Reboot Alberta

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year and Thank You!

The end of 2006 is just around the corner. I want to thank all the over 13,000 unique visitors who have visited and participated in this Blog since I started it on July 23.

I am enjoying the vitality of the conversations and am just starting to see the power and importance of this new communications medium.

I got involved at the urging of some other younger Bloggers around the PC leadership in Alberta. I intend to keep posting on politics and public policy. I also expect to expand the scope of this Blog into some specific area of key interest, including the tricky part of balancing a vibrant economy with environmental enhancement, not mere sustainability. Participatory, informed citizenship is another area of interest I will start to explore and comment on in the New Year too.

We will be doing much more collaboration with Policy Channel ( next year as well. There will be more links to more timely and informative conversations with experts and advocates in a range of public policy issues.

I will try to be provocative and fair and open to all comers and commentators – within the bounds of good taste and the law. I have only had to delete one comment since I started this journey and that was for reasons of legality.

So thanks for visiting, thanks for reading and I hope you keep coming back and telling your friends, family, colleagues and associates about this Blog. The more people who participate in a democracy, the wiser the “crowd” becomes and the better the system works.

Happy New Year to you and yours.

Ken Chapman

Friday, December 29, 2006

Will We Get Good Government From Either Harper or Dion

Citizens are angry about the shallow commitment they see in our politicians to open, accountable and transparent government. They are equally angry over the partisan gamesmanship that passes for political strategy and tactics, especially on the federal scene these days.

The Chrétien and Martin Liberal governments were masters at this gamesmanship and the Harper Cons are showing signs they are of the same ilk. The recent fight the Cons have had with Elections Canada over certain convention costs being party donations and the stacking of the 10-member panel to oversee and make policy recommendations on reproductive technologies and stem-cell research with social conservatives are cases in point.

The tactical cuteness of releasing the news of these events quietly on the Friday before the Christmas celebrations, obviously to avoid media coverage, has been noticed by the main stream media and only adds to cynicism. To their credit the MSM are commenting on these issues extensively now, when citizens are ready to read the news again.

The earlier Harper Cons “disclosure” of Dion’s dual citizenship is an equivalent piece of gamesmanship. Michael Adams’ excellent Op Ed in the Globe and Mail today deals with this issue intelligently and in a context of Canadian values. I personally believe Dion having dual citizenship is an advantage for Canada in international relations and in developing a better balanced foreign policy, especially with the European Union. The Harper Cons framing it as an issue of Dion’s loyalty to Canada is pure “Bush” league.

The Harper Cons are evolving as a government and have done some really sound forward thinking policy work this past year. When they get purely partisan, publicly “chippy” and use the governance power for tactical political gain they lessen their stock in the minds of Canadians. They show how misaligned they really are with mainstream Canadian social values.

Canadians have been test driving the Harper minority government for the past year to see how it works as an alternative to the institutionalized arrogance of past Liberal regimes. The reviews are mixed so far but the looming election will be the true test of the citizen’s sense of if the Cons are ready for the real power of a majority government. It will also test if Dion’s Liberals are to be trusted and if they are perceived as any different from the Chrétien/Martin Liberals of yore.

I, like most Canadians, like Peace, Order and Good Government. Today we have none of these. Peace will be awhile coming but we must unconditionally support our troops while we reflect on our role and goal in Afghanistan. Order will come with a majority government that, ideally, has representation in every region, if not every province.

Good Government is a bigger issue. It requires a change in the governance culture in Ottawa and almost everywhere else. That requires better leaders with qualities of character and a personal commitment to governing with intelligence and integrity with a long view and not just keeping and exercising power until the next election. It demands more Garth Turner types of backbenchers with independent streaks and clear thinking minds who can balance partisanship political demands with the responsibilities of a representative democracy.

I hope we have a spring federal election so we can restore some stability and order and get back on a path towards good government. For Canada to be at Peace again will take a bit longer. An election should help Canadians clarify why we are in Afghanistan, what we intend to accomplish there for the Afghan people and what it will take for Canada to achieve those ends.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

LaPresse Column "l'Alberta Verte"

The following is the English version of the monthly column my business partner and I do for LaPresse. This piece was published on Christmas Eve and has already generated some positive email reaction from Quebec.

The environment is now the #1 policy issue in Canada and even in Alberta according to recent polls and our own research. We have seen this shift as a blip in the opinion polls before but we expect the environment to stay #1 for quite a while. Polar Bears approaching designation on the endangered species list and Ellesmere Island calving a huge piece of polar cap are canaries in the climate change coal mine. (Aren’t mixed metaphors fun!)

Green Alberta - published in LaPresse December 24, 2006
Satya Das et Ken Chapman

Les auteurs dirigent Cambridge Strategies Inc., groupe-conseil albertain en politique publique.

Simon Durivage was incredulous when Stephane Dion was described as a friend of Alberta who understands us well.

How can that be, asked the RDI host, when Dion is the poster-boy for the Kyoto Accord and Alberta is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the country?

It may take some stretching of the imagination, but in fact there is no contradiction between those two realities. Once one moves beyond the natural impulse to look for conflict, one sees an enormous coincidence of interest and approach between the emerging leadership in Alberta, and the prescriptions of M. Dion.

The most detailed and impressive environmental policy in the contest to succeed Ralph Klein came from leadership candidate David Hancock, who was widely identified with the “progressive” wing of the Progressive Conservative party in the Klein era. Like Dion, Hancock, and other Alberta opinion leaders are keenly aware of the opportunity – and the necessity – of enhanced environmental stewardship as the essential component of a growing economy

There is opposition to the Kyoto Accord in Alberta but it has been overstated. At the height of the controversy, the CEO of the oil sands giant, Suncor Energy, noted that by their calculations the cost of implementing Kyoto was estimated at 15 cents a barrel . Shortly thereafter, the Alberta large greenhouse gas emitters and the Government of Canada came to an agreement on emission levels. This co-operative accord between a Liberal government and Alberta’s energy sector runs against the grain of the Alberta-Ottawa stereotype, yet it stands as compelling evidence of what can be achieved through negotiation.

