemed acceptable voices of the membership were heard.

Of course there are fringe elements in every party. I was part of one of them in the PCs for years but it never stopped me from speaking up. It occasionally got me chastised and denied me access and influence on the power structure of the PC government.  But that was not often and besides, that is the price one must be prepared to pay for being an independent voice in the face of old style politics.

Of course the fringe elements might hurt the WAP if they got the spotlight. And the media loves to distort the attention to the conflict not the content or substance of the debated issues.  Look at the recent G20 television coverage for evidence of that.

However, if those fringe voices truly do not represent the mainstream thinking of the WAP then let them be heard, be openly debated and then defeated on principle by a vote of the membership.  Lets not decline into political manipulation or pandering pragmatism just to stifle and hide the truth of those voices in the "big tent" merely because they may embarrass us. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Fringe elements who are not persuasive should be defeated in a vote of all party members, but only after being heard, respected and understood. In many cases if it were not for fringe elements nothing would change. Wasn't it GB Shaw who said to the effect if it were not for the unreasonable man there would be no progress at all? Is not the unreasonable man the essence of a fringe element? All change happens at the margins why shirk from the margins?

The culture of refusing to listen to the other side of an argument is the essence of old style politics and undemocratic and a slight to free speech.

I was talking about the undisclosed influence of certain powerful private sector funding sources for theSmith leadership campaign not the WAP election campaign.  When we don't get to know who is paying for the Smith leadership campaign we need to worry about where we are headed as a democracy. That same can be said for the Morton, Oberg and some of the Stelmach PC leadership donors too.

The reason Smith says she will not disclose is because her donors are afraid of the government.  That is interesting. I applaud Smith's AGM speech for spotlighting the intimidation innuendo and threatening culture in some parts of the PC government saying communities and organizations will be cut off government funding, even if the money serves some of our most vulnerable citizens.  They are being told there will be consequences if they don't be quiet, compliant and show support the PC party. as government.  I have been a victim of that kind of subtle bully of late since I quit the PC Party last December.

I don't see why any political party leadership campaign is not subject to the same campaign funding disclosure rules as elections. Then your comment Dave about us getting to see the leadership campaign funding sources would be true.  But now that disclosure is only about election campaigns where the laws are strict and clear. It is not a means however of us getting to know now who, if any,  is pulling the strings of party leaders

I think is it disingenuous at best,  for private citizens and private sector funders to be allowed to use fear as a reasonable excuse not to exercise your citizenship rights to support whatever political candidate they may wish. If this degree of fear is true, then our democracy is in deeper and more dire straits than even I think.  A political culture of fear leads to the decline and eventual demise of open representative democracy.  I do not want to say fascism is around the corner but it is definitely down the block if this is truly the case in Alberta and allowed to continue. 
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If the Smith leadership campaign donors are truly fearful of retaliation from the PC government did they propose a policy resolution for full campaign disclosure of all political party leadership campaigns?  That kind of progressive accountable transparent and honest public policy would go a long way to raising my appreciation that the WAP is offering a different and better way of governing.

We cannot allow ourselves the luxury of hiding behind an excuse of fear of our government as a justification for anonymity - even if it is true, it is not justified.  If we are afraid of our government and intimidated from exercising our right or free speech and free association we not only lose them, we invite the dirty political tricks of the Nixon era to be normative again.

When someone aspires to be worthy of our consent to govern us, the fact that they get to do so through an internal process of a private club called a political party is not a sufficient reason not to have full disclosure of leadership campaign funding.

With 40 years of a one-party state, the Alberta population has been lulled into inertia, indifference and overwhelmingly cynical about the consequences of not being informed and engaged citizens. Changing that mindset is the essence of the progressive citizen's movement called Reboot Alberta.

Our conjoint survey research shows that the most important values we progressives want from our political leaders are INTEGRITY, HONESTY, ACCOUNTABILITY, and TRANSPARENCY AND ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP. The recent random sample of all Albertans had FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY instead of ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP but all the other values were in the top tier of progressives and average Albertans.  There is a values consensus and a longing for political change to align with those basic political values again.

I applaud when anyone offers themselves up as a candidate for the duties and responsibilities of political servant leadership. But I suggest all citizens had better be more vigilant in pursuing evidence from those who aspire to public office or political power to demonstrate these values.  They better be at the core of their characters and their campaigns and continue into how they govern.

I don't think the WAP massaging their policy messages just to divert attention away from their "true conservative" principles is any way to show evidence of alignment with those vital political values Albertans require of our political class. We need to be shown and have every right to expect those values be extant from all our actual and aspiring servant leaders...not just the WAP.

As always Dave - great to engage in conversation with you - sorry for the long response.

Proud to be on Alberta Venture's 50 Most Influential Albertans for 2010

I am proud to be on the Alberta Venture Magazine list of 50 Most Influential Albertans for 2010.   I know many of the others and agree with their designation. 

My "influence" comes from my recent political stands and my work with Reboot Alberta.  If you are a progressive thinker and want to see the future of Alberta NOT veer to the far right from the political culture war that is currently being waged between the Wildrose Alliance Party and the "Progressive" Conservative Party, you might want to join this citizens movement called Reboot Alberta.  You will find your tribe if you are a progressive thinker.

Will Danielle Smith Deliver Us From Evil?

So we are supposed to believe the kinder, gentler more moderate mask of the Wildrose Alliance Party coming out of their first AGM! I’m not buying it and I doubt any thoughtful Albertan will either.


We are being told by the WAP leader that “We’ve enough of socialists and liberals masquerading as conservatives.” Well we are about to get a snoot full of moderate masquerading to divert us from the realities of the reactionary and radical republican like Wildrose. They will try to tell us they are more like true blue caring conservatives and not the Wild West reformers of the past.

Be afraid Alberta. Be very afraid. We need transformative change in Alberta’s political culture for sure. We don’t need to return to the ways of thinking and acting back in Eisenhower’s and Nixon’s days. That is where the WAP would take us – back and backwards. We need to move forward and while the PCs are increasingly inept, the WAP is not the kind of political alternative that is in the best interests of Alberta and Albertans moving forward.

Let’s look at some of the outcomes of the WAP “coming out party” this last weekend at their AGM in Red Deer. First, it was hardly a ”coming out party” when you look at just how much of the authentic and actual beliefs of the social conservative base were gagged and stuffed in the policy and platform closet. Keeping the reactionary radical right base of the WAP out of sight and out of mind is the hope and strategy of the WAP power elite as they pursue personal political power in our province. Instead of bringing Albertans some clarity about the true policy intentions of the WAP we now have more opaqueness and obfuscation as we saw the policy resolutions orchestrated and staged.

