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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Do Elections Actually Equal Political Accountability?

Back in 1993 Kim Campbell was excoriated for stating the obvious that elections are not the time to deal with complex issues. The reaction was swift negative and part of her disastrous electoral outcome.  She was right however.

The sound bite journalism with the superficial horse race mind set of traditional media coverage back then persists today...even worse if you ask me.  Add to that the social media maelstrom of comment and conflict and the poor voter is hard pressed to know what or who to believe...never mind trust.

The Hill Times has a terrific article by W.T. Stansbury entitled "Why general elections are pretty poor mechanism for accountability to citizens."  It is a long and thoughtful article so don't rush through it.  Let it sink in.  Accountability along with Integrity and Honesty were the top three evaluation criteria Albertan's choose in some research we did last May through Reboot Alberta.  It is a serious and central concern of citizens in this province.

His accountability theme expands on the fact that elections are too infrequent to make and irreversible to really make politicians accountable.  He notes that we don't have any really effective and acceptable performance measures for politicians, especially given the complex and wide scope of government. He notes there is a sense that elections are mostly a referendum on the performance of the economy. If folks feel better off the economic management of the current government get applauded and likely re-elected.  Harper is making misleading comments about the comparative strength of the Canadian economy as Jim Stafford points out in this Globe and Mail Commentary 

This leads to Stansbury's next point; the Information Problem.  Information to assess government performance is hard to collect get at and it is expensive to access. We see Access to Information policy thwarted more than enabled and recently we see it is inappropriately interfered with by Harper government operatives for political purposes.

There is more but you get the drift.  Elections matter but we need to take them seriously as citizens as difficult as that is.  It is made worse with the superficial political spin machines and the misleading messaging they push at us and the herd mentality of understaffed and under funded mainstream media who too often get suckered into be stenographers and not journalists.

Just another reason why citizens need to take back control of our democracy and punish poor political performance in government and on the way to get there.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

An Oz View of the Canadian Political Culture

This opinion piece out of Australia, written by a Canadian is a terrific compilation of the sad state of the Canadian political culture and the decline of our democracy.

The essence of Canadian disengagement and the consequential political atrophy and decline of our democracy  is captured in this paragraph:

Edmund Burke noted that all that was necessary for evil to triumph was for good men to do nothing. Canadians are certainly good and worthy folks, but they suffer an excess of civil obedience, politeness and lack of civic rage that could be harnessed to combat political atrophy. At a time when Arabs risk life and limb for political freedoms, Canadians seem largely apathetic about the erosion of their democracy.


We are in an election.  They matter.  The results determine how we will be governed and by whom.  The results determine the quality of character of the leadership and by default, the country, both internally and to the rest of the world.  The election results impact the daily lives or each and everyone of us.  It will set a tone that directs and even determines the nature and nurture of our personal and national dreams and aspirations.  


Elections matter.


Any conscientious and concerned Canadian must realize this and get informed and engaged in determining the outcome of this election.  Reflect on the admonition of Edmund Burke above.  Overcome your apathy.







Then take a few more minutes to read and reflect on David Akin's excellent column in the Sun newspapers today.  "Bad Governments are Elected by Good People Who Don't Vote."  Dust of your citizenship.  Demand a country you can be proud of again and make it happen by electing people of character who see political like as all about public service not the pursuit and practice of personal political power. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

CBC Vote Compass Worth a Visit

Here is the link to the CBC Vote Compass survey. http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canadavotes2011/votecompass/ 

I really encourage you to take the survey.  What political party mostly aligns with your values and beliefs this election?  I was surprised - but not unpleasantly - when I turned out to be more Green than Liberal.  I was not surprised to find myself the farthest from the Harper Conservatives.It is a good conversation starter - especially with ones self.  Where does your political alignment fit this time around.  What political party is the closest to your sense of what is important, at least in terms of the questions asked.

By the time I post this I expect over half a million Canadians will have taken the Vote Compass survey.  That is an interesting expression of citizenship engagement in itself.  It indicates to me that at least CBC types are prepared to participate in a meaningful conversation about politics - even if only with themselves.  It also takes us away from the less meaningful left versus right sense of being political these days.  The issues and the value trade-offs we have to make between competing issues can't be conveniently packaged as left or right any more.  Most people don't know what it means to be left or right any more and those of us who do understand the dichotomy find the classification less useful or accurate in capturing the basket of values that any one individual actually has and holds these days.

I hope we will get some aggregate data released out of the CBC on the Vote Compass responses perhaps by province and cities - even by ridings if there is a large enough sample to be meaningful - since they asked for postal codes. How many Greens are there in Calgary for example.  How many Canadians feel the oil sands environmental concerns are exaggerated?  There are a lot more things we can focus on from this data to get a sense of where Canadians are at

Any insights and analysis will not be a statistically valid random sample but it will still have value to provide insights on those who took the time to participate. On-line communities form function and fade around issues and events...including an election.  This Vote Compass vehicle creates an opportunity for Meet Ups and Tweet Ups to happen between like minded or contrary minded people to discuss explore and even reconsider positions in conversations with other citizens.

