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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ted Morton Out to Unite the Right in Alberta

Here is an excellent piece by Josh Wingrove of the Globe and Mail outlining the history of Dr. Ted Morton and the reasons for his push to Unite the Right and bring the Wildrose Alliance back to the PC fold.  It looks like Dr. Morton has lost a lot of his base from the 2006 Leadership contest to the Alliance.

For Dr. Morton not all is lost.  He should be a favourite of the fundamentalist social conservatives in Alberta and be able to woo them back to his leadership.  They have all been very silent since they lost the Wildrose Alliance leadership.  They have a new champion in Dr. Morton as this Globe piece reminds us.  His has strong and strident social conservative beliefs and those who share those values seem to be lost right now. Will Dr. Morton be their man?  Remember when he wins the PC leadership he automatically becomes Premier.  He can do a lot of damage or a lot of good - depending on your values and point of view - before he has to face the Alberta electorate.

Just another part of the political culture war that is unfolding on the far right these days.  These values only become mainstream when moderates and progressives let them by staying passive about the politics of our time.

Doing Politics Differently

I just read a blog post from a fellow I have met through this social media world.  I look forward to working with in the Alberta Party as we are both members.  Gary and I are very different based on our political history.  I have been politically active since I was 14 and he is just now taking his first partisan steps.  What he says in this blog post however points out to me just how much we have in common based on our shared values.

We need a more civility and a greater public servant sense from our politicians, regardless of partisan leaning.  We have too many people pursing personal political power or trying to perpetuate that power once they have it. It may be good politics but it is bad governance...and that is just not good enough anymore.  

Raj Sherman on BNN Squeeze Play

Raj Sherman speaks his mind and outlines his short term intentions to stay as an Independent for a while. He also give insight into what is wrong with health care policy and who is to blame.  Part of the fascinating times in Alberta politics.
http://watch.bnn.ca/squeezeplay/january-2011/squeezeplay-january-28-2011/#clip409154

Sue Huff Does a Great Job for the Alberta Party

Here is a clip of an interview with Sue Huff the Interim Leader of the Alberta Party on the Business News Network.  Worth a watch to get a better sense of what the Alberta Party is all about.

http://watch.bnn.ca/squeezeplay/january-2011/squeezeplay-january-28-2011/#clip409154

Bloggers AND the Media or Bloggers AS the Media

Interesting editorial in the Calgary Herald today on the recent Court ordered bar of the public from a preliminary hearing.  Anonymous bloggers and citizen journalists and social media sites are said to be "rife with violations of the basic laws pertaining to the courts."  The editorial also notes the widespread violations of libel and slander laws on too many sites and I might add from too many Anonymous commenters.

I agree with the observations of the Calgary Herald editorial but then it gets all uppity and defensive about the superiority of the traditional media and professional journalism.  I also agree that there is a great benefit to society from professional journalism but frankly that has been eroding too.  Not the legal standards but the ethical standards are not always up to snuff.  There has been an erosion of analysis and depth in MSM too.  This is due to the money saving move for convergence of newspapers, radio and television coverage and ownership but also the competitive pressures to get it first before getting it right.

Part of this competitive pressure is brought on by the Bloggers too because they are breaking more and more news these days.  John Ibbitson of the Globe and Mail said as much in a conference we were both speaking at.  He noted that in the 2008 Presidential campaign that every major story was broken by a Blogger not a reporter. Part of the problem is the reporters were ensconced on the candidate campaign buses and force fed recycled spin.  The news was happening elsewhere...in the communities where the Bloggers were.

Not doubt Bloggers and social media sites have to pick up their game by learning and respecting the legal requirements that relate to what they are writing about. By the same token MSM needs to elevate their coverage too and risk being really informative and start eschewing the infotainment we see all too often - especially on television and talk radio.

The public is ill served by MSM pushing superficial shallow news coverage or self-serving pap served up as authoritative analysis.   The public is also ill served by silly shocking strident and uninformed commentary by Bloggers out to pick a fight instead of informing a civil conversation.

I think the courts should insist that citizen journalists, who want to cover court proceedings, actually get proper accreditation specifically as Bloggers/Citizen Journalists.  Perhaps they need to pass a test to show knowledge of basic laws relating to the administration of justice and defamation.  They can't be anonymous either and they must obey the laws.

Rather than ban Bloggers the courts should make them accountable and liable for what they report.  I recently got access to a confidential court file as a Blogger when I did the report on the contempt finding against a Director of Children's Services in the Alberta government.  I asked and undertook not to disclose the child's name nor his caregivers in anything I wrote under penalty of Contempt of Court.  It was not easy and it happened mostly because I was a lawyer too and could give a professional undertaking to the courts. That is too high a standard and banning Bloggers is too low.

Seems to me there is a better way to serve the public interest here than banning Bloggers from the courts.  The larger problem to me is Tweeting from the Court room by anyone with a smartphone.  They can publish and mislead the public with instant and enormous reach with retweeting.  Many of those who would be tweeting in a Courtroom don't even know they are publishing.  It is almost guaranteed that we will see out of context and misinformed tweets coming out of courtrooms.  With with only a 140 characters per "story" it is pretty hard to be contextual never mind accurate.  Perhaps a ban on cellphones in courtrooms is something we have to look at.  I also think we need to allow live video feeds from the courts so the whole complex context of a case is available directly to the public.  I think that coverage can be supplemented with an informed or expert commentator to explain the procedure and the context of the proceedings for people.  Not reality television silliness but real world information and education for the public about the courts, the administration of justice and the law.

We need professional experienced journalists and responsible informed bloggers to a have access to the courts to so show us that justice is being done and explain how the public interest is being served by the processes and outcomes of various cases.  We don't need them to be the keepers of the truth and gatekeeper determinants of what is important or newsworthy.  We need a more informed and media literate public with a highly developed skill at critical thinking too.  This will all help to keep our democracy and its institutions focued on their real job; that of serving the public interest...not just looking for scoops and sensations.      

The Future of Alberta Politics is Collaboration Not Competition

Dave King has penned a thoughtful blog post on collaboration being a better governing model than the tired and distrusted competition model of politics we are stuck in these days.  Dave applies us usual wisdom and wit to the world as he sees it.

In the outmoded adversarial model of politics and governing we short change our society because we seek competition for power trumping good governance.  If a good idea emerges from the opposition, the old-style politics will reject it because they don't want to be seen as giving the opposition any credit.  There are exceptions but they are rare.

In the outmoded adversarial model we use simplistic debates to find an answer to complex issues.  To every complex problem there is a simple answer - that is wrong!  Dialectic arguments are an insufficient decision model for a modern interdependent and integrated world.  To "win" in a political debate like in a legal argument, you don't  have to prove you are right - you merely have to prove the other side "wrong."  The nurturing of good ideas to make them better never happens because some adversary says "yeah but" pointing out some flaw, real or fictitious, and the best of a good new idea is shelved for fear of uncertainty.

