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Monday, November 29, 2010

Visit AlbertaVote.ca for a Wealth of Political Insight & Incite

It is great to see Duncan Wojtaszekback into political blogging, returning from a self-induced exile.  A visit to his new site www.albertavote.ca is a rigorous and thorough approach to "what ifs" based on a recent poll and the re-jigged constituency boundaries coming soon in Alberta.

His commentary and analysis of Edmonton Rutherford (Fred Horne) and Edmonton Meadowlark (Raj Sherman) is timely and telling.   Of course these are predictions based on assumption in a hypothetical election that is not now happening.  But what is interesting is the electoral implications of shifting public opinion.

Here is another post "Trying to Predict What Would Happen in Calgary"  all of which points to the growing volatility in the Alberta political landscape...but without any consideration yet of the potential impact of the emerging Alberta Party.  That will no doubt be part of future commentaries.

There is lots more from the imaginative mind of Duncan Wojtaszek...and I anticipate a lot more to come. Welcome back to blogging.  We have missed you.

Is There a Conspiracy to Discredit Raj Sherman?

I love politics and I think it is a force for good.  But sometimes I despair about the way politics is practiced and portrayed.  When politics is all about getting and keeping power it is becomes manipulative, intimidating and even corrupt.  That is politics at its lowest.  When politics is about exploring new ideas, sharing wisdom to protect and empower citizens, it is at its best.

This past two weeks politics in Alberta has been at its worst, at its best and is changing faster than most of us could imagine.  I am talking about the events around the courage of Dr. Raj Sherman to take a stand and expose some political truth about health care in Alberta.  There is now evidence of politically motivated reactions and tactics by anonymous forces who are intent on discrediting and even destroying Dr. Sherman.

Efforts to discredit Raj by questioning his mental and emotional state are an example of politics at its worst.  Dark forces are now challenging his professional capacity to practice medicine with anonymous innuendos.   Sherman is fighting back by talking openly about these perverse efforts against him.  That is the only way to defeat these dark forces.

Intimidation, threats and bullying is on-going from some segments of the PC government as they try to control messages and command loyalty.  I know I faced this myself when I publicly announced I was no longer going to stay as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta.  Clients were told they would have more success in dealing with government if I was no longer involved in representing them.  Long time party supporters have been suddenly and unceremoniously removed from positions on boards because they were suddenly not “acceptable” to serve.  Why?  Because those individuals were simply publicly speaking truth to power.  Community based not-for profit agencies that rely on government funding to provide services to vulnerable citizens have been told to toe the line or there will be “consequences”- personally and organizationally. This is no way for those in authority to behave.

When this kind of coercion happens paranoia runs deep and creeps into your heart. Intimidation should not becomes “normal” in our political culture.  It must be stopped.  That can only happen by public exposure by those who are its victims.  Silence is compliance.   Speaking out against this kind of intimidation and coercion is exactly what Dr. Raj Sherman is doing now.  More reason to applaud him and value his courage.

When we feel threatened by powerful forces we can even start to question the integrity of our friends. That is what has happened in the recent highly publicized conversation between Fred Horne and Dr. P. J. White, who are both friends of Raj Sherman.   Many of us are friends of Raj Sherman and admire him for what he is doing.  We are also aware of the enormous stress Raj is facing as he stands up against some very powerful and entrenched political forces.   

With such intense feelings and threatening circumstances it is very easy to misinterpret good intentions…even of your friends.  Drawing a negative conclusion is easy and often justified as a survival strategy - but it also could be a wrong conclusion.  I think the wrong conclusions have been drawn around the actions and intent Fred Horne and P.J. White in sharing an authentic mutual concern for the well-being of Raj Sherman.

Some context is important in trying to better understand what is happening here.  Fred is the new Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Wellness.  Fred ran the new health act public consultation process this summer.  P.J. White is a psychiatrist and the newly elected President of the Alberta Medical Association.   In a cynical world it is easy to misinterpret the actions and intentions of Fred and P.J. as powerful people who may be part of a conspiracy to discredit Raj Sherman politically and professionally. 

The other, more realistic interpretation in my opinion and based on the personal characters of Fred and P.J., is they are simply sharing a genuine concern for the well-being of a mutual friend in a difficult time  In the vulnerable reality of Raj Sherman these days, one can hardly blame him for being paranoid about such a conversation taking place, even amongst good friends.  To see the erosion of the benefit of the doubt about the intent of friends, shows just how sad and dysfunctional our political culture has become these days.

I have a long standing friendship with Fred Horne.  I have a growing friendship with Raj Sherman and a deep respect for his character and courage.  I have recently met Dr. P.J. White, under other circumstances, but we share some personal values about politics.  I also admire P.J. for his personal and professional courage for standing up against the irrational political decision of Dr. Duckett and the AHS to close Alberta Hospital in Oliver.  He stopped the closure.

When the conversation Fred and P.J. had about the well-being of Raj Sherman became public and a focus in the media I called both Fred and P.J. to get some first-hand content and context on what was really going on here. I am certain from my personal knowledge of both gentlemen and our recent chats that the intent of the conversation between Fred Horne and P.J. White was motivated by a shared respect for Raj Sherman and a genuine concern for his overall well-being. 

But the record can and should be set straight.  I hope this blog post is a step in that direction.If there is a politically motivated conspiracy to discredit Raj Sherman based on innuendo about his mental state and capacity, Fred Horne and P.J. White are not part of it.  They, along with many others, and me included have reached out to personally and publicly support Raj.  We are all dismayed at how low some will stoop to sustain or gain political power at the expense of others.  

Raj Sherman has supporters – lots of them.  He has powerful enemies too – I expect many of them.   The big difference is the supporters are open and public while the enemies are anonymous and secretive.  So who should the public trust? Which narrative of Raj Sherman will "win" in the court of public opinion?  When seeking changes in political attitudes and culture, it is the court of public opinion that matters most.  What people come to believe becomes political reality.  In politics perception is reality…and that is not just a cliché.

Monday November 29th will see a Point of Privilege presented in the Alberta Legislature asking if Fred Horne is part of a political conspiracy to discredit Dr. Raj Sherman.  I trust it will be debated in the spirit of supporting the political integrity, transparency, honesty and the accountability of our elected representatives.  I hope it is motivated by a desire to enhance our democracy and to regain some increased respect for the institution of the Alberta Legislature.  If this is not the case, it will only perpetuate the worst of our declining political culture.

I hope for better angels to prevail on all of our provincial politicians today.  I am no Pollyanna but I do believe the better angels will triumph.  That will only happen if the wisdom and good judgment of our elected representative overcomes the excessive partisanship that dominates our political culture these days. 

Albertans are not fools and we do not think our elected representatives should be either.  If there is a politically motivated whisper campaign to discredit and destroy Raj Sherman, it must stop NOW!  I hope the NDP Point of Privilege Motion being heard today is the start of a new direction in our political culture.  If it is merely another tactic in political gamesmanship, I will despair even deeper about the democratic deficit in this province. 