This kind of exchange of opinions and ideas in face to face respectful conversations are so much more meaningful for citizens than partisan hype spin or "messaging" of traditional tedious and tendentious campaign events.

The CBC brings so much of Canada together through radio and television programming.  Now it might consider doing the same thing but in a much more participatory way.  By using the Vote Compass device as a way to spark some significant sense of citizenship in communities and even across the .country around issues of importance - not the superficial stuff like the coalition baiting we see being covered these days.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Who Really Cares About Harper's Fixation on Coalition

The perpetual, persistent and perverse pejorative about Stephen Harper in this election are his well documented pursuit of personal political power.  His proven Contempt for Parliament, the first time this have ever happened in Canada, reflects badly on his respect for Canadian democracy and his personal integrity.  He is all politics all the time in a single-minded pursuit of absolute political power.  We all know what the consequences of absolute political power has been through history.

His two-faced approach to policy is breath taking, from demanding an elected Senate to personally appointing the most Senators of any Prime Minister in the history of the country.  He demands smaller accountable fiscally responsible government and yet he has created the biggest fiscal deficit in peace time. He talks of tax cuts and he raises taxes on the poorest of Canadians.  He insists on further unnecessary corporate tax cuts in the face of deficits and a recession gripping the nation.

Speaking of the 2008 recession, which we are still in, Harper denied that it was even happening.  He knew better but avoided responding appropriately to the urgency until forced by facts to tell the truth and act responsibly.  He reluctantly put the stimulus spending in place and then took too long to get it out the door as he politically steered funds into seats that his party holds.  Since then Harper has spent unprecedented millions of tax dollars, to advertise his "accomplishments" from the deficit inducing stimulus spending.

Harper is now haranguing and harping on the dire consequences of a coalition government in the early days of the campaign.  It is clear in Harperland any coalition of "second place losers" (like he was in the Martin minority government) is ok if it makes him Prime Minister.  Hypocritically Harper dallied with a coalition with the Bloc and the NDP in 2004 to defeat the Martin minority government in order to make him Prime Minister.  A coalition is not ok in Harper's mind if it results in a collaboration of other political leaders who are looking out for the good of the country and thwarting his lust for the absolute power of a majority government.

I read the Sun newspaper "Exclusive" coverage of their QMI commissioned Leger poll today on the reaction of Canadians to Harpers wall-to-wall coalition rant with great amusement.  It provides some serious insight why Harper is talking about coalitions as a threat.  It is all being done to incite his base to show up and support him even though he has bullied his MPs and repeatedly abused the Conservative party principles.

The Conservative Party wants political power too and this election is their last best hope.  Past and present polls show Harper is only able to eke out another minority election result.  Hence the Leger poll shows the 95% of Conservatives fear a coalition government.  It is their worst fear.  On the other hand about 2/3 of Liberals , NDP and Bloc supporters see coalitions as a normal and legitimate option to govern if the Canadian voters insist that no one leader or party is compelling enough to be given a majority government.

The concern over a coalition is a political wedge issue.  It is not a wedge between Harper and Ignatieff as Stephen would have you believe and the mainstream media promulgate.  It is a wedge issue between Harper and his Caucus and the Conservative Party membership.  This is because Harper has been anything but a true Conservative Prime Minister as this link illustrates.

He has alienated his Reform base by pandering to Quebec.  He betrays fiscal Conservative principles by spending the country into enormous debt and deficits while at the same time he grows government in size and in its role in "interfering" in our lives.  All this stuff fundamentally contrary to his espoused Conservative Principles of the party he leads.  His party base no longer trusts him but they fear another minority government even more, because they risk seeing political power going to a coalition of  "the others."  Harper is playing on those fears in his own party.  Canadians could care less as Christian Bourque of Leger Marketing points out saying "The coalition does not really shake the electorate when it comes to who they support."  It is not a top issue for Canadians and not going to move votes.

It is only Conservatives who are concerned about the consequences of a coalition government.  Harper's top down, command and control centralized imperialist approach to politics concentrates power in himself.  He uses fear of "the others" actually forming a coalition government as a zero sum political game for enforcing compliance and sustaining power for himself and his partisans. If Harper can't get a majority government from the Canadian voters this time, his leadership of the CPC party and role as Prime Minister of Canada is over.  He knows this and his base knows it.  The base is not going to stay behind Harper unless he wins a majority government this time out.  Three minority governments is three strikes and that means Harper is out.

Canadians who care enough about our democracy, our political system, our citizenship, our rights and freedoms to show up an vote will decide if Harper will still be Prime Minister of Canada after this election.  Our decision to accept him continuing a Prime Minister will be based on our collective assessment of his ethics, character, trustworthiness, integrity, accountability, transparency and honesty.  Harper's record shows he had failed us on all counts.

