Reboot Alberta

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Does the Economist See the Wildrose Alliance For What it Is?

The Economist recently interviewed me about Reboot Alberta but we never made the cut when editors got ahold of the story. C'est la vie.  The Wildrose Alliance Party was the real reason this most respected sources of news and political information came to Alberta.  I managed to help explain the WAP to the Economist and put some of what they are and are not in perspecitve.

The story the got published is very interesting and a must read for every Albertan who is feaful for the future of our province if a fundamentalist conservative government were ever to get power over our lives. Here is the text of the Economist piece. Share this post with your networks, friends and families:

A Canadian conservative split

A wild rose blooms

A prairie echo of the tea party

Feb 18th 2010
From The Economist print edition

WHEN the Progressive Conservatives won power in Alberta, Richard Nixon was still in the White House and Britain had only just abandoned shillings. Under various leaders, they have ruled continuously for almost four decades. Alberta, the home of oil, gas and cattle, has become the bedrock of Canadian conservatism. Yet now the Progressive Conservatives face a rebellion on the prairies—from the right, rather than the left.

Ed Stelmach, Alberta’s premier since 2006, won 72 of the 83 seats in the legislature at an election just two years ago. Now he is Canada’s least popular premier, with an approval rating in a recent poll of 14%. The recession has not helped. It has driven up unemployment in a province accustomed to the good life during a prolonged commodity boom, and caused Alberta’s finances to fall into the red for the first time in 15 years. The premier has antagonised the oil and gas industry, first with a bungled attempt to raise royalties and then by his lacklustre defence of the province’s tar sands from attacks on their carbon emissions by greens at home and abroad.

An election does not have to be called until 2012. But Mr Stelmach may be dumped by his own party before then. That is because it feels threatened by the Wildrose Alliance, a more conservative fringe party. This has only three seats in the legislature but leads the opinion polls. It is also setting the political agenda in Alberta.

Danielle Smith, the alliance’s young leader, criticises Mr Stelmach’s government for spending too freely and “blowing through” the province’s savings. Her calls for smaller government are popular with Albertans, whose views often align more closely with American Republicans (of the tea-party persuasion) than with eastern Canadians. Many also like Ms Smith’s unabashed defence of exploiting the tar sands (she argues that it is not clear that human activity causes climate change). Her suggestion that Alberta emulate Quebec and wrest control of a host of joint programmes, such as immigration, income-tax collection, the public pension plan and the police force, plays to a belief that Alberta is being short-changed in Ottawa.

Facing this conservative wind, the provincial government is tacking to the right. Mr Stelmach named Ted Morton, a fiscal and social conservative, as finance minister in a cabinet shuffle last month. The 2010 budget, unveiled on February 9th, involves a spending increase and a deficit, but it came wrapped up in promises of restraint and future balanced budgets.

Most of Ms Smith’s positions hark back to an open letter in 2001 by a group of Calgary intellectuals whose number included Mr Morton. Known as the “firewall letter”, it urged Ralph Klein, then the premier, to build barriers to keep the federal government from encroaching on provincial jurisdiction. As a leading contender for the Conservative leadership if Mr Stelmach jumps or is pushed, Mr Morton may get a chance to implement these ideas. One of the other signatories was Stephen Harper. Since he is now prime minister of Canada, he may be rather less keen to see firewalls going up.


  1. O.K.... what is your reaction to the re-newers (and by inference probably the re-booters) moving into the Alberta Party.

  2. I am very pleased to see the ACCOMMODATION of the Alberta Party to forge an amalgamation with the Renew Alberta initiative. I just hope is is not a short cut to the hard work of party orgainzation on the ground. If they take this opportunity to copy Peter Lougheed's techniques and connect with real people face-to-face ("The Big Listen" as they call it) in all the communities across the province they can make a real difference and be a real difference.

    Renew is not Reboot. Reboot is only about 3 months old and the Renew guys have been around for about a year. Reboot is about finding and designing a number of ways to revive citizen engagement in politics. Renew is only about a new party.

    About 35% of the folks invited and attending Reboot1.0 in Red Deer at the end of November saw a new progresssive/moderate/centrist political party as one of the ways to impact change in the Alberta political culture. Anouther 15% wanted to work to change the culture of the different and existing political parties they all belonged to.

    Another 15% in Reboot are keen on dealing with the democratic deficit and things like deliberative democracy and electoral reform. The final 35% are the civil society people who work in and through the voluntary and not-for-profit and social justice sectors.

    They are they key to my mind in changing the political culture to a more mature collaborative design model away from an adversarial gamesmanship culture we see dominating the dialogue today.