This is the context in which the Dion plan of developing the best technologies to protect the environment, and selling them for profit worldwide, finds such resonance in Alberta.

Consider this statement: “We do not want to look into our grandchildren’s eyes when they ask what happened to their land, water and air only to say we used it all up. Saying we are sorry will not be good enough.”

These words are from Hancock, the former Klein cabinet minister and Progressive Conservative leadership candidate. These words represent a strong consensus among thoughtful Albertans. In his view, “We have to tighten regulations, monitoring and enforcement and we must set and meet absolute targets. We need new science, better technologies and stringent emissions standards. We must drive demand for new approaches to emission reductions. . . . We must be world leaders on the issue of climate change and greenhouse gas reductions by both continuing to reduce emission intensity at home and continuing to create the knowledge and technology to reduce global emissions.”

Given the similarity of these approaches to effective and enforced environmental stewardship, there may be more common ground between the new Alberta government and the environmental policy of Dion than with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s approach to climate change and the economy.

This should not be a surprise, given the strong Green streak emerging in Alberta. In the last several years, Preston Manning has been a leading advocate of putting the “conserve” back into conservatism, advocating future economic growth should be built on sustainable stewardship of the environment. In the last federal election, Calgary recorded the highest proportion of votes for the Green Party.

Despite what non-Albertans may conclude, the present federal government should not be taken as a monolithic expression of Albertans’ will. The new Stelmach government in Alberta will set its own course, not just on the environment but on other issues like trade and immigration.

The creative tension inherent in federalism is very much alive in Alberta. The coming months may provide a series of beneficial and positive answers to M. Durivage’s question.

Qu’en pensez-vous?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Harper is Right to Reject Gomery #2

I find myself agreeing with Prime Minister Harper’s position on Mr. Justice Gomery’s Phase 2 Report that would have the effect of changing the responsibility and accountability lines between ministers and Parliament. The four key recommendations were too inimical to our traditions and practices to be practical.

That does not mean the issues Gomery identified as to transparency; accountability and the governance culture in the federal polity are not real and serious. It means his recommended changes are not realistic in the larger context of our governance tradition.

Gomery notes that the “so-called ‘sponsorship scandal’ was as aberration” and he seeks to rebalance the roles of Parliament and the executive branch of government as a solution. The Harper Con government is keen to be sure the bureaucracy (and the judiciary too) know their places and how to keep them. That is a good thing but if the response is to increase the powers of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office ostensibly to balance these other institutional influences, where does that put the roles and responsibilities of our Parliamentarians…the lowly backbenchers? How do they get to perform their duties and exercise their responsibilities in such a top down model?

Adscam originated in the Chrétien PMO and Parliamentarians were conspicuously absent from any engagement on the issues, especially those MPs who’s constituencies were receiving direct and inapproprite sponsorship benefits. Why did the local MPs not speak up? Were they wilfully blind or kept in total ignorance or were they merely incompetent in failing to question the PMO on accountability and responsibility issues of the sponsorship funding program? Gomery also noted an “excessive deference to the political arm of government within the public service.” How can this ever be a good thing for "peace order and good government?"

These questions and concerns still abide today especially in the highly centralized and controlling Harper PMO. The recent Deputy Minister shuffle culled many senior public servants who may have been seen as "beholden" to the past regime or not as likely to be complacent and compliant to the wishes of “Canada’s new government” (a.k.a. Stephen Harper.)

The elimination of the Court Challenges Program and the dissolution of the Law Reform Commission dispenses with some of the institutional mechanisms that could enhance transparency and accountability. They did this by providing expert advice and opinion with an arms length judiciousness and a professional “indifference” about the politics involved. They could focus more on the legality and appropriateness of certain public policy issues, especially those that impact the rights and privileges of individual citizenship and relations to the state.

Less study, less inquiry, less dissention and discussion and less scrutiny provides for more government efficiency but does nothing for enhanced governance through more transparency and accountability. The Maher Arar case says enough, if no all one needs to know about the symptoms of institutional efficiency trumping good governance and the need for government's accountability and transparency.

Gomery asked the right questions but came up short on workable and appropriate answers. Harper is right to reject those recommendations but the questions still persist especially with the way he is centralizing control in the PMO. This means those questions are becoming more pressing and more important than ever if transparency and accountability are the goals.

Gomery got it half right about the need for transparency nad accountability. Prime Minister Harper in rejecting some of the key second report recommencdations is also half right. It is unfortunate that such half measures seem sufficient enough to satisfy an inadequate governance standard.

Canadians need and deserve better.

Christmas in Kandahar

Better not pout
Better not cry
Better not shout
I’m telling you why

Santa Claus is coming to town.

(Are we clear on that???)

This picture sure sends out a mixed signal.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Stelmach is "Da Man!"

A new Ipsos Reid poll shows Albertans are on side with “Steady Eddie” big time. Interestingly the field work was done over a week (December 13 to 19) that included the Cabinet announcement on December 15 and the post-announcement reaction time. The lack of balance and representation of the new Cabinet seems to be an issue for the chattering classes only.

A 76% approval rating on the PC’s choosing Stelmach with 33% rating the outcome as “very good.” Expectations are high too, in that 78% are confident that he will be an effective Premier. High praise and higher expectations means the new Alberta government has to deliver!

As for decided voters, the Stelmach led PC’s get a 10 point bounce to 68% of decided voters taking support away from the Liberals and NPD in equal amounts of 4% each. With the NDP at 6% they are dangerously close to being replaced by the Greens as the third party.

