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Sunday, March 25, 2018

We're Just a Bunch of Monkeys

I wanted to write something in anticipation of the inevitable Left vs Right commentary that will be forthcoming on the Alberta Budget debates. 

However, I have not really read the Budget...yet!  Pretty hard to be authoritative under those circumstances.

Still the polarized arguments and tropes from the adversaries are very easy to anticipate as they get regurgitated.

The progressive centralists in the Alberta Party are still looking for some safer, saner and sustainable solutions.  That is very much a "work in progress" and the work continues. 

In the meantime here is some "comic relief" round the Left vs Right at it relates in the States.  Except for the names and a few other changes...for Alberta the story's the same one. (apologies to Neil Diamond for ripping of his lyrics in I Am...I Said).

Now I will delve into the 2018 Budget and look for the gems of sound fiscal management and the germs of good ideas.

It would be good if you joined my in the search.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Are Alberta's Policy Makers Agile Enough for Emerging Technologies?

I have been travelling the province facilitating workshops on the the impacts and implications of emerging technologies in our economy.  These technologies are also called disruptive and exponential by some folks, depending on if you have a half empty or half full mindset.

NEW SKILLS & NEW COMPETENCIES:
The underlying motivation for these workshops is to gauge the awareness, interest, readiness,  planning and actions being taken to adopt and adapt to these transformational changes.  We have taken a special interest in the skills and competencies we humans will need to be able to work with these technologies and in spite of them.

There is a lot going on in the physical realms of autonomous vehicles, drones, robotics, automation, 3D printing for example.  It seems there is even more going on in the computational and information realms line artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented and virtual reality, quantum computing.  Then we have bio-engineering and nanotechnology happening at alarming rates too.

NEW MINDSETS NEEDED:
Alberta has a unique opportunity to engage and lead in many of these areas as a smart way to diversify our economy.  But we need to get our heads out of the incremental mindset of  conservative thinking and get seriously and creatively into an innovation mindset of progressive change.

Boldness doesn't mean recklessness or brash behaviours but it does demand leaps of imagination using ingenuity in an applied way to see things differently.  This is not a call to rely on faith as a way forward.  It is a demand  that we look at evidence and deal with facts and live as much in the question as we do in seeking the answers.

That mean we have to teach ourselves to be innovative.  We need to escape the comfort and stability of the known and consciously choose to seek out the opportunity in the uncertainty and to seek to see things differently.

RENEWING OUR INSTITUTIONS:
All of this comes into play in the collective exercise of our democracy through governance, regulation and...yes politics!  Are we citizens ready, willing and able to attract, identify and elect the kind of candidates?  Will we stay informed and engage with the policy-makers to influence and deal with these issues?  Are our institutions up the the challenge in these transformations, including political parties?

By example of policy implications, here is a brief recent backgrounder by Herman J.H. Ossthuysen on Autonomous Vehicles in Alberta.  It was originally published by the Alberta Council of Technologies as a provocation on the technological implications for policy issues for Alberta's transportation and infrastructure from autonomous vehicles in the trucking industry.

This change in approach must pervade all aspects of our lives and relationships to ourselves, to our economy, to our environment and our society.  We often define ourselves by what we "do" mostly by our work.  What if we envisaged a post-work society in the new reality of automation robotics and machine learning?  What will we use to establish our sense of worth if we are at the end of "Homo-Economicus?"

Here is a link to a Guardian Long Reads podcast on a "Post-work: the radical idea of a world without jobs."  It's about 35 minutes long so grab a cup of coffee of brew some tea and give it a listen.

The world is run by those who show up!  Passive pretentious progressivism can no longer be tolerated. I will look forward to your comments on this blog post.  After all we are all in this alone...together.


Saturday, March 03, 2018

Alberta Party 3.0... How Did It Come to This?

The Only Sure Thing in Alberta Politics is There is No Sure Thing.
The on-going volatility of the Alberta political culture is not smoothing out with Stephen Mandel's recent Alberta Party leadership victory.  That volatility is likely to become more vociferous and starkly apparent as the adversarial win-lose, right versus left hardens the positions of the UCP and NDP.  Is there any room for a rational, pragmatic and progressive centrist party option in this win-at-any-cost political culture?

Alberta Party 1.0
The Alberta Party wasn't always a progressive centrist movement, in fact quite the opposite.  According to Wikipedia, which in this instance I have no reason to doubt, the Alberta Party was founded in 1985 and started out " in the early 1980s as an alliance of small separatists political parties...spawned in the wake of the National Energy Program...."

There were five parties to the right of the  Alberta Progressive Conservatives in 1985 and some had elected MLAs but had lost them in the 1982 election.  In 1990 there was a movement to join these right-wing parties into a new party called the Alliance Party of Alberta.  It unsuccessfully contested 2 by-elections, fielded a handful of candidates in 1993 election and passed on participating in the 1997 general election entirely.

In 1998 the party changed its name to the "Alberta Party Political Association" and became known as the Alberta Party for branding purposes.  In advance of the 2004 election there was a failed attempt to merge with the "Alberta Alliance Party" that had formed out of the old federal Reform Party cum Canadian Alliance party but in an Alberta context. 

The merger idea was for the new entity to campaign under the Alberta Alliance Party name and to adopt the Alberta Party platform.  The merger fell apart when the Alberta Party refused to de-register its name with Elections Alberta.  In fact the Alberta Party official changed it name just before the 2004 election and ran 4 candidates in that election and 1 in the 2008 campaign. 

Alberta Party 2.0
As the Wildrose Alliance became the dominant right-wing party in Alberta the hard-right conservatives gravitated there leaving the Progressive Conservative Party and the Alberta Party. The Alberta Party was pretty much inert but it was kept registered. It was then that the new efforts to start a movement to attract progressives from the PCs, Alberta Liberals and Greens coming out of a series of three province wide gatherings of progressives called Reboot Alberta.  Reboot Alberta arose from a discontent with the rise of the far right and the need for a more effective progressive voice in Alberta politics.

This progressive movement was a loose arrangement of the Progress Party, the Reboot Alberta initiative and a Calgary centric Renew Alberta.  The daunting task of raising 8000 signatures to start a new party and the attractiveness of the Alberta Party name resulted in informal discussion with the tired but true board of the Alberta Party.  I took the lead in those discussions with the old board acknowledging that the Reboot/Renew initiative where the old board agreed to suspend the old far-right policy platform. The idea was to formulate a fiscal conservative, socially progressive and environmentally responsible platform. 

That openness of the old Alberta Party board resulted in the unanimous election of Edwin Erickson, a former Green Party deputy leader as the Alberta Party leader.  That was the beginning of a new centrist progressive political party that was a gathering place for a wide range of Albertans looking for a more authentic voice for an integrated and comprehensive pragmatist approach to politics and governance in Alberta. That was the beginning of the Alberta Party as we know it today.

Alberta Party 3.0
What will be the fortunes of the next Alberta Party? Time will tell.  It appears that it finally has traction and momentum after many years of frustration and false starts.  The recent leadership contest has drawn new members, new energy and renewed purpose.  The hard work of raising some real money, some great candidates and viable constituency organizations with a resonant policy platform is on the agenda for the new leadership.