So, ladies and gentlemen of the Alberta Legislature, it is time to listen to your better angels….here and now…on this issue and the many other health care concerns of Albertans.  It is time to return to your task of serving the best interests of Albertans…not just personal or partisan power agendas.  Rest assured we will be watching and judging you.
   
UPDATE NOV 29 12:35 PM - I HAVE JUST BEEN ADVISED BY SOMEONE IN THE MAIN STEAM MEDIA THAT THE NDP HAVE WITHDRAWN THEIR POINT OR PRIVILEGE THAT WAS TO GO TODAY ON IF THERE WAS AN ANTI-SHERMAN CONSPIRACY TO DISCREDIT HIM.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Update on the Harper Induced Democratic Deficit

I did a post last week asking Albertans if they have had enough of Stephen Harper yet.  If the content of that post did not convince you this rant by Rick Mercer should help.  Canadians as well as Albertans know it is  time for an election and that we have to remove our Not So Prime Minister and his Sheeple from power over us.

The Harper Conservatives now control the Senate due to his hypocritical stance about Senate reform.  He used to say it should be Triple E: elected, equal and effective.  He has personally appointed more Senators than any other Prime Minister in history. So much for the integrity, honesty, transparency and accountability of Prime Minister Harper.

Since he can't control the destruction of democracy in the elected House of Commons as he centralizes more and more political power in himself, he is now doing it in the Senate.  That is where his personal appointed political friends are killing laws duly passed by those WE DULY ELECTED TO GOVERN US.  The Harper Senate appointees have a majority now and they are killing those duly passed laws without a word of debate.  Political power is now in the hand of Harper's appointed cronies.  This can't continue if our representative democracy is to survive.


It's Grey Cup Day in #YEG "GO RIDERS-ALLEZ ALOUETTES"

As we prepare for the mock battle that is the Grey Cup I offer this well edited video of the 40 Most Inspirational Speeches in moviedom - with a H/T to The Kelley Skar Daily

JUST A BLOGGER TRYING TO GIVE 110% Enjoy this mini-mocumentary:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Do We Need the AHS Super Board?

The media report on the “fracturing” of the Alberta Health Services Super Board is focused on the current and possible future resignations of board members.  This is fallout from the Dr. Duckett contract decision is a crisis of confidence about the AHS Board and by the Board itself I expect.  That crisis in confidence cuts both ways and is partly due to a failure of effective governance.  There needs to be clarity of roles and responsibilities of the various boards the Government of Alberta and the AHS Super Board in particular.

Ron Liepert is being blamed by the public for much of this current crisis of confidence in our health care system.  He was the political push to unilaterally and hastily disband the regional governance model in favour of a single Super Board system.  The goal was cost savings but a lot of good work and service capacity was lost in the process, especially in the Capital Region.  There was another political goal, the solving of the chronic overspending of the Calgary regional board. 

So rather than solving the “Calgary problem” and risk looking like Stelmach was punishing or picking on Calgary, the Ministry “leadership” changed to Ron Liepert, a Calgarian to solve the problem.  Overnight, without warning, consultation or concern for greater consequences, Liepert unilaterally changed the entire provincial health care governance structure.  The dismantling of the regional governance structure into one centralized appointed governance model delegated to deliver health care was established. That was the planted seed that has lead us to the current health care governance, emergency room crisis and overall systemic disarray that is now province wide.

So let’s look at the current Super Board situation in context.  Liepert created this centralized governance structure, selected and recommended the appointees to the new Super Board.  Once it was established Dr. Duckett, a health economist, was hired by the AHS Super Board with a clear mandate to get spending and costs under control.  What is particularly interesting is the composition of the Super Board…it is predominantly people with business experience – not public policy or health care experiences.  So decisions would more likely be business based before public policy based. 

These are all good people with valuable experience and who are undoubtedly trying to use their skills to make a difference and improve the health care system in Alberta.  The problem is they may only have part of the skill sets necessary to do this very complex and critically important job of overseeing the design, development and deployment of an effective health care system in Alberta.  They have the management discipline and a corporate governance experience. My question is do they understand there is a difference in dealing with public sector governance, public policy development, public sector accountability in a care giving system not a marketplace model of delivery?  Are they analytical as well as design oriented?  Are they sensitive to the human dynamics inherent in a health care delivery system at the patient, service provider and taxpayer levels?  Are they insightful enough about the political culture and context of their relationship with the Minister and the government while serving on such a board?  Can they effectively determine and articulate truth to the political power structure that is ultimately responsible and entrusted to provide health care to Alberta?  Finally do they have the benefit of a mutual two-way trust with the political powers and administrative machinery of government?

The recent resignations from the Super Board are reported to be largely based on the principle of board independence.  Political interference has to be resisted if a board is going to be effective.  However when a board is mandated to execute government policy there are public policy and political realities that may have to trump the presumption of arms length independence. Those overarching realities are the ultimate responsibility of the elected Minister to represent the public interest.  Provided the communications between the elected Minister and the appointed Board is done openly and transparently then it is not necessarily inappropriate interference with the independence of the appointed board.  A board can choose to ignore the advice or even direction of the Minister.  Unless the Board can convince the Minister that he is wrong or the suggested action is ill-advised, the natural consequences of non-compliance would be that the board would be replaced with others who would execute their roles consistent with the Minister’s interpretation of government policy.  That is as it should be in a public policy governance model so long as this is all open and public information so we citizens can judge if there is improper political interference or there is a board that is not fulfilling its responsibilities appropriately.

So what about the current AHS board status in light of current events?   I don’t conclude that Minister Zwozdesky insisting that the AHS board make the Duckett contract decision immediately instead of waiting two weeks is improper interference.  I am only basing this conclusion on media reports of the communications but none of the parties have suggested they are in accurate so far as I know.  The Board could have declined to comply with the Minister’s request for an immediate decision and if they believed that was the right thing to do in the public interest.   That is moot because the Board did make an immediate decision.  The question now is where this all goes from here!

I have suggested previously in this Blog the AHS Board and many others, like in areas of Children Services and PDD for example, are not effective in providing good governance for the province.   They are ostensibly there to provide local input and intelligence to the Minister and Ministry but they end up being a buffer and a barrier between the politicians and the public.   The system is unworkable in this kind of political culture where partisan politics replace good public policy.  This default to partisan politics driving decisions was obvious in health care under Minister Liepert.  Just look at the fact he decided unilaterally to change the health care governance structures for pure political purposes.  He did that without warning, consultation or concern for consequences to the public or the professionals just trying to do their jobs.

If these various appointed boards are in reality mere buffers designed to protect politicians from accountability to the public they should be disbanded.  Given the many Ministerial reversals of AHS Board and CEO decisions since Zwozdesky took over the Ministry, those still on the AHS Board should ask themselves if they still have the confidence of the Minister.  I think the evidence is pretty clear the answer is no. 