If Canadians decide, in our collective wisdom, to return yet another minority government, it will be the fourth in seven years.  That would be a strong message to the Governor General that "the others" should be given a chance to govern in a coalition.   Cooperation, collaboration and accommodation of different points of view are embedded in the Canadian DNA.  A coalition government is only a crisis for Conservatives not for Canadians.  It is time for the election focus to move on and politicians to start talking about the real issues facing Canada and Canadians.  A real issue is not Harper's artificial angst over "the others" gathering together to run the country collaboratively instead of letting him ruin it unilaterally.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Will Citizens of Alberta Show Up and Make a Difference?

I can understand why many citizens think voting is a waste of time.  Graham Thomson picks up on this theme in his column today and chastises citizen indifference to our democracy.  As my friend Stephen Murgatroyd likes to say, "It doesn't matter who you vote for, the government always get in." Regular readers know I like to say "The world is run by those who show up."

I feel very strongly that our democracy is not only in deficit, it is in danger.  Our political culture has become a manipulation of misleading messages driven by aggression and adversarial anger.  I am occasionally accused of feeding the culture of aggression with my comments and concerns about the decline of civility and greater purpose in out politics.  I  know that is true at times but the escalating verbal violence and contempt for values perpetrated by Stephen Harper is pure bullying and must be opposed.

Caring compassion and taking responsibility for something greater than self interest is seen by many activist political Libertarians as the weak actions of chumps.  We see collaboration and cooperation as lesser values than  the winners and losers culture of pure market place competition.  It is a very dangerous and simplistic view of how we must face a globalized interdependent networked reality of the world we now live in.  We have complex problems that simplistic approaches create more harm than workable solutions.

We see humility in political leadership as a weakness not a brave act of quality character.  Wisdom is mocked as aggressive action is elevated as a more appropriate response to our intractable problems.    We need to elect politicians and value leaders who can step out of rigid ideological positions.  We need a political culture of curiosity and possibility not dogma and doctrine.  We need decision maker who have respect for different perspectives and can actually see, value and adopt different inputs as appropriate.

Democracy in Alberta and especially in Canada is broken. Albertans are taken for granted by the Harper government.  It is our fault.  It will only be fixed if we citizens take back control of democracy in Alberta.  We can't afford to defer to a power hungry politician like Stephen Harper who show consistent contempt for Canadian/Albertan democratic values. Danny Williams of Newfoundland and Labrador knew this last election when, as a Progressive Conservative, he headed his ABC (Anybody But Conservative) campaign.  It is time for the rest of Canada to see that values and character count in politics.  We need a government that we can respect and that respects us. This is the election to heed Danny Williams and make that change happen in Alberta this election.  Don't settle for second class citizenship.  Send Harper a message that he con no longer take our support for granted.  

Friday, March 25, 2011

Inspiration to Engage Progressive Albertans.

I really like politics, especially when it is about people using their skills and capacity in pursuit of a greater good that goes beyond self interest.  I meet those kind of people all the time, especially when I personally engage in that kind of transcendent behaviour.

I had the chance to meet someone online in the Glenn Taylor leadership campaign for the Alberta Party today.  They shared a quote at the end of an email that captured that power of positive politics and its potential for a personal transcendent experience beyond the self. The quote captures so much of what I think constitutes the core of the Alberta Aspiration.  It moves us beyond and above the lowered expectations inherent in the Alberta Advantage:


"If you're going to be passionate about something, be passionate about learning. If you're going to fight something, fight for those in need. If you're going to question something, question authority. If you're going to lose something, lose your inhibitions. If you're going to gain something, gain respect and confidence. And if you're going to hate something, hate the false idea that you are not capable of your dreams."

Daniel Golston

Albertans are looking for enlighten progressive political leadership.  We have a federal election upon us, a provincial election looming and three of our political parties in the throes of leadership campaigns.  There is lots of opportunity for Albertans to take the spirit of this quote and apply as we decide who to vote for and why we are voting for them with all these opportunities.  We can also use this spirit of this quote to judge the quality, character and integrity of the various candidates who are seeking our consent to govern.

Words to live by and apply.  Have a good weekend gentle readers.   

Oil Sands Environmental Monitoring is a Priority for Albertans

We Albertans own the oil sands.  They are becoming increasingly concerned about how this vital resource is being developed in our name.  There is a very clear set of priorities to guide and drive the development of the oil sands from the values research Cambridge Strategies has done in conjunction with the U of A based Oil Sand Research and Information Network.  

Environmental monitoring of oil sands development is one of the top three most important value concerns of Albertans.  Reclamation and habitat protection are the others followed by greenhouse gas emissions and water usage.

It is encouraging to see the federal and Alberta government getting together to address this concern.  The disgraced provincial water monitoring approach of oil sands has been abandoned.  Now we see the federal government pushing ahead with the announcement of a $20million Lower Athabasca Water Quality Monitoring Program.