Uncertainty is the only certainty in the real world these days.  The key question for citizens in selecting a government is to figure out who you can trust, respect and rely on to hold true to the best interests of the greater good.  What is it about a candidate and a leader that makes them worthy of your vote and your consent to be governed?  Who can show caring and compassion while empowering individuals to become the best they can be but in the service of that greater good is the talent for a 21st century collaborative politician.  Who can do all this and enhance the environment and not just plunder it in the process.

We in the Alberta Party are striving to be collaborative first. We prefer a co-creative approach that is about design not just debate.  There is a place for debate but based on curiosity and sharing of ideas, not jut defeating the opposition. The competition between good ideas must be about the ideas themselves.  Ideas should be judged on their merits and not just rejected because of the sources.  Give credit where credit is due is part of a new political culture we need to foster in our Alberta...and this, I believe, can all be achieved through the Alberta Party.  Get Alberta Party curious and learn more.  Join this citizen's movement that is based on thinking for a change.  It is a place to start to be the change you want to see.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Alberta is Changing - But for the Better?

There is a fascinating set of op-eds in today's Edmonton Journal that I recommend highly to every Albertan who wants a real change in the political culture and direction of this province.

BLACK DAYS FOR THE SWANN
Graham Thomson chronicles (and foreshadows?) the plight of David Swann and the Alberta Liberals.  They have turned into spectators not participants as the political ground shifts beneath them...and everyone else.  Given the ineptness of the Stelmach PCs and the unease of the real agenda of the Alliance, the Liberals should be soaring in the polls and the natural alternative for informed engaged and progressive thinking Albertans.  It has not happened.  Asking why this is the case is pointless now.  What to do about the rise of the right and the self-righteous is the key question now.

We have to do something about the ugly side of politics if good guys like Ed Stelmach and David Swann are politically  sand-bagged and personally crucified by dark forces of self interest and personal power aspirations.  Democracy needs am makeover in this province.

PRESTON MANNING IS WISE BUT TOO NARROW
Next up is a very well reasoned essay by former Reform leader Preston Manning saying the PCs best reinvigorate with a new leader of it is "game over."  Like so many on the enthocentric far right, they tend to drink too much of their own bathwater.  Manning does that in spades.  He only sees the Wildrose Alliance as a viable alternative.  Given his history and the pack he runs with, that narrow view is understandable, but he is a much wiser observer of the political scene to be so myopic.  

Take his commentary and replace Wildrose Alliance with Alberta Party each time.  Except for the name and a few other changes the story is the same one. (apologies to Neil Diamond - I stole that line from his song "I Am I Said").  The emergence and growth of the Alberta Party shows a citizen's movement morphing into a political party with spirit, energy and an attitude that the status quo nor a return to the 50s is not the preferred future for Alberta.  With our gifts, talents and skills Alberta should aspire beyond the "Alberta Advantage" attitude of being the best in the world.  We need a new "Alberta Aspiration" to be the best for the world.

Preston Manning has a clear understanding of the situation in Alberta but his solution lens is too narrow.  There are other political options emerging to the Wildrose Alliance...like the Alberta Party.  There are other forums emerging beyond his Centre for Democracy for the Citizen's Assembly to occur...like a refocused Reboot Alberta to become a think-tank to offset the Libertarian harshness of the Fraser Institute and the Fundamentalist framing of the Manning Centre.

I have a lot of time for Preston Manning but like the rest of us, he is captive of his own history and experiences.  Don't be fooled by the limited options he presents...there are others. But do reflect on his analysis and ideas...that is the value he provides to the future focus of the Next Alberta.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Alberta Party Makes it Into the Economist

For a party that has just an Acting Leader and no leader, a policy that is a work in progress, no candidates and one sitting MLA for less than a week, to be seen as a political force by the Economist magazine, is high praise indeed.

It is reason for hope amongst those of use deeply committed to this centrist, moderate, inclusive, creative and energized progressive citizens movement.  We ere becoming a political force to be reckoned with in the changing  landscape of Alberta political culture.

http://www.economist.com/node/18010841?story_id=18010841&fsrc=rss

GLENN TAYLOR THINKING LEADERSHIP
Stay tuned to the growth and rise of the Alberta Party.  I am working hard to recruit Glenn Taylor to lead us.  We are making great progress in his due diligence to finally decide to take on this challenge.  As a newly elected Mayor of Hinton just into his third term, one of the key considerations he has to deal with is the expectations and obligations to the citizen of his community. Here is a link to and editorial and a story in the Hinton Voice on his possible run at leading the Alberta Party.

http://hintonvoice.com/mayor-mulls-alberta-party-leadership-run-p1167-140.htm

http://hintonvoice.com/one-tough-decision-p1161-488.htm

There are a few more lose ends.  Once we have the final rules of the leadership process from the Provincial Board, Glenn can make his final decision.  Those rules will be settled on February 5 so look for the final decision if Glenn Taylor will run or not shortly afterwards.

Have Faith in Ted - He's a Healer!

First I applaud Ted Morton for stepping down from Cabinet and announcing his candidacy for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta.  Premier Stelmach did the same thing in 2006.  At least they agreed on that approach to campaigning. for the leadership.

Interesting that Dr. Morton is calling on Wildrose Alliance types to return to the true Conservative "Mothership," the PC Party under his rule - or thumb - depending on your preferred metaphor.  Mr. Morton insists the unite the right must be done to avoid vote splitting and the moderates making problems for them by coming up the middle.

I expect the progressives in the PC party will have trouble finding a candidate they can believe in to run in this leadership race.  It is not Alison Redford although she has the inside track if you listen to the chattering class.  Her resume reads like a social democrat but her approach to governing is very much a command and control old fashioned law and order agenda.

With no progressive force in the leadership race Dr. Morton will win and purge the Red Tories out of the party like Harper has done federally.  The governing philosophy of the Smith Alliance or the Morton Conservatives will be a combination Calgary School and Fraser Institute with minor variations depending who rules the Republic of Alberta.

Here is an interesting Calgary Herald video clip of the Dr. Morton Cabinet resignation announcement with comments from Smith of the Alliance and Mason of the NDP.  Form your own conclusions.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ted Morton Quits Stelmach Cabinet - Runs for Premier.

Today Ted Morton did what I predicted earlier in the day in this blog...he just did it much sooner than I thought. He resigned from the Stelmach Cabinet and announced his run at the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta leadership.

So the PC Leadership starts today and now one Ted Morton is waiting for the niceties of Premier Stelmach writing his exit letter to the Party President.

Game on!  But a PC Party lead by Ted Morton will see to it that the word Progressive is expunged from the party name.  There are Principles of the PC party will have to be expunged too.  For example Ted Morton is a social conservative Family Values kind of guy. How long do you think this Principle of the PC Party will last?


THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FAMILY
The family is paramount in the development of social responsibility and a sense of self-worth. The family, as defined by its individual members, is of vital importance to our communities. (emphasis added)


Or this Principle on Social Policies when he wants to impose draconian cuts to social programs in his preferred future budget and give massive subsidies and royalty breaks to the energy sector for billions of bucks


SOCIAL POLICIES WHICH ENABLE INDIVIDUAL INITIATIVE AND RESPONSIBILITY
Our social policies should support an environment in which Albertans can work together, be self-reliant, and accept responsibility for their own lives. We also believe that our social policies should ensure that those who need assistance can lead dignified and meaningful lives. (emphasis added)
Or how about Alberta's role in Canada when Dr. Morton is one of those, along with Stephen Harper, who believes Alberta should have a Firewall built around us to keep the influences of the rest of Canada at bay.
ALBERTA AS AN EQUAL PARTNER IN CONFEDERATION
We must strive to maintain sovereignty over provincial matters, believing that a strong and vibrant Alberta is a cornerstone of a strong and united Canada. (emphasis added)

inally here is some more context on the real Ted Morton, a story from the Archives of the Calgary Herald the last time he ran to ruin Alberta.
Welcome to the culture war on the far right as Ted and Danielle duke it out and regardless of which one of them wins, Alberta will be taken backwards in time, attitudes and treatment of those who are "different.

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

UPDATE 4:00 PM JANUARY 27 
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.

A WANT AD FOR THE NEXT PREMIER
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.  


DO WE GET HOMOPHOBES & IDEOLOGUES RUNNING OR RUINING THE PROVINCE?
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.  


WHAT IS MORTON'S NEXT MOVE?
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.


WHITHER ALBERTA?
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 NEED A GAME CHANGER!
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.



Glenn Taylor on Doing Politics Differently

Glenn Taylor the Mayor of Hinton has written an interesting blog post posing questions to Albertans about doing politics differently.  This is not easy stuff to do but he sees an opportunity and a challenge to those ends.

He says (in part) "The resignation of Premier Stelmach along with the rise of the Alliance has opened up the door for a new discussion to take place, let us not allow the governance of Alberta to be defined by the politics of division, the politics of power, the politics of the past.."

I am a big fan of Glenn Taylor.  I have worked with him in the past on a number of projects in Hinton and the Grande Alberta Economic Region.  I am encouraging him to run for the leadership of the Alberta Party as well.

I think it was Preston Manning who said a couple of years ago that it is likely we don't yet know the name of the next Premier of Alberta.  I am thinking Glenn Taylor is that name and the Alberta Party is the way forward to make that happen.

I will be doing a blog post on why I support Glenn Taylor and the Alberta Party over the week end for posting on Monday.

Rick Mercer Rants on Harper Attack Ads

The pith and substance of Rick Mercer's anger against misleading and personal attack ad is exemplified in this terrific rant.  His takes on them is that they are the work of bullies and cowards.  I agree entirely.

The propensity of the Federal Reformatory types to use these pre-election ads that are not subject to campaign spending rules.  That is such a cheap trick and an integrity breach the spirit of the law.  These political dirty tricks are right out of the American Republican cum Tea Party types that Harper seems to idolize.

Personal attack ads come from the kind of people you tend not to trust to make fair and effective laws that serve the greater good - only their own self-interest.  I think the fact that Harper's Alberta brain trust who write and run these anti-democratic and misleading ads are behind the Wildrose Party in Alberta.  I make one wonder if this cozy relationship with Harper gives substance to Premier Stelmach warning to us to expect them to engage in that same kind of George Bush-league politics Harper loves to do.

If you want respect as a politician, attack policy - not persons.

Here is what Mercer says about all this:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dave Taylor Joins the Alberta Party

So yesterday was a big day for the New Kid on the Block Alberta Party. It has its first MLA as Dave Taylor moves from disgruntled Liberal to disaffected Independent to the discovery of the Alberta Party.

There was lots of noise over this move in the social media and the traditional media.  I was even taken to task as an Alberta Party member for a blog post I did on January 8, 2010 when two PC MLAs went directly from one party to the Alliance without any cooling off period as Independents to take the temperature of their constituents over such a move.  Give it a read and tell me what you think is the right way for politicians to change their minds.  What about when a political party kicks out an MLA like the PCs did with Raj Sherman and Guy Boutilier?  Should the PCs first consulted with their constituencies to get permission?

There is no simple answer and saying it is just "politics" as usual is not very satisfactory either.  The bottom line in al of this be careful and intentional about who you vote for.  Politicians are given consent to govern us at the ballot box.  We defer to their judgment to make value trade-offs and choices on our behalf all the time.  We also empower them to make laws that will limit and dictate our behaviours.  That is a lot of power.

The unanswered question is what guides and drives our ballot box choices and is there just one answer to that question?  Is that answer simple or complex and does it change over time between elections?  Of course all these variable are in play so to over simplify the relationship of the elected and the electors is a mugs game.  Add the other complexity of is a politician beholden to the direction of the constituents or to their own conscience?

How is a politician to know the hearts and minds of constituents and are they fulling informed on the facts, implications as well as the feeling and emotions around any proposed policy decision?  On the other hand how are constituents to know what is in the heart, mind and morality of the politician as they seek wisdom in order to make a values trade-off between competing interests.  All political decision have a moral underpinning to them and that adds to the complexity of communications and comprehension.

Those of us not in Calgary Currie can rant and rave all we want but we are spectators in this contest.  The players are Dave Taylor and the citizens of Calgary Currie.  What they think about his decision to move out of the Liberal Party to Independent is as critical as their reaction to his move from Independent to Alberta Party. That is Dave Taylor making hard political choices and that always means a trade-off of values.

The right to make that choice is Dave Taylor's.  The right to assess and pass judgment on that choice is the right of the citizens of Calgary Currie.  If they want a by-election now to assess Taylor's choice, they can tell him so loudly, vociferously and in great numbers.  If they want to wait until the general election coming sooner than later they will stay quiet and pass judgment on him then. In the mean time the rest of us can armchair quarterback all we want but it is just crowd noise.  Unless Calgary Currie wants to take Dave Taylor to task for his decisions, who are we to judge?

As for the Alberta Party, the Dave Taylor move to join them is a big boost of public credibility and internal confidence.  However, one swallow does not a summer make.  There is a great deal more to do before the Alberta Party is election ready and credibly so.  As for some great commentary on all this to-ing and fro-ing read Graham Thomson of the Edmonton Journal, Josh Wingrove of of the Globe and Mail, Kevin Libin of the National Post and one of my favourite bloggers - The Enlightened Savage.