Zwozdesky is not the kind of Minister who wants to hide from the public in doing his policy and political duty.  He and his department are the ones who are ultimately responsible for the outcomes of health care and they know it.  The appointed and virtually anonymous Super Board, like many others in the province, are ineffectual in serving the public interest, especially if there is political interference and a lack of clear mandated authority.  Under these circumstances I think the AHS Board should all resign and return the clear and direct lines of accountability and responsibility for design and delivery of health care to the government.  This need not be in protest or seen in any way as a failure to perform by the AHS Board.  Rather it would put the responsibility for health care policy clearly back on the Minister and Ministry where it belongs.  It would set an example for the other Boards too who are mostly being used as mere buffers between the public and the politicians

The expertise in the health care system would not be lost and can be more effective at bring truth to power - directly – as the Emergency Room Docs are doing now.  The bureaucracy can also do its job better in providing analysis and suggesting policy options for our elected representatives to consider when making public policy decisions on our behalf.

I have great respect for any citizen who comes forward to serve on government agencies, boards and commissions.  I have done so many times myself.  There is always a question about roles, responsibilities and relationships between these boards and the government, the Minister and the public interest.  The wisdom and judgement of all those involved are always required in keeping these realities in context.  My conclusion is the AHS board was set up by the previous Minister primarily for political reasons.  If the current Board members come to the same conclusion then they need to return the legal responsibility to provide for health care in Alberta back to the elected officials.  That is just part of the task of fixing the governance model as well as the resolving of the health care crisis that we are seeing unfold these days. 

CLARIFICATIONS REQUIRED:
There is a news story in the Edmonton Journal today on the status of the Super Board quoting me that need clarification and correction.  By way of clarification there is an implication in remarks attributed to me that Minister Zwozdesky threatened to remove the AHS Board if they did not comply with his request.  I don’t know if that happened or not in the discussion between the Minister and the Board Chair.  It appears that I am quoting the Minister in that regard.  I was not. 

My point is that is within the power of the Minister to replace the Board, and that is as it should be.  It appears in the news story that I am saying the Minister made such a comment to the Chair.    I did not say or imply that comment was made at all.  I only suggested that removing the Board is a natural and appropriate consequence of not a Board not complying with a proper direction of the Minister....the key here is was the Ministerial direction proper and not just political.  In my mind Minister Zwozdesky was acting appropriately and not politically in his comments on the preferred outcome from the AHS Board on the Duckett situation.

I DON’T SPEAK FOR THE ALBERTA PARTY!
The other point of clarification that is needed is the headline on the continuation of the story on page B12 that says “Alberta Party wants mass resignation.”  This headline is totally inaccurate and misleading.  While I am a member of the Alberta Party I do not speak for the Alberta Party.  I know the headlines are not written by the same person who writes the story.  The reporter here is doing a very good job at informing the public about some very important governance, policy and political events impacting our health care system.  Unfortunately newspapers don’t have the reporters write the headlines for their own stories to ensure they accurately represent the content and intent of the articles they write.  This is unfortunate.  Please be assured I do not speak not do I intend to speak for the Alberta Party on any matter of its policy.  That is the job of the Leader Sue Huff and the President Chris LaBossiere.  

Let's let Minister Zwozdesky, Parliamentary Assistant Fred Horne and now Independent MLA Raj Sherman plus the rest of our elected representatives in the Alberta Legislature do their jobs in fixing the crisis in our health care system - just as we elected them to do. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Raj Sherman's Speech on the New Health Act in Alberta

OK gentle readers...it is Friday - a lovely day and just before Edmonton hosting the Grey Cup this weekend.  Grab a sandwich and eat lunch at your desk and read Raj Sherman's opening speech in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta on the New Alberta Health Act.

There is a whisper campaign going on over Raj's emotional well-being.  This is pure Nixonian, Dubya Bush and even Stephen Harper style of dirty politics.  Read this speech and even others and judge for your self about the ability, commitment and capability of Dr. Raj Sherman to make a difference.  He is now a single voice of reason, care and compassion.  He is speaking for all of us who are disappointed and despairing over abusive politics and  poor governance in our province.

Here is a link but go to page 1481 to start.  Make sure you have the facts as outlined by Dr. Sherman and then be sure to talk about the facts to your family, friends, neighbours and fellow workers.

BTW vote on my blog poll on who you think is to blame for Alberta's crisis in health care?  Rude Ronnie Liepert is seen and the major reason followed by Ed Stelmach so far.  Dr. Duckett is not the culprit even though he was the wrong guy for the job...but you can blame Liepert for that lack of judgement

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Good Governance or Bad Politics? Which is This Alberta?

We have to accept that democracy is a messy business but politics is worse.  The cynic says democracy is the worst system of governance except for all the others.  Is that because it is adversarial and based on debate and disagreement instead of conversation, compromise and accommodation?.  You can differ and disagree and that is a good thing so long as you are not just being disagreeable.

That is where politics comes in.  Politics has turned into a marketing game that is more about being disagreeable just to win a game than it is about finding the best way to serve the needs of people and advance a greater good.

In a democracy politicians and policy makers have to consider everyone and then make a decision for the greater good based on evidence, analysis, intent, accommodation, fairness, integrity, honesty, transparency, accountability, stewardship, fiscal responsibility and the greater good. Just to name a few. This is the stuff of good governance.

The metaphorical job of such a person (a.k.a. politician) means you have to keep your feet on the ground, your eye on the ball, your shoulder to the wheel, your head on straight then do it with your back against the wall and without a net to catch you if you fall or fail.  There is no training program or operators manual for the job of governance.  The talents it takes to get the job are entirely different than the skills necessary to do the job.

Politics on the other hand is all about the game of pursuing political power.  It is about seeking, getting and sustaining power over peoples lives.  Spin, packaging, tactics, mean-spirited misleading messaging, intimidation, bullying and manipulation to win at all costs is politics at its worst.  The worst is becoming the norm.

Good governance is always good politics.  The reverse is almost never the case, with rare exceptions.  This reality turns off good citizens from participating in power politics as it is practised in too many situations these days.  It is not always the fault of the politicians.  We the people let it happen, the media loves the "news" story of conflicts - real or artificial, and the red-meat back room political power brokers  think it is just sport.  Citizens turn off and democracy suffers.

Here is a link to one blogger's point of view on an event that may be governance or politics but his accusations do not suggest anything good is going on here, in terms of governance or politics.  I give you this link not to criticize the Wildrose Alliance Party per se.  This stuff goes on all the time in all the old-style political parties.  However when you claim to be better than the next guy you can't let this kind of public accusation of an internal misuse or abuse of process and power go on without challenge.  That is the responsibility for the leadership of any political party.

Sometimes the facts are right and the interpretation is wrong.  Sometimes the interpretation is right but all the facts are not there.  You get my drift.  It's complicated.  The larger point is if there are going to be a better political alternative they must at least meet the minimal ethical test of aligning with the values of the majority of Albertans. If their own members don't think that alignment is the case, why would anyone else presume they are a viable alternative?  That is the job of political leadership. The serious accusations by this blogger/member must be dealt with openly and according to the ethical values of Albertan if we are to trust and respect this party as a viable political alternative.