The news release highlights the delivery issue incorrectly. It says “Few (17%) Want to See Stelmach Make Major Changes” implying a stay the course approach to governance and NOT make substantial changes. A deeper dip into the data shows just the opposite. In fact there is an appetite for change. Only 8% who want “no real changes.” Moderate change is supported by 58% and minor change is in at 20%. We are talking 90% what some kind of “real change” here and we are only quibbling as to the degree and depth of that change. We voted for change and we want it!

The divided province seems to be more mythical than factual too. In the “good choice” question, 72% of Calgarians and 78% of southern Albertans agree Stelmach was a good choice. Edmonton is really behind Stelmach with an 81% approval rating. The confidence level over Stelmach being an effective Premier is between 79% and 85% all over Alberta and even Calgary is 70% confident and 22% not confident. Still and all, these are impressive numbers and minor differences in the big scheme of things.

Party support into an immediate election (hypothetical at best) is a blow out for the Progressive Conservatives. The Alberta Alliance Party is even behind the Greens in support so the far right social conservative firewall agenda is the Monty Python “dead parrot” in the new Alberta political reality.

Overall the Greens are at 4% and the NDP at 6% and strongest in Edmonton and the North, where they are tied with the NDP. As the environment has moved and solidified as the #1 Alberta policy issue, the NDP are going to be gasping for political relevance in the eyes of Albertans next election.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Why the Snobbery?

This is going to be a very interesting Cabinet Premier Stelmach has crafted. I think people are already lowering their expectations of this Cabinet based on evaluation measurements that no longer really apply to modern governance roles and responsibilities.

We live in an intensely networked relational world that is more horizontal, competitive, connected and faster moving than ever before. Our social cohesion is breaking down as we are all working too much, too fast doing old style things for less and less marginal returns. Smarter working methods are being trumped by more of the same old even though we know that we can’t compete with the traditional models any more. Individual stresses along with community and family breakdown are all rising as a result.

The growing gap between rich and poor, have and have not, is especially troubling within Canada and internationally between the developed and developing world. The level of interdependence of all humanity is something very new as well. This is especially dramatic as we consider the consequences of our individual and collective behaviours as we share in the abusing the planet’s ecosystems. It may be foolish to some to be the first to change - but it is foolhardy in the extreme not to change at all.

So the new Stelmach Cabinet blog comments I am reading seems to me to be using old social scales and images to decide who should exercise authority and who is worthy of respect as we "evaluate the appropriateness" of the people in the Stelmach Cabinet.

In today’s world reality I am not interested in "expert" leaders or professionally packaged politicians who have had all the humanity media trained out of them. I don’t think the only goal of politics is winning the next election, although I acknowledge the importance of that to the candidates themselves.

I want curious, conscientious, caring, generous souls who like to laugh and have open minds and huge open hearts with a respect for differences and who can thrive on complexity who are interested in new ideas and open debate. Believe me that is not your “average Joe” but it could be, at least at another level of appreciation and understanding.

That being "comfortable in your own skin" sense of self and personal value set does not automatically emerge from a post-secondary education. Character gets taught in communities and in families and in dealing with others and in growing up and learning from ones life experiences. I am content to leave the professional job of government to the bureaucracy and the experts. I want politicians with humanity, humility, decency and honesty as their core expertise, skills and qualifications.

The politician’s role is about creating the conditions and the opportunities for synergies to emerge to help us all to improve our lives but in ways that are in harmony with each other and with nature. It is about the quality of the character and the compassion of the individuals that make for the best politicians. It is not all about the letters after their names or the pedigree of their parentage or the size of their “estates.”

It is more fundamental than that. Successful politician are those with the wisdom to help people to get stuff done - mostly for them selves, regardless of individual circumstances. Successful politicians are those individuals who are able to be them selves on purpose and at all times and in all situations. Successful politicians are those individuals who are “self-made” but only through the mutual benefits they created and enjoyed of, with and for other people.

Based on my criteria for success in politics, the most successful politician I ever met had a university degree but her self image was that of a farmer. She was only ever elected as a local school trustee. The exercise of pure political power was never her modus operandi. Her personal influence on people’s lives in the province however was enormous. I’ve never met anyone who did not love and respect everything this farmer cum politician stood for - even if they had never met her personally.

I am talking about Lois Hole. I wonder if we would be getting the same kind of veiled snobbery I see in some of the MSM and blogger-fodder if she was a new “no name” farmer member of Ed Stelmach’s Cabinet?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Ray Danyluk and Rural-Urban Issues

I am seeing some growing interest and serious concern being expressed over the rural-urban representation in the Stelmach Cabinet, especially with Edmonton having only one seat and Calgary with three seats.

This is being expressed as concern over the growth pressure and public infrastructure needs in the cities, not just Edmonton and Calgary, but the discussion always seems to start there. The tensions between midsized cities and towns and the surrounding regions is also a major urban-rural concern that is all over Alberta.

The new Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Honourable Ray Danyluk, will be seized with this set of challenges. I have worked with Ray Danyluk on some growth pressures and issues when he was Chair of the Northern Alberta Development Council. We also did some work with the Alberta Forest Products Association on the forest industry’s social license to operate and had plenty to do with Ray as NADC Chair.

I am very confident in his skills and impressed with his experience in retail politics and local government. I think he will be a star Minister in the Stelmach Cabinet and government.

I also know he will find ways to be sure the cities get to know the issues and concerns of rural people and how the relationship is one of interdependence and mutuality. Rural people have a familiarity with urban issues because they watch our television stations, listen to our radio stations and read our newspapers. They constantly visit and do business in the urban centres. On the other hand, the knowledge city folks have about the rural areas is abysmally low. This is a problem.

My buddy Les Brost and his business partner Jerome Martin have done some good work in this problem area. If you are interested in leaning more, start with reading this report they did. That is a start but don’t be afraid to learn more about rural Alberta issues and concerns. It will make for a stronger province the more we learn about each other.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Beyond Dancin' With Those Who "Brung Ya!"