The Alberta government is now effectively engaged in this ecological monitoring responsibility now as well and in collaboration with the federal government and industry.   Environment Minister Rob Renner acknowledges that the environment is a shared constitutional responsibility with the federal government saying some monitoring will be fed lead and others will be a major Alberta responsibility.

This is very encouraging but we need this work to be evidence based done by independent expert scientists.  We must keep all politicians in all orders of government out of the processes and reporting.  We need open access to the data and peer reviewed reporting of findings as well as full disclosure of the implications of findings and recommendations that come out of the water monitoring.

We can't trust the politicians not to interfere with this work for political purposes.  We also can't trust industry to self monitor or to control the environmental monitoring agenda. This water monitoring has to be done collaboratively between governments and in conjunction with industry.  That seems to be the case now and I am most encouraged by how this is coming together between the two orders of government and the involvement of industry.

Travis Davies of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers speaking on behalf of the industry hits a few key points going forward saying: "We are happy to be judged by good science.  We think it's a very important piece of where we want to go, which is long-term, responsible development."  (emphasis added)  CAPP goes even  further to properly frame the water monitoring initiative saying "We're certainly willing to pay our share, provided that governments collaborate and that the final product is effective, efficient and avoids duplication." (emphasis added again).

I am not a big fan of those who think government should be run more like a business.  They are very different animals and government is more often more complex than most businesses.  That said, I add the emphasis in the CAPP quotes because they underscore some necessary lessons governments can learn from the oil sands business. I applaud the CAPP emphasis on science based, long-term approach to responsible development done with an collaborative, effective, efficient approach that avoids duplication by governments.  I also add a caution to avoid gaps in the monitoring approach too.  That was a major problem with the former discredited Alberta water monitoring work.

Albertans should be pleased with this new approach to ecological monitoring by governments and industry.  We overwhelming believe (89%) that the oil sands are important to our future prosperity.  We don't trust federal or provincial politicians to manage this resource responsibly.  We strongly believe (87%) that industry must be held responsible for any ecological damage it does from oil sands development.  About 2/3 of Albertans accept some degree of federal role in the oil sands.  So this collaborative inter-governmental ecological involvement in oil sands will not offend Albertans.  But some actions and attitudes by government approach to oil sands development will offend us.

The entire field of ecological monitoring of the oil sands has to be done independent of government and industry interference and with a long-term view not tied to any investment interests, political agendas or election cycles.  The duty to ensure responsible development of the oil sands is a shared function of the federal and provincial governments along with industry.  Albertans own this vital resource and we need to ensure it is exploited in a integrated responsible way. We need to see oil sands developed with an integrated economic, environmental, social, political and cultural perspective, not just jobs and investment.

We need to look at governments as our property managers and industry as our contractors to grow the wealth from this asset.  We need to make all of them accountable to the greater good of all Albertans, including future generations, not just shareholders, bankers and other economic stakeholders.  There is a lot of fixing that has to be done to return the confidence and pride of Albertans about oil sands development. The joint effort this water monitoring heralds is a strong and positive step in the right direction.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Is Alberta Ready to Change its Political Culture?

We are into a very fecund time politically in Alberta.  We have just finished province wide municipal elections. The results were surprising to many.  The most dramatic change was the come from nowhere (never mind being) Nenshi win of the Mayor's chair in Calgary.  This was a sea change election in Calgary where 53% of the population found a reason to believe in local democracy again and they showed up to vote.  That was a 20 point bump from last election.

In an informed and extensive Feature Article "A Wave of Change" in the just released April edition of AlbertaViews magazine www.albertaviews.ab.ca Larry Johnsrude tracks and chronicles the facts and possible provincial political implications of the municipal elections.  He notes the comments and calculations made by Alberta Party leadership candidate Glenn Taylor at Reboot Alberta 3.0 on changes in municipal election in Alberta.  

Glenn was Vice President Towns at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association.  He has taken a leave of absence from that position to run for the leadership of the Alberta Party.  Serving through the AUMA gave Glenn some insight into what happened in the last local elections.  In a political game where incumbents have a distinct advantage, Glenn noted 47% of Alberta's Town Council had new people elected.  It happens 52% of the time ion villages and 41% in municipal districts.  

No incumbent was "safe." Even some of the tried and true incumbent municipal mayors won in squeaker campaigns. Grande Prairie elected Bill Givens, an Alberta Party and Reboot Alberta guy, instead of the incumbent mayor.  In Rimbey and Crossfield and other towns citizens threw out the entire council and mayor.  Ouch!  

WHAT ABOUT FED-PROV POLITICAL CHANGE?
What does this mean for provincial politics? It is not a rhetorical question after 40 years of PC rule. We have three political parties holding leadership campaigns. I, with many others, intend to buy memberships in the Alberta Party, the Alberta Liberal Party and the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta.  I will do this so I can vote for the most progressive candidate I can find in each contest. 


