Friday, February 18, 2011

Notes on Getting to Know the Alberta Party

There is a foundational idea that underpins the spirit and intent of the upstart Alberta Party.   This is a new citizen's movement forming into a political party.  It is starting to make waves in the volatile Alberta political culture.  That idea is about "Doing Politics Differently." The intent is to move beyond the narrow focused partisan motivated choice between left or right that is so embedded in the current approaches.

The evolution of the Alberta Party is a work in progress by progressives for Albertans and all about "Doing Politics Differently" - but on a fast track too. The next election is not that far away.  The Alberta Party is busy  getting ready with constituency set ups, a leadership selection, candidate recruitment and fund raising so we can be a force in the next election.

The Alberta Party difference is the belief that there not one source of good ideas.  Good ideas should be used, not refused, simply because they come from "the other side."  The traditional adversarial model of decision making creates political winners and losers.  It will always get you an answer.  It rarely gets you a very good answer and it is not even interested in pursuing the best possible public policy answer.  It short changes the citizen's best interest and pushes politics into gamesmanship.

Another Alberta Party differentiating attribute is a commitment to embracing difference and diversity over dogma and doctrine. This is why the Alberta Party is attracting membership from all the traditional doctrinaire style political parties and peopl who never belonged to a political party before in their lives.  Albertans are coming to realize and savour this diversity as a fundamental principle of the Alberta Party.  You can be yourself and share your best ideas openly, without fear, as we work together to map out a plan for the Next Alberta as Albertans.

Listening is a lost art in these days of hyperactive partisanship and always-on connectivity.  In the Alberta Party part of doing politics differently is the expectation of people that they will be listened to, heard and understood.  That respectful expectation goes both ways as we gather together as citizens to discuss and design the best way forward to the Next Alberta.

Our values research out of Reboot Alberta shows the largest portion of Albertans are in the progressive thinking centre. They want a polity and a government that aligns with values of integrity, honesty, accountability, transparency, environmental stewardship, fiscal and personal responsibility.   The progressives  have started to wake up to the fact that political participation is not a choice any more.  It is a necessity if the Next Alberta is going to reflect their hopes and aspirations for themselves, their families and their province.  The Alberta Party is becoming their preferred choice to make such a difference.

The Alberta Party is inviting people to rethink, redesign, and restructure politics and governance in Alberta.  The Big Listen is a continuing process to engage citizens in the difficult and messy process of citizen participation.  Participation and conversations create the conditions to form new relationships, gain new insights and achieve enhanced levels of commitment to citizenship and democracy.  This is not about delivering change to people.  It is a journey to involve citizens in the co-creation of the change people want.

The old standard of top-down, command and control edicts dictated by political bosses is done.  The power has shifted to like-minded persons working in horizontal networks spawned by the Internet and social media.  This shift has neutered the power-based model of enforced compliance through intimidation, innuendo and bullying.  There is still some who cling to power by hunting down the disloyal and repeating their propaganda until is becomes perceived as "fact." In the new social media made networks, citizens are more interested in learning, sharing and growing as persons than they are in being loyal or compliant to some political authority that insists on enforced obedience.

Reality has always been something that individuals create and interpret for themselves based on values and perceptions.  Reality is not something prescribed by someone else any more.  It is more about what we believe in that determines what we see. We only believe in and commit to those things that align with our values.  That alignment with our values and beliefs actually defines significance for us. Shared significance drives groups to form who then decide to get active in solving the great problems we face together.  Shared significance is a product of conversations and that is why the Big Listens will continue to be embedded in the Alberta Party culture.

It is important to understand we don't have to completely agree on an interpretation or hold identical values to agree on what needs to be done to resolve an issue.  We need to get off our personal or partisan soapboxes and open up to new ways of thinking, even if they disturb us.  What then invariably happens is individuals come to agree on concerted courses of action and will make personal commitments to the goals that are decided.  We can have the collective wisdom of the crowd or the pooled ignorance of the power elites.

Finally, the democratic system in Alberta is broken.  It is performing poorly partly because too many citizens have abdicated their duty to become informed and active supporters of real representative democracy.  It is as if they presumed they are above the responsibility for good governance and the selection of quality people to hold public office.

A broken social system, like our democracy, only gets fixed by those who are in it.  The repair work happens by people talking amongst themselves and changing themselves - and the system.  The Alberta Party is an example of people coming together within a system, talking and taking personal responsibility to share information and ideas for a better functioning democracy.  It is a living organic system, not a machine model, of human interaction.

This is part of my personal sense of what makes Alberta Party politics Different.  The Doing aspect of changing the political culture in Alberta requires different thinking by individuals about the role of government.  What you do is determined by what you think.  It is all a part of exercising citizenship, stewardship and leadership.  These are all large concepts but let me give you a thumbnail of each one as part of Doing Politics Differently.  

Citizenship is an act of intentional informed  engagement on things that matter and are meaningful to individuals.  Those persons who know what matters to themselves are more likely to commit to apply their skills and capacities to serve themselves as well as the greater good.  Leadership is not an assigned or an assumed task.  It is a shared task.  In horizontal organizations leadership is not static.  It moves around and amongst those in the network and is taken up by different people at different times by certain individuals depending on the task and the skills required at the time.  Leadership is shared but it begins in the mirror for engaged netizens.  The other key aspect of the difference in Doing politics the Alberta Party way is the collective and personal stewardship duties for the environment, the society, the biodiversity of the planet and pride in the legacy we will leave for future generations.

Here is a link to a Letter to the Editor of Will Munsey that captures much of what I am talking about when it comes to the spirit and intent of the Alberta Parry - in his own experience.  He resonates with my sense of the Alberta Party in this letter.  Will's letter tells me I am not alone.

Here is another story about the relationship of municipal governments to the provincial government and how services are provided to the taxpayer/citizen.  It quotes Glenn Taylor the three time Mayor of Hinton, Vice President (Towns) for the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and candidate for Leader of the Alberta Party.  Full disclosure, I am working on Glenn's campaign for Alberta Party Leader.

Again it shows the change in thinking towards horizontal collaborative partnership relationships that have to replace command and control paternalism inherent in vertical concepts of "senior" orders of government.  Taxpayers want quality public services that represent value for money.  They don't care much which order or level of government provides them. These collaborative partnership models of governance have to trump traditional hierarchies as we Learn Our Way to the Next Alberta. 

This blog post is just some of the reasons why I am in the Alberta Party and supporting Glenn Taylor as its servant-leader.  Join us in moving past the Alberta Advantage and into the journey of defining the Aspirations of the Next Alberta.  The Alberta Advantage was a scheme to make us the best in the world.  The Alberta Aspiration is to use our blessings and skills to become the best for the world.