Calling themselves “the true conservatives” this group of libertarians and social fundamentalists is still the same as they were before the weekend in Red Deer. They are still playing politics the same old HarperCon way. Say whatever you need to say to get elected then do what you want with the political power at your disposal. Most of the Harper Con MPs are working for the WAP including such enlightened luminaries as MP Rob Anders. The new kids on the block are being well mentored

There is a quote from the Edmonton Journal about a resolution debate on granting “unequivocal right to own firearms” that sums it up so far as the true conservative beliefs behind the soft peddling of policy resolutions. One WAP delegate is quoted as saying regarding establishing the right to bear arms in Alberta “basically I support…what is written here, I’m just worried about how this may be received in the public and portrayed in the media, so I am voting no.” So much for integrity, honesty, transparency, accountability and trustworthiness of the WAP approach to a different kind of politics. It’s the politics of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld being imported into Alberta.

We are all supposed to stay asleep at the switch and suspend our disbelief about the cold cunning and calculating fundamentalist heart of the social conservative base of the WAP. We are supposed to pretend there is a shift in the “true conservative” thinking of the WAP towards the political centre. I think this is no shift to the centre. It is merely a cynical calculating crusade to take political power and move Alberta society to the far right as fast as possible.

I find it eerily ironic that the education guidelines for the Bill 44 amendments to our Human Rights laws by the Stelmach PCs as an appeasement to the social conservatives came out this week too. To refresh your memory, Bill 44 was successfully pressed on Stelmach by guys like Rob Anderson, WAP floor crosser. It allows religious fundamentalists to persecute teachers if they don’t get advanced notice where religion, sexuality and sexual orientation even come up in class. With those restrictions it may be dangerous to even teach the Canadian Charter of Rights, and the Catholic schools are already seeing the dire consequences to their faith based education rights. That is just one example of the kind of socially regressive and intentionally oppressive laws we can expect more of with a WAP government in Alberta.

The “inching to the centre” by virtue of carefully worded revisionary framing of key policy issues are that are to appease the average Albertan and lull us into staying inert politically. Let’s look at some of the manipulation of language to manufacture a myth of WAP’s new found moderation. They watered down a resolution aimed at killing unions and passed a policy to “allow individual workers the choice to determine their membership in labour organizations.” That is the law now! There is nothing transformative, useful or even intellectually honest in that pointless policy stance. It is bound to be overturned on a Charter challenge anyway but that is the fundamental philosophy of the WAP policy approach.

They whitewashed the prior policy to disallow teachers to strike to simply review what services in Alberta are to be deemed essential. Cute and cunning but the motivation to still punish teachers and unions prevails notwithstanding the vague and vacuous wording change.

I love the resolution to establish an Alberta Constitution. That is a real wolf in sheep’s clothing. There are about 8 to 15% of Albertans who are separatists and they are mostly lurking in the bowels of the WAP these days. The idea of a sub-national constitution is absurd, unless of course you intend to pursue separation from Canada. That is the hidden agenda behind that resolution otherwise it makes no sense.

Then there is a semi-secret society of serious and self-serving oil money in Calgary that was behind Smith’s leadership and now they seem to be pushing the WAP itself. They were originally out to spank Stelmach and they did that rather well. They were after Stelmach because he was not one of them and not their puppet – at least not in the first year of Stelmach’s Premiership. Now they are out to unseat Stelmach. Have they found a new and more compliant puppet in Danielle Smith so why even bother to intimidate and bully Stelmach anymore? There is a certain faction within the Alberta energy sector that has effectively become the natural governing party in this province. The operate behind closed doors and were especially influential in controlling the economy and environmental policy under Klein. They seem intent to continue to wield quiet power and behind closed doors influence through Smith and the WAP, just as they did through Klein.

These energy sector tenants have all but effectively taken over the title to the natural resource property that Albertans actually own. And Albertans need to wake up to that reality and change it. The WAP is not the way to take back control of our democracy and reassert the citizen ownership of our resources. Just consider Smith’s response to the recent negligence conviction of Syncrude over the dead ducks in its tailings ponds. She did not assert the proxy position of the people of Alberta. She sided with the company calling for “common sense and restraint I how the verdict is applied.” Not a thought about beefing up enforcement and monitoring or environmental laws and regulations behind that attitude! No calling out the industry tenants of our natural resources for negligence and risking being seen as not worthy of their social license to operate their businesses responsibly in service the public interest as well as stockholders. Nope – Smith was all about not ruffling the feathers of big oil and she chose to dance around any debate on enforcement by using escape clause language like “common sense and restraint.”

There is change in the political air in Alberta but I don’t see the change offered by the Wildrose Alliance Party as anything more than the same old pursuit of political power for its own sake. What is worse is they are already showing they are intellectual dishonestly, a lack of integrity and a less than robust commitment to transparency. Albertans are going to demand those values be demonstrated not just talked about in stage managed political theater before any trust will be bestowed on any political party or leader. Means justify ends in Wildrose country and that is not good enough.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Alberta Progressive Values Align Well with the Average Albertan

As regular readers and subscribers to this blog know, I am very involved in the Reboot Alberta progressive citizen's movement - amongst other things.  We did a conjoint study of the most important value drivers for the Reboot Alberta community last February.  It was not a random sample of Albertans.  It only surveyed those self identifying and self selecting and there were about 644 of them who participated.     Here is a link to an earlier blog post on the top values that progressive Albertans want to be used by those to whom we give political power and our consent to govern us. 

We have just completed a similar conjoint survey based on the same values as the Reboot Alberta survey, this time it is a random and representative sample of Albertans.  It is a small sample of 535 but the findings are so strong and conclusive, the small sample size is not a concern. 

We did the random survey to see how much the political and public policy value drivers of the overall population of  Alberta aligned with the progressive political thinkers value drivers too. The results show significant similarities and differences too.  Here are the comparisons:

Reboot Survey of Progressives:
  1. Integrity
  2. Honesty
  3. Accountability
  4. Transparency
  5. Environmental Stewardship
Random Survey Results:
  1. Accountability
  2. Integrity
  3. Fiscal Responsibility
  4. Honesty
  5. Transparency
So the real difference is a higher concern for fiscal responsibility in the general population than environmental stewardship in the progressive population.  We know that there is no need to trade off a good economy against environmental stewardship.  They are all an integrated part of the same issue and not in any way mutually exclusive.  So emphasis is slightly difference but the essence is not.  Also very interesting was the total rejection of religion playing any part in political decisions by both survey results.

