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Friday, December 31, 2010

Stiglitz on How Should We Measure Progress

Noble winner Joseph Stiglitz in a brief conversation about what is wrong with relying on Gross Domestic Product measures to evaluate if a society is doing well.  GDP is a very crude and very misleading measure  does not measure the change of income of the citizens or how that income is distributed.  It does not measure well being and has nothing to do with happiness.



Genuine Wealth Indicators and Genuine Progress Indicators are so much more integrated and effective measures of how well we are doing economically, environmentally and socially - stuff that is ignored by GDP measures.

Here is a link to a City of Edmonton study done on this much more comprehensive and meaningful approach to measuring success.   This works was done by Mark Anielski, the author of  "The Economics of Happiness." I will be inviting Mark to participate and use this information at a workshop being organized for March 17 in Edmonton as part of the Learning Our Way to the Next Alberta project spearheaded by the Alberta Teachers Association.  The workshop will gather together some enterprising opinion and thought leaders from various segments of our society, ecology and economy to look beyond the Alberta Advantage to consider what ought to be the Alberta Aspirations.  My personal context preference is to have Alberta striving to be the best FOR the world in a substantial and sustainable way, not merely a trite goal of being the best IN the world in some shallow consumptive competitiveness game.

I will keep you posted and provide informative links to interesting content and context on the updated Learning Our Way website that goes live next week.  (H/T to Duncan Kinney for the Stiglitz video link via LinkedIn)

Creative People in Business

The magazine Fast Company has published its list of the 10 Most Creative People in Business....it is mostly American business but that is typical US narcissism.  What is interesting to me is #6 on the list: Steve Burd, the CEO of Safeway.  You don't usually look to a grocery store for creativity but there he is.  The reasons he is on the list are encouraging.

The reason that  recognition of Steve Burd interests me is that creative culture and corporate leadership is alive and well in the Alberta division of Safeway too.  Bill Campbell is the Safeway head of human resources and is one of those corporate thought leaders and creativity doers in Alberta.  His work with the community based Save Our Fine Arts (SOFA and #sofab on Twitter) is a great example of corporate talent seeing culture as a critical aspect of our quality of life.  As an HR guy Bill know the arts and a wider deeper sense of literacy are part of the skill sets we must develop and enhance if we are to compete in the conceptual age we are entering economically.

There is more good stuff SOFA and Campbell are doing including hosting a public meeting on the role of creativity and fine arts education with Education Minister Dave Hancock in Calgary January 25.  Make it one of your New Years resolutions to join with SOFA and attend this meeting to learn more about the importance of art in education.

If the the Alberta economy is to survive and thrive, we have to adapt to create creative based assets that serve a full range of human needs and wants.  That imagination and innovation will be more about our brain as a natural resource and less about our brawn in extracting energy from hydrocarbons.    Creative based assets are all around us and are not just about frolicking and juggling performances, as much fun as that is.  It is about new technologies and techniques that do conventional economic activity better, faster, cheaper, and cleaner.  That is our future and creativity is the key.  There is a new book coming out that deals with this transition by Robert McGarvey called "Undressing Capitalism."  I have read the manuscript and will be talking more about Bob's intriguing ideas in future posts too.

I will be blogging a lot about creativity and innovation in 2011 and the work of Creative Alberta as a lead group in helping to promote awareness, trigger some imagination and make it all more meaningful for folks through international relationship of creative districts.  You will be hearing a lot more about my work with the ATA and the Learning Our Way to the Next Alberta project too, including a major event about a new partnership of high performing public education systems in the world.  That includes the top 2 in the world, Finland and Alberta who are forming this partnership.  More on all that next week.

In the meantime I wish all of you a Happy New Year and an interesting and creative 2011.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Are You Into New Years Resolutions?

If so watch this video and reflect on what resolutions make sense for you as an individual agent of change in the larger context of the planet.

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150347710280581

What will you resolve to do more of, less of, and be better at in the coming year?  After all we are all in this together and alone.

H/T to  Esme Comfort for the link

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Why is Alberta Into Energy Sector Subsidies at $90 Oil?

This editorial in the Edmonton Journal today is a must read for every taxpaying, resource owning Albertan who prides themselves in paying their own way in the world.

I harp on the need for Albertans to start realizing we own the oil sands and the rest of the natural resources in our province.  We also have to take personal responsibility to ensure they are developed in an environmentally responsible way.  Further we need to ensure that we optimize the rents and revenues we receive from the economic development of those resources.  The overarching principle is that the economy is there to serve the needs of the society, not the other way around.  The society and economy together have to work in harmony within the realities of ecological limits and conservation, preservation, protection and reclamation have to be core and active values of we the owners of the resources.

The politically motivated fiscal conservatives in Alberta are too often attracted to short term economic results that perpetuate old and outdated models of wealth creation.  They are too quick to give away our resources to subsidize sunset industries like some 19th century victim of colonialism.  The result is we have revenue problems in the governing of the province induced but narrow, shallow and short-sighted thinking to buy votes and fritter away the resource birthrights of future generations.

Albertans are better than that but we have become complacent and compliant in our duties as owners and stewards of our natural resources.  It is hard to know who to trust in all the rhetoric and histrionics of power and positioning politics these days.  That is no excuse to not engage and become informed active citizens who take responsibility for the well being of themselves and their families as well being involved as the greater good of their community and province.  There are many reasons we have a budget deficit right now.  A a big factor is we do not pay our way for the very necessary public programs a civilized, caring and compassionate society should provide.  One of the reasons is we are giving our resources away and providing irresponsible subsidies that are only short term economic inducements and entice us to keep making the same mistakes.

The Edmonton Journal editorial is right.  A responsible government would stop unnecessary subsidies to sunset industries like deep drilling convention oil and gas.  That is marketplace interference of the worst kind.  It only holds us back from facing reality.  It stops us from facing the need to adapt to new and emerging wealth creating possibilities.  It stifles our thinking and diverts attention from the more vital task of finding new ways to be resourceful and resilient - and responsible in designing and learning our way forward to the next Alberta.

      

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reflections on Public Education in the Next Alberta

I do some work with the Alberta Teachers Association and the Alberta School Trustees Association.  I am considered a friendly critic by both institutions.  Last year I was invited by four Calgary based ATA locals to provide input into some strategic planning they were doing about public education in the context of the changing community that is Calgary.

Here is a video on some of my thoughts last spring...I say they ring even truer today with the election of Mayor Nenshi as a positive sign of emergent possibilities for that great city.



There is a lot of work to do to rethink the role and relationship of public education to the larger social agenda in Alberta.  Minister Dave Hancock's efforts in Inspiring Education and Inspiring Action on Education set a framework and present an invitation for that to happen.  Lets make sure we re-imagine and rekindle the passion and purpose of our public education system to align with the emerging possibilities that is the Next Alberta.  Lots of potential and possibilities lay before us.  All we have to do is take up the challenges and get going on co-creating the future as progressive and forward thinking Albertans.

I will be posting extensively on this and other issues about the Changing Landscape in Alberta and the next iteration of the Learning Our Way project of  Informed Transformation of our province.  

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Alberta Oil Sands Story Must be Told Honestly & Openly

The Edmonton Journal Political Columnist, Graham Thomson, is promising to shut up about the oil sands.
Say it ain't so Graham. We need more, not less, reliable trustworthy, knowledgeable and honest commentary to generate a province wide conversation amongst Albertans on the future of OUR oil sands.

WHAT DO ALBERTANS EXPECT IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THEIR OIL SANDS?
The issues on the minds of Albertans over the development of their oil sands are mostly about reclamation, habitat protection and preservation, ecological monitoring, GHG emissions and water concerns.  These are the major driving values that Albertans want to see guide public policy around oil sands development.