George Lakoff says all politics is about morality.  Nobody goes into politics to do bad things. Hitler and Mussolini both were elected in democratic processes - and did bad things.  That was the fault of the German and Italian electorate at the time.  They needed to use there collective wisdom to stop these tyrants.  Instead they were ruled by collective ignorance.  The rest of the story is a sad and sordid history for mankind to regret, remember and never repeat.

I am not saying that is what is going on here but I am saying citizens of Alberta better be vigilant and suspicious about the qualities, characters and capacities of who we elect.  We have to apply this test of suitability to govern regardless of political affiliation.  The consequences of making a mistake will affect the well-being of everyone.  It happens and it is our fault as citizens if when we let it happen because.  It happens when we think politics is not our business.  Politics and governance is the core business of citizenship.  Deal with it Alberta and deal with it by using you values and ethics to test the alternatives.

CBC Forum on Future of Oil Sands Worth a Listen

Here is an hour long recording of a public forum sponsored by the CBC on the future of the oil sands.  It is worth a listen for all Albertans as OWNERS of the oil sands.  http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/Radio/Radio_One/Local_Shows/Alberta/1558579352/ID=1664916767

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hey Alberta! Had Enough of Steve Harper Yet?

In the last Federal election I was interviewed by Mark Kelley for a piece on CBC's The National about Alberta politics.  One of my points was a key strategy for Harper was there were two groups of Canadians he could ignore - and did ignore.  There are those who would never vote for his authoritarian totalitarian type of governing and those who vote Conservative no matter what.  Albertans have fallen into the latter category with minor but notable exceptions like Liberal and Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan and NDP Environment expert Linda Duncan.

With the most recent and obvious indifference and disdain for Alberta, and Edmonton in particular, the Harper Conmen have  rejected the Expo 2017 bid and for no reasons of substance.  The political machinations of the power hungry Stephen Harper are a constant calculation for personal political advantage and never a thought is given to doing the right thing for the right reason.   The only time you you will see Prime Minister Harper and the words Integrity, Honestly, Transparency and Accountability in the same sentence is to note he lacks all of these characteristics.

The fabricated reason for rejecting the Edmonton 2017 Expo bid is the high cost of security.  The Harper Conmen ran up the security costs of the G20 into a police-state bacchanal of excessive "security" and phony arrests of citizens engaged in legitimate peaceful protest.  If you are going to intimidate people with police force - well that takes money - lots of borrowed money.    Harper was happy to oblige that propensity to provide a false sense of "protection" to show off just how mush he is in CONTROL.

The sad irony is that self induced excess and abuse of security is now touted as the reason the Edmonton Expo bid can't be "afforded" right now...even though the event in 7 years away.  Alberta, and Edmonton in particular, is being punished for it electoral loyalty to the Harper Conmen.  The politics aside, and they stink, it is time to restore democracy to Alberta federal politics.  We need to not only send a message to the presumptive arrogance of the Harper Conmen that the jig is up over taking Alberta voter support for granted.

We have research results that shows Albertans are not at all impressed with our MPs when it comes to protecting Alberta's interest in Ottawa.  This reflection of Edmonton's aspiration to use Expo 2017 as a central event to celebrate 150 years of Confederation is just another indication of the indifference inherent in the Harper Conmen as they take our votes for granted.  These guys are no longer about ensuring that the West is In...the battle cry that got them elected.  When it comes to assuring us how the West is In, the "in" they provide is an attitude that is indifferent, insouciant and inept when it comes to promoting Alberta's best interests.

Has Alberta had enough of Harper yet?  Other than Harper himself, the Social Conservative Jason Kenny and the soon to be departed Jim Prentice - can you name three more of your faceless and feckless Alberta based Conmen MPs?  They are an unimpressive and a nondescript lot.  Hardly the kind of characters that can articulate and express the new aspirations and the new narrative that is forming about the next Alberta. Alberta deserves better and we can do better with a change in whom we grant our consent to govern us.

Friday, November 19, 2010

AMA President's Letter Supports Raj Sherman

One of the dilemmas facing Raj Sherman is the different oaths he has taken.  One as a Doctor and the other as a Member of the Alberta Legislature.  Then there is the culture of political party discipline where Caucus and Cabinet Members are sworn to secrecy about their deliberations.

For Raj all of these duties as a doctor, parliamentarian, caucus and cabinet member  must have started to contradict each other.  There are certain values we can trade off.  We do values trade-off all the time and it is never easy.  The behaviours we choose indicate our character.  The way we make those choices indicate our integrity as people.

This week Raj Sherman showed great character and integrity by defaulting to his professional oath as a doctor over the political "duty" as a political partisan.  He also fulfilled his duty as a public servant in elected office to speak honestly, openly and transparently about what he saw not happening in the Stelmach government handling of the health care concerns of Albertans.  He called out his government's accountability because  he saw it lacking on serving the public interest in its duty to citizens on providing health care.

Raj is obviously taking this lack of integrity, limited honesty and indifference to accountability and transparency by his own government very personally.  You can see that by the tone and content of the email he sent to his medical colleagues and then forwarded to his political colleagues.  Here is a link to the unedited text of his message.  You can judge for yourself the level of Raj's frustration from this email.

For this he was no doubt scolded, intimidated and quite possibly threatened with censure or even expulsion from the PC government caucus.  What in fact seems to have happened is he got a meeting with the Premier and a airing of concerns with fellow caucus members.  He also has enormous support from his professional colleagues as this AMA President's Letter from Dr.PJ White outlines. Check out the November 19th link.

Raj is getting support from other health care professionals, thought leaders and ordinary citizens in Alberta.  This is because he is standing up to the abusive and speaking against the outmoded command and control top-down political culture that prevails in this province.

Where we are at today is the Premier has asked Raj to stay on and help fix the health care problems. It is not about money it is about political attitudes in the PC ranks and the governing culture of the executive branch (Cabinet).  There seems to be a belief amongst those who have power to make the political decisions that all health care professionals lack integrity.  The anti-intellectual attitude stems back to early Klein days that believes professionals and experts lack "common sense" and are only after what is in there own best interests, not the public interest.  No doubt there are some individuals who are inclined that way but it is not the norm.

This week Raj Sherman faced a choice.  He made the right choice.  He could go professional and wear his doctor hat or go political and wear his party hat.  What he did was a creative third way.  He did both.  He publicly spoke out as a doctor on the crisis in health care and put the blame squarely at the feet of the government in which he serves as a member and did a mea culpa in that regard.

In that simple and responsible act he opened up the cracks in the PC caucus solidarity and let in some sunlight.  The typical response is to kick out the trouble maker in some kind of a Lord of the Flies frenzy.  I am sure that was the hope of many in the PC Caucus.  But the Premier intervened and asked for Raj's help instead of bringing him up on the carpet.  As a result Raj lives to fight another day as a PC politician and to use his knowledge and now considerable influence on pressing for the fundamental changes we have known we need in the health care system for years and years.

I have two other observations on this last week of Raj Sherman.  He has done what any opposition member and even government backbencher must be free to do.  That is to keep the government , the Premier and Cabinet to be exact, honest, open, transparent, accountable and able to demonstrate personal and collective integrity in how they govern the province.  That is the theory of our parliamentary Westminster system of governance but it has been lost as the public interest get trumped by personal political aspirations and abuse of power.