I think this Stelmach Cabinet is both non-conformist and counterintuitive. It is neither rebellious nor vengeful as some might first think. It is very clearly based on Ed Stelmach being serious about achieving his campaign goals. He is aligning with those who share his values and his principles. While it is also very much about dancing with those who “brung ya!” it is also profoundly much more than that. It is real change!

Ed is on a mission, and has been ever since he entered the leadership contest. He has clearly stated his mission, particularly for those who were prepared to listen during the campaign. He knows what he wants to accomplish and he has gathered like-minded people around him throughout this leadership campaign to serve those ends.

This new smaller Cabinet, governance restructuring and recent set of Cabinet appointments is an Ed Stelmach set of practical choices to help him get the leadership job done that he has set out for himself…plain and simple.

There are some practical political compromise appointments here and there, but in a tight race that has to be expected and respected.

How will this group work together? Can this group deliver? Will there be unity and allegiance and alignment to Ed’s ends? Who can tell! But I can tell you one thing; it is going to be very different and very interesting.

As Winston Churchill said:

“How little can we foresee the consequences either of wise or unwise action, of virtue or of malice. Without this measureless and perpetual uncertainty, the drama of human life would be destroyed.”

If you can’t hold paradox and uncertainty comfortably in the palm of your hand and not seek to resolve them instantly, you better start to learn that skill. Paradox and uncertainty is going to the foundational reality for the new Alberta. I am curious to see how this new set of decision makers, directions setters and destination designers do in the “drama of human life” that is our new Alberta.

As for me, I am fascinated and full of anticipation. I can’t wait to see how the new Alberta narrative under the Stelmach leadership will emerge and evolve. My sense it will be somewhere between W.O. Mitchell and Tom Robbins.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hancock is IN!

Dave Hancock confirmed that he is in the Stelmach Cabinet tonight at a wrap up party for his leadership campaign volunteers and workers. He stopped short of saying what ministry he would be appointed to on Friday morning.

Dave thanked and praised his supporters for taking the time and for applying their skills and talents to help his campaign. He commended those who came with him in support of Ed Stelmach and kept up their campaign efforts for Ed in the last week.

Dave said the quick and effective transfer of volunteers, information and data systems from the Hancock to the Stelmach campaign helped make a real difference in the final outcome as the Stelmach/Hancock team really delivered Edmonton.

Those of us who followed Dave to work with Ed and his people in the last week were all pleased and proud to be part of that success. I feel a great satisfaction in being able to say “Premier Ed Stelmach.”

A New Day in Alberta

What a great day for Alberta. I was there at the Legislature with hundreds of other citizens watching the Swearing-In of the 13th Premier of Alberta, Edward Michael Stelmach. The crowd was large, the sun was shining, the air was crisp and the land may have been frozen but the hearts were warm.

Ralph was there to graciously hand over the governance of the province. The Lt. Gov was relaxed and regal. Ed was convivial and contained. The pomp and circumstance was obvious but the human side of these men was readily evident as the quips came often and easily from all sources.

In true Edmonton fashion the singing of “O Canada” was lead by Paul Loureau with the audience joining in with gusto and pride akin to last years Oiler playoff run. The crowd was generous with their applause and we felt a sense of being up close and personally connected with the historic moment that was unfolding before us.

Ed, in true servant-leader style, was obviously honoured and humbled but he is also very clearly in charge already. His comments were brief but very clear as to where he wants to take the new Alberta. He has already hit the ground running with yesterday’s release of his agenda and key action items along with the new government structure of 18 Ministries. I liked it all.

The lock down on who is going to be in his Cabinet has been tight and total. Lots of speculation and punditry going on about who is in...but only Ed knows for sure.

It will be Ed Stelmach who will finally decide who he wants and needs to deliver his agenda, action plan and new government structure for Alberta. My sense is tomorrow when we see Premier Ed Stelmach's Cabinet appointments we will enjoy another great day for Alberta.

Congratulation Premier Stelmach. Thanks to Ralph Klein for 14 years of leadership, service and sacrifice.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

More Good News for Dion

More good news for Stephane Dion and his recent leadership victory! The recent EKOS Research Poll for LaPresse and the Toronto Star is reconfirming his early traction as the new Liberal leader and as Her Majesty’s Official Opposition.

Dion’s Liberals have 40.1% support, a 10 point bump compared to the 30.2% they had in the January 2006 election. The Cons are at 33.5% compared to 36.3 % they had at the last election. The NDP are down over 7 points to 10.2% and the Greens are up over 3 points to 7.6% today.

The post convention Liberal bump is to be expected given the media coverage these events generate. Will it last? Time will tell. The Cons better start hoping it is just a short attention span bump and not a change of mind and heart shift to the Liberals by Canadians.

The Cons can rest assured in Alberta where they dominate with 59.5% support. The Greens are strong in Quebec all of a sudden with 12.1%, putting them ahead of the NDP and only 6 points behind the Cons. We still have the Alberta Green support with a counterintuitive 7.2% almost a full point ahead of BC. Go figure!

Some of the details are interesting given the approaching election and the pre-Christmas political entry into the “Red Zone” of election preparedness. Last January when Harper formed government 49% said Canada was heading in the right direction with 26% saying the opposite and 25% saying they did not know. Today Harper is seen as on the right track by a consistent 48%. The dramatic change is today only 10% don’t have an opinion and a full 43% think the Government of Canada is headed in the wrong direction. Momentum is pushing up against the Harper Cons.

As for Driving Issues in an election, comparing the pre-January 2006 election period to now we still see the social issues dominate for health and education but it dropped 10 points to 23%. The #2 issue for Canada is still fiscal issues like the economy and debt and taxes now at 18% but that is down 3 points in the year.