The typical Albertan is not focused on how much investment is coming in from where or worried about how many jobs are being created in the development of this vast resource.  Given the size and strategic nature of the oil sands, those aspects are assumed to be givens.  Of course, there are risks around commodity prices and environmental stewardship pressures.  The prices must hold and new technology has to be developed to clean up the oil sands.  However, geopolitical events impacting supply, the growth of demand in the developing world and the eventual pricing of carbon emissions makes continued high energy prices and new technology developments seem inevitable; even in a recession.

ALBERTANS ARE GOING TO START ACTING LIKE OWNERS:
Albertans own this vital energy resource.  Industry is our tenant and the government is our property manager.  We need this resource to be treated as a long term asset that generates sustainable real wealth in a responsible way that benefits all Albertans not just the energy sector.  Ensuring responsible oil sands development is the duty of all Albertans.  We have to press our tenants on investing in more value added oil sands opportunity within Alberta.  We have to press our property mangers on creating better regulations, a better royalty revenue scheme and assurance of reclamation that supports biodiversity on those lands.  After all 89% of Albertans believe the oil sands are important to our future prosperity and well-being.  What more of a motivation does a government or political party need to realize they better get better at actually managing this vital asset and not spend so much time and money on phony PR battles.

We Albertans have to ensure that responsible oil sands development happens environmentally, socially, politically and yes economically too.  We must ensure we are being fair to future generations of Albertans on all counts.  Our oil sands value research shows that our property manger governments - both federal and provincial - are not living up to our expectations so far.  What to do about that poor performance is a political decision that are in the hands of every voting Albertan.  Voters must take the time to consider carefully in the consequences of the coming elections. They have to consciously decide who is worthy of their consent to govern and on what goals and values as they decide how to cast their ballot.

ALBERTANS ARE NOT IMPRESSED IN HOW OIL SANDS ARE BEING DEVELOPED:
Right now only 31% of believe our oil sands are being managed responsibly.  Only 17% of us were satisfied with how our Alberta-based Members of Parliament were representing our interests in the federal government...and all but one of the Alberta MPs is in the governing Harper ruled Conservative party.  The Stelmach government is held in even lower esteem as only 12% of Albertans were satisfied with their provincial government performance.

When asked which provincial party and leader should be trusted the most to responsibly manage Alberta's growth the preferences were very telling.   Stelmach and his PCs were preferred by 23%, Smith and the Wildrose Alliance came in at 19% support, followed by Swann and the Liberals at 9% and the Mason led NDP at only 4% confidence. Here is the kicker, None of the Above was the choice of 45% of Albertans.  That is a sign of political discontent and a rejection of the status quo.  Change is in the political air in Alberta.

So we are now seeing a plethora of new science-based ecological reviews from the Fed and the Province and separate promises from each order of government that they will do better.  Well they better get better and bloody quickly too.  Albertans are watching. They are not amused by what they have seen and sceptical that the current  political power structure is capable or even interested in hearing the public's voice or listening to the opinions of the citizen  owners of the oil sands.

EMPOWERED ENGAGED VOTERS CAN BE EXPECTED TO SHOW UP NEXT ELECTIONS:
Federal and Provincial elections are coming in Alberta. They will be real contests.  For the first time in a long time the outcomes are not guaranteed for conservatives.  The political culture of this dynamic province is about to change and the presumptions of any conservative based party winning by default are being rebutted by the evidence on our research at Cambridge Strategies.

So 2011 promises more uncertainty, turmoil and anger as Albertans return to engaged citizenship and look for a political approach and capable leadership that reflects our values.  The facts as of today shows that none of the current parties or leaders are measuring up to our new Alberta aspirations. There is a lot of soft support for all the standard brand parties in Alberta that is looking for a viable alternative...beyond the hardcore conservative values of the Wildrose Alliance. If a sizable portion of the 60% of disillusioned and disengaged Albertan returns to active informed citizenship and show up to vote in the coming Federal and Provincial elections, all bets that presume a perpetual conservative political culture in Alberta are off.

Welcome to 2011.

Merry Digital Christmas

Thanks to my friend Bill Hunter I have the delight to share this irreverent but very creative updated depiction of the Christmas Story.  As the closing credit says "Times change.  Feeling Don't."  So in that spirit I give you this video and wish all my friends and especially the many loyal readers of this blog a very Merry Christmas.  I will be relatively quiet over the holidays with fewer postings as I reflect and recharge in preparation for what promises to be a turbulent new year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

BP Oil Spill Revisited

This spoof is more satire than slapstick and more truthful than fiction.  It makes you see the impact of self organizing human perceptions and the good and bad inherent in that "gift."

A Delightful Moment of Alberta Politicians Being Human-ish

The Legislative Press Gallery Annual Christmas Party features videos by the Alberta political parties.  This year the NDP and Wildrose Alliance joined forces and did a video worthy of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Give it a look and enjoy the giggle.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Support the Edmonton Christmas Bureau

I have been asked by the Edmonton Christmas Bureau to help them with the final push over the top for donations in this years goal of $1.8million.

The Christmas bureau aims to help 73,000 Edmonton community families this year with your generous support.

Donations can be made online at www.christmasbureau.ca <http://www.christmasbureau.ca/>   or the following locations:

 -All Edmonton Fire Halls
-Servus Credit Union Branches
-ATB Financial Branches
-Southgate Centre
-Commerce Place
-West Edmonton Mall
-Kingsway Mall
-Bonnie Doon Shopping Centre
-Londonderry Mall
-Millwoods Town Centre
-Northgate Centre
-West Mount Shopping Centre

Thank you gentle readers for your support for this great cause.


Is Pension Scheme Good for Us or for Mutual Fund Managers?

There is a need to get Canadians saving for their retirement.  No argument there.  The need to expand access to pensions is critical too. No argument there.  There is a role for the private and the public sector in this effort as well.  RRSPs are the model for the private sector play and the CPP is the public part in the process.

So now we have a scheme proposed that will enable people to set up private pension arrangements that don't get them from employers or the self-employed.  The theory is good but the execution and regulation of the program  is the concern.  This is on the face of it a Christmas gift to the financial institutions who will get enormous fees, the ability to leverage pooled funds and do not have to worry about investment performance as they play with the hopes and aspirations of possibly millions of individual Canadians.

I am told by pension fund managers that Canadians pay some of the highest, if not the highest, fund management fees in the world.  Will that change in this pooled pension scheme?  Will there be competition - I mean real competition - not price fixing collusion amongst fund managers for fees and investment performance?  Will the average Canadian even know how to monitor and evaluate the management service and fund performance they are getting?  Will contributors be fragmented individuals  no consumer or political clout who give their retirement nest eggs to fund managers with minimal accountability, transparency and responsibility?

This "solution" seems to be potentially more disastrous than the problem it is trying to solve...unless there is serious government regulation and over site...not lax enforcement and political over sights that is characteristic of the Harper political style to date.  Is there any reason for citizens to trust the political motives and in public interest integrity behind this scheme?

I am a free enterprise kind of guy and think capitalism is a great tool for economic growth.  But these are man- made concepts that only work if there is confidence and trust by the public who must feel assured that the public interest is the goal, not private greed.  We saw what happens when big fees and private greed takes over brokers and fund dealers.  Just look at the U.S. Sub-prime mortgage disaster that almost put the world into a depression "saved" by trillions of taxpayer dollars paid to bail out the "too big to fail" banks who were the "masters-of-the-universe types" who were ripping off everyone...or the Bernie Madoff example...just to name a few.

Free market capitalism only works with real competition and that only happens with the assurance of appropriate government regulations.  Market based competition is not  the solution to all the social, economic and environmental challenges we face - there is a fundamental role for good government.  We need both for a happy, wealthy and wise society.