The next step for the Alberta Party is finding a leader.  A major move in that direction happened yesterday too.  Glenn Taylor, the current and three time Mayor of Hinton took the first overt step towards running for the Alberta Party leadership. He put up the non-refundable deposit as a candidate as a show of good faith and his personal confidence in the Alberta Party.  Now he awaits a final decision to run or not depending on the final rules for the leadership campaign from the Alberta Party Provincial Board, expected February 5th.

Full disclosure, I am working on Glenn's bid for Alberta Party leadership.  So stay tuned for more on Glenn Taylor and feel free to contact me at ken@cambridgestrategies.com if you want to join the Alberta Party and the campaign team.

What Motivates Our Voting Choices?

The announcement yesterday of former Alberta Liberal moving from Independent and becoming the first MLA of the revived and revised Alberta Party drew lots of interesting reaction in MSM and social media.  Some on Twitter called up a blog post I did over a year ago when two Conservatives bolted directly to the Alliance last January.

Fair game but I felt there was a slight misrepresentation of what I was suggesting and seeking input from readers on floor crossing  at that time...but that is for others to judge.  Here is a link to the January 2, 2010 post for you to consider. Here is the central question I was asking about voter motivation in election:

When citizens cast ballots it is unclear if they are voting for a party, a candidate, a leader, a platform, an issue of just name recognition or any combination of these motivations.  Do we elect politicians to exercise their best judgement or to reflect the majority opinion of their constiuents or perhaps some other controversial but perhaps more "enlightened" position on an issue?  


  



So I pose the same questions again but this time as "A burning question!" You can let your thoughts be known in the comments to this blog and on the Burning Question on the right hand side too.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Blog Polls Are Crap!

I have recently returned to posting "Blog Polls" every week on this site.  I have had some reluctance in doing it because they are not really scientific polls.  It is really misleading to call them polls because it implies that they are random and science based.  They are nothing of the sort. I have had some Tweets from folks I respect who have called these "blog polls" crap and I agree...especially if they are represented or understood to be science based random and reliable polls.


WHY BLOG AND MEDIA "POLLS" ARE CRAP
I know the main stream media including major newspapers, radio stations and television websites often to the same misleading techniques as "blog polls."  That hardly justifies the activity and does nothing to absolve the misleading label of "poll."  These mainstream media "polls" are not scientific or reliable either.  Like those on blogs they are at best a relatively unreliable representation of what some readers might think.  We have no idea of the nature and composition of the readership or the respondents in either case.

These "polls" can even be hijacked by groups who what to create an impression of reality that is also misleading by pushing one group or another to flood the "poll" with answers that serves their preferences or purposes. The recent question of who should hold the balance of power if we have a minority Alberta government is perhaps an example of a push by a group to influence results.  I don't know but have suspicions.  Many of my readers are Alberta Party members and many more are Alberta Party curious so it is no surprise that this new party is the dominant choice.  I note a key strategist of the Alberta NDP recently criticized my blog polls Twitter and all of a sudden there is a surge in NDP support for holding the balance of power.  I think this is an example of starting the conversation so long as people see that the survey results are only useful for that purpose and not conclusive of anything.

This is just a signal to readers to use their critical thinking skills and read these surveys like they would horoscopes.  Treat them with the same degree of authenticity.  These so-called "polls" are to random sampling opinion surveys as Dr. Phil is to psychology...infotainment at worst and conversation starters at best.

SCIENCE BASED POLLING UNDER PRESSURE TOO
Opinion polling as a science has come under serious credibility pressures recently too.  This is because the tried and true techniques used in the past to generate a random representative sampling has reliability problems with the rise of cell phones as virtually the exclusive connectivity link of a younger generation and the difficulty to connect to them skews the data.  The move towards self-selecting volunteers to register with pollsters who allegedly represent a demographic or a region is suspect too because the more indifferent or disengaged opinions are not likely to be canvasses.  Then we have caller ID that allows people to filter out unwanted calls or unknown callers.  That again undermines true randomness.  Then we have the fact that as many as 20 calls have to be made before someone will take the call and invest the time to respond to a phone survey.  How randomly representative is the data collected with that kind of randomness?  There are "solutions" but they are not perfect either.  But that is another issue for another post some other time.

DOES HARPER HATE EVIDENCE MORE THAN LIBERALS?
With the Harper government destroying the Canada Census we will not longer have a randomly selected scientifically reliable source of crucial information on Canadians after 2006.  The ignorance of that policy decision will ensure that public policy design in the future will be a crap shoot that will inevitably result in crap public policy.  I believe that is the ultimate political goal here.  The fundamentalist anti-intellectual underpinnings of the Reform roots of the Harper government want to design failure into government so it can be replaced by Darwinian market forces in all cases.  I mention this to show that even quality scientific polling is being undermined by a political ideology that says it is OK for faith to trump facts.  Evidence is tough to rebut so the Reformatory Harper government passes policy to ensure we don't have facts in the first place.  That is even more dangerous to democracy than silly unscientific "blog polls."

IT'S ABOUT STARTING THE CONVERSATIONS
I think the questions posed in a "blog poll" will only be conversation starters in and amongst the readers of that blog in comments, social media and off-line IRL (in real life).  There is no reliable value to be attributed to the responses and folks have to know that.  I will continue to put questions to my readers for response but I will not call them "Blog Polls" any more.  I will call them "Burning Questions" from now.  I hope these Burning Questions continue to serve the purpose to engage citizens in the political culture of our times.  I hope they trigger real conversations in communities, between friends and amongst co-workers and even within families to help focus attention on the political issues and public policy concerns that are shaping our times.

If that is the case, I believe they are worth keeping.  If you have a Burning Question you want me to pose, email it to me.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Where Has the Integrity Gone?

I have been trying to find the time to do a blog post on the Annual Report of Alberta's Privacy Commissioner, Frank Work.  Making a living keeps getting in the way.  However,  Graham Thomson had covered the salient points in his Edmonton Journal column today.  It is worth a read.

My political concern is the general decline in good governance in Alberta.  We know from random sample research that the dominant values Albertans want to see drive and guide public policy in our province are integrity, accountability, transparency, honesty along with environmental stewardship with fiscal and personal responsibility.

With the continuing decline of the Alberta to respond to Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy that aligns with these values is becomes apparent that citizens have to one of two things.  Either we make the current government change to align with those values or we change to a new government that will align with those values. We have a political culture that values spin over substance and loutishness over values.

The Thomson column provides a strong example that explains the propaganda tactics that has become the staple diet of modern politics.  The recent rehash of reheated rhetoric by Dr. Ted Morton that Alberta is being ripped off by the federal government because we pay more taxes to Ottawa than services in return is pure political propaganda at its apogee.

We pay more federal tax money than others in Canada BECAUSE we make more money than anyone else in Canada.  The sense that Confederation is we versus them relationship the right wing in Alberta always trots out when it is in trouble in the polls or wants to precipitate an election is not good government and really bad politics.

