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Friday, February 16, 2018

Looking at the Alberta Party Leadership

A New Day and a New Way?  With the retirement of Greg Clark as leader, there are four phases to the leadership change process within Alberta Party.  First was to find quality and committed candidates.  Done!  Membership sales was next phase that closed on February 12.  Done! Now the candidates have to get out there votes and persuade others members to support them for the end of February voting. In progress!

The final phase will be for the new leader to get to work.  That is true for the other candidates, the sitting MLAs and the Board to grow the Party, recruit candidates and  raise some cash for the next election and get focused to contest a by-election in the meantime.  Next Steps!

The Alberta Party members will be deliberating on who they will support for Leadership and why. Ideally they will be sharing their thoughts with friends and family and through their social and professional networks.  Raising the profile of the Party is only worthwhile if it raises support and participation in the next election.

When looking at deciding  who should be the new Alberta Party leader. I am looking at what should be the go-forward leadership qualities, focus and capabilities. for the benefit of the Party My lens is about what the Alberta Party needs now to be successful in these times of change, uncertainty, pressing stewardship obligations, social cohesion needs and economic challenges.

Welcome to Uncertainty and Volatility. The Alberta Party has had a number of false starts at gaining traction and momentum since I became involved in 2009 and manged the Glenn Taylor Leadership Campaign.  What is past is definitely not a prelude for what is needed today.  The past  is not much of a factor in helping members to decide the criteria they must apply for selecting the next leader of the Alberta Party and promoting it's future.

This is a new day in Alberta's political culture, especially given the electoral rejection of the PC dynasty and the coagulation of Reform-based social conservatives into the Kenney lead UCP.  The the dramatic rise of the NDP from a 2 seat No Party Status in 2009 (when the Alberta Party started) to a 54 seat majority government by 2015.  Volatility is the new normal in Alberta's political culture and anything could happen.

So what can and should  the Alberta Party expect to achieve based on the three leadership candidate options?  Quite a bit I would suggest.  If I have my druthers I would like a leader that had the combined strengths of each candidate all rolled into one.  That, unfortunately, is not reality.  My list of Alberta Party leadership needs is based on what it will take to become a viable political alternative, capable of forming government and worthy of earning the public's trust.

Here is what I see as the strengths of each candidate, as applied to the needs of the Alberta Party today, and in no order of priority:

Organization.  We need a leader who can recruit quality, capable and committed candidates.  Those candidates must be loyal to a set of inclusive and comprehensive progressive principles, and not beholden to a party leader.  That means the leader must be capable of creating a strong local presence throughout the province that results in viable, active and effective constituency organizations. That requires a leaders with a province-wide network and the ability to be forthright with potential candidates about the realities of political life.  Stephen Mandel has the best capacity to offer that in my opinion.

Articulate an Albertan Progressive Vision.  The failure of left versus right hyper-partisan policy options is bemoaned but what is the alternative?  The Alberta Party leader must be able to position the party clearly as the progressive centrists option with pragmatic policy offerings.  That policy approach must be based on an aspirational pragmatism with an inclusive, integrated Triple-Bottom-Line governance approach that sees government as force for achieving a greater good.

The "vision thing" is best articulated with a common touch and a forthright candor about Alberta's challenges, limitations, weaknesses and threats.  What must we do to realizing our potential as people, communities, businesses and as a province.  On this criteria I see Rick Fraser  sense of the province today and aspirations for the future as the best carrier of that flame for the Alberta Party.

Future Focus and Forthrightness. The province is changing in so many ways and at an unprecedented accelerated basis.  We need to get serious about Alberta coming to grips with the realities of a post-fossil fuel future. We need fresh 21st century thinking and ideas to be able to adapt to the new technologies and adopt the many available productivity innovations to secure our continuing economic prosperity.

We need to be forthright about our ecological stewardship obligations and quick enough to find the clean-tech and other business opportunities within those challenges.  We need inclusive secular public policy approaches that fosters social cohesion and enables more well-being, especially for vulnerable citizens.  Leaving debts and environmental clean up and reclamation obligations to future generations because we refuse to be responsible in raising government revenues to pay our way today is not acceptable.  I believe Kara Levis has the courage and intelligence and has best sense of differentiating the Alberta Party to have the hard conversations of pressing and pending realities.

Citizenship and Democratic Engagement.  Many Albertans have become very disengaged from the political culture of the province.  As a result we run the risk of forfeiting political power to  active extremists.  We can see the consequences of this in American politics under President Trump. Encouraging and enabling  informed citizenship to engage on issues of importance to them and thereby increasing voter participation is key to a vibrant, effective and representative democracy must be a goal for every Alberta Party member, regardless of who is the leader.

Encouraging more effective progressive citizen political involvement, including social media literacy, must be part of an Alberta Party approach to out political culture.  We must do more to ensure Albertans have the skills needed to thrive the new reality of disruptive technologies including their impact on our democratic institutions.  Engaging the disengaged, especially women and youth, in Alberta's political culture  is key to any on-going Alberta Party success.

In conclusion....... This is not an exhaustive list of reasons to support one candidate or another.   It is an effort to get Alberta Party members, and Albertans, to think past the horse-race approach of who is winning or losing, so common in political leadership contests.  We also don't need to get caught up in the superficial personality assessments all too often applied to leadership selection.  This Alberta Party leadership campaign is more akin to the Bruce Mau challenge in his book Massive Change when he said: "Now that we can do anything, what will we do?"

I am not endorsing any candidate directly and this post should not be interpreted as an indirect endorsement of any candidate either.  I am still undecided at this time.  All I ask is that Alberta Party members vote on the basis of what is best for the Alberta Party so it can be the best for Alberta.