No one candidate for any provincial party leadership is safe and no foregone conclusions can be drawn about the prospects of any candidate in any party at the time of writing.  We add to the confusion a pending provincial election likely in Spring of 2012 but perhaps sooner or arguably, later.  That result also seems to be open for a sea change as citizens of Alberta find a reason to believe in democracy again.  I'm sensing a minority provincial government with a progressive group having the balance of power in the next Alberta legislature.

We seem destined to have a federal election this May too.  Will we see dramatic changes there?  The death of democracy in Alberta is at its worst federally.  Maybe we are ready to send a message to the Harper government that they can't presume a wave, never mid a sweep of Alberta seats.  We Albertans sure do get taken for granted by the Conservative Party of Canada.  

With Jim Prentice abruptly quitting the Harper Government (as he likes call it!), Albertans may be wondering if Harper is in any way authentically aligned with Albertan values.  The contempt his government has shown for Canada and the presumptive arrogance that he assumes he can ignore Alberta because we have no alternative might not result in the low election turnout he is counting on.  

The progressives in this province are the majority...63% according to our Reboot Alberta survey. If we show up and vote Liberal, NDP or Green we will split the vote and return Harper - perhaps to a majority.  Progressives are going to have to find the best candidate in a riding and vote for him or her regardless of party affiliation to beat Harper.  Dr. Phil Elder of the Democratic Reform Project makes some interesting observations along those lines.


Will it happen?  Linda Duncan won that way for the NDP last election!  Will there be others this time?  Perhaps, but only if we progressive show up and take back control of our democracy in Alberta.  Apathy is not an option for progressive Albertans.  Real change is possible.  The stars are lining up.  We just have to smarten up and show up.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Why Glenn Taylor Wants to Serve as the Alberta Party Leader

Most readers of this blog will know I am working with Glenn Taylor in his effort to win the privilege to be the leader of the Alberta Party.

Glenn is blogging and sharing his sense of why and why him as a preferred choice for leader of a new party and a rebirth of effective engaged and informed citizenship in Alberta.  More progressives in Alberta become aware they can't just sit back and rest assured that Alberta will be the kind of accepting, tolerant, prosperous and progressive place they presume it will be.  We are no longer assured that the political culture and direction of the power brokers will deliver on its vast potential socially, environmentally and economically other than in search of self interest..  That kind of politics-as-usual is no longer acceptable. But what are the alternatives?

We have to build on the strengths of the past but we can't look only to the past as the road to the future. The world is now globalized and changed fundamentally. Power has shifted to the passions of persons and not cynically centralized in the isolated edicts of institutions. We are getting better and better, worse and worse, faster and faster.  Old ways of top down structured regimented thinking driven by power elites who are not committed nor capable of designing a greater good model are not just obsolete - they are dangerous.

The Alberta Party is not about being on the left or the right of the political spectrum no more than it is about the left or the right brain.  It is about a whole new mindset, politically, economically, socially, culturally and environmentally.  It is about integrating the best of both ends of the governing philosophies and adding some new consciousness not dogma.  Is is about a new focused awareness, not political spin.  It is about attending to the real problems we face not the superficial horse race analysis of politics angst that fills the media these days.  It is about allowing for imagination and creativity to be the new normal and making meaningful change with people - not for them or to them. 

Servant leaders who are dedicated to the design, development and deployment of government and governing that is about the greater good is what we need.  This is not theory - it is a necessity.  Those who are still dedicated to change from within the existing political parties deserve our respect and encouragement.  I just don't think it will happen with so much entrenched self interest embedded in the conventional party structures. We need a fresh approach and a different mindset for Albertans and community leaders that is about making Alberta the best place for the world not just the superficial consumptive and competitive goal of the best in the world.

Join this exciting citizen's movement that has become the Alberta Party.  Visit Glenn Taylor's website www.glenntaylor.org to learn more about him and his approach to changing the political culture of Alberta.
It has lots of room for all kinds of progressive people from all kinds of backgrounds and from all over the province. If you want to support  and encourage Glenn's leadership email me kenc@glenntaylor.org and I can get you a membership.

Are You Feeling the Uncertainty Too?

I just got this link from a new Follower on Twitter (H/T to @JamesETowe)
http://www.businessinsider.com/satellite-tour-foreclosure-cities-2011-1

It shows the extent of homes in foreclosure in various cities in the USA from January this year.  This is our largest market.  In many ways our only market. Alberta is even more concentrated on America as an export market.

This is sobering stuff - for them and us.  Makes you wonder what the future holds.  Status quo is not an option, that much is for sure.  The Globe and Mail on Saturday ponders the possibility of a new recession.  

Then look at the "C-Suite Survey" in the Globe and Mail today.  This is the sentiment of the corporate executives in Canada - just before the Harper Budget coming out tomorrow.  Some 83% say they are concerned about the U.S. economy.  There are 73% who share fears about rising energy prices (oil is over $100 and holding) and personal debt levels (see the foreclosure numbers again).

The encouraging aspect of the outlook of the corporate executives is they get it.  What we need to do is invest in the future and education-training investments and research-development are the key to "...generate positive economic results."