If we can't assume political integrity in our government, we citizens can at least keep them honest.  We do that by calling them on transparency and accountability breaches and  telling them loud and clear that things better change in government or we citizens will change the government next election.  The status quo is not good enough.  Anyone who thinks counterclockwise and wants to turn Alberta back in time is not a viable alternative either.  Time for some thinking for a change.

The Politics of Fear and Propaganda Pervade

We all have to improve our media literacy.  The Internet demands it because the traditional "authoritative voices" of professional journalism in mainstream media have all but disappeared.  The old media model of delivering eyeballs and ears is falling apart in a fragmented audience that is getting used to free content on the Internet.

Reliable news sources are being lost in the noise and sensation of  places like Fox News as they reach for ratings by pushing adrenaline inducing infotainment instead responsible professional journalism and informed in depth commentary.  We will soon have the same kind of propaganda promoting media experience with the unleashing of Fox News North.

In American politics the vitriol and anger gets even worse, but Canada is not far behind as Harper continues to use Karl Rove wedge issues in ways the divide people and pander to fear.  The political culture is beyond a conventional adversarial debate of artificial black and white issue framing that is over-simplified spin and pushed by sound bites and pithy print quotes through a compliant media.

Now the political culture is approaching fascism in some circles and with some politicians.  The spin is escalating beyond persuasion into misleading half truths and outright lies - repeated over and over for effect.  There is a cynical truism about this kind of  pathetic political "communications."  That reality is that a lie heard seven times becomes a truth to many people.  In our hyper-connected and constantly "on" world we are voluntary victims of the consequences of perpetual partial attention.  We don't read, reflect and try to understand content - especially on-line content that is becoming the dominant news source for most of us..  We merely scan and skim content for impressions and that has the effect of suspending our disbelief and diminishes our capacity for critical thinking.  We end up with more information but become less informed.

The other disturbing trend in our political culture is the use of intimidation, coercion, bullying and innuendo by those in power against public servants and public service organizations, agencies and community based volunteer boards.  Even duly elected municipal politicians and school boards are wary of bringing truth to power for fear of personal and institutional retribution from government.  We become quietly complacent and compliant and avoid using our voice for fear of "consequences."

So as an introductory lesson in media and political literacy here is an "educational" video allegedly about and from the Liberal Party in Australia.  It is a public service ad that every citizen needs to see, reflect on and remember as you get inundated with the Harper Conservative Party negative attack ads on other politicians.



(H/T to Daveberta for the link.)

Obama Support Rising

There is a new poll of 1000 Americans for the Wall Street Journal and NBC News saying 53% of Americans approve of Obama's performance as President.  Too bad voters were not thinking that way in the November mid-term elections.

He is up 8% since December and his disapproval rating is down 7% to 41%.  According t reports on the poll, Independents have not felt this good about Obama since August 2009.  The other side (the dark side?) the GOP Republicans are not doing so well.  25% of Americans say they will bring the wrong kind of change to Washington and 55% said the Republicans are too inflexible in dealing with Obama. Conversely 55% said they trust - yes TRUST - Obama to strike the right balance with his opponents.  Looks like Palin, Limbaugh and Beck have over played their hands?  Here's hoping.

AMERICAN PROGRESSIVES WAKING UP?
Looks like Progressive in the United States have woken up to the fact that showing up, voting and winning is not enough.  You have to continue to be an informed, engaged and active citizen if you want intelligent evidence-informed public policy. To stay aloof means you will be ruled by extremist ideological zealots.  The President can't do it all by himself.

ARE ALBERTA PROGRESSIVES WAKING UP?
There are lessons here for progressive thinking Canadians, and even progressive thinking Albertans voting federally and provincially.  Stop the fundamentalist and extremists from all stripes can ruin the country, the province and destroy a free and open society.  Apathy used to be Boring. Now it is dangerous to democracy too.  Alberta is waking up to this fact.  Will Alberta show up in the next election to change the direction and co-create the Next Alberta?  

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Where's Raj Sherman? At an Alberta Party Event in Edmonton Whitemud!

I am more and more impressed with the way Dr. Raj Sherman is reaching out and spreading his message about the need to fix the current mess around health care and then fixing the system.

Tomorrow night he is attending the organizing meeting of the Edmonton Whitemud Constituency for the Alberta Party as a guest speaker on health care.  He was invited by Don Schurman, a mutual friend and former head (retired) of the University Hospital to come to the Alberta Party meeting tomorrow night and speak on health care.  Don is one of my fellow Instigators of Reboot Alberta, also a former PC and a newly engaged member of the Alberta Party.

Raj continues to connect with a wide range of people across the entire political spectrum, throughout the wide range of the health care system and now is heading into communities all over Alberta with his message, working in collaboration with the Friends of Medicare.

He shows up in the NDP - Wildrose Alliance spoof video collaboration for the Legislature Press Gallery Christmas party too.  It is not all serious stuff.

We need more of this kind of non-ideological political conversation that focuses on the greater good in the public interest and not just silly scoring political points in snippy sound bites.  By the same token political parties have to learn to drop the destructive command and control top down democracy debilitating approach to politics too.  We need more integrity, accountability, honest, responsibility and transparency in our provincial politics.

Raj is getting very good at doing that everywhere and that is a good thing that is resonating with thinking Albertans.  Now if we can clone that political attitude and change the political culture so we have more adult political conversations. We need policy conversation with a long term public servant perspective that reflects a values approach.  Maybe then we will find Albertans prepared to return to a sense of citizenship that is active and informed.  Only with this king of political participation can we preserve, protect and promote our democracy, express our rights and enjoy our freedoms.

Good government is not one that is so small and starved for resources, including a professional civil service, that it can't do its job in the service of citizens and taxpayers.  Dr Sherman is showing a new way of thinking and of doing politics in Alberta.  As an Alberta Party member I also want to see politics done differently.  Dr. Raj Sherman is an inspiration.  But we need others to inspire us in other public policy spheres.   Raj has a laser-like focus on health care and while it is important it is not enough to change how politics are done in Alberta.  He sets an example and is showing us a way to do politics differently.  That has to be a good thing if only others in political office and influence or who aspire to political office and influence take a lesson from him.

Thanks Don Schurman and thanks Raj Sherman for helping us realize we can and must do politics differently. I am out of town tomorrow night otherwise I would be there.  I hope to hear all about the Edmonton Whitemud Alberta Party constituency event and about Raj's contribution on how to fix the crisis in our cherished public health care system the when I get back.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Peter Kent Steps In It Over Oil Sands & It Will Stick to Him

UPDATE:  Here is another link to the Saturday Globe and Mail on "Harper's Oil Sands Muse" that supports my concern in this blog post.