The dramatic emerging trend change in the year is on the environment which is #3 priority, but jumping up 9 points to 15% in the past year. The really scary statistic for campaign planners is the startling changes in the vague “Other” issues category now at 18% up from 4% a year ago. Change is in the air.

The Gomery corruption issue is past. Canadians have moved on. Issues of ethics and accountability in a year fell from 15% to 3% saying it was the most important issue to them in deciding who to vote for. This does not take the Liberals out of the penalty box but the outlook for Dion is promising.

The opinions of who “gets it” in certain key policy areas is where the Conservatives have to worry. They dominate on the fiscal side which is the #2 issue with 48% of Canadians trusting them to offer the best solutions. The decision on Income Trusts I think really helped the Conservatives here. The Liberals trailing way back at 23% support on the fiscal agenda. Guess what the Conservatives will start to reinforce and try to make the ballot box question in the forthcoming election.

The #1 and #4 issues being social policy and foreign policy/Afghanistan, the Liberals dominate with 27% and 38% trusting them respectively. I guess “Steve” and “Dubya” being “an item” does not matter anymore to Canadians.

The #3 issue is the environment and it likely has momentum to grow in importance. Only 9% do not have an opinion on which Party they will support to solve environmental issues. Here the Greens win with 35%, followed by the Liberals at 31% and the Conservatives are at a mere 4% support as the guys who “get” the environmental concerns. The NDP have only 13% support and seem to have lost this issue to the Greens and the Liberals.

Based on perceptions Harper is still “The Man” beating Dion by 4 or 5 points on questions of making the best Prime Minister, best vision of the future of Canada, and best understanding of Canadians. What has to chill the blood of the Harper Cons is he has been the Prime Minister for almost a year and Dion is this close to him after only a week on the job as Leader of the Opposition. OUCH! Change is in the air.

Premier Stelmach Makes His "Moves"

So the speculation and rumours over the Stelmach Cabinet size and its make up is entering fever pitch. The reality that Alberta under Premier Ed Stelmach is about to write a new and different chapter for our future should not be lost.

The new Stelmach government structure has just been released. With 18 Ministries and Four Standing Policy Committees we see can anticipate more discipline and control as well as improved planning as Premier Stelmach moves towards achieving his “New Alberta Agenda.”

The New Alberta Agenda is designed to “govern with integrity, manage growth pressures, improve the quality of life, build a stronger Alberta and provide safe secure communities.” Action item Premier Stelmach has highlighted include increased access to post-secondary education, implementation of a comprehensive workforce strategy, deal with funding needs of municipalities, make progress on the rural development strategy and complete the lad-use framework.

As a first initiative “out of the starting gate” Ed announced his intention to create a housing task force to increase the availability of affordable housing. That is a problem just about everywhere and I expect that Fort McMurray will be particularly pleased to hear this. Good move!

I am looking forward to a reinvigorated and revitalized role for progressive and conservative governance in Alberta under this new leadership.

The next key and critical part of the puzzle will be finding out who will be the people that will make up the new Stelmach Cabinet. That will become known on Friday. The personalities, skills, experiences and characters of those folks will be the most important part of “writing” the new Alberta chapter.

I believe it was Joseph Schumpeter who said: "…the deciding of issues by the electorate is secondary to the election of the men who are to do the deciding." Just another way of saying “be careful who you elect.” In terms of Premier Stelmach, it must be emphasized and adapted to “Be careful who you SELECT.”

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"The Truth?"

Readers of this Blog know I will sometimes rant about the misleading framing of issues intended to activate values and lead to unsupported conclusions. Sometimes this is done intentionally, naively or inadvertently but it happens and citizens have to be aware of it.

We need to know the values and principles we apply individually and as a society to political and public policy issues. These are very important but get short shrift in the marketing model of modern political campaigns.

Props to Les Brost who gave me the heads up to a fascinating (and even funny if it were not so serious) example of just how this can work. Enjoy at first, because it is clever. I am still thinking about the implications of how this can happen and what it means.

Here is the link:

Dion Gets Some Benefit of the Doubt

The Ipsos-Reid post convention poll shows Dion has some traction in Ontario and Quebec. Just as one swallow does not make a summer, one poll does not make a trend.

Dion is getting some benefit of the doubt in BC and Alberta with a 41/35 and 39/33 favourable over unfavourable rating respectively. The sleeper statistic is the “Don’t know enough about the person” shows 24% in BC and Ontario and 27% in Alberta. He obviously needs to spend some “quality” time in the west between now and the next election.

The Liberals are not out of the penalty box yet either, nor should they be. When asked if the Liberals “deserve to be elected and govern under the leadership of Stephane Dion nationally 44% agreed and 50% disagreed. In BC 56% disagreed and 66% said no in Alberta. Ontario and Quebec were ambivalent at about 50/50 but the Maritimes liked him with 54% agreeing the Liberals with Dion deserved to govern and only 37% disagreeing.

The next federal election will be a contest between two leaders who have two different visions, two different ideologies and different perspectives on the role of government. It will be less about “charisma and style” more about policy and ideas. Wahtever ballot box issue emerges it will be influenced by Canadian's perceptions about the characters and trustworthiness of the two major party leaders.

The sub-plot to the personality/character drama will be the environment. That will be the platform where the battle is staged and fought the hardest. It will vary in content and context in different regions across the country but it will be pervasive.

The environment as a major decision driving political issue will give the Greens a credibility boost and may actually generate some seats this time. They will get a chance to set the agenda and the tone of the debate. They will have to be able to embrace the integration of a growing economy and enhanced environmental outcomes to be successful. Picking one over the other will set them back, and maybe way back.

This next federal campaign may relegate the NDP to the sidelines. They have to find a resonating issue that claims and frames their place in the race. It they fail, this election will be the begininng of the Greens as the new Third Party. The NDP risk in this election is that they devolve into a rump and becoming a relic as a federal political force.