I need to know a great deal more about this scheme and how it will be regulated and controlled by my government before I will buy in.  I need to know why the expansion and extension of the CPP was not an accepted Canadian-way alternative?  I need to be convinced this approach is about sound fiscal policy and not hard core Harper Conservative dogma wagging a poorly thought out public policy agendas.

Feeling an Uneasy Redux of the '60s

The Beatles Revolution #1 was of its time but those times may be returning to become our times.   What with Climate Change, Democratic Deficits, Economic Meltdowns, enormous personal debt levels, recessions, changing political power structures, tribal wars instead of state conflicts....the list goes on...and on...and on.  Are we ready for a revolution and transformation in how we live - like within natural limits?

Is this Beatles tune an anthem to hope...or cynicism?  It was ringing true then but is it also ringing true for today?  What is your anticipation of what the next year will bring?  Are you making a New Years Resolution or a Revolution?  Are you adaptable enough?  Is Alberta adaptable enough?  Are we wise enough to do what is right and required without a crisis.  Are we thinking for a change?

"When an old culture is dying the new culture is born from a few people who are not afraid to feel insecure." - Rudolph Bahro


What is our responsibility?
What choices do we make?
Do we choose to be awake?
Do we choose to practice the future now?
We should not be seduced by hope or fear.

(VIA MEG WHEATLEY)



Monday, December 20, 2010

Are You Alberta Party Curious?



There is an interesting piece in the Sunday Reader section of the Edmonton Journal on the Alberta Party written by Sheila Pratt. It shows that the Alberta Party is drawing attention and capturing the imagination of progressive thinking Albertans.  The article shows that there is a significant yearning for a different way of doing politics in our province.

The recent municipal elections have shown dramatic evidence of that thirst for change all over the province.  Many incumbent  candidates were rejected by the electorate in cities, towns. municipal districts and counties.  Edmonton is the exception but we made that shift in consciousness two elections ago.  We liked the direction and destination of our city and it continues to move forward with a progressive council and mayor.  So all incumbents in Edmonton were all re-elected.  The exception that proves the rule.

CHANGE IS WANTED BUT A CHANGE TO WHAT?
The problem about a change is what is the alternative to the traditional left versus right tedious model of politics as usual.  That old-style thinking about ideological and manipulative politics is very distrusted by most Albertans.  The majority of us respond apathetically by simply not voting.  The consciousness is changing now and people realize if they don't participate politically as informed  citizens, there are negative consequences. Disillusioned apathetic citizens can give away their political power to an alternative that is not reflective of their values and not aligned with their aspirations for Alberta.  Apathy is not just boring - it is dangerous.

There are some Albertans with hardcore social conservative and libertarian values that believe the Wildrose Alliance is the change answer for our political culture.  Their approach is to essentially eliminate government then privatize public policy on the presumption that the marketplace is the answer to all the social, environmental, economic and political problems we face, including health care.  That is not consistent with the dominant values of most Albertans.  But most of us don't vote so we could end up there by default...with nobody to blame but ourselves.

There are many who are nominally supportive of the Wildrose Alliance because they see it as a "place to park your vote and frown sternly at the PCs"  as University of Lethbridge political scientist Peter McCormick says in the Journal article.  But given another viable balanced, moderate and progressive political alternative like the Alberta Party, one has to question the real level of committed public support for the fundamentalist hardcore conservative politics of the Wildrose Alliance.

No doubt the Alberta Party has a long way to go and very little time to get ready for the next election - which is expected within a year.  It is making progress, getting traction and picking up speed.  I am told membership has doubled to over 900 in the 6 weeks since the end of October Policy Conference.  More Albertans are buying memberships and engaging the start of constituency associations, looking a leadership campaigns and considering being a candidate....but still more is needed for the Alberta Party to be a contender in the next election.

It will have over 40 constituency associations formed by the end of January and the rest of the province will be organized right afterwards.  The party leadership campaign begin in the new year.  The leadership campaigns will bring mainstream media attention to the Alberta Party and that will attract the attention of everyday Albertans to this new fresh political movement.  Albertans will become more Alberta Party curious as they hear about how we can do politics differently and move forward to a progressive future.

In the last Alberta election 60% of eligible voters could not be bothered to get informed about the candidates, the leaders, the party platforms or ever show up to vote.  The Alberta Party will be fishing in that large pond of citizen disenchantment.  It will offer a viable alternative to politics-as-usual and will attract soft and swing support from all the traditional political parties who are fed up with the old-style politics.

There are reasons for the Alberta Party to be cautiously optimistic about gaining greater voter support.  The citizen disaffection for all of the current political offerings and the longing for change is obvious.  There are some of us who were there in 1971 when Lougheed led the dramatic change from the tired, tedious and out of touch Social Credit government to a new modern, youthful forward thinking and energized kind of government.

There are signs that we are back to the future.  There is the emergence of a revitalized voter who showed up in the recent local elections in larger numbers and with a message to politicians.  This is another reason to believe things can change quickly and dramatically in the political culture of our Alberta.  The rejection of so many conformist incumbent candidates is another encouraging sign of the coming of real political change.  The election of so many younger, imaginative and progressive thinking candidates to local governments and school boards also adds to the sense of a sea change shift that is emerging in the political culture of the province.      

ALBERTANS ARE MORE PROGRESSIVE THAN CONSERVATIVE
On top of all that is some interesting research results we have discerned from the work of Reboot Alberta on the degree of shared values of progressive thinking Albertans compared to a random sampling the everyday average Albertan. The results are enormously encouraging for the progressive and fresh thinking of the Alberta Party.  We studied 22 value attributes of 644 self-selecting Alberta progressives within the Reboot Alberta citizens movement.  We wanted to find out what were the most vital values for progressive Albertans and what they wanted to see guide and drive politics and policy decisions of their government.

We did the same study with a statistically valid random sample of 568 Albertans so it is accurate at the +/-4% level.  We then compared the random results to the Reboot progressive citizens movement results.  We wanted to get a sense of how many progressive thinking people there are in Alberta.  We looked at the degree of alignment of the random results and compared them to the top quartile of the Roboot results.  This top quartile alignment of the two surveys is an indication of an excellent fit of the Alberta population with the progressive values of Reboot Alberta Influentials.  What we found is that 28% of Albertans are profoundly aligned with the Progressive values. 

When we compared the random results to the top two quartiles of the Reboot survey we found that 63% of everyday Albertans shared the same set of values as Reboot Alberta Progressives.  What is just as important is there was no difference between ages, genders or between rural and urban progressive thinking Albertan when you look at the random sample results.  Rural and urban Albertans share the same values, maybe not the same priority about issues but we Albertans are fundamentally the same kind of people...regardless of where we live.

If this extrapolation of the alignment of random sample of regular Albertan and the Reboot community is accurate that means the red-neck social conservative image of Alberta so "popular" in the rest of Canada is a myth.  It is a myth that needs to be debunked.   It also means there is a large untapped group of progressive thinking Albertans looking and longing for a political home and a political party they can believe in.  Could the Alberta Party be the answer to the quest for change for the 63% of us who want a real progressive government that reflects our values?

LOOK AT THE ALBERTA PARTY AS A PROGRESSIVE ALTERNATIVE
If you are Alberta Party curious, take a chance and go to the website, read the policy document and other items.  If you are curious about what is a Progressive go to that link on the Reboot Alberta  and read the commentaries. Then take a minute and look at the mix of young-old, male-female on the Alberta Party Board and ask yourself if this mix makes sense in how a new political party should look.  Can you see that the Alberta Party is on to something and serious about doing politics differently?  Is this new political movement something worthy of your support and involvement as a citizen? If you want real change we all know it is basically about taking personal responsibility.  We have to be the change we want to see.