The progressive political voice is very stifled by the activist social conservative element who are much better organized and overtly engaged in trying to gain political power in the province.  Many of the progressives are jaded, cynical and disengaged in the political culture of the times. As a result we end up not voting and getting politicians with policy objectives that we don't like and political directions that we disdain.  Nobody to blame but ourselves when all is said and done.

With these survey results the progressives can confidently speak their minds and values.  They now know that what they are concerned about how political and public policy decision are being made in Alberta also resonates with the general population.  Progressive have to find a reason to re-engage in the political culture of Alberta.  They have to find their voice and start making it heard.  That is one sure way to return a viable vibrant democracy to the province.  I hope it happens.

Reboot Alberta is a place to come and join in this progressive citizen's movement and to start making your voice heard. 

Nice to be Honoured by University of Alberta in such a Special Way

I was honoured to be part of the University of Alberta Board of Governors retirement dinner last week.  I was there becuase of my part of a government relations committee that was disbanded because Karen Wichuk and company have done such a great job in the government relations area they really did not need outside advice anymore.

Nice to be part of the celebrations though and really touched by the gifts from the University.  Instead of a plaque or certificate, they actually dedicated a digitized Alberta book from the Library collection for each of us.  My commemorative book is the 1930 edition of the College Saint Francois-Xavier.  In addition they gave us a copy of the recently published translation of the Prayer Book in Cree Syllabics done originally in 1883 by Father Emile Grouard in Lac La Biche.  This is believed to be the very first book written in Alberta.

The company honoured at the retirement dinner was pretty good too.  It included, amongst others, Lou Hyndman, one of my early mentors, and good friends Eric Newell, Gerry Protti, Audrey Poitras and Michelle Stanners.  Here is a link to the Peel Priairie Collection at the University of Alberta Library where the digitized books are housed.  Give it a visit if you are interested in exploring the history of western Canada and the culture of the prairies.

Friday, June 25, 2010

China's Purchase of Syncrude Stake OK'd by Harper.

Reuters is reporting that the Chinese government controlled corporation Sinopec's $4.65Billion  investment in Syncrude is a done deal.  Prime Minister Harper has approved the sale.  Good!  I wonder how much that deal came into play in China opening up its borders to Alberta beef again?  That was announced today too.

Our recent random sample survey of Albertans values asked if Harper should stop the Chinese from investing in Alberta's oilsands.  The results were 45% agreed that China should be stopped from investing in the oilsands.  However 55% believed that China should be allowed to invest in our oilsands.  I agree with the majority.  This is a smart move by China, a prudent sale by ConocoPhillips and it might be a good influence on the other Syncrude owners to raise their environmental performance standards.

We have lots of "foreign" (meaning not American) investment in the oilsands already. We have Britain, France, Norway, Japan, Hong Kong to name a few, investing already.  I think the more diversity of international investment the better it is for Alberta.  China is in now. My bets are that India will not be far behind and I would not be surprised if Russia and Mexico invested eventually too. 

What we need to be assured of is that China understands that they are tenants and it is the citizens of Alberta who actually own the resource.  We need be sure or provincial and federal governments enforce the oilsands environmental standards more aggressively.  The Syncrude dead ducks incident proves that.  With China in with such a large investment, maybe the provincial and federal governments will be emboldened to be more assertive about monitoring and enforcing environmental standards.  That would of course have to apply to all operators and that sure can't be anything but good.

ConocoPhillips divests its Syncrude stake just before the court decision on the consequences of 1600 ducks dying in the tailing pond.  That decision comes out later today and should be a must read for all Albertans as responsible owners of the oilsands.  We need to be sure our tenants understand we will not tolerate indifference to the environment, habitat, reclamation, water usage and biodiversity as a result of oilsands exploitation. 

Bill 44 Guide for Teachers/Parents on Stupid Law Released.

According to news reports the guidelines for the application of the Bill 44 idiocy have finally been released.  I have not read them yet so I can't comment.  But based on the stupidity of the original enabling legislation that creates a capacity to persecute and prosecute teachers I can only imagine how angry this policy is going to make me once I read it.

Here is the link to the policy if you want to get at it before me.  Feel free to comment in advance of my review and thoughts.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Albertans Want Senate Elections - Stelmach, Not So Much!

I have been doing some more checking on some other interesting preliminary results from our recent Cambridge Strategies conjoint research study.  This time it is Albertan's opinions around Senate elections that I want to share with you.

In the past Senate elections in Alberta were a joke.  They are not binding but two elected Senators have been appointed from Alberta so they have had some affect.  The other joke was in the past it was perceived that only the radical right wing nuts ran and nobody really cared about the election or them because it was not binding.  It was all just so much bad political theatre. In fact many Alberta voters in the past refused Senate ballots or spoiled them intentionally in protest.  

That indifference and anger seems to be changing based on our new study results.  Now we see 69% of Albertans saying they "believe we should have another election for Senators in Alberta."  Moreover 82% believe it is important to have a Senate election and 88% say they are ready and willing to vote for a Senator this time.  That is a big change in the minds of Albertans about Senate elections.

That change in attitude is amazing.  I think the reason for this change in thinking is because it is an opportunity to send a message to politicians that would be influential but not really radically change anything.  There is a need to change somethings however.  I think the well documented lack of trust and respect for the current political options by Albertans is what is driving the desire to a Senate electoin this fall.  It is a feebie way to send a message to the political class that they are out of touch and in danger of being dumped in the next provincial election.  The same message applies to the Alberta MPs too I expect.

The current crop of Senators-in-Waiting had a 6 year term that was to expire December 2010.  So what has the Stelmach government done?  The original announced intent was to hold the Senate elections in conjunction with the October municipal and school board elections.  Instead, last April, Premier Stelmach unilaterally and undemocratically extended the terms of the existing Senators-in-Waiting until December 2013.  What is that all about?  So much for legislated fixed election dates.

There are vacancies coming up for Alberta Senators soon and we have not had a chance to elect them, according to law, since 2004. And we will not get that chance to choose Senators-in-Waiting now until 2013.  Does anyone believe these three current Senators-in-Waiting still have a mandate?  They are on record as saying they don't believe they still have a mandate.  They will be waiting as our preferred appointees for over 9 years.  That is longer than the 8 years terms they could actually sit in Harper's proposed Senate reform legislation. 