The unofficial campaign has started and the race for the hearts and minds of Canadians is definitely on. Everything out of Ottawa will be done and designed through an election lens by all the political players all the time. In the short term expect more heat then light.

Harper picked his spot for the last election. He does not have that luxury this time. He may still try to engineer his defeat with timing and an issue that will be more propitious and firm up his base. He can do this by having the Bloc “force” him into an earlier election over our role in Afghanistan.

Alberta politicos’ fresh off the PC leadership contest can catch their breath over Christmas but we better be ready to roll early in the New Year.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Alberta's Times Are A Changin'

The Calgary Sun still does not get what happened and the new the way Alberta will be governed as a result of the Stelmach win. They think Oberg was a key to the win, in no small part because he is a southerner and they do not perceive the sense and sensibilities of the rest of Alberta. As the Paul Simon song goes, so goes the Calgary Sun, "...a man still hears what he wants to hear and disgrards the rest."

Oberg had a hand in the Stelmach win for sure but not much real impact on the end result as any objective analyses will show. He delivered his own constituency, which is more than his Wood Buffalo endorsee Boutilier did. Hung Pham, Oberg’s other big vote generating and significant endorsee with his large block of Vietnamese voters, all moved with Pham to Morton and Calgary went total Dinning as a result. So much for an Oberg significant influence impacting the final outcome.

The real difference in the leadership result was the central and northern rural shift and the real voter growth caused by the Stelmach campaign itself. This was aided and abetted by Edmonton showing up and focusing on Stelmach over Dinning based on Hancock delivering Edmonton to Stelmach. Hancock was able at transferring his campaign operations and volunteer team and the rest of his votes throughout Alberta to Stelmach as well.

Hancock was the first to support Stelmach on the first Saturday vote and also promoted #2 votes for Stelmach throughout the campaign. Hancock started the traction and momentum to Stelmach in Edmonton and area.

Oberg was a delayed Stelmach “supporter” but took a few DAYS to actually back him on the second ballot. Norris was even slower to endorse Stelmach and both I expect bled lots of #2 votes to Morton, for different reasons. In the end result would still be the same and the Calgary media are oblivious to this reality.

The last 14 years in Alberta have been Calgary centric with a rural support based on Ralph Klein’s celebrated support in both spheres. It is evidenced by virtually every candidate having an appeasement policy platform for Edmonton as the Capital City. That has all changed now and the Calgary Compact has to understand how they fit into the new Alberta reality. It will not be difficult because Stelmach is an inclusive kind of guy, not like some other potential leadership candidates would have been very ego-centric leaders.

Stelmach is a rural guy and he won the leadership with the rural vote and with the help of Hancock delivering Edmonton. That is a really different reality than the Calgary media allows themselves to accept. As well Stelmach has the ability to explain the complexity of all of modern life in all of rural Alberta to the urban Albertans. This changing rural reality now includes the forestry and oil sands north and farming in cental areas as well as the ranching and dry land farming in the south. It is vital that Alberta's city-folk, including the Calgary Compact, understand and embrace this rural reality, and they can, if they are prepared to listen.

The Alberta agenda under Klein has been so dominated by what has come to be known as the Calgary Compact, throughout the rest of Alberta. The dramatic Dinning loss and the moribund Morton campaign in the second week underscored the growing animus that has developed toward Calgary. The image of a self-centred dominance of governance control and agenda influence in Alberta was in need of change and that came to be reflected in the results.

There is a change in leadership now. That changes how things will get done, decided and delivered. Calgary still figures into this but if this Calgary Sun piece is any indication that paper has some things to figure out too. This is not going to be a punishing shift. Everyone will be included and considered and balanced for the greater good, because that is Stelmach’s style. But the Calgary Compact is no longer the dominant force it once was that could presume to speak for all of Alberta.

Alberta is, all of a sudden, more interesting, complex, diverse and an inclusive society. It will be good for everyone in the end…including Calgary…but this Calgary Sun story shows they have a ways to go yet before they figure out what really happened with this change of political leadership on December 2, 2006.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Canada's National Newspaper Talks About the Arts and Alberta...YES!

The Globe and Mail is covering Stelmach's Alberta in more than just energy business or environmental terms...they are looking into the Arts in Alberta too...Terrific.

I spent some time on the phone recently with Alexandra Gill who penned the piece for the Globe and Mail. Here is the link in case you missed it.

The artistic soul of Alberta has long been in Edmonton where there is more variety, depth, diversity and tradition...but Calgary is coming on strong. The emergence of other areas like Red Deer, Athabasca, Lethbridge to name a few are adding to the new Alberta too. It is time we got beyond the redneck and roughneck caricature imagery that has become a stifling cliche for what the rest of Canada has come to see as Albertan.

Arts, culture and heritage has been ignored for far too long by the GOA. I expect that will change with a new Premier. The leadership campaign saw a few candidates appreciate the creative spirit that beats in the breast of the new Alberta. I trust this “political will” shall persist then quickly evolve into some serious support.

There is a new sense of what it means to be Albertan in every corner of the province. There is a more vibrant and vital definition about what quality of life really means emerging throughout Alberta today. I did a Policy Channel interview with Simon Brault, the Vice Chair of the Canada Council on the role and importance of the arts to society and the economy. Here is that link as well

The arts, culture and heritage are 21st century public infrastructure in a knowledge based economy and technologically sophisticated society like Alberta, just as roads and rails were in the early industrial economy.

Friday, December 08, 2006

"How Morton Made Stelmach Leader"

Link Byfield has provided his “take” of the PC Party Leadership results from last Saturday’s voting. I can agree with Link that Morton was a “backbencher” but to claim he had no “media or public support” is a stretch. How did he “knock out four Cabinet Ministers,” on the first ballot, divine intervention?