Here is a very important story out of the Hill Times about Minister of the Environment Peter Kent that is worth reading and reflection.  It is about the simplistic opening comments by Peter Kent the newly minted Harper Minister of the environment.  Mr. Kent is a seasoned and competent journalist but as a politician, not so much.

It appears that the primary briefing book for Mr. Kent in his first foray on to the Harper front benches was Ezra Levant's oil sands book "Ethical Oil."  The Hill Times story says Mr. Kent was staking out his position on oil sands to align with the uber-conservative Mr. Levant before he even considered the larger picture of the challenges and opportunities inherent in the oil sands.  Don't get me wrong, Ezra's book makes a good point but one that is insufficient to justify free market unfettered development of the oil sands.  Being the best of a bad lot is not good enough. Geopolitical issues around oil production and marketing are significant to Albertans and Canadians.  But that does not absolve Albertans as owners of the oil sands from our responsibility to be concerned for the environment, social, habitat and other consequences of oil sands development beyond getting rich quickly.

I am a big fan and supporter of oil sand development but recognizes we can and must exploit this resource more responsibly and in so many ways.  I have no problem with the Minister of Environment quoting from books written on themes within his jurisdiction. Might I suggest (by way of shameless plug) that he also read Green Oil by my business partner Satya Das or Peter Silverstone's "The World's Greenest Oil" for a broader deeper understanding of the problems and positive possibilities of responsible and innovative oil sands development.  Full disclosure, I published Green Oil. I admire the initiative of super-citizenship Dr. Peter Silverstone.  He is a psychiatrist who takes time to be an active Albertan and is one person who realizes his personal responsibility as an owner of the oil sands.  By writing his book, he has shown what engaged informed citizenship really is all about and what a difference one person can make.

So why would a guy with Mr. Kent's credentials, experience and journalistic ethic be caught taking an obvious  pre-emptive political strike position in his new portfolio that is purely ideological and tactical?  Why would he be caught commenting the way he has on the oil sands before having the advantage of a full briefing on the topic?  why would he not give himself a chance to grasp the complexities and nuances of his portfolio, especially relating to oil sands?

Is this a cost of doing business that if you want to sit in the Harper Cabinet, you have to toe a line?  Is this just the most recent example that a Cabinet Minister's Job #1 in the way Harper rules is about pursuing political positioning and running roughshod over any aspiration of good governance?  Was that homage to Ezra's "Ethical Oil" the price Kent had to pay to be in Cabinet?  Was this the initiation test of his allegiance to the Prime Minister and a condition of his appointment?  Makes you wonder what other explanations there could be for such a misstep by a sophisticated experienced journalist must know a thing or two about abuse of power.

Good government is always good politics.  Pure politics is hardly ever good government.  I wonder if this kind of political push by the Prime Minister for propaganda over policy is the real reason the former Progressive Conservative Jim Prentice prematurely quit politics. We will never know but we ought not to be so naive that we don't consider that as a real possibility.  Sad isn't it!

Mr Kent first utterances has to be a serious disappointment to the oil sand industry too.  His political  and governance missteps may impact his future in the next election but so what.  Politicians are notorious for thinking short term and for personal political advantage. Industry, however, has billions of long-term dollars invested.  They are at risk over volatile prices, world-wide recessions, environmental policy uncertainty and the rise of alternative energy sources.  Uncertainty and risk management are facts of life for the oil sands industry, now and well into the future.  They also realize the depth and breadth of their struggle to justify their social license to operate in this complex social, economic, ecological and political culture.

The oil sands industry, like politicians, are charged, tried and convicted in court of public opinion.  Industry  has more at risk as I see it.  There is an allure of short-sighted expediency but they realize they have to take a more complex world view in what they do and how they do it.  Industry must take a long-term perspective to justify the large up-front investments and taking on inherent duties like reclamation.  That is a complex current responsibility but decades away from being delivered and that is even more uncertainty.  The oil sands operating culture is more complex and controversial than superficial gamesmanship artificial chaos of power politics that we see as core characteristics of too many of our so-called political "leaders."

Being cozy, co-operative and collusive with the federal and provincial governments has worked for the industry up to now but it is an obviously mistaken and insufficient industry strategy going forward.  My work with the industry tells me they get this.  They are adapting appropriately, and cautiously, to appeal directly to the citizens as owners of the oil sands as they attempt to justify their social license to operate and exploit this valuable resource for the benefit of employees, shareholders, suppliers, citizens and future generations.

My betting is behind industry to do the right thing on their social license sooner than later. Unless we change governments or our government change their political culture I despair that they will ever do the right things for the right reasons in the right way at any time soon.  Citizens have to insist that our industry tenants and our government property managers start doing a much better job of serving the greater good and not just serve their self-interests as they develop our oil sands property.  Time for Albertans as owners to raise the expectations bar on themselves too. We have to get better informed, effectively active and unshakably insistent that the oil sands development is done right. After all it is all being done in the name of Albertans and Canadians.

Creativity, Sir Ken Robinson & Co-Creating the Next Alberta

Here is a link to pointed and informative video by Sir Ken Robinson on creativity in the STEM subjects-science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

http://sirkenrobinson.com/skr/askskr-question-8-creativity-is-not-just-for-the-arts

Sir Ken is in Red Deer on February 9th and I will be there with some guests who will no doubt report on their reactions to his lecture on his new book The Element.  The event is sold out with 700 people coming from all over Alberta. You can see interest is great and a new organization called Creative Alberta is forming.  .

There is another public lecture and conversation featuring Michael Adams author and pollster in Edmonton at the Sutton Place Hotel in the evening of March 17, 2011.  His latest book is on the values and  attitudes of Baby Boomers in this stage of their lives called  Stayin' Alive: How Canadian Baby Boomers Will Work, Play, and Find Meaning In the Second Half of Their Adult Lives

We will also have Jean Twenge. Professor of Psychology from San Diego State University speaking at the same public lecture speaking on themes of her new book the "Narcissism Epidemic, Living in the Age of Entitlement."

All event of this is part of the Learning Our Way to the Next Alberta project I am involved with in partnership with the Alberta Teachers' Association.  Check out more on this exciting initiative about the emerging roles, relationships and responsibilities of public education in Alberta at www.learningourway.ca 

You can get tickets for the Michael Adam / Jean Twenge lecture on line very soon at WWW.LEARNINGOURWAY.CA  Visit the site often to be part of the conversation about what Aspiring Albertans can do to co-create the Next Alberta.

Follow what is happening on Twitter at #creativealberta and #abfuture

Sunday, January 16, 2011

What Should Raj Sherman Do-AN UPDATE

When I did my analysis of the next steps for Dr Raj Sherman I discounted leaving politics to return to medicine as an option because Raj himself said he was going to run in the next election.

However I did not anticipate the imagination and creativity of Sharon McLean the publisher and owner of the recently discontinued free newspaper The Edmontonian.  She has recruited Raj to talk about medicine and health care on line in an Internet television like site called Well and Wise OnLine.