The government borrowing money for stimulus spending is now a done deal. Those in Ontario want more government infrastructure spending while the western executives want deficits trimmed.  This difference in perspectives will impact the unity of the country overtime if we don't have a national sense of purpose to over-ride these differences.

Will the Budget tomorrow be a purposeful document about the needs of the nation or just be about perpetuating the power of the Harper Cons?  We are so short of visionary leadership, quality minds, and global perspectives with politicians with the strength of character to tell us the hard facts and the harsh truth of our situations these days. I don't expect much of that in the spin and propaganda around the Budget tomorrow.

We need an adult authentic conversation about Canada and our future realities.  We are luck to have abundant resources. Are we smart enough to steward them property?  So far not so good.  We need a change in the political culture of the country.  We need an election.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

David Akin's On the Hill :: Former Tory MP says his party is anti-democratic

David Akin's On the Hill :: Former Tory MP says his party is anti-democratic

This is the kind of thing any political party member has to stand up against. And every citizen has to reject in the polls.

We centralize way too much power in the leadership of political parties. It is so bad in the Harper Cons that Prime Minister Harper is a danger do democracy. He is contemptuous of democracy - and must be removed from power by citizens. Read Lawrence Martin's great book Harperland for detailed reasons why we need to defeat this kind of political abuse of power.

In Alberta we can change this centralized power system. With three parties (Alberta Party, Liberal Party and PC Party) are looking for new leaders we can make a difference and change the political culture of Alberta by simply putting up $20 to buy a membership in all three parties and push for the kind of leader you want to have as a choice for Premier next election. I call it the $20 Buck Revolution.

Take the time to join all three Alberta parties and find the leadership candidate that reflects your values and is interested in the greater good. Do not support any party or person more interested in political power than public service.

I will give you my preferred choices of leadership candidates, in all three parties, that reflect the core political values of Albertans - integrity, honesty, accountability, transparency, fiscal responsibility and environmental stewardship.


Join the $20 Alberta Political Revolution

THE "BURNING" QUESTION:
I run some non-scientific surveys on this blog from time to time.  I don't call them polls.  They are not.  I call them burning questions.  Stuff that citizens need to pay attention to and ought have an opinion about.  The last burning question was anything but that.  It was a fizzle.

The not so burning question asked blog readers their intentions to participate in voting for the various party leadership races that are happening in Alberta right now.  The response was underwhelming at 49 participants.  It was the lowest level of participation in any burning question I ever asked on this blog.  I know most blog readers are lurkers not commenters and why would they be motivated to respond to a simplistic curiosity like the burning question.  I can discount the low participation and shrug it off.  But I think there is something vital at stake here.  That is our democracy and our freedoms.

CAN WE STILL TAKE DEMOCRACY FOR GRANTED IN ALBERTA?
OK my ego is not so out of control that I think my blog is vital to democracy. It is not.  But my right of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and all the rest of my citizenship rights are foundational to the fact that I can write this blog and express my opinions openly.  There are consequences for speaking out against authority and power even if you have those attributes...just ask Raj Sherman.

There is lots of intimidation, threats, bullying and coercion that powerful forces will try and apply to silence or discredit you.  I will be blogging on that in coming days.  I will be starting with the reasons I feel we need a public inquiry on health care to uncover and expose any abuses of power in that area.  I will expand the discussion into other areas of government and the power structure in Alberta that I have knowledge of or have been informed about.

ARE YOU SURE IT IS YOUR DEMOCRACY?
Back to the core concern. I have serious fears about low citizenship participation rates in Alberta's democracy.  I think indifference, cynicism and skepticism is dangerous.  The consequences of not speaking out, not getting informed and not fully participating as a citizen are more dangerous than any "damage" any petty-minded power-preserving political bully might be able to do to any of us for being responsible citizens.

In the spirit of responsible citizenship I strongly suggest every adult Albertan take full advantage of a unique political game changing opportunity that is alive right now.  That is the change in leadership of three of our political parties in Alberta. If you want the political culture in Alberta to change making changes at the leadership levels seems to be a pretty good place to start. To change the kind of person we have to choose from to be the next Premier of Alberta seems to me to be an offer we ought not refuse.


(photo credit: Shane Becker, veganstraightedge in Flickr)

TIME FOR A DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION IN ALBERTA?
So here is the "revolutionary" idea.  For $20 bucks you can buy a membership in the Alberta Party, the Liberal Party and the Progressive Conservative Party.  Then you have a direct say in the selection of the leader of all three of those political parties.  You can decide which candidate you want to support and even have a serious influence and make a real difference in the future direction of Alberta.  By supporting progressive thinking politicians in all the contest you can also set an example for others in your networks to step up and become a $20 Buck Revolutionary.

It is simple to get started.  Here are the links to join on line:  Alberta Party - Liberal Party Progressive Conservative Party.  Get involved Alberta.  Be the change you want to see.  Be a responsible citizen.