My other observation is that Raj Sherman now has all the trump cards in this game of getting better governance of health care. As the only doctor at the cabinet table he has been asked to help "fix" the mess.  If his suggestions are ignored for political reasons or some other abusive of power he can quit the PC Party.  And he should.  He is not likely to get fired now for bringing up problems - and continuing to do so in public.  He has to keep the Premier's feet to the fire.  He should not be so naive to believe that the most recent high level political promises are truly authentic in their intent.  Actions speak louder than words. Raj knows that by his personal example. Lets hope his colleagues in caucus and cabinet are ready to take action...and they start with the total dismantling of the Super Board and the management that runs it.

UPDATE NOV 19:  LOTS OF GREAT NEWS AND COMMENTS ON THE COURAGE OF RAJ SHERMAN:  http://www.edmontonjournal.com/health/enough+Sherman/3858261/story.htmlhttp://www.edmontonjournal.com/health/Graham+Thomson+Hero+horror+party/3860402/story.htmlhttp://www.edmontonjournal.com/health/vows+fight+crisis/3853926/story.html

A Way to Brighten Your Friday

This is worth a watch.  It will give your spirits a lift on a busy chilly Friday.  It will connect you with the creativity of the human species and remind you of the joy of being a part of it.  H/T to Graham Fletcher for bringing it to my attention.

 http://www.flixxy.com/welcome-back-heathrow-airport-t-mobile.htm

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Citizenship, Stewardship and Leadership Alberta Style

I had the privilege of being one of the speakers at the Speakers Series at the Banff Centre on Tuesday night this week.  It was a white-knuckle drive there with the first serious snow fall of the season but it was well worth the effort to get to speak on Citizenship, Stewardship and Leadership from an Albertan point of view.

My theme was tied to the democratic deficit and decline in Alberta.  This is manifesting itself in many ways including the sad state of citizen engagement in being an informed voter.  We have seen a bit of a turnaround over voter turnout at local municipal and school board elections this year so there is hope. Reboot Alberta is going to be come more focused on citizen engagement by the looks of it.

The theme of this presentation is also stewardship and that is tied to a wade range of ideas and concepts from environmental to natural capital, to social infrastructure and even inter-generational equity.  What kind of a province are we leaving future generations economically, environmentally, socially, culturally and even politically?  Albertans as owners of the oil sands means we have the ultimate stewardship responsibility for them and that reality touches all of the stewardship aspects.  How well as we doing in insisting our tenant, the energy industry, are taking proper care of this enormous and critically important natural capital asset beyond project investments and job creating.  Those are good to have but they are far from sufficient in themselve in meeting a social license to operate in a stewardship context.

Finally there is the issue of leadership and my main point there is everyone has some responsibility to be a leader in their community and to be careful who we select as leaders in all aspects of civil society, business and especially politically.  I agree with Daveberta when he says we do not have corrupt or bad leaders in our political culture, just a rash of mediocre leaders.  As a result we do not come anywhere close to reaching our potential as a people or as a province.  That is not just the fault of those in leadership roles.  It comes on our heads as citizens for letting this happen.  I will have more to say about this in future blog posts.

In the mean time here is a blog link to Kim Bater a friend of mine (and client) who was at the Banff Centre presentation. It will give you another perspective

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Alberta Party is on the Move and Making Waves.

I had a great time at the Alberta Party Policy Convention last Saturday.  Could not stay for Sunday but I watched a lot of the events online through the Alberta Party website.  I have been to a lot of these events over the years and this one felt comfortable in its format but more engaging in the content and context.  This is because of the new party feel and the mix of people in the room.  I was mostly struck by the much lower than usual age of the crowd.  It is encouraging.

The authentic openness to discuss ideas and the respectful request for explanation and information at the discussion tables was refreshing.  It is not unique to any one political to be respectful as Albertans sit down to explore ideas about the direction of the province.  What the Alberta Party has as a blessing and a burden is they are starting a policy process from scratch.  Well not exactly from scratch because they were trying to respect the inputs they received from the 100 individual Big Listen meetings held all over the province and not be prescriptive.  They still had to respect the meaningful inputs from those who showed up at the Policy Convention to add, amend or reject the initial proposals.  I think they found the balance and I look forward to seeing the final  policy results.

There was an vibrant energy in the room that Dave King reflected on as reminiscent of the times he spent travelling all over Alberta with former Premier Peter Lougheed when the re-emerging PC Party caught the temper of the times and imagination of the citizenry.  Dave should know how all that happened and how it felt because he was Lougheed's EA.  He was an elected PC candidate at 25 years old and went into the Lougheed Cabinet.

I got involved with the Alberta PC Party after the 1971 election while I was in Law School and was captured by the sense of something new, exciting and significant was happening to design the next Alberta back then too.  It was about a new narrative for Alberta then, and it is about another new narrative foe Alberta now.

There was a similar sense of something significant happening around the Alberta Party on Saturday in Red Deer.  There were people there who believe in the province and who are personally committed to its future.  That is not unique amongst political partisans.  What is different about Alberta Party members is the level of  dissatisfaction with the current public policy trajectory and the hard shift to the right they see in the political culture of the province.  For the first time many are seeing a glimmer of hope and an emerging  reason to believe that progressive political change may be possible for Alberta.  The best evidence of this was the number of people who attended the Alberta Policy Policy Conference initially as observers but who bought memberships that weekend as a result of what they heard, saw and got to say.

The fact that one could fully participate in the formal policy discussion of a political party without being a member is unique in itself.  Opening up public policy and political conversations at party event with ordinary citizens attending as citizens and not requiring them to take out party membership is a unique enhancement of democracy that was shown by the Alberta Party.  Live streaming the policy process on the Internet so anyone could watch and even participate with comments and Twitter feeds was another opening up of the political and policy making process.  That openness will pay dividends to the Alberta Party as being seen and accepted as a preferred agent for positive democratic change going forward to the next election.

My final observation is the potential for the Alberta Party to form government in the next election.  It is possible if not probable at this time but times are a-changin'  and quickly.  My late friend Robert Theobald observed awhile back that Alberta was getting better and better, worse and worse and faster and faster, all at the same time.  I think that was true over10 years ago when he said it and it even more accurate today going forward.

The classic conventional political presumptions of what it takes to win elections have been challenged in many of the dramatic changes seen in recent local elections all over Alberta.  Some things in Alberta's elections are getting better, others are getting worse but everything is moving faster and faster...that is for sure. There is also a general feeling of dissatisfaction with the status quo and a disillusionment with the current offerings of political alternatives.  There are feeling of uncertainty in the air and a growing concern about the future of Alberta that are just below the surface but could emerge as a political game-changer at any time and on any issue.

There is a feeling that the Alberta Advantage is a worn out and forlorn governing philosophy that generated rapid economic growth but at an unacceptable environmental and social costs.  The economic benefits generated were not equitable distributed either.  All boats did not rise with the economic growth of the Alberta Advantage just the yachts. The rich got richer, the poor are still poor and the middle class is struggling just to keep up.