    I hope the Renewed Alberta Party will be most influenced by the culture of this sector as it looks for ways to differentiate and improve on the conventional models of politics as ususal

  3. Anonymous4:50 pm

    I haven't seen anyone in the Alberta Progressive movement outline a specific, coherent explanation of what progressive means to those of you in the "movement".

    From an outsiders view it seems to be a movement to create a Trudeauesque Alberta; raise taxes, expand government, expand the influence of unions, expand the authority of the human rights commission, eliminate privatization efforts in government, increase spending dramatically, increase the intrusion of government into our lives for the "common good", etc.

    I don't really see the difference between today's progressives and the Trudeau agenda. Am I mistaken, if so in what ways?

  4. Thx for the comment Anon @4:50. The question of what is a progressive is fundamental to those who are co-creating the socio-political movement called Reboot Alberta. It is not yet answered but will be a central theme at RebootAlberta 2.0 next weekend when about 130 of us get together in Kananaskis to grapple with the concept in a 21st century Alberta context.

    May I suggest that you go to and click on the various papers and postings in the What is a Progressive link. It will give you a sense of what people involved in Reboot Alberta are thinking and feeling.

    Right now my personal sense of being progressive in a 21st century Alberta is all about a way of thinking, knowing and perhaps beleving. It is not a specific political philosophy or policy stance like a party platform.

    It is not about being left or right but about how do we move forward and adapt to the new realities we have created ot good and bad. How do we see and get to know that we must live within the limits of nature if we are to survive as a species.

    The planet is fine. It does not care nor need us, but the reverse is not true. Lots more to talk about but I have to move on. Let me say to put the emerging concept of a New Progressive in a box and label it "Trudeau" is not anything close to comprehensive or insightful enough to help you understand what is being created and conceived in Reboot Alberta.

    Reboot2.0 next weekend is open to anyone. You might want to join us and see for yourself what is happening. It is quite fascinating.

  5. A snarky rply might be that progressive is what federal Liberals pretend to be when they are seeking election from the left, and then forget about being when they are ruling from the right.

    You want progressive? Try lookinbg at NDP policies.

  6. Anonymous9:19 pm

    I'm really hoping that the Alberta party pushes for the proclaiming of Bill 44. The tories, rather the liberal lite party has delayed implementation and our children are being harmed. Time to move forward with this progressive piece of legislation.

  7. Anonymous7:50 am

    The Economist is known for their balanced coverage. If your remarks didn't make the cut, it may be that they felt you had too much bias. I think you should take that as a reality check on this subject.

    -John HOB

  8. Anonymous10:52 pm


    I respect your opinions, energy and commitment to democracy and making Alberta a better province. However, after reading the Economist article and knowing that you were consulted, it makes sense how the entire Libertarian aspect of the Wildrose party was not mentioned.

    As someone of the Libertarian persuasion, we seem to agree on social issues, however, we disagree at times on economics and starkly disagree on what royalties and our "fair share" should be.

    You advocate for increasing net royalties and taxes, which I cannot understand, especially on the natural gas front. We have high cost gas and there is so much more tight gas on the market. To compound the problem Alberta has highest marginal effective tax and royalty rates for conventional oil and gas when compared to all other N.A jurisdictions. The bottom line is that with our price sensitive royalty framework we are less competitive at all price levels.

    This is not my opinion. These are the findings of a report that will be released later this month by highly respected Dr. Jack Mintz of the school of public policy at the u of c. I attended a seminar earlier this month.

    Our price sensitive regime for both conventional and oil sands accentuates and distorts the macro economic business cycle. It does so by encouraging investments at the peak of the business cycle and discouraging them at the bottom of the cycle. This is because capital costs are deductible. Therefore deductions are larger if you invest at the peak of the cycle when costs are highest and you can deduct this larger amount as you come down the cycle when you are taxed on income with lower prices per barrel or cube. The opposite happens when prices are low which is completely unintuitive and backwards to the action the market is signalling. This is especially troublesome with the oil sands and the increased inflationary pressure it will exert.

    A flat rate like Norway uses is a simpler and superior royalty regime that maximizes rent collection. The proof is in the size of their savings.

    It is specifically your position on royalties that i fail to see your logic behind we are a stable producer.

  9. Anonymous9:56 pm

    I was in favour of the whole Reboot concept as promoted by Ken.

    But I am very fiscally centred and so I tend to vote PC federally and WAP provincially while I do not hold party memberships.

    When I see Reboot members continually attack these two parties it alienates me from Reboots' agenda of accountability and transparency with voters.

    Too bad this partisan crap has to contaminate a good discussion and eliminate a huge cross section of voters.


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