Here is a link to the introductory video.http://www.wellandwiseonline.com/videos/dr-raj-sherman/  Have to say Raj is a natural in this role. He will no doubt be professional, informative and even a bit entertaining  in this endeavour.

Full disclosure - I have written a few articles for Sharon's The Edmontonian from time to time but I have nothing to do with this new venture.  I do wish her the best of luck though as she pursues this project.

Anticipating a Minority Government in Alberta?

OK - this idea of an Alberta minority government is a very hypothetical possibility today.  There is no imminent election in the province but the politics are more volatile than most people living here have ever seen.

All signs point to a change from the political status quo next election.  Will we do the historical thing and go for a wholesale change of government?  Or will we reaffirm the status quo like in the last provincial election that returned the PCs with an increased majority under Stelmach as a new leader.  Were we that supportive, or looking for stability or just wanting to give him a chance to prove himself?  Or will we be so divided and uncertain about our future by the time the next election comes around that we end up with a minority government.

The key question, of course, is which party would form the minority government?  Some of the power shifts in a minority government situation to a smaller party, provided they have enough votes to keep the minority government in power, or not.  In that case it is just as critical a question for citizens to consider as to who should have that balance of power to make or break the minority government.

If Albertans decide to elect a minority government next time, will it be a sign we want to change incrementally or perhaps we want to send the PCs a message of our discontent but not rejection.  That is what Albertans in Calgary Glenmore did in the by-election by putting the PCs in third place in popular vote.  That was in a constituency that had been held by the Deputy Premier.  OUCH!

I wonder if Albertans interpret that by-election as indication that the warning shot across PC bow has already been delivered.  If so the next election outcome could be much more open and uncertain than the conventional wisdom that tends to think tomorrow will be a reflection and a mere extension of yesterdays results.

The blog poll this week presumes a minority government but not who wins.  It ask who do you want to be the conscience of any minority government should we end up with one.  Will you answer differ depending on who you think will form the minority government?  Or will you trust one party over all others to hold the balance of power to keep any potential minority government on their toes and honest?  Is that balance of power party choice chosen because they are able to assure a wider range of opinions will be debated?  Or is that balance of power party perceived as a government in waiting and able to pick the time and ballot question in the next election after this one?

This is not a random scientific poll just a conversation starter and an attention focus for readers.  I hope your comments on this post will give some insight as to what party you would prefer form a minority and why as well as who you trust to have the balance of power and why.  It is complex stuff and an informed answer requires that you think about where you want the province to go and how to return political stability as part of the means to get there.

Looking forward to your choice and you feedback in the comments.

Diana Laufenberg: How to learn? From mistakes | Video on TED.com

Diana Laufenberg: How to learn? From mistakes | Video on TED.com

Here is a video with great insight about public education when the school is no longer the place to get the information but the place to learn how to use the information.

All vital to Inspiring Action on Education and Learning Our Way to the Next Alberta

GOTTA LOVE TED.COM

Friday, January 14, 2011

Canada Called "Climate Criminals" Over Oil Sands

Here is a link to a blog post and a 7 minute video of a protest on the oil sands on the EU-Canada free trade deal that is starting to be negotiated in Brussels.

As an Albertan and therefore and owner of the oil sands, I feel we have to be more aware about what is being said about us in the international community.  Equally as important I am concerned what my provincial and federal government are saying and doing about the development of the oil sands, in my name and with my property.  Do other Albertans feel the same way? I would love to hear your perspectives in comments.

Then I feel I have to know more about what my tenants, the oil sands developers are doing to exploit my resource in a responsible and sustainable way...along with paying a fair rent to me and future generations by way of royalties.

For the typical citizen it is hard to get the information and when you do get something from the usual sources it has so much spin and propaganda we all know we can't believe it and we start to mistrust the sources.  A perfect example of this is the response to my non-scientific blog survey showing about 6% of participants were prepared to trust our governments to monitor the ecological impacts of the oil sands.

The spin and propaganda from governments these days is so obvious we have simply decided to ignore them as a trustworthy source of  factual information.  This is a dangerous situation for an effective democracy. Something has to change and the climate for more open, transparent and accountable government is not good

Thursday, January 13, 2011

SEE Magazine Captures Spirit of Alberta Party People

Maurice Tougas has an interesting piece in the most recent issue of SEE Magazine that captures the essence and spirit of the people joining the new Alberta Party.  Many of the early adopters and the energy for the the idea of a new progressive political party emerged from the Reboot Alberta movement that started in November of 2009.

Lots has happened since and a lot more needs to happen for the Alberta Party to be viable contender for the hearts and minds of Albertans who are tired of the pointless rhetorical positioning of a Spin  Doctor politics.  This kind of change is not easy.  Real change never is.  But there is a growing group of Albertans who know we can and must do better. We know that good governance, quality government and public-service politics with informed engaged citizens can make this happen.  After all, the politicians work for us.  Not the other way around.

I want to share some comments of an apolitical friend who sent me an email as she contemplate the need for change in how Alberta is governed and growing.  I don't have permission to use her name and I am only quoting part of what she told me by email.

My correspondents came to her realization that she need to start participating politically through her involvement in Reboot Alberta.  She says she "...thought it was time to begin a conversation about the  current state of Alberta and how we, together, could 'reboot' Alberta to the province we all knew and loved...and we knew that the concern for the well being of our province was, perhaps, more far-reaching than we anticipated."  She goes on to note "...that many folks, myself included, had a clear idea of what it meant to be both Canadian and Calgarian, (or what ever municipality we were from) but very few had given much thought to what it meant to be an Alberta, or had a vision for Alberta...it occurred to me that many of us, myself included, had taken for granted the stewardship that is our responsibility."    

She describes her transformational moment that brought her to the tipping point of dusting off her citizenship and re-engaging in the political culture of Alberta. She was listing to the CBC "about goings on at the Legislature" and the "combined bumbling that caused me to think aloud in the words of my old cartoon pal Popeye the Sailorman 'That's all I can stands...I can't stands any more.'  Upon returning home I
immediately went to the Alberta Party website and joined and left a note saying put me to work.'"

She has taken on the role of Calgary coordinator for the Alberta Party leadership bid of Glenn Taylor and has started reaching out to people in Calgary to get involved.  She has been in touch with her network of fellow Albertans and at New Years, she asked them (and all of us) "...to count your blessings and consider the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead."

She closed her note to friends and family and said "...please put Alberta on your list of things to think about.   The way you may choose to help impact our future is, of course, up to you.  It may or may not be political - you may want to get more involved in your community or with causes that are important to you or it may be with me in this new party or perhaps in a party where you are already a member - any of these will make our province stronger."