So overcome your reluctance about political participation.  Take the leap and buy a membership in the Alberta Party.  Become active in the forthcoming party leadership selection process.  Share your engagement and enthusiasm with your family, friends, co-workers and your community.  Encourage them to revitalize their sense of empowerment as a citizen.  Ask them to consider joining the Alberta Party too.  After all it is still a free country and province...for now but that could change if you choose to stay disinterested in the future of our Alberta.  

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Study Shows Fox News Makes You Stupid!

Here is an interesting study about how misinformed Fox News viewers are about the truth.  Seems that the misinformation is deliberate too. This is beyond sad and dangerous to democracy.  Wonder how much Fox News North will mimic their American cousins in this style of "journalism."  I wonder what a comparative Canadian study of Hardcore Conservatives in Canada and Alberta would show.

The fundamental foundations of citizenship and democracy are truth, trust and respect.  Sorely lacking principles by what we see from the political tactics of Hardcore Conservatives - on both sides of the 49th Parallel.

Progressives can't be content anymore with rolling their eyes as this kind of abuse of the truth and assault on informed free speech.  It is morally reprehensible behaviour and must be challenged.  Those who perpetuate and promote this kind of ignorance are in positions of political power or gaining political power.  That power is over the rest of us and we risk losing control of our democracy as a result.  This is a recipe for disaster.

This is happening because too many of us who are progressive, caring and compassionate people are siting on the political sidelines.  We are merely abdicating our duties as citizens by our indifference.  We are inadvertently abetting the erosion of our democracy as a result.  Because of this irresponsible lack of response by Progressive, we are letting the Hardcore Conservatives take over the political and public agenda.  Their goal is all about taking away hard won rights, freedoms and progressive values.  And we are letting them get away with it.

The Hardcore Conservatives can't handle the truth.  They don't feel comfortable considering competing ideas at a time.  It drives them to distraction.  Without the truth and respect for a diversity of opinions politics becomes more and more about deception, subterfuge and misinformation... coercion and suppression.  Citizenship suffers and democracy declines...civil society disappears.

"All men make mistakes but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong and repairs the evil.  The only sin is pride."  ~Sophocles.


"The hottest places in hell are reserved for those, who in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality."  ~Dante  

Progressive thinking citizens in ALBERTA have to get re-engaged in the political culture of our times.  We have to do more than just step up to the plate.  We have to upset the Hardcore Conservative applecart as well.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gwynne Dyer and Learning Our Way to the Next Alberta

Last June I and my company, Cambridge Strategies Inc., was part of the organization a of a symposium and a public meeting entitled Learning Our Way to the Next Alberta held in Edmonton and Calgary.

It was a very popular event with over 700 of active Alberta citizens coming together to become more informed about what we may be facing as Albertans between now and 2030.  We had a number of great speakers about the implications of external, natural and internal events, trends and pressures on Alberta.  Gwynne Dyer presented a most provocative scenario for the future of Alberta.

Dyer was well informed about Alberta, as always, he considers himself as an "honourary Albertan/"  But he was very pointed about what we face and what adaptations we Albertans will have to make to respond to the changes we are in and can anticipate. We taped his comments just over 30 minutes of information and some implications.   

Some salient points include that Dyer is an optimist about Alberta but climate change is the variable.  Alberta has had it easy because we have had the stuff the world wanted and we became rich as a province. But change is in the air with the coming shift away from fossil fuels and the realities of peak oil we can't presume our tomorrows will simply be a reflection and continuation of our yesterdays, economically, ecologically, socially and politically.

We can't  go back to try and relive or perfect our past either.  We have to design and learn new creative ways of living that are flexible, deliberative, innovative, imaginative and yes - prudent if we are to continue to enjoy a superior quality of life.

Dyer muses about what Alberta must do to adapt to face the eventual and inevitable decline of interest in fossil fuels and the shift to alternative energies.  He says one of the major blessing of Alberta are two big cities both with water and a that will be a big asset in the future.  He said we need to immediately build a high speed rail between Edmonton and Calgary and create a utility corridor spine as well.  That will attract the creative economy based on research and development which he believes is the ultimate future forward reality for a sustainable Alberta.  We have attractive countryside, a great deal of room, social cohesion and a diverse dynamic culture with a high quality education and health care...yes we have quality health care - just crappy access!

All this adds to presenting a platform of providing a future of well being and happiness as the self-sustaining quality of life capacity will be the magnet for the best and brightest to want to come to Alberta for opportunity and challenge.  Dyer says we need to spend more money on culture to add to the attractiveness of the place and he said do not think spending money on culture is an indulgence.  I could not agree more.

He observes that there is nowhere else in Canada or between the Mississippi and the Rockies in the USA that can do it like Alberta can if they can do it at all.  But we Albertans are way to complacent and compliant and comfortable in the old way of living and thinking.  We need to get on with the adaptations that are necessary to design, capitalize and optimize our magnificent advantages and with the new narrative for the next Alberta on a vision of possibilities and aspirations, not contentment with a past that is not our future.

That involves some new thinking and engaging by Albertans in citizenship but getting involved in the politics and issues of the day.  It is about stewardship from ecological to the legacy we leave future generations of Albertans.  And it is about servant-leadership in politics but in other key aspects of our society and economy.  But is also demands imagination, creativity and innovation.  We are not overly blessed with those attributes but we can create them and hone them if we wanted to.  We must want to do that and live up to the promise of this place.  We can't presume the future will take care of itself.  The planet will survive climate change and do just fine but there is no guarantee that our species is part of that future.

We are planning another public event next year, building on the Learning Our Way theme.  We are planning another symposium with Alberta and Finland as the highest performing public education systems in the world. We will have another public  event in advance of the symposium too and will build on the consciousness that the presentation of Sir Ken Robinson will make in Red Deer in early February. More to come on this NOT TO BE MISSED EVENT.

You can keep up to date on progress on Twitter via #abfuture, this blog and the www.learningourway.ca website. The website is being redesigned to focus on the next Learning Our Way event. The original material from the first event is still there and recording of the other speakers if you want to give them a listen.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Citizenship, Stewardship and Leadership Revisited in Real Life

Every now and then you run across an example of action and insight that restores your faith that we may have people with the right ideas, the integrity to do something and the capacity to deliver on what they say they want to achieve.

I have come across just such an example of Citizenship, Stewardship and Leadership all integrated in the efforts of students, teachers and Trustees in the Canadian Rockies Public School in the Bow Valley.  It has all come together in a blog post by Esme Comfort, a district School Board Trustee entitled "Trust, Learning and Innovation."  Initiatives like these do not seek permission and should never need forgiveness either.  It is  this kind of taking on personal responsibility for a greater good that we need more of - in all aspects of life in Alberta.  We know the Alberta Advantage but now we need to look at the Alberta Aspirations is we are to realize our potential as a province and as a people.

I think the democratic deficit we face in Canada and Alberta will only be overcome by informed engaged citizenship, who have a value set based on stewardship, including the protection and empowerment of students, and leadership that is dynamic, service oriented and based on character and capacity, not power and position.

It is most gratifying when we see all this coming together at the local level in public education.  The emerging change in policy and governance culture that Minister Dave Hancock has been enabling in his efforts at transforming public education in Alberta for that past two years is is paying off.   Inspiring Education and Inspiring Action on Education have traction and are now gaining momentum.