There is a feeling that Alberta is not living up to its potential, especially given all our blessings. There is a sense that we are not leaving a positive legacy to future generations with the social and environmental deficits we are creating along with a limited economic diversification.  The race to the bottom with an ideologically instilled tax policy that says they are only going down...always.  That means, to sustain current necessary public services we are using substituting non-renewable, one-time natural resource capital revenues instead of paying our own way now for the social, health, and education needs we have.  That is squandering the birthright of future generations because we choose to, not because it is right to do.

Today we have a new sense of a need for change.  The traditional political party alternatives are not able to capture the mood of the public and are not seen as the kind of change people want.  The other "alternative" is a hybrid of old-line narrow, market-model conservatives with a  hard line libertarian "every man for himself" social/economic philosophy. And now we have the emergence of the yet to be defined but diverse, young and democratically interesting Alberta Party as a new kid on the block.

It took Peter Lougheed two elections to come to office and change Alberta into a modern province.  He had the sense of change in the province working for him.  He had youth and energy working for him too as a contract to the stodgy, tired and tepid Social Credit incumbents.  What he did not have was the Internet and Social Media as a way to reach, engage and energize citizens directly as a supplement to the tried and true election campaign activities.  Will all of this new media and traditional campaigning converge and be sufficient to capture the public imagination through the launch a new party and be dramatic and trusted enough to garner a new mandate?

I think the real Alberta battle isn't a battle between various political parties.  It is all about changing the Alberta narrative.  We need to move beyond the Klein era of the Alberta Advantage that was about being the best IN the world as defined by the lowest taxes and royalties to attract investment along with lax environmental enforcement and a push to privatize the public interest.  We need to reject ideologically driven by top down, command and control governance models that is at the root of the political culture war between the PCs and the Wildrose Alliance

We need to move the narrative now to the Alberta Aspiration of being the best FOR the world. We can do the by using our enormous natural resources and develop responsible prosperity with environmental stewardship.  We can become a leader around inclusive, caring and compassionate social policy with evidence based decision making.  We need leadership that is pioneering for these times, not caught in a political marketing mindset that seeks to perfect yesterday or, worse yet, drag us back to the 1950s ways of thinking.

Is the Alberta Party up for that? Time will tell!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Alberta Party Policy Conference - I Smell Democracy in the Air

Tomorrow will see the first Policy Convention of the revitalized Alberta Party.  This is the next step of many stage that is the evolution of the Alberta Party as it fosters a civilized political revolution in our province.

The political culture in Alberta is changing faster and more profoundly than most casual observers realize.   Gerard MacLellan was at Reboot 3 last weekend and that reminded me about a blog post he did last August really captures the essence of the shifting ground in Alberta politics. He give 10 reasons why the Alberta Party will grow and make Alberta more democratic.

The recent opinion poll commissioned by the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta provides more evidence of a shift in the political culture of the province.  There are 76% of Albertans who believe we have a "pressing social deficit" that includes homelessness, wait times for health care and post-secondary education access.  We are confused when it comes to trading off jobs for protecting the environment as 48% believe environment comes first, 40% say the opposite and 9% can't make up their minds.

When it comes to moral issues the religious fundamentalist and social conservatives who want government to meddle in private moral issues are in the minority.  There are 75% of us who say people must make up their own minds on moral issues like same sex marriage and abortion.  We found in our Reboot Alberta values survey that using religion as a basis for making public policy decisions was the lowest ranking criteria.  We see lots of  political pressure coming from the social conservatives in the WAP and the PC Party that needs to be resisted and rebutted by mainstream Albertans.

The PC Party poll shows that there is a political shift in the works when Albertans were asked about leadership, competence and responsibility.  The PC take solace in the fact they are still the highest rated political alternative but the levels of support are not what they are used to and the indifferent-undecided responses are surprisingly high for a "one-party state."  For example 37% see the PC as best prepared to run government but after 40 years of doing it, why wouldn't they be. None of the Above or Undecided are the same or larger than the Liberals or Wildrose on this issue.  As for competence the PCs are only are 33% support after 40 years and 35% question the competence of all the parties.

I found an interesting political framing question in the PC poll when they asked which party would would describe as "extreme." The Wildrose is seen as extreme by 21% of Albertans and the NDP by 22%.  The PCs were perceived a extreme by 9% and 27% said no party was extreme or they were undecided.

On the other end of experienced competent leadership the Stelmach PCs get 28% support and after 40 years of governing Alberta, that is hardly a ringing endorsement.  All the other political party leaders only get 7-6% support for their record. The moving ground comes into play when 21% say none of the current leaders are given credit for a proven record of accomplishment. The measure of strong leadership and competence shows  a race between Stelmach and Smith each in the 20% range on both counts but Mason and Swann are both inconsequential.

The various leaders caring and compassion measures again shows a PC preference 20-23% but not a ringing endorsement as 16-17% say none on the above, the second highest number in each case.  Even as 30% of Albertans see Stelmach as a "regular person" over 15% for Smith, 12% for Mason and 8% for Swann. With 4 years of "Steady Eddy" leadership, only 25% see him as "reliable" and #2 is at 15% - None of the Above...more evidence of shifting political culture.

There are more interesting insights from this poll but that will be for another post in the future.  The reality is the PCs are no longer in free fall and the Wildrose has peaked.  The Liberals and NDP are inconsequential and not gaining from the fear of the ultra-right Wildrose and the tired and terrified PCs.  The political discontent is growing in the heads and hearts of Albertans as 45% of us do not trust any of the existing players to responsibly manage the future of the province.

What is emerging is a time for change but to what?  There is not a popular enough alternative and the status quo is unacceptable.  In that dynamic something reasonable, different and fresh like the Alberta Party may be seen as a place to park a vote, place a vote and send a message.  That is not as par fetched as the conventional wisdom of the main steam media and usual talking pundit heads would typically dismiss.  The local elections all over the province showed the yearning for change incumbents as well and presumptive alternatives getting  dumped or beaten by reasonable, intelligent and progressive alternatives.

What is certain is change and if the existing parties do not adapt quickly enough or completely enough, I would not be surprised by a minority government with an Alberta Party balance of power.  The Alberta Party was not included in the PC Party poll so we just don't know what impact they are having right now and they have a lot of work to do. Interest in them is coming from many surprising sources and they are about to launch into a leadership campaign which will raise interest and profile.  I am not making a prediction or engaged in wishful thinking, merely proposing a plausible possibility that this could happen by election time in March 2012 if the trends continue as they have in the past year or so.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lest We Forget

This came be email from my friend Frank Smith and i thought it was well worth sharing on this Remembrance Day.  This is always a day of sad reflection and thanksgiving as I remember my Dad and his service in World War II



It is the VETERAN , not the preacher,
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the VETERAN , not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the VETERAN , not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the VETERAN , not the campus organizer,
Who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is the VETERAN , not the lawyer,
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the VETERAN , not the politician,
Who has given us the right to vote.
 