That is a long time between opportunities for voters to choose and that is not reasonable in a modern democracy.  Lots has changed in Alberta since 2004 and a lot more will change between now and 2013 but one thing that will not change is the "preferred" nominees for Senator to represent Alberta as a sober second voice. 

Here is another real kicker in this folly.  The Alberta Senatorial Selection Act itself expires on December 31, 2016.  If the Stelmach government does not want to hold regular Senate selection elections then why not say so and simply repeal the legislation. That would have more integrity, be more honest, accountable and transparent than the obvious manipulation of the democratic process they have done and for pure partisan political purposes.

This is just another example of the continuing erosion of democracy in Alberta and abuse of centralist power structures in governing the province.  It is just power politics trumping good government and also the Stelmach PCs still running scared of the Wildrose.  The thinking in the Stelmach government is obviously that they see a Senate election this fall will become a further referendum on the current government.  They sure don't seem to want to know what Albertans are actually thinking and saying these days. 

They don't want to have anymore proof of citizen discontent by giving them the opportunity to express their frustration about how badly we are being governed these days.  So democracy gets suspended, the cynicism of citizens increases and the political culture continues to turn weak and ugly.  There is a serious and growing sense  of revulsion by many Albertans about our deteriorating political culture. 

We are not seeing the benefits of the Alberta advantage except for those "masters of the universe" types in big business who collude behind closed doors with government.  We see a lack of integrity, honesty, accountability and transparency from our government as a result. Our pride in the province is getting softer all the time and we know we are not being listened to and that our opinions do not matter to those in political power.  I wonder when will the revolution will start in Alberta for real change?  We need  more political choices and not just an option between two reactionary conservative parties locked in a culture war. 

It is not too late for Stelmach to return the Senate elections to this fall but don't hold your breath given the angst and anxiety of the current government.  I wonder if this debasing of democracy by the current government will be a topic of discussion at the weekend gathering of the Wildrose Alliance Party?  Their leader was vocal about it last April with the Senate election was deferred.  I am no fan of the WAP but they are right on this point.  I hope they come out of Red Deer this weekend with guns blazing on this issue.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Can Harper & Stelmach Get Along & is Alberta Ready for a Carbon Tax?

Media reports say there is a battle brewing between the Harper and Stelmach governments and it is where the environment and the economy meet. Former Premier Peter Lougheed predicted this over two years ago in a speech to the Canadian Bar Association.


Cambridge Strategies is in the final stages of data collection in a random sample conjoint survey on values Albertans want to see guide and drive politicians and policy makers when they are deciding matters that impact the lives of citizens. We have also asked some very pointed opinion questions on the political culture of Alberta oo.

Given some recent mainstream media stories, I thought it helpful to give a preview of some of the preliminary findings. We are almost finished gathering the data so some of these result might change but likely only slightly.

In the context of the “Battle Brewing Between Alberta and Ottawa over Oil Sands Exports” only 22% of Albertans Strongly Agreed or Agreed that “Prime Minister Stephen Harper pays sufficient attention to Alberta issues and concerns.” Only 25% Strongly Agreed or Agreed “Prime Minister Harper should stop Chinese investment in Alberta’s Oilsands while 56% of Albertans disagree this proposition to some degree of other.

As for perceptions of Albertans on how well the Harper and Stelmach government are getting along on major issues of environment, investment and natural resources over 82% do not think the two governments are getting along that well.  Indications are it will only get worse as the Harper government continue to ignore Alberta's concerns and Stelmach government continues to lag in public confidence.  This all typical fed-prov political infighting will happen at a time when the world is targeting Canada and Alberta for our politically inert attitudes and embarrassingly inept approaches towards environmental policy.

Then we have the other interesting story that Suncor CEO Rick George is reported to be in favour of a carbon tax as part of a national energy strategy to reduce emissions and promote responsible energy development. George is calling for a carbon tax that applies to industry and consumers and to all emitters from “oilsands plants to the tailpipe of your car.” George sees a need for a national energy strategy to harmonize the patchwork of provincial policies and align with major trading partners like the United States.

The Stelmach government has apparently “shot down the idea” according to mainstream media reports. Apparently Deputy Premier Doug Horner “…flatly dismissed the idea of a tax on consumers and bristled at the suggestion of a national energy policy beyond simple co-operation between provinces and the federal government on energy issues.

Our research study preliminary findings show that Albertans, when asked if “Alberta should have a carbon tax and use the money to clean the environment” 23.71% strongly disagreed, 15.81% disagreed and 21.36% slightly disagreed. On the other hand those who supported a carbon tax showed 4.27% strongly agreed, 13.46% agreed and 21.36 slightly agreed. That is a surprising 60/40 split. Seen another way the swing vote of the slightly agreed or disagreed are over 42% so there is volatility around acceptance of a carbon tax by Albertan depending on if the mush middle moves one way or the other.

As for the strength of support the politicians representing Alberta we have figures from another random study of 1032 Albertans that is complete. The bottom line is there is not much confidence in any of the existing federal or provincial alternatives. When asked “who do you trust the most to responsibly manage Alberta’s growth” the results were telling. Brian Mason (NDP) 4%, David Swann (Liberal) 9%, Danielle Smith (Wildrose Alliance) 19%, Ed Stelmach (PC Party) 23%. NONE OF THE ABOVE 45%.  Albertans are clearly not happy with the directions and choices the current political parties are offering. Kind of shows why only 40% of us even bother to vote.

The Federal politicians representing Alberta have nothing to brag about either. When Albertans were asked how satisfied they were the way the Alberta-based MPs were representing Albertans interests in Ottawa only 1% were completely satisfied, 16% were satisfied and 27% were slightly satisfied. On the other hand 11% were totally dissatisfied, 22% were dissatisfied and 23% were slightly dissatisfied. Again 50% are in the mushy middle of being slightly satisfied or dissatisfied. As for if the Alberta MPS are doing enough to protect Albertan oil and gs resources in Ottawa 40% thing they are and 60% don’t thing they are.  Not a strong vote confidence as a federal election looms.

Bottom line is the Feds and the provincial governments appear to be increasingly misaligned and misreading the mood of the Alberta public on many key issues. I will show more about this misalignment in subsequent blog posts once the final survey results are in and the analysis has been completed.

All this research is showing us that there is a need for a political revolution to change the political culture of this province.  As I have said this before on this blog,  I see a Renaissance, a Reformation and a ReEnlightenment all now happening at the same time.  I wonder if it is enough to create the kind of political unrest that festers and fosters the kind of Revolution we have sen before in Alberta's political culture.  It has before when Social Credit and the Progressive Conservatives came into power years ago. 