BTW the burning question response was not only low, it was not very supportive of the $20 Buck Revolution.   But that can change if people really want change. Remember these results are merely conversation starters.  They are not conclusive of beliefs or behaviours - even of my blog readers.  Percentages of participants who said they will participate in the current political leadership campaigns were:


  • Alberta Party          30%
  • Liberal Party           18%
  • PC Party                 12%
  • All of Above             6%
  • None of Above       32%

Not promising starting place for the $20 Buck Revolution - but hey - you have to start somewhere.  Mayor Nenshi was at 1% support three months before election day.  It could/should happen again.  Join the $20 Buck Revolution and be the change you want to see.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Alberta Party Picking Up Momentum - Just Like Alberta

There is so much going on politically these days - if you are paying attention.  The Alberta Party is about the busiest with all the action and events going on as we get organized on policy, leadership campaigns, constituency origination and organization, fund raising, potential candidate conversations and meeting fellow Albertans who are yearning for democracy and real change.

We have constituencies to organize and areat an amazing pace.  West Yellowhead was the latest to organize last night and is the home constituency for Glenn Taylor, my choice for Alberta Party Leader.  My constituency is Edmonton Glenora.  Here is a link to an online e-zine run by the Journalism students at Grant MacEwan University.    It will give you some background on what I see happening in the Alberta Party and where we are going.  The mainstream media is now paying serious attention to the Alberta Party even if the pollsters have not yet caught on to this citizen's movement phenomenon.

We have an Alberta Party leadership contest in full flight with three diverse candidates - so far - maybe more by the time the Nomination deadline of April 18 rolls around.  It promises to get interesting leading up to the May 28th Convention in Edmonton when the leader will be voted in.

We are selling memberships like crazy and just broke the 1000 level with momentum picking up every week.   As leadership candidates get organized and going they will attract even more Albertans who really want to see the Alberta Party succeed as we "Do Politics Differently."

Constituencies are hosting local events all over the province to give neighbours a chance to meet local Alberta Party members and leadership candidates in informal conversations.  Check out the action and satisfy your curiosity about the Alberta Party and attend an event in your area of Alberta.

Busy crazy and exciting times.  Also very unnerving times as there is so much uncertainty about what is really happening in Alberta.  The economy is strong but only in sectors like energy. The social pressures of the last boom have not been fixed yet and we are heading into another damaging boom that we are not ready for. Just look at the continuing infrastructure deficit and the remaining unattended pressures on health care, education, on seniors and vulnerable Albertans.

The rich-poor gap in Alberta is getting worse and worse, faster and faster and the middle class is under more and more pressure just to keep up.  This is not a sustainable society, never mind being even aspirationaly optimal. That is not good and there is no indication we have learned lessons from prior booms so we can predict it will get better in the next time.

Many people who are the heart and soul of Albert are becoming very nervous and timorous in the face of such rapid and uncontrolled change. This angst is everywhere outside the power elites, and they seem unaware of the consequences.  Albertans are wondering who they can trust to responsibly manage Alberta's growth.  Last May 45% of us said none of the current political parties and leaders were trusted to to the job right.  Things have become a lot more uncertain since then - even with indications of economic recovery.

The Alberta Advantage was supposed to help the economic tide rise in Alberta.  The indications are in the rising Alberta tide only the yachts go up, the rest of us get swamped and some actually sink in the face of wealth.  Not the way to run a rich province.

So change is in the air and it might be radical - who knows.  The municipal elections all over Alberta last October saw a wide spread and amazing rejection of incumbent politicians.  Some towns threw out entire councils others culled the contented and complacent politicians from their positions.  Could that be a prelude to a citizen's movement to do a house cleaning in the Legislature next election.  I would not be surprised.  Lougheed did it back in the day.  It is time again.  It could happen again.  It would not really surprise anyone except those politicians who are seriously out of touch with the values and aspirations of the real Alberta.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Raj Sherman - Hero or Zero? Stay Tuned

I had coffee with Raj on Friday and talked about a wide range of topics from political to professional to ethics.  He is going to table documents on Monday March 7th that he says will begin to back up his dramatic allegation in the Legislature last week.  Raj says he does not play Poker but he knows he is "all in" over these issues, allegations and public policy concerns.

This very thorough and comprehensive feature article by Sheila Pratt of the Edmonton Journal will provide the background and context for anyone wanting to catch up and follow this very important set of events and allegations.

I am going to be as interested as any other thoughtful citizen of Alberta in what Raj will table as he starts to provide the evidence to back up his dramatic assertions.

If you want clearer and cleaner politics along with better government and governance you have to be monitoring the Raj Sherman story.  Tomorrow promises to be very interesting.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Albertans are Worried About Reclamation

The Edmonton Journal editorial today reflects the values of Albertans around the importance of reclamation around oil sands.  We know that the type of reclamation, habitat protection and ecological monitoring are the top three values that Albertans believe need to drive and guide decisions on oil sands development.  The same issues arise in the entire energy sector in Alberta...not just the oil sands.