It is the VETERAN ,
Who salutes the Flag,
 
It is the veteran ,
Who serves under the Flag,
 
THERE IS MUCH OWED BY THOSE OF US WHO NOW ENJOY THESE RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS.  

THANKS TO THOSE WHO DIED TO PRESERVE AND PROVIDE THEM




Another Progressive Calls it Quits on Ottawa

Keith Martin is the kind of caring, compassionate, intelligent and responsible politician we need more of.  Well he is done with federal politics, saying he can accomplish more "off the Hill."   Rabid partisanship and the totalitarian governing style of Prime Minister Harper has convinced him that our democracy is dysfunctional.

Sad that we learn of this on Remembrance Day, the time we reflect on the sacrifices of so many people just so we could enjoy our freedoms.  We need to reboot our democracy.  Citizens need to take back control, create alternatives to the current damaged and dangerous systems and get rid of totalitarian proto-facist political practices that are becoming normal.

Sad to see another good person in politics pass on any hope of making a difference through Parliament. 
Cynicism and disdain are not good enough any more.  Citizens have to rise up and revolt against those destructive forces that are destroying our democracy. Use it or Lose it Canada.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Albertans Most Open to Immigration - Go Figure!

There is more and mounting evidence that the Alberta image of a red neck radical Conservative political culture is misinformed. The recent election of Naheed Nenshi as Mayor of Calgary caused the central Canada and national media to buzz with the "News" of such countervailing evidence to the mistaken prejudice they harbour about what Alberta is really like.  I have lots of other stories and examples too but that is for another time.

Now we have the Leger Marketing poll of 1503 Canadians that shows Albertans as the most open of any group of Canadians to accepting immigrants without restrictions and limitations based on country of origin.  In Alberta 46% don't believe in any such restrictions.

In Ontario 29% believe there should be restrictions on immigration from some countries "to balance the mix." Quebec has the most liberal values in all of Canada but 35% of them also favour limiting immigration based on country of origin. This is the highest level of wanting restrictions in all of Canada. Only 25% of Albertans hold such narrow and restrictive views on immigration based on country of origin.

So Alberta is not the progressive back woods in Canada when it comes to welcoming newcomers from all over the world.  Part of this is because we need skilled workers here more than anywhere else in Canada. Part of this is also because the Alberta economy is relatively stronger than the rest of the country so perhaps we don't feel threatened by newcomers.

We can't discount the possibility that Albertans are just more welcoming, accepting and tolerant of immigrants and we don't really care all that much about country of origin as a deciding criteria.  Of course we have to get beyond merely being accepting and tolerant of newcomers.  We have to actually come to savour the benefits of diversity as we continue the great experiment of Canada.  We see this sense of savouring diversity in younger citizens already.  The point is Albertan's core values about immigration are about inclusion, diversity, freedom, fairness and empowerment of citizens so we can create opportunity of responsible prosperity. Those are mainstream values in the Canadian context too but Alberta does not get credit for holding those values, never mind  leading in them.

One has to wonder were the mistaken impressions of Alberta values and beliefs comes from, particularly  in the rest of Canada.    My sense is a main source has been because of the kind of politicians we have been sending to Ottawa, especially those Conservatives who are known to be fundamentalist and hardcore social conservatives.  With Jim Prentice quitting the Harper government and leaving politics, the last moderate progressive political voice in Ottawa is gone...not that he was ever allowed to say much in the first place. The ultra-conservative political voices "representing" Alberta get all the air time and media attention without any countervailing voices. Could that be a reason why Albertans are so misunderstood in the rest of Canada?  Just a thought.

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.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Some of the Other Blog Posts About Reboot Alberta 3.0

Here are links to a few of the blog posts relating to RebootAlberta 3.0 from some of the folks that were there

Antoine Palmer - Monk turned Business Consultant has his take here 

Alex Muir is The Roundhouse has been to all of the Reboot Gatherings and it was great to see him again.

Then we have Chris LaBossiere's take as the President of the newly revived and refocused Alberta Party

DJKelly was not able to make it - his wife had their first baby on the Reboot3.0 weekend but he extended the invitation to attend through his blog.  Congratulations to one an dall in the growing Kelly family.

There were other Bloggers at Reboot3.0 and we will share their posts as they happen.

You can check out the Twitter feed on the event at www.rebootalberta.org 

Reboot 3.0 a Rousing Success so Expect 4.0 Perhaps in March 2011

RebootAlberta 3.0, a gathering of progressive thinking Albertans happened last Friday and Saturday.  It was inspired by the initial efforts of Dr. David Swann, Leader of the Alberta Liberal Party and his “Let’s Talk” efforts to reach out to progressive political parties.   That effort, while sincere, failed because it was political party to political party.  The traditions of turf, pride, partisanship and the competitive nature of politics doomed such an effort at co-operation.

What occurred to me was that such a meeting of the minds could happen at Reboot Alberta since we have established a reputation to be inclusive of progressive thought leaders from a wide range of political affiliations.  I met with David and approached the idea and he was very supportive.  A quick check in with the other Reboot Instigators and key individuals dedicated to the cause of a more progressive political culture in Alberta and Reboot3.0 was on its way.

The opportunity for a conversation on what can be done to coalesce the progressive perspective into a political force in Alberta was the focus of Reboot3.0.  This focus is part of the progression of RebootAlberta as it works towards a more informed and focused sense of citizen engagement.  We were very successful in creating the space for politics to be introduced directly into the Reboot community discussion with a panel of partisans.   They presented their perspectives on politics in their parties and the Democratic Reform Project was also part of the presentation.   Thanks to Troy Wason on behalf of the Progressive Conservatives, Phil Elder speaking for the Democratic Reform Project, Chris LaBossiere as President of the Alberta Party and David Swann the Leader of the Alberta Liberal Party for participating and making that part of Reboot 3 so interesting and informative.

We had two critical flaws in this process – and I take responsibility for both. The flaws were that the timing of Reboot3.0 was coincidental to the NDP Convention in Red Deer so we were unable to get someone to participate in the panel from the NDP.  I have to give kudos to Nancy Furlong, the President of the NDP, for her extra effort in trying to finding us someone to come and speak at Reboot3.0

The second critical flaw was that we did not invite the Wildrose Alliance Party to participate.  I canvassed the crowd at Reboot 3.0 asking if I should have invited them and the significant majority said yes.  I didn’t invite them because I don’t believe they are interested in progressive public policy.  While that may be true, we did have a couple of Wildrose Party members attend Reboot 2.0 because they were “dragged along by their wives.”  However they were farmers and ranchers who had a serious interest and experience in conservation issues so they fit right in on those terms. 

In any event, one of the key elements of RebootAlberta that participants really value is the safe and respectful space it creates for meaningful and diverse conversations that includes all progressives of all political persuasions, partisan or otherwise. The discussions often highlight disagreements but at Reboot they are not done disagreeably.  Progressives not only respect diversity, they thrive on it so it should not be a surprise that they would want to hear what the WAP had to say about promoting progressive values in the Alberta political culture.