When these elements of Citizenship, Stewardship and Leadership can integrate in real time and real life we get the kind of life affirming and creative innovation Esme speaks of in her blog post.  I hope I have made you curious enough to click on the link and read her post.  Congratulations to the students, teachers, Trustees and administrators involved in enhancing Citizenship, Stewardship and Leadership in the CRPS public school district.  Keep up the good work.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What Kind of Leadership is Needed to Meet Alberta's Aspirations

I am thinking about the next stage coming in the development and growth of the Alberta Party and Alberta the province.  While there are many constituency organizations forming, new members joining and people coming out to learn more because they are curious about the Alberta Party, the next big thing is the leadership of this progressive political movement.  That is about to start getting going in the new year.

It caused me to think about the kind of leadership we need in a 21st century society and economy.  I had breakfast last week with an academic friend from Ontario who specializes in leadership and found out her most recent thinking.  Alberta has a great potential but we are not even close to realizing it with all the blessings and benefits we have.  One major reason for such under performance is the kind of political leaders we select.  We can't blame the leaders for this alone, after all we select and elect them as citizens and once the are chosen we belittle and bemoan them relentlessly instead of supporting them and making them clearly accountable.  That attitude of citizens has to change completely if we are going to improve the quality, character, scope and capacity of our political leaders.

I am involved with a group called Leadership Edmonton that has a counterpart called Leadership Calgary that takes a more adaptive holistic and systems approach to leadership training and development.  I think the kind of political leadership we need now is not the charismatic, or the business icon or the celebrity models.  They are simply not suited to the challenges we face.  To get a sense of what qualities, capacities and perspectives I will be looking for in the leader of the Alberta Party - and for any political party or other areas where leadership is critical is captured in the 10 minute video done by Leadership Calgary.  I have also added the short video by Leadership Edmonton that will give you further perspective on what pioneering leadership we need these days to go forward...not left or right.

The kind of leaders we need now have foresight and wide sight, can integrate ideas, be honest, accountable and transparent, be fiscally responsible and accept the duties and obligations of stewardship in many aspects of being human and our deep co-dependent relationship with nature and our natural capital.

As you rush to get the work done before Christmas, this 10 minutes of video will be an intriguing cultural creative break that will be worth your time.  It will raise your consciousness about leadership. It will focus your attention on what we need in competent skilled leaders.  I hope is will trigger your imagination and give you a meaningful framework to consider your choices for the leader of the Alberta Party in the next few months.

I hope it will assists you as you contemplate the strengths, opportunities, threats and barriers we will need in 21st century political leadership.  We need to look beyond the old rush to the bottom ideas of the Alberta Advantage.  We need to look a wealth to move beyond conspicuous consumption and towards a greater well being and happiness.  We need leaders who can inspire and assist us to define and deliver a new sense of integrity as we get on with a cultural change towards achieving our Alberta Aspirations.  It is not enough to target Alberta as being the best in the world.  We need to aspire to being the best for the world.




Saturday, December 11, 2010

Merry Christmas

I am just now getting into the Christmas spirit.  We will spend some time tonight with friends and family are our house partying as a way to start the "serious" celebration of the season.

To help you get into the spirit as we shop, bake, warp, bustle and hustle in preparation for Christmas, we will undoubtedly find ourselves in a shopping mall at some time between now and December 25.

I wish for a Merry Christmas and hope as you shop 'til you drop that you have an opportunity to experience this or something equally as endearing or whimsical to help you enjoy this great holiday time.

Enjoy and - turn up your speakers:

 

Creativity as a Key to High Performance Public Education

This link is to a comment by my friend and some-times mentor, Senator Tom Banks.  It is an insightful comment that arts education is core to competence - not a frill.  Senator Banks frames the role of the arts in a high performance public education system very well.  The need for the arts and creativity is especially true as we move through the Information Age into the Conceptual Age.

We need a critically-thinking engaged citizenship that is concurrently global and local in perspective and that means culture matters, especially as part of our public education system.  Budget pressures and restraints, standardized testings of narrow and shallow education outcomes plus market driven models  creating private competition for public education has driven creativity and arts out of the systems.

Save Our Fine Arts (SOFA - follow them on Twitter and track them at #sofab) is a citizen's based group focused on restoring and restating arts education as core to curriculum in our public education in Alberta. This is lead by a group of citizens with energy and enthusiasm and the leadership of Bill Campbell

Alberta's public education system is one a recognized high performance system all around the world.  But like any local prophet, it is too often taken for granted.  The seeds of our failure are often planted in the times of our success because we rest on laurels.  I sometimes fear for this in Alberta's public education system.

There are however some significant inspiring actions and ideas coming out of Minister Dave Hancock's transformation initiative "Inspiring Education."  There is lots of meat in that effort but it is not gong to achieve its potential as a top down authority driven command and control government program.  It is going to be successful if it comes from the community, citizens, employers, teachers, parents, and especially students.

SOFA is a perfect example of this kind of community based efforts to help advance the transformation of public education for a 21st century reality.  Another citizen's based group that is setting out to help transform public education is Creative Alberta lead by Dr. Haley Simons.  She has been organizing and conceptualizing abouts arts in education and looking at positioning our province as a center of creativity and innovation.  She is getting us linked to other high performance communities and regions around the world who are on the same journey.

Please visit SOFA and join them in their quest.  Keep tracking them and #creativealberta on Twitter and share the information and insights with you friends.  Our province is positioned to move beyond the Alberta Advantage and into the Alberta Aspiration.  It is no longer game of pushing  a society of consumptive competition with a slogan of being the best in the world.  Success for the next Alberta narrative has to inspire our aspirations to be the best for the world.  We are up to that goal and I think it is an idea who's time has come...let me know your thoughts on what we can do to be the best for the world given all our blessings and benefits.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Interesting Speculation on Seat Projections in Alberta

The norm in politics is a What If World for the most part.  Politics is hardly a science but it lends itself to analysis.  This is the most "fun" when applied to the political fortunes of the various parties and players. We have an great example of just such a What-If scenario done by Duncan at Albertavote.ca .

This analysis is speculation and based on the 2008 election results and the findings of the recent Environics poll.  That poll  put the PCs and the Wildrose Alliance in a statistical dead heat for overall voter support.  However, as Duncan points out, "all politics are local" so how does this support translate into seats in the various
constituencies?  Here aggregates and averages become almost meaningless.

What a critical thinking must also appreciate in such an analysis is it is entirely hypothetical since voter intentions are pretty much meaningless between elections.  Those who suffer in such polls say the only poll that counts is the one on election day.  That is mostly true but humans are strange creatures and we get persuaded by the influence of others, conventional wisdom and we love to hear and make up stories.  These between election polls feed those curious aspects of our species.

These polls create a sense of "perceived reality" that is influential to some degree or more.  Narratives get told, impressions get formed and new "truths" emerge from those inputs as they impact on our values and form our beliefs.  Is is the attempt of the political players to frame the narratives, control the impressions and speak the new "truths"is where the spin doctors come in.  Give Graham Thomson a read to see how that works.

All this leads me to think we need more critical thinking citizens with some serious media literacy skills and a capacity to cut through the spin and get a sense of what is really happening in the hearts and minds of people when the see these polls.

I have tried to put some of my sense of the realism into my analysis of the Environics poll implications here and here.  Hope you find all this information helpful in getting a better understanding of the facts and their implications - but understand it is all hypothetical.  You are reading poetry that needs interpretation, not a recipe that will provide you with a predetermined result.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Haven't We Had Enough of Harper Yet?


Here is a great summary blog post on the latest and greatest governance shortcoming and political manipulations of our Past-His-Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Imagine There's No Harper
It's Easy If You Try

Impolitical

Political Uncertainty in Alberta - Anything Could Happen

In response to the recent Environics poll on Alberta voter intentions omitted the Alberta Party as a voting option.  My friend and fellow blogger Daveberta has run his own "poll" on his blog that included the Alberta Party as an option. His analysis and commentary is worth a read but with all your critical thought faculties fully engaged.  