This email was an important statement of a personal commitment to engage in assuring a prosperous, inclusive future for Alberta that lives with ecological integrity.  Our prosperity is not assured in a spirit of pure competition where the goal is to be the best place in the world.  It will be found the more profound and personal testament of an aspiring Albertan, like my friend.  That more profound personal and collective aspirations for Alberta is to be the best place for the world. That is the foundational motivation for me in my journey to pursue the political transformation I see as possible through the Alberta Party.  It is good to see and know that I am not alone.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Political Progress and the Emerging Ridicule of the Alberta Party

While I will direct my mind to the Alberta Party, much of the paradigm I will describe applies to the evolution of the Wildrose Alliance and the PCs, Liberals and NDP as well...we are all just at different stages and phases of this process.

I am inspired by a quote that I believe came from Schopenhauer.  He said to the effect that all truth passes through three stages.  First it is ridiculed.  Second it is violently opposed and third it is accepted as being self-evident.  I was reminded of this quote in a recent workshop I attended on "Unstoppable Conversations" that I thoroughly enjoyed.  It helped me get a handle on a framework for many of the thoughts about changes and transformations in the Alberta political landscape that I have been rumbling through my brain lately.

Back to Schopenhauer' s quote and the evolving nature of "truth."  First off, I don't hold much stock in truth.  It is too subjective, temporary and perceptually ambiguous a concept to deserve the weight it has in our political culture discourse.  I can accept the de Bono concept of a proto-truth.  To me that is something we hold on to as self-evident until something better (or just different???), comes along to occupy the mind space of a society.  That sense of a proto-truth is very alive in the context of the Schopenhauer quote too.  Truth changes.  It is not absolute.

THE OLD LINE PARTIES ARE AT STAGE THREE OF THE "TRUTH"
The image of the PCs, Liberals and NDP are all at the third stage of  truth in Schopenhauer's world.  The self-evident niches for each of them are embedded in the political cultural context of the times and perceptions about them are set in the minds of citizens.  The PCs after 40 years in power are the natural governing party but they are off their game of late.  The Liberals are the oldest political party in Alberta but marked with a cultural meme that ties them to the federal party and the alleged evils of the often reviled National Energy Policy.  To many misplaced beliefs and mythologies make them a political non-starter for most Albertans. The NDP are not extreme but just not mainstream enough to be seen as ready to govern.  We like the NDP as critics of government in service of the public interest - but no more.

These conventional political parties seem to be able to sustain and reaffirm their political space on the left-right spectrum in the minds of most Albertans.  Otherwise they would lack a sense of significance and could just as well disappear from the consciousness of the everyday Albertan.  They tend to oppose each other in a political game of oppositional posturing and positioning, politely called "spin" but is in fact mostly just hard ball propaganda. They are not seen as nimble nor adaptable to the changing times or competent given the complexity of a shrinking world culture, globalized economy or the realities of an interdependent environment.

THE ALBERTA PARTY AND WILDROSE ARE DIFFERENT
The Wildrose Alliance Party, in my perception, is moving into the second stage of truth, that of being violently opposed.  I say that because I am one of those who are actively opposed to the Wildrose Alliance governing philosophy of Libertarianism social policy and Monetarism economic policy and an environmental policy that is based on Climate Change Denial.

However, I would not call my opposition to the Wildrose Alliance Party "violent."  The rancorous rhetoric of the extreme right in the USA and the linkage of that rhetoric alleged to encourage actual physical violence.  Political based violence like the killings it Tucson and the murder of abortion doctors by radical hardcore conservatives of the assassinations of the 60s some say is returning.  The question is why and who, what and where is that level of violent opposition becoming normative in the States?  We know how it is becoming normative.  The gun culture of the United States of America and the decline of education standards, opportunity erosion and increasing fear, uncertainty and doubt about the future for too many Americans.

Back to Alberta.  I am more at the vehemently opposed level to the governing philosophy and political culture of the Wildrose Alliance.  My opposition to the Wildrose is is a matter of conviction and vigour, not hate and anger. I  do not want Alberta to be governed by that, or any other similar political dogma. My opposition, like every other moderate progressive I know or ever met, is intellectual and philosophical, not a matter of force and violence.  I am a democrat and will defer to the will and decision of an informed and engaged majority of voter.  Those who win elections with a mere 40% turnout casts a serious suspicion of those criteria being met in our elections.  We need both democratic and electoral reform beyond tinkering with advertising rules and rates of special interests groups.

The Alberta Party is just emerging on the political radar screen in Alberta.  As a result of such attention other partisans are stepping up the rhetoric and ridicule.  That puts the Alberta Party very much at the first stage of the "truth" - the ridicule stage. This stage one level of ridicule is coming from some supporters of the other parties but not the parties themselves.  This link is a perfect example. Here is a blog post with point of view on the political context of the stage one ridicule too.

I think this is all in good humour and pretty slick political PR too.  It is important because it is an attempt to frame the Alberta Party as something it is not before the party has a chance to express its own narrative of what it is and aspires to be come.

This is not a new tactic for hard core conventional political party operatives.  Harper spent an enormous amount of taxpayer supported money on television ads leading up to an election.  This negative campaign timing was pretty cynical because this stuff was pure political campaign advertising but done just in advance of an election so it would not be controlled nor limited by campaign spending laws.  Harper was successfully framing Stephane Dion, as the new leader of the Liberal Party in the public consciousness before Dion could set out his own narrative in the public mind. 

This kind of negative adverting is universally denounced and universally used - because it works.  Some Alberta unions did a high cycle television ad campaign in the last Alberta provincial election saying Stelmach Had No Plan.  That resulted in new legislation sponsored by the Stelmach government limiting third party election spending in the province.  So much for electoral free speech and opinion through advertising in Alberta.  Not a big deal really, because there is scant evidence that such advertising changes opinions in any event.  But as an offence to free speech...and government control of free speech - its a big deal.

A CIVIL AND PROFESSIONAL POLITICAL CULTURE IS WHAT WE NEED
The Alberta Party is trying to change the nature of the discourse with a policy of MLA Guidelines aimed at returning civility and professionalism back into Alberta politics.  I applaud those efforts.  They may be naive but the sentiment is not misplaced.  The theatre of the absurd that is Question Period or the pathetic discourse that passes as debate, dialogue and even public consultation in Alberta is disheartening.

My contribution to this effort at more civility and professionalism in politics in Alberta will be on this blog.  I will continue to be critical of the politics and the tactics of those with whom I disagree but I will not engage in personal attacks about politicians at least not without evidence-based justification.  When it comes to comments on how various political philosophies and promoted propaganda, I intend to be vehemently opposed where I disagree. But I will try my best not to be disagreeable in the process.  I hope my readers support this position with non-anonymous comments that are aligned with this approach.  I hope readers will be civil and vigilant in helping me keep to my word on this.  Just a small step but one worth taking.