It is feeling more and more like Albertans are ready for some serious and radical changes to our political culture - but what is the alternative?  The open question for all Albertans now is does the WAP reflect enough of the core values of contemporary Albertans so they gain the political power to run the province as they wish in this emerging wave of citizen re-engagement?  I will have more to say shortly in answering that question.  First we must finish the current research and do the thorough analysis of the conjoint study results.   We will then have some insight about some of the core the value drivers that Albertans what to see  used by politicians.  then we will know more about what Albertans expect in order to grant their consent to be governed.  Stay tuned.

Why Do Our Governments Treat Us Like Mushrooms?

Mark Anielski is making headlines in Nova Scotia these days.  Seems like more than one government in Canada is afraid of the truth - especially when it comes to problem gambling.  Anielski did a study for the previous Conservative government in Nova Scotia but now the NDP government is trying to bury it. 

The media in Nova Scotia is all over the story and Mark recently published an op-ed in The Chronicle Herald in Halifax explaining some of the issues around VLTs and problem gambling.  It is a problem everywhere but is seems regardless of the political stripe or the province, governments are as addicted to gamling as some of it most vulnerable citizens.  What is disturbing is the political attitude that tries to hide facts from the public.  It undermines public confidence in government and deomcracy.

Mark says, amongst other things: "The study, commissioned by the previous Conservative government, had two objectives: to establish a baseline analysis of a range of social and economic impacts that can be attributed to gambling in Nova Scotia, and to present an objective snapshot of those impacts."

There are currently similar studies on problem gambling being done in Alberta and Ontario.  We can only hope they learn from the ham-handed political, governance and PR mistakes of the NDP in Nova Scotia and release the study results publicly.  If they have a problem with the reports then take issue based on facts don't hide and stifle information that citizens need to evaluate what kind of society they want.

If you want to see yet another example of a government lacking integrity, honesty, accountability and transparency here it is.

Stelmach Government Honours Gary McPherson With Leadership Scholarships.

Congratulations to Premier Stelmach for a fitting tribute to the life of Gary McPherson. A post-secondary student leadership scholarship throughout Alberta is brilliant.  If anyone was a role model for citizenship it was the inspiring life and actions of Gary McPherson.

Here is the link for more details on the scholarship program in Gary's honour.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Some Thoughts on Governance Teams for Alberta School Boards

This blog post has been a long time coming with all the meetings, events scheduling and traveling I have been doing. So while it has been promised a few times other priorities have taken precedence. So now here is my take on the Inspiring Education Dialogue with Albertans report on Governance in public education. For the record, I did not participate in the process except to attend one day to listen to some key speakers including Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind.


SOME CONTEXT ON INSPIRING EDUCATION REPORT:
There is much more to the Inspiring Education document than governance. So a brief overview, without commentary, I expect will be helpful for context to those who have not read the report. It was a process about setting a long-term vision for public education in the province. Minister Hancock wanted to raise awareness of the importance of education in the life of Albertans and its contribution to a prosperous society and economy. He wanted to “develop a clear understanding of what it will mean to be a successfully educated Albertan” in the future and finally, to develop a broad policy framework around the overall direction, principles and long-term goals for public education in Alberta.

PRINCIPLED-BASED TRANSFORMATION OF PUBLIC EDUCATION:
The goal was to be “transformational” about the education system by empowering educational innovation throughout the province. Time will tell if that is going to happen, but the governance provisions in the report are one fertile place to focus for transformation to occur in public education.

The underlying aspect of governance transformational directions in Inspiring Education is a “principles based” approach instead of rules based. There is merit in this but if it is to be effective the school trustees are going to have to pick up their game and be more engaged in policy development and execution.

The over reliance on the Carver governance system that has been adopted by many school districts is a significant barrier to school trustees being principled based governors. This old-fashioned and outmoded governance model is antithetical to a principles shift in accountability for learning excellence and away from accountability to bureaucracy. In a horizontal networked connected community engaging world the centralizing narrow approach to governance in the Carver model is more than a barrier, it is a danger to realizing the transformational direction Inspiring Education is all about.

There is a shift in focus to local direction form central influence which is a good thing too but that means school trustees are going have to be much more engaged in the overall life of the communities they serve, beyond the limited interests of schools and students as isolated form community. The potential for more direct and collaborative engagement of the local schools and school districts in other critical aspects of their communities is where the transformational change in public education needs to happen first.

GOVERNANCE TEAMS AND WHAT THEY COULD MEAN:
These principles based shifts is very significant but received scant attention compared to the more politically contentious provision for “Governance Teams.” This idea was seen by some as a provincial government power move to replace locally elected school boards, or at least to dilute and decrease the role and power of local school boards.

I don’t think that is the intent of this Minister, but political power is so centralized in the Premier’s office in Alberta and Cabinet shuffles happen. Who knows what might happen in the future that sees local school boards eliminated or at the very least, even more eviscerated? Regional health authorities were eliminated overnight an unceremoniously without advanced warning or consultation so it would be naive to think the same could not happen to local school boards in one way or the other.

My take is the potential for effective governance teams is that they can be the key to the culture change in public education that needs to happen so other changes can be enabled and empowered as well. More public engagement and involvement in the political culture of the province can start with the local schools and municipalities. That is where the citizen’s concerns are closest to the politicians and policy-makers. Adding talent and expertise to school boards in governance teams, on an as needed basis, to serve the greater good of the community by integrating schools and increasing learning capacity is a critical issue for the future prosperity of Alberta is there ever was one.

The key questions are who decides the need for a governance team, who sets the objectives for the team and who selects the team members? It the Minister or the provincial bureaucracy who makes these decisions then we have a serious governance problem. It will be paternalism at best and more likely lead to the eventual elimination of effective local governance in public education. That is a policy decision that needs to involve all Albertans and not just the unilateral imposed action by the government of Alberta, as they have done in the past.

If the essential issues about governance teams are in the control of the local school boards then we can see public education transforming and finding renewed relevance as a positive political force and as effective public policy instruments to enhance local communities. This is the preferred option in the execution of governance teams. The reality is that most school boards and individual trustees are not nearly prepared, experienced, engaged, focused or even competent enough at present to take advantage of this transformational opportunity emerging with governance teams.

There is a lot more to say on the subject but for now, I think cautious optimism is the appropriate response to governance teams. That optimism is justified so long as Dave Hancock continues as Minister. There is a reasonable likelihood of another Cabinet shuffle before the next election so time is of the essence for enlightened school boards to embrace governance teams. Not every board has to take on the challenge and opportunity inherent in governance teams but those with the inspiration to do so need get at it.