This information and so many other indications promise the next Alberta election will be the most interesting.  There has not been this much volatility since Klein got elected in 1993 and it may be as dramatic as Lougheed in 1971.  This excitement is assured if the Alberta Party becomes a viable governance option for Alberta voters.  Its politics people so anything can happen.

Now back to the reality of today.  I have a hard time relying even on professional scientific polls about political fortunes because they are so unreliable in predicting actual voter behaviour.  My attitude is summed up in one of my favourite bumper stickers of all time: "Save Democracy, Lie to a Pollster."  So you can imagine how difficult it is for me to give any credence to the kind of unscientific opinion "polls" we see in newspapers and blogs - yes including this one.  I run unscientific blog-based polls too. My latest one is on royalty rates beside this post.

There is some value in these blog-based "polls" however as they gauge (but do not measure) some sense of public sentiment, at least in a segment.  While participants are sort of random we don't know the distribution and they are prone to being hi-jacked by special interests. In fact it appears the PC Party tried to do just that by sending out a notice to PC party members to go and vote PC on the Daveberta poll.  Details of that effort is in is post. Given the results you can judge for yourself if that effort was effective. 

In that context these blog-based polls are more like exercises in stimulating conversation, raising consciousness and focusing attention - not evidence of general public opinion. So the results should looked at with a critical eye and taken with a large grain of salt.  I still findings the results interesting and useful for several reasons.  

WHAT GOOD ARE BLOGGER BASED POLLS?
Bloggers have regular readers through links to and from other sites as well as RSS subscribers, Facebook Friends, LinkedIn contacts and Twitter Followers, even through videos and podcasts on occasion.  Then there is the impact bloggers have by participation and mentions of them in mainstream media.  The impact of search engines is important too.  They track and trigger readers based on key words that people are using to find information on-line that connects people to various blogs.  Bloggers have both a core and a casual readership as a result of this connectivity and their content.  This kind of audience makes the blog polls interesting as anecdotal collection of citizen comments - but not as reliable (sic) science based professional opinion polling.  

Bloggers have points of view, personalities and influence.  They create conversation spaces that attract readers who agree and disagree with them.  While it is possible to find an issue that creates an echo effect where like minds congregate to validate each other's opinions, group think is not likely the net result of blog readers.  Just read the range of comments on a popular blog post to see group think is not the norm.  

So what are we to make of the reader blog poll results that Dave Cournoyer has done relative to the Environics professional random poll?  First you can't compare them for obvious reasons already stated.  However when you consider Davberta is one of the most popular and respected political bloggers in Alberta, you can't just dismiss those results either.  Here is why.  

INFLUENTIALS OPINIONS MAY HAVE MORE IMPACT ON ELECTION OUTCOMES THAN POLL RESULTS
Almost 600 people participated in the poll so it represents the opinions of a significant group of people who took the time to participate. Anyone trying to measure the mood of Alberta ignores this kind of information at their political peril.  When you consider the popular but seriously misplaced faith governments and political groups put in focus groups I would tend to rely on a large participation blog poll like Davberta's so much more.  Focus groups are closed and controlled events where the reactions of a very small and minimally representative group of folks get paid to comment on a subject.  What they say get expanded and extrapolated to mysteriously assume and presume they reflect the larger population.  

The real value of such blog-based polls, according to my educated guess, is the influence of the blogger and the influence that is inherent in the people who took Daveberta's poll. Daveberta readers are much like mine.  I know this because we share many readers in common.  What I know of my readers is they are cultural creatives, progressive thinking and highly influential.  They are informed, active and very engaged in communication within their personal and professional networks.  They are respected opinion leaders, thought leaders, trend setters and trend spotters. 

They are what have come to be known as "Influentials." I expect Dave and I share a large readership of Influentials all over Alberta. I have a permission based email list of almost 5000 Alberta based Influentials I send political and policy information to on a regular basis.  Research shows that what Influentials are thinking and talking about today is what the general public will be thinking and talking about in 12-18 months.  The impact of Influentials happens sooner if the topic is hot and of major concern...like the future of their jobs, the stability of their family, their self-identity issues like who will I vote for and why!  The alleged political conspiracy to discredit Dr. Raj Sherman over speaking out on health care shortcomings is a perfect case in point.  It is a hot issue and lots of Influentials are talking about how inappropriate that is and how misaligned it is to their values.  That incident will be remembered and influence the choices in the next election.

NEVER UNDER ESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF FEAR UNCERTAINTY AND DOUBT
There are lots of Albertans looking for an option or alternative to vote for these days.  Some are just trying to send the existing government a message to "smarten them up" while others have just given up on them.  Still others are reawakening that something significant is happening in Alberta politics and it may be time to reaffirm their roles and responsibilities as citizens and be an informed voter.  As a result of this uncertainty, doubt and linger fears, what the Influentials say now about who to vote for and why to vote for them will have a significant impact on voter turnout and the results of the next election.

The new voting option with the most buzz since the last election has been the Wildrose Alliance but they are seen as extreme by Influentials and that makes people very nervous about giving them political power. The other option, the Alberta Party, is just getting organized and is moving into a leadership campaign in the new year. Many Influentials are becoming aware of the Alberta Party and many are joining up to help formulate a new way of doing politics and reaffirming democracy in Alberta.  It will be interesting to watch this influence unfold.  The early signs of the impact of Influentials on voting possibilities are right in the Daveberta poll results.  The PCs firmly in #1 but not in majority government territory.  The Alberta Party #2 and the WAP #3 but essentially tied.  As for the Liberals and the NDP, not much interest.

IS THERE A NEW PARTY OPTION ON THE HORIZON?
The components of the merged parties that became the Wildrose Alliance had been active politically for many years.  They, won a by-election participated fully in the last election, chose a new leader and have very active ever since.  The revived and reconstituted Alberta Party has been working quietly for only a year to get the foundation of a new party set, with a new constitution and an expanded board and that is all ironed out.  It engaged in face to face home based conversations with Albertans finding out how people were doing, uncertain about and grateful for as Albertans.  They showed off a new policy document last month and they are setting up a leadership process in early 2011.  

With that backdrop, and if I am right that the Influentials are paying some serious attention to the Alberta Party, they are about to become a competitive force in the forthcoming political culture of the province.  Will it be in time for the next election?  That is their major organizational challenge right now but so be it.  Life is not fair.  Tying this back to the Daveberta blog poll results we find there may be at least three viable voting options for Albertans next election.  The rapidly shifting to the right PCs, the centrist progressive Alberta Party and the extreme right wing Wildrose Alliance are the mostly likely options.  The Liberals and NDP risk being seen as lacking relevance as moderate, progressive Albertans see a reason to believe they can impact the future direction, destination and narrative of the Next Alberta through the Alberta Party option.  

It is guaranteed to be a fascinating election whenever it happens.  With the Environics results showing the strength of the Wildrose and if I am right about the Alberta Party, I would not rule out an early election in 2011.  That would most likely happen to stave off an internal caucus revolt against Ed Stelmach like has just happened to BC Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell and BC NDP Leader Carol James.  Remember its politics and anything can happen. 

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

School boards facing a test of relevance


Larry Booi, former President of the ATA and current head of Public Interest Alberta has penned a pointed op-ed. He offers his considerable experience with some observations and sage advice to the newly elected school board trustees. I am in total agreement with everything Larry says in this push to promote participative and deliberative democracy.

There is enough freedom and flexibility in the Inspiring Action on Education to enable all of Booi's suggestions to happen - starting now. Some boards are already into the possibilities and I am pleased to be working with some of them.

Which hand should I hold the baton in?