I have said before that the reality of modern politics is the facts, while interesting, are almost totally irrelevant to people. It is how you frame issues and how they activate people’s values and beliefs that make the difference. Link is a master at taking a set of facts, framing them in such a way that he sets them up to generate the reaction he wants and he invites people to share his pre-conceived conclusion. This is “spin” at its most sophisticated level.

Here is what he has done in this “Commentary” piece. His preconceived conclusion is that Ted Morton is the real cause of the Ed Stelmach victory. He says as a fact that, “Then because most of his (Morton’s) supporters chose Stelmach as their second pick, Morton’s camp gave Stelmach his whopping majority over Jim Dinning.”

Link also concludes by saying, “So only one of the three finalists was actually defeated, not two. Say what? Are we to believe from this statement that Professor Morton somehow won this election too? I don’t think so.

For the record, Stelmach moved from #3 to #1 between the first and second ballot. What if Morton was second and Dinning had been third and out of the second count? Would Link be as quick to conclude that the Dinning’s camp gave Stelmach the victory because his voter’s second preferences went to Stelmach. Obviously then too “only one of the three, (Morton in this case) was actually defeated?” I don’t think so!

More that 10,000 Morton supporters did not mark Stelmach for second choice and, can you believe this, over 4000 of Morton supporters picked Dinning as second choice. If Morton was the real “cause” of the Stelmach victory those 14,000 votes would have been there for Ed too, wouldn’t you think?

Next he goes further by wrapping all this in another “issue frame”, the same old lets pick a fight with Ottawa. He obviously expects Ed to pick a specific “Morton identified” fight with Ottawa which is based on the myth that the Feds are taking more money out of Alberta than they are entitled to.

The fact is Albertans’ pay federal income and corporate taxes, just as do all Canadians from every province. Albertans make more money and therefore pay more taxes. Duh! This is the essence of progressive income tax models we use in Canada. So much for the facts!

Now Professor Morton believes “…that Albertans must learn to stand on their own feet and reduce the massive outflow of Alberta money to the federal treasury.” Firstly I don’t think Albertans feel very incapable of standing up for themselves, contrary to Professor Morton’s belief.

Secondly, this is not “Alberta money.” That characterization misleads one to think it is resource revenues from the Alberta provincial treasury that are somehow being drained in a “massive outflow…to the federal treasury.”

This money is just the personal and corporate income tax payments of Canadian citizens who live in Alberta. As I said, Albertans make more money than other Canadians so we pay more taxes. Nothing more to it than that! But based on this “blaming” framing of the issue, according to Professor Morton, Premier Stelmach is now supposed to take on Ottawa? And the fight is supposed to be over the personal and corporate taxes we pay just as every other Canadian citizen does?

There are many significant and serious issue facing the Canadian federation and Alberta’s role in it. This Reform/Alliance party manufactured issue artificially framed as a “massive outflow…into the federal treasury” is not one of them.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Link Byfield "Likes" Me - Go Figure!

Early in the morning Sunday December 3rd with the final results of the Stelmach victory in hand, I, Lisa Young (U of C Political Science) and Link Byfield (Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy) trundled down to the CBC studios in Edmonton to tape a segment for the Sunday Edition program for airing on CBC AM later in the day.

Bleary eyed but very energized by the results and looking forward to a chance to spar with Link and have the sweet reason and objective insight of Lisa, we had a great time on air.

This was the first time Link and I met each other, not surprising given the distance between us in philosophy. We enjoyed each other’s company and it reminded me of the years I spend on the CBC Radio Political Panel as the Progressive Conservative “mouth” (not mouthpiece I hasten to add).

In those days I used to spar with fellow lawyer Sheila Greckol of the NDP, now she sits as a Court of Queen’s Bench Justice. This time with Link it was the same kind of “serious fun” but with the other end of the political spectrum.

Yesterday Link sent me his “take” on the Stelmach victory and the following e-mail that indicates he enjoyed the “encounter” as much as I did:


It was good to meet you, and to discover that behind all those bizarre, knee-jerk, politically correct, left-wing, lopsided, ill-informed opinions you publish you're actually a very likable individual.

Here's my take on the Stelmach victory. It differs somewhat from the one on your Blog.

I'll put you on our weekly distribution list if you like. Do you like?


The Commentary he referenced is not yet posted on his website but will be soon I expect. When it is, I will debunk it for you all!

I look forward to reading the weekly updates from the left brain of the “right-minded” (sic) Link Byfield. This exchange proves once again dogs and cats can live together, provided they have enough space between them.

Renewing the One Party State Goes to Porn.

I appears that Renewing the One Party State blog site has been taken over by a porn site. We will be removing the link to the site from this Blog until the matter is cleared up.

I will leave any references to the irony of this situation to others to comment on.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Candidates Disclosure Should be a Condition of Cabinet Apppointment.

It would be a good move if Premier Elect Stelmach required all candidates who want to be in Cabinet to disclose there leadership contributor lists as a precondition for any Cabinet appointment. Since every leadership candidate EXCEPT for Professor Morton undertook to disclose their contributor list; it should not be a burden. Inquiring minds want to know and I bet Premier Stelmach feels he needs to know too.

The public expects open, transparent and accountable government – particularly at the cabinet level. Those principles demand that Albertans know who was behind the leadership candidates, at least those candidates who wish to be in Cabinet – BEFORE they are appointed.

If Professor Morton believes he deserves a Cabinet spot, he should satisfy the test of openness and transparency that full and timely disclosure of his campaign contributors would provide.

We can expect anonymous donors to be respected but we need to know how many there were and the amounts they each contributed, not be all lumped together as a single group. Too many and too much money in that anonymous category will cause concern. We need to know who is behind the scenes and may be trying to influence any leadership candidate cum Cabinet Minister in the future.

If we are going to have a Lobbyist and Contractor Registry, and we should, we should also know who the leadership candidate contributors were too.