I will be doing a number of blog posts on the Inspiring Education implications in the weeks ahead as my part in increasing citizen engagement in school board and municipal elections coming this October. In the meantime there is energy and effort available to transform public education for the better but it needs more and continuing citizen engagement to be realized and effective. Elections are a great time for citizens to get informed and engaged and Inspiriting Education is healthy fodder for that to happen.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Politics in Cyberspace Presentation to ASBA Spring Conference

Here is the PowerPoint slides I used for the presentation to the Alberta School Boards Association on "Politics in Cyberspace" last week at their Spring Conference. I adapted the presentation for the workshop then next day for aspiringng and prospective school board trustees. 

Now I am working through a blog post of the proposed Governance Teams provisions of the Inspiring Education report. - Go to page 33 of the report for the start of that section.  My sense is I like the idea of governance teams but only if they come from the school boards themselves.  If the ideas is to enable and empower school boards to augment their expertise by recruiting or appointing people from the district's communities or from outside depending on the shortcoming of experience the school board may see in itself to meet a challenge, then I am all for it.

If it is a ruse to have the Minister or the department appoint or recruit additional school board members at their discretion then I am all against it.  That would further add to the centralization of power in the provincial government, add to the democratic deficit and increase citizen cynicism around our already deplorable political culture in this province. 

So come back to this site tomorrow and read my post on my take about the posibilities and pitfalls of the Governance Teams portion of the Inspiring Education report.  It all fits within Jim Bottemley's point in his ASBA Spring Conference presentation when he said "In the future we'll all be LEARNING  a living."

Reviving the RebootAlberta Blog to be About Informed Citizens for the Fall Elections

I have revived the RebootAlberta blog after 6 months of hiatus.  I will be using it for information and activities on citizenship, citizen engagement, the democratic deficit in Alberta and the pending municipal and school board elections.  The first post in that theme is about the Edmonton and Calgary municipal elections. 

You can expect follow up posts on school board elections in the province as well.  I am encouraged by the increased interest in both orders of government, especially the number and quality of candidates I met at the Alberta School Boards Association Candidate School I presented at in Red Deer last week.  If you are interested in running for school board election, the ASBA is there to help you get started.

If you want to more about what you might be getting into as a School Trustee you may want to research the fiscal status of your district.  The Alberta Teachers' Association has gathered all the information together in a section of their website they call "The good the bad and the ugly."

I am also encouraged by the signs of citizen re-engagement in politics in Alberta based on the number of fine and qualified candidates running for Mayor in Calgary.  I know many of them and can assure you they cover a wide swath of interest and approaches to politics and governing.  Calgary will have a range of leadership styles and political approaches as it decides what kind of a city is aspires to be in the next Alberta. 

So visit the RebootAlberta blog for a more non-partisan approach to public policy and democracy in Alberta.  I hope you comment and share your thoughts on the posts there too.  I welcome guest blogs there as well. So if you are interested to writing about 500-750 words of your thoughts and commentary, send them to me by email ken@cambridgestrategies.com

Are Albertan's Finally "Mad as Hell and Not Going to Take it Anymore"?

I have written a lot about the "culture war" going on between the Stelmach PCs and the Wildrose Alliance Party as they fight for the right (sic).  That political drama is playing itself out but is only intriguing to media pundits and the chattering-class because of the conflict between the vulnerability of the PCs who are adrift and taking on water under Stelmach's leadership.  Couple that with the quasi-charismatic libertarian leadership of Danielle Smith in front of the Wildrose Alliance Party which, to my mind, is a stagnating and stifling force for fundamentalist values.  Hardly the stuff of an inclusive, modern, progressive and diverse society that is Alberta today and going forward.

THE POLITICAL CULTURE WARS ARE ON THE RIGHT AND THE LEFT:
The progressives are leaving the PCs and the social conservatives are waiting in the wings to reclaim their place as the value core of the Reform-Wildrose Alliance.  Leaders of both parties are conventional to a fault that they try to control the message, coerce compliance with intimidation and use the power of position recklessly and abusively in order to sustain political dominance.  These are the death throes of the old political system but do we have a viable alternative to take over?

On the other side of the tired old left versus right spectrum of political framing, we have some of the same culture war things happening to the Liberals and New Democrats as the same-old, same-old practice of conventional politics. This too is causing thoughtful people begin to leave the parties or at least go dormant and they don't show up to participate anymore.  The "culture war" on the left comes from the Democratic Renewal Project as it pursues a political co-operation approach they claim to be "strategic." It is a scheme designed to not run NDP or Liberal candidates against each other in close constituencies.  It is intended to eliminate vote splitting on the left and potentially electing someone other than a PC or WAP, who will split the right-wing vote next time.

This is an interesting idea if merely acquiring political power it your dominant purpose.  It has the effect of reducing choice for citizens, adding to cynicism that politics is in reality all about parties and politicians and not the needs of the people.  The DRP is an interesting exercise in conflict resolution and leadership negotiation because it comes from individual party members not the traditional party leadership or executive groups. 

The NDP leader Brian Mason rejecting the idea out-of-hand and Liberal Leader David Swann being cold to tepid about the idea.  The Liberals recently passed a vaguely worded resolution at their AGM around to pursue some idea of working with other progressives to try and change government in Alberta.

UNCERTAINTY PERVADES POLITICS, ECONOMICS, ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY:
All this shows the uncertain and unusual state of political flux these days in the province.  Couple that with the on-going economic uncertainty as Albertans come to realize that yesterday's Alberta is gone and the new Alberta is still embryonic and emerging.  We are not our of the recession woods yet but we have spent billions of borrowed dollars to tide us over the storm, leaving an unfair debt burden to future generations.

With climate change being the elephant in the room, Albertans know the future will not be all that friendly to our current energy dependent economic activities.  We are realistic about the oil sands as a blessing and a burden as Albertans try to develop them responsibly and sustainably with the intent of using the wealth they generate to convert from a hydrocarbon economy to a more creative human and social capital economy.

There is a yearning and longing by Albertans for change - not just different politicians sitting in the Legislature with the same tired thinking and tedious gamesmanship.  Albertans sense we need substantial and transformative change that is authentic and capable of thinking differently about long-term integrated inclusive governing.  All we are being offered these days is conflicting personalities with minor variations of obsolete political themes that will ensure that Alberta will continue to squander it promise and potential. 

