Thursday, January 27, 2011

What Qualities Do You Want in the Next Premier of Alberta?

Ted Morton just resigned from Cabinet and announced he is running for the leadership of the PC Party:  Read on in this context.  This blog was posted a couple of hours before hand.

As the PC Party trudges along to path towards a new leader a burning question for Albertans is what qualities capabilities and skills do we want in the next Premier of Alberta.

There is no guarantee that the next leaders of the PC Party will be Premier.  When Stelmach won the leadership the Premiership was exactly what we were choosing.  This time the leader will be Premier but for a relatively short time until there has to be an election.

Paula Simons writes in the Edmonton Journal today about this question of what do we want to be our political leader for the Next Alberta.   Her wish list for new leader qualities and characteristics is contained in this paragraph:

Wanted: Smart, energetic party leader who understands contemporary urban issues and priorities. Must love rapid transit, regional land use planning and public education. If you like river valley walks and vibrant downtowns, give me a call. Homophobes and hard-line ideologues, right wing or left, need not apply.

She does a nice summary of the trials and tribulations of Premier Stelmach term as Premier.  No one knows what will happen but chances are the PCs are in for some trials and tribulations themselves as the Caucus and the Party try to figure out the leadership process.  What to do next as well as when it will all happen in a destructive culture of internal distrust, disgust and disquiet.  

I see the Bill 44 homophobes and fiscal hard line ideologues, a.k.a. the "Morton Minions," will line up behind him and continue to agitate.  This is because the budget politics are not over yet - not by a long shot.   According to media reports Morton came out of PC Caucus yesterday saying the budget is "going ahead."  Here is the kicker.  When asked if he will deliver the budget he said " We'll see!" He is reported to add that "The Premier and I have to talk."

There are media reports from the "usually reliable sources" that he was threatening to resign if he did not get to table his allegedly draconian budget.  I think now that Premier Stall-mach has said he will resign instead.   Eventually the Morton Minions will want to push off the cliff him sooner than later.  How does that happen?  I speculate about tactics for sure, but not much about intent.  

To get a quicker Stelmach exit and to stage a leadership strike while the iron is hot advantage for Minister Morton, I see a scenario that he merely resigns Cabinet - just before the legislative session starts Feb 22,  It will be couched as a matter of personal principle because while Morton agrees that while Cabinet sticks together, he can not, in all consciousness, based on his personal ideology, present a deficit budget as a Minister in the Stelmach Cabinet.  If Stelmach wants a deficit budget he will have to find some one else to read and wear it politically.

This accomplishes more than further embarrassment for the Premier and the continued erosion of the PC brand.  It puts Morton on the moral high ground with his base, his fellow fiscal hawk ideologues.  These guys believe government is always the problem and never the solution.  They want to cripple government by withholding resources that set it up to fail.  They then triumphantly usher in the private sector "free market" solutions to address all pressing public policy issues, including health care. 

The tactical timing and political intent of a Morton Cabinet resignation means he is then free, as a backbencher, to start actively campaigning for the PC leadership.  He does not have to heed the rules or wait politely for the actual  resignation letter of Premier Stelmach.

What happens the the peace order and good governing of Alberta in the meantime?  There is none.  The caucus fragments as replacement leadership aspirants huddle in dark rooms and scheme in hushed tones each trying to be the next leader, or make the leader or to at least be engratiated to the leader.  

The Progressive Conservative Party splits and shatters into segments like a broken mirror with shards only reflecting small segments of the reality.  Nobody is looking at the whole picture or for the good of the province. Is it progressives versus conservatives, Edmonton versus Calgary, north versus south, rural versus urban, in the Corridor versus out of the Corridor or just all of the above?  

What will happen to all those proudly touted billions of dollars of Alberta Advantage investments in such uncertainty? What happens to on going initiatives like Inspiring Action on Education?  Is the Premier's personal agenda for a Competitiveness Strategy?  Will it only play out as an internecine competitive struggle in the PC Party and Caucus?   

Then we have reality of the rancour and rhetoric in the right wing culture war between Morton and Smith.  All this happens as the province's economy slips into decline and deterioration.  Is this the inevitable consequence of power politics as usual?  Where is the servant leader who can inspire and challenge us a citizens to realize our potential in service of the betterment of the society as a whole instead of mere personal self service?

We not only need to change the political game we have to quit seeing it as a game or a war.  We need a new narrative for the Next Alberta.  What is festering now and soon to be raging,  That challenge for thoughtful Alberta is to come together as citizens and write that new narrative.  Will we be a society of Darwinian individualists where it is each man for himself and the only goal is making as much money, by what every means you can, as quickly as possible and regardless of consequences?  Or will we strive to be better persons who apply our talents and skills to achieve our personal potential but and in the service of the greater good?   

We will have two choices for Premier in realizing the Darwinian society; Danielle Smith or Ted Morton.  We have not yet found the choice for the latter preferred future. I am putting my hopes and efforts behind the Alberta Party and Glenn Taylor, if he runs for leader, to help Albertans realize that latter choice together.  

Alberta is not at a crossroad.  It is at a trail head with three paths before us.  One veers hard right with Smith and Morton, the other goes to the left with Swann and Mason.  The Alberta Party is setting out to create a new path between them.  The way forward takes the best of the other options and integrates them with progressive values and then moves us forward.  

Albertans who get engaged, informed and show up to vote will decide which is the preferred path for the province in the next election.  It will not the political parties or the wannabe Premiers.    In the meantime there is not much certainty about the direction or the destination of the province.  That will not change if power politics will prevail and good governance is devalued.  The short term future for Alberta is not pretty.  We have choices to make and a province to create.  Lets use our collective wisdom in the effort and not our pooled ignorance.