Which hand should I hold the baton in?

There is a video just over 4 minutes that will make you smile to the core of your soul.

A small segment of joy for all of us as we work through some difficult times

Enjoy and share.

Thanks to Coralnet.org for making it available

Albertans Are Waking Up and Looking for Viable Political Options

My reading of the recent Environics poll of the political mood of Albertans shows that we are well into our winter of discontent- at least politically.  Alberta voters have been a somnambulent since the 1993 election.  Back then we found two politicians (Decore and Klein) who captured the public concern about Alberta's debt and deficit problem.  The next election was about massive cuts or brutal cuts. In fact we did both kinds of cuts and we entrusted Klein more than Decore to undertake the dirty work.

Albertans are once again waking up politically and we are not too pleased with what we are seeing.  We are in uncertain economic times, difficult social times, and now we are being targeted internationally as  environmental bad guysover the "dirty" oil sands.  This means there is a new volatility in the Alberta political culture.  Daveberta has a blog post that shows the shifting tides and times in Alberta politics comparing December polls in 2008, 2009 and now.

What this trending tells me is Albertans are looking for policy options and political alternatives.  Our discontent has been brewing for some time. Politically we are told the Wildrose Alliance Party is the only viable alternative to the Progressive Conservatives.  The other traditional political parties, the Liberals and NDP, are apparently being passed over by the public as potential agents of change.  Equally as interesting, according to Environics, is 17% of us  are "Undecided" about voting intentions.   That too is a significant sign of the shifting political sands in Alberta.

The current political narrative is also interesting.  The media has covered the rise of Danielle Smith as the face and focus of the Wildrose, but has done almost nothing to expose and explain the WAP policies.  The rush to the right by the PCs in an attempt to catch up to the Wildrose (or head them off?) leaves many of us with  a sense of despair  about the future direction of the province.  The predominant political options are personality based. We get to choose between a young smart, urbane and articulate Smith versus the nice guy, over-his-head, inarticulate and very tentative Stelmach. But what about their governing philosophies and their visions for the future?  When will that be considered and become part of the political conversation so can get beyond the pedantics of personalities?

The Environics poll has another vital piece of data that needs context.  Stelmach's government has 34% support has stopped bleeding politically.  But the bloom is off the Wildrose who seem stuck around 30%.  Neither is strong enough to form a majority government if we believe this poll and it is the on-going reality.

We are living in economically uncertain times with the province anticipating the largest budget deficit in our history.  We are into a shaky slow recovery tied directly to the fortunes of a seriously failing and faltering American market and threats of a double-dip recession.  Even with that reality, Albertans have relegated the economy to the #2 spot of top policy concerns, down to 16% from 27% last Spring.  The Alberta environment issues gets lots of media coverage but only 7% of Albertans think it is our major issue and only 8% of us are focused on oil sands development and royalties as the biggest thing on our policy plate.

What has happened is health care has vaulted to the #1 issue for almost half of Albertans.  Some 47% of us think that it is the most serious policy issues we face now - compared to 27% who thought so last Spring.  That  sudden, dramatic and intense concern over health care is a potential game changer and could be a government changer too if is becomes a ballot question.

I think this focus on the politics of health care is more than a function of hyper media focus.  It goes deeper - much deeper.  Health care is an issue that integrates our personal concerns for care when we and our family need it and into a bigger-than-self compassionate concern for others who also need health care help.  When it comes to health care we are all in it together and alone.

The lack policy transparency, the suspicion of some hidden privatization political agendas and the real and growing fear of continuing erosion of  our highly valued Canadian health care system is making us all very nervous. The politics of health care is drawing our attention, triggering our fears and making us wonder what is really going on...and we are questioning who are to believe any more!

Health care is in systemic crisis, regardless of the denials by the political powers that be. There is a growing suspicion that some people with political influence and  power are intentionally undermining the effectiveness of the publicly funded health cares system to insure it will fail.  Once that public system failure is self-evident, the theory goes that private insurance will be promoted as the saviour of the failed public health care system.  Such is the conspiracy theory, but if it exists, are we enabling privateers to use public funds for private privilege because of political indifference of citizens?

There is no viable progressive political alternative in the Alberta these days. There is no trusted countervail to the reactionary right wing tendencies of the PCs and the even more extreme Libertarian views of the Wildrose Alliance.  But moderate and progressive is the political values space where most Albertans see themselves.  Our Alberta based random sample research shows over 60% of Albertans hold Accountability, Integrity, Honesty, Fiscal and Personal Responsibility, Transparency and Clarity as the most important bundle of values we should use to evaluate our government's performance.   This is not rocket surgery but we are far from seeing those values articulated in our political culture today.  Nor are we seeing an attractive alternative political party emerge that speaks authentically to these majority Albertan values today.

I think that political alternative shortcoming is about to change in Alberta.  This is partly because the political events surrounding Dr. Raj Sherman and his dogged determination to expose the political and administrative fault lines in our health care system.  He is the lightening rod that is attracting public attention, focusing our fears, capturing our imagination and giving us political context so we can begin to understand what is really going on.

But the future of health care in Alberta is not about Raj Sherman. We now need to focus on what has become a broken system and we need to get it fixed - right and right away.  We don't need the kind of anti-intellectual, anti-expertise of so-called "common sense approach" characteristic of the Klein era amateurs who were running health care based on Fraser Institute ideology.  We need professionals and public servants with expertise, integrity and a public policy perspective to take over the mess and to look past the next election with their solutions.

Albertans have been looking for a galvanizing political issue and a trustworthy proponent of the public interest.  I think the Environics poll shows health care is the galvanizing issue and Dr. Raj Sherman has become the trustworthy exponent of the public interest. We need a broader and better public discourse around a new narrative for Alberta and a viable progressive political alternatives to deliver on the promise and potential of the next Alberta.

Could that new narrative and promising new way of doing progressive politics be articulated and exemplified by the Alberta Party?  Could the Alberta Party emerge as the viable political alternative that actually aligns with the values of most Albertans?  I have to say it is early times but the numbers of people who are approaching me these days with a genuine curiosity about the Alberta Party, and who are joining up, is making me quite optimistic.  The times they are a-changin' and only time will tell if it is change for the better or the worse.  Over to you Alberta.  Informed engaged active voters hold the keys to the future.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Alberta Readers' Choice Awards Long List Announced

The Alberta Readers' Choice Awards has just announced the long list of 30 titles for the 2011 version of its $10,000 prize.  Theses are all submissions from Alberta publishers from releases in the past year.

So the next step is for Librarians from all over Alberta to case votes for the Top 10 titles by the end of this year. Then the Jurors take over and read the Top 10 and we select 5 finalists which will be announced May 1, 2011.  Then Albertans can get in on the action and vote online in the month of May to select the winner and that will be announced on June 11 at the Alberta Book Publishing Awards Gala in Calgary.

The Jurors (including me but that is a secret until January when all of the Jurors are announced) will no doubt be sharing our thoughts and opinions on the Top 10 titles on line as we select the 5 Finalists. This is a great event with the sponsorship of the Edmonton Public Library and the Book Publishers Association of Alberta

When we get to the five finalist, I hope Albertans pick up the spirit of the competition, buy the books, read them.  Please share your thoughts on each book with friends, family and others in their various networks as well as online through Twitter.  I hope you also get into promoting the online voting for your favourite book too.

I love books, book stores and libraries.  I tend to get lost in them as my imagination get stirred by shared ideas and new senses of how to "see" things with the help of great writers.  Alberta is a dynamic cultural and creative place in both arts and innovation.  Recently the funding philistines have been busy undermining our sense of self and are starting to starve the provincial government support arts and innovation in the face of "fiscal pressures."  If we did not give away our natural resources by under charging for royalties and other revenues we leave on the table we would not have any such self-induced fiscal pressures. I will comment more on that public policy problem at another time as I look in more detail at the future political direction for the next Alberta in the new year.