The PCs are the party of the status quo, believing that once energy, agriculture and forest commodity prices return all will be well and they will be assured of continuing as the natural governing party of the province.  The WAP is even scary than the status quo PCs because they are regressive in just about everything they believe in and in what they want to do to Alberta and Albertans.  They mostly denying that the world has changed and believe if we merely returned to the 1950s value sets all will be well again.  That reliance on the "Father Knows Best" attitude along with a social conservative faith-based fundamentalism and a contention that government just gets in the way is the other "viable" alternative we are being offered at the ballot box next time. 

The Liberals and NDP are all too familiar and therefore get branded as conventional and inconsequential.  As a result they get written off as incapable of transformative thinking and action and unskilled at governing.  They are seen as appropriate as opposition but they are not a government in waiting, individually or collectively.

THE FUTURE IS NOT HOPELESS BUT IT IS CHALLENGING
So what is going to happen politically in the next Alberta as a consequence of the next election?  I am seeing positive signs that citizens are catching on to the dire consequences if they stay out of participating in the political culture of the province.  Early signs come from the slow but steady work being done by the budding Alberta Party as it gets organized to participate as a post-conventional alternative and reaches out to listen to Albertans in the Big Listen small groups. 

I also see a resurgence of people stepping up as candidates for school boards and municipal elections coming this October.  Many of these candidates are very young and  novices when it comes to the conventional game of politics.  But that is not a barrier to success because they are plugged into social networks and are campaigning online and making connections and that is a new formula for electoral success.  Don Iveson, a young progressive candidate for city council, came out of nowhere in Edmonton in the last election. He soundly defeated a strong right-wing incumbent using face-to-face meetings, issue focused conversations and social media muscle blending the election techniques of the tried and true along with the new media connectivity.  He came in third in popular vote as a brand new face and is a political force to be reckoned with. 

I recently did a campaign school workshop for the Alberta School Boards Association for about 40 aspiring school board candidates from all over the province. They were all progressives in mindset, influentials in their communities and eager and realistic about what they were getting into.  That was reassuring and reinforces my belief that real political change is about to happen and a different group of Albertans are seeing the need and will take the lead for this real change.  They are not interested in just replacing one set of conventional politicians with another set who are merely different faces but have the same out-moded attitudes about politics, governing and pursuing the potential to transform the province.

I think Alberta is already into early stages of transformative change but it has not yet taken off.  I see some serious turmoil bubbling just below the serene surface of the people in this province.  The current and possible alternate government and business conservatives collude in their own best interests of sustaining power and exploiting short term economic gain. 

We have lost confidence that the so-called Alberta Advantage was ever for the ordinary Albertan.  The rising tide in Alberta's boom in the past years did raise all boats, only the yachts.  We are not realizing the wealth from our non-renewable resources as the PCs and the WAP pander to the energy giants with subsidies and royalty give-aways as we close schools and lay off teachers.  We see our environment neglected by corporations and our government being complacent and compliant in the decline through poor regulation and lax enforcement.

Some telling results of our recent research at Cambridge Strategies Inc. is what causes me to say we are at the trial head of a Renaissance, a Reformation, a Re-enlightenment and a Revolution in Alberta and it is and will all happen at once and in the next few years.  When nearly 90% of Albertans say the oil sands are important to our prosperity and companies operating in the oil sands should be held liable for damages caused by their operations and 85% say those companies should be solely responsible for reclamation.  We also know that there is not enough being done by our conventional politicians to deal with these issues. 

Sooner than later corporations will come to realize their social license to operate comes from the governed - not the government.  They will soon realize that expensive PR and advertising is no substitute for real performance in meeting environment and social obligations to Albertans which is required of them under lease and tenure agreements.  While jobs are important we know there is no loyalty to local people by head offices when push comes to shove.  We saw the intimidation power of these masters of the universe head offices energy types when they exercised some muscle on dependent communities when they did not like the new and absolutely reasonable recent increase in royalty rates.  BTW, my sources tell me that our government has retreated so far from the reasonable royalty rate they passed that now we get less revenue from royalties than we did before the review.  How sad is that!

HAVE ALBERTA'S POLITICIANS HAVE FALLEN FROM GRACE?
Albertans have high expectations but not much is happening to satisfy those expectations.  In fact there is less and less honesty, openness, transparency and accountability from government all the time to the point that Albertans are now very unimpressed with their politicians.  Our recent research shows that 56% do not believe the Alberta-based Members of Parliament are satisfactorily representing Alberta's best interests in Ottawa and only 15% of Albertans believe our MPs are doing enough to protect Alberta's energy resources.  The Stelmach government is no better off in the eyes of Albertan's.  When asked if they were very satisfied with the Stelmach government only 12% Agreed or Completely Agreed while 46% Disagreed or Completely Disagreed.

Finally, in our research we asked "Who do you trust the most to responsibly manage Alberta's growth?"  The results are astounding.  Brian Mason  (NDP Party) 4%, David Swann (Liberal Party) 9%, Danielle Smith (Wildrose Alliance Party) 19% EdStelmach (PC Party) 23% NONE OF THE ABOVE 45%. That is a formula for revolution and revolt in the making. 

Albertans are waking up and returning to activitist and engaged citizenship - and it is about time!  While we are becoming mad as hell and not going to take it any more I doubt we will ever go so far as in the scene from the 1976 movie Network.  That said, it is eerie how relevant this mad as hell sentiment is to Alberta these days.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Alberta is Changing But for the Better or the Worse is the Question

"Why is this Man so Happy?" is an interesting "must read" from Avenue magazine's Edmonton edition on Mark Anielski, the award winning best selling author of "The Economics of Happiness."

Mark is a good friend and recently pitched in at the last minute at the Learning Our Way to the Next Alberta public dialogues in Edmonton and Calgary when David Peat became ill and could not travel from Italy.  He also added to the dialogue at the symposium on the same theme with Gwynne Dyer and Scott Murray.  Cambridge Strategies Inc. was please to sponsor this event with the ATA, Literacy Alberta, the University of Calgary and the four ATA locals in Edmonton and Calgary.

One of Mark's key messages has been that Genuine Progress Indicators are so much more relevant than old fashioned misleading Gross Domestic Product rates for measuring the stuff that really matters to individuals, communities and societies - and that is its well-being!

Mark noted at his presentation at the Learning Our Way event that happiness is 50% is genetic, 10% is education and capacity and 40% as a function of the quality of personal relationships.  Interesting mix of influences on one's happiness and something to work with for sure.  Seems to me we, as a society, better starting working on our personal and community capacity for people to relate better with each other and more often too if we are going to enhance our well being as individuals and groups and communities.