When we discussed the future of RebootAlberta we were asked to convene the next gathering to be known as Reboot 4.  I am thinking it may happen in March 2011 as part of the continuation of the Learning Our Way to the Next Alberta project.  We will want to expand the reach of the progressive citizens’ network in Alberta. We will want to increase political participation through parties, not-for-profits or otherwise as people self select.  We should start using the cultural creative aspects of Alberta as a core ingredient of the Reboot Alberta citizen’s movement in Reboot 4.0.

There will be more on the outcomes and events of Reboot 3.0 in some future blog posts.  For now a further thank you to Dean and Glenn Taylor as well as the Alberta Liberal Party for hosting the Hospitality Suites at Reboot 3.0. Much appreciated.

Tales of Two Alberta Cities and Two Civic Election Campaigns

Scott McKeen entered the Edmonton election race late and naively - by his own admission.  Naheed Nenshi quickly jumped into the Calgary race for Mayor once he heard the incumbent was not running.  Scott's piece is in the Edmonton Journal and Naheed's runs in the Calgary Herald.  Both are different but great pieces of personal perspective journalism.

The results are different in each case - very different - but the first person story of Scott's amazing adventure into politics is a poignant, funny and very realistic account for a rookie campaigner.  Worth a read for every wannabe candidate to come.  There will be lots of elections in the next year or so.  Reading Scott's rendering of his campaign and himself will give you an easy way to get insight about what you are getting into - without the sword of partisan politics hanging over the head of any federal or provincial candidate.

The other story is about the game changing Nenshi campaign for Mayor in Calgary.  He has single handedly changed the stereo type of Cowtown politics and culture.  They are not yet up to the Nenshi persona of an educated, worldly, business savvy and still authentically connected to the emerging diversity of Calgary and being beyond just doing the next deal.  "Campaigning in full sentences" is the tag line Nenshi borrowed from the Don Iveson campaign for Councillor in the City of Edmonton 2007.  Don's campaign was the first to use social media as an outreach technique, community building effort and intelligence gathering tool to amplify conventional campaign tactics.  Don beat a sure-thing incumbent not unlike Nenshi's trouncing of the presumptive winners of the establishment candidates.

There are other example of up-start candidates using new connectivity and community creating techniques of social media to upstage and defeat convention yesterday type incumbents - all over the province.  The world of politics has changed.  The world of election campaigns has changed. The world of good governing is about to change too. All of this is because of the Internet and the power shift from institutions and establishments to individuals.  Citizenship matters again and candidates cum politicians had better get with the program.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Big Business to Push Harper for a National Energy Plan

Looking forward to reading the report from the Canadian Council of Chief Executives tomorrow on a call for a national energy policy.  It is proof again that the Harper dithering and dallying on setting CO2 and other climate change standards allegedly waiting for the US to set their standards first is a political policy that is  bad for business.  Harper can't be very happy with this development.  he may have to make a real decision on climate change...something he does not believe in.,

Here is the key point from the Council “The private sector is ready and willing to do its part, but our industries need a road map that provides clarity and predictability so that they are able to contribute innovative and lasting solutions,”

The irony of Harper being asked to set a National Energy Policy (NEP) by business is too sweet for those of us who know how badly Harper has misrepresented the former National Energy Policy in Alberta for decades.  The fact is NEP was never applied but boy does it get trotted out in ways to misinform Albertan and to vilify the federal Liberals whenever Harper and his henchmen get a chance.  What killed energy prices was not the NEP.  President Reagan beat it to the punch by releasing the US strategic energy reserves and that kicked the crap out of oil prices.

Harper has lost his nerve. Almost every day we see him he is forfeiting his political principles for personal power expediency (something he promised never to do).  He is losing the confidence of his best and brightest MPs (maybe 5 in all) and Cabinet members. (only one left now that Prentice quit Harper)  The man is morally shallow and philosophically narrow on any question of policy substance that might better serve the needs of the country.  Serving the greater good is not why Harper is in politics.  He is in politics, for one purpose, to crush the opposition by any means he can to confirm and continue his personal power over anything or anyone who stands in his way. That may be the Liberals or those in his own party and government how have real integrity and a hope to serve their constituents first - not just Harper..  He just likes to play hardball hateful politics in the intimidating and bullying Cheney - Rumsfeld methodology of the Bush White House.

It will be interesting how Harper will forfeit the trust and respect of big business.  This will happen over his inevitable reluctance to be clear and capable to respond to their demands for climate change certainty in Canada, and not use the US as an excuse for foot-dragging, denial and more master-minding  more misleading messaging based on Harper's faith, but not supported by and scientific evidence.

Harper is melting politically - not as quickly as the Nazis in Raider of the Lost Arc - but he is melting just like them nevertheless.  Get ready for a spring election likely based on a bunch of assumptions that will basically be lies in the Harper budget. We need a new leader for Canada...one we can trust and respect with personal integrity and honestly we can rely on.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Prentice Quits Harper!

Jim Prentice just announced he is quitting the Harper Cabinet effective immediately and his role as MP by year end.

I know Jim Prentice is one of the most talented, capable and progressive members of the Harper front bench.  I have know Jim for years from when he was a young lawyer.  We were on opposite sides of the Oldman River Dam project) We also were members of the now defunct federal Progressive Conservative Party (defunct thx to the lack of personal integrity, honesty and accountability of Peter McKay).  I supported Jim's bid as leader of the federal PC Party at one time.

I am not surprised that he is quitting the Harper government but I'm betting Harper is.  The autocratic leadership style of Prime Minister Harper inside his party, the CPC caucus and his Cabinet as well as the federal public service is not the kind of servant-leader politician Jim Prentice would want to serve for very long.

Politics is in Jim's blood but my betting is he got tired of having to bite his tongue all the time as a Harper Cabinet Minister.  It must be difficult for a man of integrity like Prentice to deal with the hypocrisy that is so central to Stephen Harper's totalitarian approach to governance.  Add the mean-spirited approach to politics and the lack of respect and intimidation management of the PM and the PMO with the bureaucracy - enough is enough.  Prentice's time to do the right thing for himself had come.  Ironically his departure could cause enough of  stir up the sheeple in the Harper Cabinet and Caucus.  That would be good for Canada.

So thank you Jim Prentice and family too for the years of dedicated public service.  Thank you too for your timing and the swiftness of your departure.  I know you will officially reject any such allegations and observations regarding the circumstances of your departure, especially of the kind I reference here.  But the reality is the public is not stupid. We can read the writing on the wall. We know what is going on and politically correct pro forma denials of the well-founded  perceptions will not render them wrong in the public mind.

I hope this is the beginning of the end of the fear and intimidation Harper lords over all in his reach and realm.  Canada needs a new leader and a new government. We need servant-leaders who know and respect the proper role of government, namely to protect and empower citizens.  We need them to know their place too, namely to have the best interests of the country as paramount.  It is time to end the tyranny of the  authoritarian belligerent bully we  now have as our national "leader."  

It is close to election time Canada. Dust off your citizenship and inform yourself on the issues.  Then run for public office or encourage quality candidates that align with your values and your vision for our country. It is time for a change.




  

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