Time for Professor Morton to change his mind and disclose his campaign contributors, and if not, he ought to forfeit any aspirations to a Cabinet appointment.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Ed’s MLA’s Come Through in the Second Ballot.

The top performers in delivering the Second Ballot vote for Ed Stelmach is Ed Stelmach. His own astonishing performance of 4156 votes in Fort-Sask Vegreville for 91% of total votes cast.

Given the obvious propensity for Morton supporters to go to Stelmach over Dinning, I have not said much about the impact of the second preference vote, although the MLAs would also have some impact on that outcome. Where it made a significant difference I have noted it.

The Second Ballot ranking (excluding the Morton #2 preference support) of the MLA endorsements for Stelmach are:

#1 Ray Danyluk of Lac La Biche-St Paul with 2496 votes
#2 Hon. Dave Hancock of Edmonton Whitemud with1909 votes
#3 Hon. Iris Evans of Sherwood Park with 1493 votes
#4 Hon. Luke Ouellette of Innisfail-SylvanLake with 1385 votes
#5 Lloyd Snelgrove of Vermillion-Lloydminster with 1231 votes
#6 Hon. Lyle Oberg of Strathmore-Brooks with 1012 votes
#7 Fred Lindsay of Stony Plain with 909 votes
#8 Mark Norris of Edmonton McClung with 917 votes (21 votes over Dinning but 246 past him on the allocation of the Morton second preference votes)
#9 George Groeneveld of Highwood with 901 votes (lost to Morton at first but won big time over Dinning by over 1000 votes on the Morton second preference votes)
#10 Hon. Pearl Calahasen of Lesser Slave Lake with 891 votes
#11 Hector Goudreau of Dunvegan-Central Peace with 581 votes
#12 Hon. Mel Knight of Grande Prairie Smokey with 570 votes
#13 Ivan Strang of West Yellowhead with 481 votes
#14 Hon. Guy Boutilier of Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo with 306 votes almost 100 votes behind Dinning on the first count and he still lost to Dinning with the addition of the second preference Morton votes.

This is a ranking of the performance of the supporters. I have not done the analysis but I expect all did significantly better than the November 25th first vote. Some constituencies have smaller and more dispersed populations than others so that will account for some differences.

That said though, this is a pretty good idea of who the real performers were for Ed Stelmach’s campaign. The top six are pretty impressive. The Hon. Boutilier is clearly not a campaigner. He garnered only 306 votes where the Fort McMurray population alone is now the size of Red Deer.

Stelmach and Dion - A New Alberta. A New Canada

Stelmach will be a uninfying force for the PC Party and will also change the nature of politics and governance in Alberta too. All for the better. Great campaign and the extremists were rejected by Albertans today, as were the traditional powerbroker politics of the past. Change was wanted and change is what we got.

Dion will be good for Alberta, especially as we tackle the environmental and immigration demands and opportunities before us.

If you want to know more about Stephane Dion go to Policy Channel for the interview we did with him during the campaign.

The link is

I am very tired and very happy to have called both the Dion and Stelmach wins tonight. I just wished I had made more bets.

Welcome to the New Alberta and the New Canada. Democracy has spoken very clearly and profoundly today in both places.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Catch 23 of Political Leadership

Everyone knows what a Catch 22 is. I have developed a new paradox that applies to the processes and practices of political leadership. I call it the Catch 23. That is the situation where the talents and skills it takes to get the job of a political leader are very different from those it takes to do the job of political leader.

Campaigns are large scale social activities dominated by manufactured simplified images, crisp vacuous sound bites, pleasing photo ops and truncated answers to complex concept based questions. It is about showing strength and domination and setting the attention getting agenda with professional media relations techniques. It is about issues management that masquerade as meaningful and resonant policy pronouncements. It is a decentralizing activity with endorsements and group think that is focused on not “messing up” as opposed to being momentous bold and courageous.

Leadership, on the other hand, is individualized, lonely and centralizing because of the enormous power and responsibility and accountability focused at the top, on one person. It is about change and all real change always happens at the margins, were it is uncomfortable and risky and comes with consequences, good and bad. It is about complexity and nuance, interests and influences, pressures and personalities that have to be balanced, bartered and prioritized. Some times principles get bent and promises get broken.

It is about culture that gets expressed in terms of competing principles and rivalling values that are either personal to the leader or collectively held by the society. The competition and tradeoffs amongst principles and values always get complicated and often misinterpreted by somebody or other. That usually results in political and personal consequences for the leader, and they are rarely good consequences.

Then this all has to be done in public, without a “dress rehearsal” and with out a “safety net” to catch you if you fail. It has to be done in an adversarial governance model that too often relishes having a good fight rather than finding the best solution. It is all very personal and personality driven when you look at the realities of modern politics and power. Each leader is captive of their own history, experiences, interests and aptitudes which impacts their judgement adds to the personality dimension of political leadership.

So how are we citizens then supposed to choose leaders given all of this? Obviously very carefully! The big questions are who are these candidates as people? What do they stand for and why? What kind of people are they and what kind of world do they come from. Are they decent, dedicated dependable and decisive? Do they know how to deal with people, and I mean all kinds of people? How do they handle pressure? Do they have a strong personal support base of family and close friends to help them as persons not just as politicians. Finally what is their world view? Are they, for example open curious and adaptable or are they controlling, contained and constrained?

Government like any other organization or institution never made a decision about anything. It is the people who lead and participate in them that are the real sources of decisions and directions. So who you elect is absolutely critical to the directions and destinations we undertake collectively as a society and how they will impact us individually and as family and community.

When you vote for the PC Leader/Premier tomorrow – slow down for a few moments and think twice about what you are voting for and why as much if not more than who you are voting for.

Then vote twice …#1 Ed Stelmach, #2 Jim Dinning. You will be glad you did.