Mark's work in Edmonton in 2009 charted 49 genuine progress indicators.  His findings included that "Overall, the results of the well-being assessment show that Edmonton's overall state of well-being is in a health and improving condition, though there are some economic, social and environmental conditions that need attention, [such as] rising income inequality, rising levels of family disputes, loss of urban agricultural land..." to name a few.  We are well positioned for progress in this city but we can't rest on laurels.

Albertans are finding themselves on unfamiliar moving ground in the political, economic, social and environmental aspects of life in our province.  It is time to re-evaluate what we think is important - and how we measure success.  Our research at Cambridge Strategies shows a yearning and longing for change but an uncertainty of how to get there and what "there" looks like except it must be very different than the "here and now" because the latter is not working.  There is general feeling of dismay over the lack of leadership  politically, economically and socially.  There is more apparent leadership in environmental aspects but it is either too aggressive or too anemic.  There is a feeling that we lack viable alternatives to choose from to enable and empower the transformational change that many people aspire to pursue.  Mark is way ahead of the pack on that new path towards that transformational aspiration, both personally and professionally. 

As we go into the red zone of the October municipal elections in Alberta, it is perhaps timely for us a citizens to reflect on what make the "good life."   It is timely to rethink what it is we ought to strive for in pursuit of the good life and what we need to do as individuals and in society to achieve it.  Then we can ask our politicians - incumbent and aspiring, what they see that needs to be done in public policy to enhance our overall well-being.

Mark' s book "The Economics of Happiness" is a good primer to help being to answer those questions.  It will help you find some better questions to ponder while you move along the pathway to well-being and happiness.   I recommend it highly to anyone feeling anxiety about the future, uncertain about the present and no desire to return to the harsh unjust realities of the past.

 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Kids on the Political Block Event Shows a Yearning for Real Change in Alberta's Political Culture

Congratulations to Intervivos and Zohreh Saher in particular for creating the New Kids on the Political Block event yesterday.  Thanks also to Walter Schwabe at fusedlogic for covering the event with live streaming.  Special thanks also to Danielle Smith, Leader of the Wildrose Alliance Party and Chima Nkemdirim, the Chairman of the Alberta Party Big Listen project.  Then we need to thank the in person and online audience for attending and sharing their thoughts and concerns about the future of Alberta.

You can watch the event by clicking here but be forewarned - this is the entire event, not an edited version, so get a beer and enjoy some political conversation that is respectful, informative and meaningful.

In my quest to help Albertans dust off their citizenship and re-engage in politics and political culture, I get encouraged by these citizen based efforts.  The need to fix the democratic deficit in Alberta is becoming more of an issue for many progressive people, especially those who take the time and apply their talents to organize and participate in these kinds of events.  It is all aligned with the continuing spirit of Reboot Alberta where people are retaking Control, creating Alternatives to the status quo and Deleting the useless and harmful parts of old-style command and control, authority driven, coercive and power based adversarial politics of the past.

We need a new progressive, respectful, effective, curious and capable political culture that thrives on diversity and difference.  I see an Alberta renaissance, reformation, re-enlightenment and cultural revolution all happening at the same time.  It is coming none too soon either if we are going to continue to progress, grow and thrive as a province.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Grizzly Bears Declared an Endangered Species in Alberta

The province of Alberta has finally made this important decision to designate grizzly bears as an endangered species in our province.

This is a very important policy step and one that is very aligned with the values of Albertans.  We at Cambridge Strategies have done a number of conjoint studies on forestry and oil sands development issues dating back to 2005.  In every case a significant value driver in the hearts and minds of Albertans has been habitat protection.

The industries like forestry, conventional oil and gas and oil sands are all becoming aware, and sometimes painfully aware, that their social license to continue to operate as our tenants on the lands owned by Albertans requires a higher degree of responsible stewardship than in the past.  Albertans are very aware of the need for a long term view when it comes to dealing with both renewable resources like forestry and non-renewable resource like oil, gas and oil sands. 

Forestry and oil sands developers do take a long term view of their responsibilities be it reforestation or land reclamation in the case of oil sands based disturbances.  I like the Alberta forest operators and believe they by and large have the right corporate values to justify their social licence to operate in our forests.  It was not always that way but with effective pressure from environmentalists and public opinion, they have seen the light.  Now the forestry sector is reformed and worthy of our respect as our tenants.  Unfortunately due to mountain pine beetle, climate change and market volatility, they are having a tough time making it with the conventional business model.

The conventional oil and gas sector also has a duty to reclaim lands from abandoned well sites, seismic lines and roadways but they are all too often less than diligent in fulfilling these duties.  They get enormous subsidies and royalty relief but still don't seem to understand that they are in danger of losing any modicum of public confidence in their integrity as respected operators entitled to responsibly exploit Alberta's natural resources.  As we see reduced market demands coming, unless the conventional energy sector starts to see the writing on the wall they will be the first to be pressured out of business by public opinion.

The move by the government of Alberta to designate grizzlies as endangered has been a longtime coming but it is hopefully not too late to protect this animal.  Biodiversity and habitat protection are highly ranked and core values for Albertans. Congratulations to the Stelmach government for making this move and with luck they will move to force industry for some expanded and enhanced land reclamation to provide a better habitat so these bears can thrive again.

The Mayerthorpe Fallen Four Relay/Marathon Runs June 20 & 21

Here is a community based event that has a poignant aspect.  The Fallen 4 Relay/Marathon goes Sunday June 21 from Mayehorpe to Whitecourt.  There is also a Kids Marathon and RCMP Fun/Run on Saturday June 20.  These runs are a memorial in honour of The Fallen Four RCMP (Constables Peter Schiemann,  Leo Johnston, Anthony Gordon, Brock Myrol) who were killed in the line of duty in Mayerthorpe in 2005. 

The community of Mayerthorpe has responded to this tragedy in very positive ways.  They raised the funds and build the Fallen Four Memorial that has thousands of visitors a year who come to pay their respects.  Now they have partnered with their neighbour Whitecourt and host this relay and marathon again in the honour of the Fallen Four.

In my work with the Grande Alberta Economic Region I have had the opportunity to visit Mayerthorpe many time and to get to know the community and many of the people who live there.  This Fallen Four Marathon is just another example of the strength of character of this community and the positive energy and imagination of its engaged citizens.

I encourage anyone interested to sign up for these events and get to know Mayerthorpe and Whitecourt communities and  the people who make these communities great - and support a good cause in the process.