It is a serious concern and we need to be sure we get it right...starting now - not way into the future when it is someone else's "problem." This is just another issue that current Albertans have to insist government and industry take a long term look.  We should not pass on a burden of reclamation to future generations because we refused failed or neglected to meet our duty to mitigate the environmental and habitat damage we must do as part of oil sands development.

Ecological monitoring is being done but the quality is in question and the focus is not understood or trusted.  This is a major concern of Albertans.  Industry must address this for its social license to operate and political parties and leadership candidates who want to form governments must attend to this concern if they want the trust and consent of citizens to govern in the next election.  Integrity is the issue.  Not just what politicians or political parties say - but can you trust them to deliver.

We can do conservation offsets to mitigate the energy sector's footprint and fragmentation of the Boreal forest too.  This concept is part of the new land stewardship legislation that needs to be retained...but the offsets need to be large enough to actually enhance the prospects of at risk species like grizzly and caribou.

It is all part of a move where Albertans are revisiting values that say we need to harmonize with nature - not just try and engineer our way out of nature.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Don't Let EU Define Our Oil Sands Emissions Policy

Dr Andrew Leach has an interesting vision around oil sand greenhouse gas emissions policy in an op-ed today.  Dr. Leach is an Energy, Environment and Resource Economist at the U of A and a fellow blogger.

I will be on a panel with Mike Hudema of Greenpeace and Rich Hyndman of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers to respond to Dr. Leach's lecture entitled "How Our Approach to GHG Policy Could Kill the Oil Sands."  It is at 6:30 reception and presentation from 7-9 pm March 3 at ETLC Solarium, 2nd floor on the U of A campus.

We at Cambridge Strategies Inc. have recently done some values-based research with the Oil Sands Research and Information Network on what values Albertans what to see guide and drive the development of their oil sands.   This research found that 89% of Albertans believed that the oil sands are key to the future prosperity of Alberta.  The overarching question for Albertans is not should we develop the oil sands but how should we develop this enormous resource.

Like Dr. Leach I see some of key issues that can't be allowed to compete against each other but must be integrated as as co-creative opportunities around GHG emissions and the development of the oil sands.  Co-creative oil sands development opportunities must craft and integrate diverse opportunities for increased prosperity that enhance and harmonize with environmental obligations.

The corporate social license to operate in oil sands development must be part of a cultural shift around oil sands development.  That shift must stretch beyond merely qualifying for a social license to operate.  We need developers and operators to aspire to be worthy of public acknowledgement as a preferred steward of this vital and publicly owned natural resource.

GHG emissions are the #1 oil sands development value concern for 21.2% of Albertans.  It is #4 for all Albertans in a random sample.  It is behind concerns over reclamation, habitat protection and ecological monitoring. Water usage concerns are #5 in priority but these values all inter-relate to one another and have to be dealt with as a whole to make a real difference.

There are major political factors at play around GHG.  Dr. Leach points to some like the international perceptions of oil sands, the European Union specifically.  He also deals with the carbon pricing challenge, and points out that Alberta's "way out of this mess is through carbon pricing."  I totally agree but the political ideology/mythology in the right wings that dominate the Alberta political power structure see carbon pricing  as a job killing tax and therefore it is "politically"off the table. Ironically Alberta already has a modest carbon "tax" based on large emitters only.  It is a penalty approach akin to an "abuser fee" and is so low that it does not really encourage behaviourial changes in industry.

There is another below the radar political reality around CO2 emissions and oil sands development.  Our research shows that 57% of Albertans believe that there is some capture of oil sands related CO2 emissions.  The truth is virtually none of oil sands produced CO2 is currently captured.  While oil sands CO2 emissions are only  about 15% of Alberta's total CO2 emissions they get almost all of the media attention, here and abroad.

The facts, while interesting, often have precious little to do with perceptions and in politics perceptions are reality. If Albertans come to realize that the truth of oil sands CO2 capture is vastly different from their perceptions and their expectations there is a potential for serious political consequence.  Will Albertans feel betrayed, mislead or worse yet, lied to, once they realize this discrepancy between facts and perceptions?  Will the $2billion fund dedicated to carbon capture from other non-oil sands emissions be enough to mitigate what some have referred to as the oil sands CO2 betrayal factor?

There is a tense relationship that is not getting any easier between the citizens of Alberta as owners of the oil sands, the industry who are tenants and the government who are the property managers of this vital resource.  Leadership is lacking in all spheres.  The acrimonious debates between environmentalists, industry and government produces a great deal of heat. I am not so sure they add much light on the issues so citizens can have a meaningful understanding of what needs to be done, what is being done and is it enough to get it right.

I applaud the University of Alberta students from the Energy Club, the Commerce and Energy and Environment Group from the School of Energy and Environment are sponsoring this series of dialogues of Oil Sands Visionaries.   So Albertans, as owners of the oil sands, come out tomorrow night and get some information and insight about how your oil sands can be developed in ways that align with your values. 

Hope to see you tomorrow night.