In the mean time, check out the long list of titles and if any of them catch your eye.  BTW! Alberta books make great Christmas gifts.  Full disclosure, I am an Alberta book publisher under the name Sextant Publishing, an imprint of Cambridge Strategies Inc. but we made no submissions to this competition, so there is no conflict in my serving as a Juror.  If you are interested in what we publish and authors who are friends that we help promote go to the Bookstore link at Cambridge Strategies Inc.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Stairway to Brand Heaven and Hell

Here is a great representation about how citizens/people feel about their relationship to politics and to politicians these days.  Everyone has a BRAND.  How is your brand doing on this set of values?  How would you rate the political parties in Alberta on these brand values?

Looking forward to your comments.

 http://www.flickr.com/photos/7855449@N02/2780450986/in/set-72157606844282993/


H/T Sharon Matthias for the link and thanks to David Armano for the image.


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Some Musing About the "Moving Forward"Leaked Health Policy Document

The cut and thrust of politics is heating up in Alberta, especially over health care.  Now the discussion is moving towards the place it should about - the fixing of the system.  The leaked "Alberta's Health Legislation: Moving Forward" document has been the catalyst for the policy discussion.  It has been lead by Dr. David Swann, leader of the Official Opposition and the Liberal Party of Alberta and the recently rejected PC caucus member Dr. Raj Sherman.

The details of the debate are well documented in the main stream media so I will not repeat them here. The implications of the debate are what is interesting to me.  I want to talk about the threat of a Two-Tier system that involves private insurance, and if docs can operate on both side of that street. I also want to talk about delisting health service elements contained in the Moving Forward document too.

Swann is pressing Stelmach on if there will be a two-tier health care system in Alberta.  He wants a promise from Stelmach "in writing" he will not allow doctors to work in both the system, a public and private side, at the same time.  There is nothing stopping doctors from option out of Medicare now and working strictly in a private patient pay system.  There are lots of private sector elements in our health care system now.   Any talk of keeping private enterprise out of health care is futile.  That is all ready the case and it is working well.  It is working well because there is a single-payer for health services, the government.  If we allow private insurance to be purchased and to pay for medically necessary services we are into the feared and reviled two-tier system and the unnerving possibility of doctors playing both sides of the street and eroding the effectiveness of the public health care system.


THREATS OF A TWO-TIER HEALTH SYSTEM COMES AROUND AGAIN:
I do not expect Premier Stelmach to commit to writing that he will promise to not allow doctors to work in a private and public system at the same time...because there is no political will (today) to go to a two-tiered system.  That is now.  What about after the next election when the fear is major system changes will be imposed, including a private insurance possibility for health care.  That is what the government plan is according so some interpretations of the "Moving Forward" leaked document.

If it is of any comfort, I received a fund raising letter from the Progressive Conservative Party today signed by Ed Stelmach as Leader. In it he says "Your government (his government) firmly believes we can build a better (health care) system without moving towards a two-tier system with privatisation of health care."   Hardly a public statement since it is in a political party fund raising letter...but it is a commitment of sorts to the single-payer public health care system that we now have - and it is in writing.  But as Ralph Klein used to say when he "changed" his political mind for political purposes"That was then. This now."

It has a bullet about health providers working to full scope of practice.  That is a problem as Docs, Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses are all underutilized to some degree or other, due to the payment system that is used to pay docs.  More on that at some future time.  What Moving Forward talks about is providing health providers to opt-in and opt-out of the public health system as part of the new Health Act.  I have not reviewed the just past Act but know that doctors can to that now.  Why is it part of the "new" law?

The proposed policy shift in Moving Forward that is intended to bring "fairness" to this fictitious imbalance is to "Apply the same constraints to all health providers and allow government the flexibility to regulate health provider commitment in the public system."  That is very abstract language indeed and fairness to physicians is compared to the way midwives and pharmacists operate in a partially publicly and privately funded arrangement.  To meet the spirit and my sense of the intent to induce more fairness would mean we would need to make sure Midwives and Pharmacists would enjoy access to a fully funded public payer system for their areas of endeavour, including a fully funded drug program.  That way they and the docs would be on a level playing field under the current arrangements.I don't see that sense of providing fairness to druggists and midwives to be involved in the Moving Forward proposals at all. This framing for "fairness" to doctors to allow them to play both sides at the same time, if there were a public and private system, is disingenuous at best and intentionally misleading at worst.

DELISTING:
Then there is the delisting section entitled "Process to Establish Essential Services."  The issue is stated to be that there is  not a clear process to determine essential services and current services are not based on a "regular, rigorous and evidence-based process."  That used to be more true than it is today and some medical services have been delisted.  There was a full review of what process should be used to see if medical services should be in or out of the public system done by an Expert Panel Chaired by Dr. Bob Westbury.

We at Cambridge Strategies were involved assisting with that review and there was a Progress Report issued to the Alberta government in December 2002..   The Expert Panel was commissioned by then Minister of Health and Wellness, Gary Mar.  The mandate was "...to review the current basket of publicly funded health services and, on an ongoing basis, to review new health services to ensure that Alberta's publicly funded health services remain comprehensive and sustainable for the future, and provide the best value."

The idea was an expert panel would determine what services were to be publicly funded or not.  Those determinations of what service was in or out of  was also to be done in an open objective way using criteria established by the Expert Panel to determine what new diagnostics, treatments and drugs would be added to the system too.

The review and recommendations made by the Expert Panel were sound and soundly shelved by the Klein government.  The next phase of actually setting up the process and structures to do a thorough and detailed review of current funding, new services, priority setting and specific services review was never allow to happen.  This sense of intentionality and rationality over what health care services should or should not be covered by the goes back even further in Alberta.

Premier Don Getty set up The Premier's Commission of Future Health Care for Albertans that reported in December 1989.  In Recommendation #8.0 sand " THEREFORE WE RECOMMEND that the Government of Alberta, in consultation with health care practitioners and consumers, define with is considers to be basic insured services covered by the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan."  I will be doing a series of comparisons with the new Alberta Health Act to the recommendations made over 20 years ago in the Premier's Commission on the Future of Health Care for Albertans to see what is same, similar new and missing.  The old Premier's Council  spent two years and made 21 Recommendations and 66 suggestions for action.  The current Minister's Advisory Council on Health represents some very good work too.  It made four Recommendations with a total 20 sub elements including 6 Principles.  A thorough review and comparison will take some time but I think it will be helpful and useful for Albertans to have.

Perhaps the Stelmach government should revisit these reports and finally to stimulate a public conversation about what medical services Albertan want to pay for as a society or as individuals, and how they want to proceed to reconcile and rationalize the differences.  The recent truncated public consultation over the past summer on the new Health Act was not a serious effort at effective citizen engagement.  Premier Stelmach recently said about the new Health Act in the Alberta Legislature "The one thing that all members should focus on is the Bill (Bill 17 the Alberta Health Act just passed awaiting Proclamation) that we've debated in the house that says very explicitly that Albertans will have a say in the future direction of health-care delivery ..."  Go to the link and read Section 14 and see if that provision satisfies your test of if it amounts to Albertans having a say in the future direction of health-care delivery.

There is more to be sceptical about in the Moving Forward document but this post is too long already. My advice is that Albertans better not suspend their critical thinking faculties about this and other public policy directions that may be lurking behind the confidential and closed doors of the government caucus.  Time to use the cracks that Raj Sherman has caused to happen and that is letting some light shine in on what is really happening.  Sunlight is still the best disinfectant.