Reboot Alberta

Monday, March 29, 2010

Are Alberta's Politics Moving Past "Interesting" into Dangerous?

There is more and mounting evidence that regular Alberta citizens have to re-engage in the policy discussions and the political culture of our times and take back control of our democracy. The volatility on Alberta politics is increasing with recent developments. Things change pretty quickly in politics but until recently Alberta was the lethargic exception.

Premier Stelmach looked to some like he was the “accidental Premier” when he surprised everyone and won the Progressive Conservative Party leadership in 2006. He shocked us again when he won the election with a strong majority government when the mood in the province was for change. He then got a safe but not resounding endorsement for his leadership last November from the delegates at the PC Party AGM – and he promised change to respond to the undercurrents of anxiety in the PC and file from his weak public support being shown in the polls.

A quick shuffle on the Budget from the promised slash and burn approach to a more measured long term but big deficit budget to an even less significant Cabinet Shuffle and the promise of serious change went unfulfilled in the Party and public mind. But change happened anyway in the rise of the Wildrose Alliance Party’s narrow win of Calgary Glenmore’s by-election. Things got more volatile with the election of Danielle Smith as WAP leader. Then the biggie…the floor crossing of two PC MLAs, including a former Cabinet Minister, to the Wildrose Alliance.

There were rumours of another 8-10 PC MLAs ready to jump to the Wildrose but the Cabinet Shuffle Ascension of Ted Morton into the Finance and Enterprise portfolio seems to have at least delayed any more mutiny for now.

The political volatility is now showing up in the political party ranks. The Democratic Reform Movement efforts by some in the Liberal and NDP ranks pushing for some collaboration to stop vote splitting on the centre left is on-going. There is grumbling and anxiety in the Liberal caucus and the rank and file membership too. The NDP is small but the impact and influence of the labour movement on policy and internal politics is always on-going. The Green party imploded due to internal dissention and the Wildrose Alliance is going through senior level staff changes, as have the NDP and the PCs. The Wildrose is heading into an AGM in June that promises to be interesting and volatile too. The badly beaten but unbowed Social Conservatives in the WAP are seeking more policy power in the party notwithstanding, and perhaps because of how badly Smith beat them in the leadership race.

And now we have the next stage of political party volatility, the March 23 letter from the PC Party Highwood Constituency to the Premier and the Party President saying, amongst other things, they expect the Alberta electorate to show “no mercy…on Election Day.” OK so the locals are also ticked that their MLA was dumped from Cabinet and disrespectfully at that. But family members in the PC Party, or other parties, don’t usually send nasty complaint letters to the “Father” and the copy all the rest of the family. OUCH. But there is much more detail and opinions about specific complaints in the Highwood PC Constituency Board letter.

Full disclosure, last December 17th I announced that I would not be renewing my long held membership in the PC Party of Alberta and did a blog post on my reasons. Since then an amazing number of PC Party members said they would not stay active in the party either.

Our political institutions were designed for a time over a century old and they have not kept up to changes in culture, communications and complexity of the current and emerging world. I think they are serving to undermine citizen-based democracy which is itself an old but at least an evolving institution. Democracy has evolved or more to the point, democracy had “devolved” so now have 60% of eligible voters who see politics as so ugly and distant form them and their lives that can’t be bothered to vote in Alberta.

Citizens are not exercising their rights to choose representatives and grant their consent to be governed in a representative democracy at election time. Citizens are now abdicating their responsibility to be stewards of the common good by letting radical, reactionary and often fundamentalist fringe elements take over the power in declining political parties. Are any of us ready for the emergence of the Alberta equivalence of the Tea Party movement? If the social conservatives, lead by Ted Morton, don’t have their way with the Stelmach government will they bolt to the Wildrose at the strategic time in anticipation of the next election? What if the disgruntled social conservatives can’t take control the power structure of the Wildrose Alliance? I can see them all getting restless and deciding to split off and start reflect the radical and reactionary Republican sponsored Tea Party movement we see in the States now.

Will the renewal and refocus of the Alberta Party get some money, manpower and motivation to rise to the occasion and start to offer a philosophically progressive alternative in time?  Stating from a stand still may begin to make the Alberta Party look pretty good if all the conventional parties continue to be going in reverse.  That is no solution to the real problems we face with our democratic and political deficits in Alberta these days.  A more rational and responsible and comprehensive approach to reforming the Alberta poliltical culture must be taken  by someone and very soon.

All this makes me reflect on just shows important the Reboot Alberta progressive citizen’s movement is going to be to the future of Alberta’s democracy. I guess we will have to pick up the pace, get focused and start getting activist and into some serious deliberative and deliberate democratic reforms and right away. There is a yearning for change by progressive Albertans but change to what for what, how and when are the open questions that need some serous attention.  We konw some of those answers form the recent survey done on progressive values of Albertans.  That may be the basis for us to start to change things in Alberta's politics an organized and effective fashion.

Canada at 150 On-Line Interviews With Ignatieff, Guilbeault and Das

Here is a 14 minute clip of streamed interviews done by the Canada at 150 on-line host Randy Boissenault with Michael Ignatieff, Steven Guilbeault and Satya Das.

This is the kind of new media communications that can be done that speaks directly to citizens, interests groups and party members.  These interviews are a combination of traditional media interview techniques but  directly to an online audience that can be real time but also archived and accessed later - or shared within others by redistributed linking like I am doing here. 

All this enhances connectivity, authentic communications directly with citizens so they can engage at their conveience.  The chance to comment and share the information further on Twitter and Facebook means that more people will have access and becasue of a personal recommendation, they are more likely to become part of the Netizen approach to modern democratic participation. 

If you don't have 14 minutes to watch this now, bookmark this blog post and come back to it.  Of course I would appreciate your comments on the content directly on this blog.  It is all part of the emerging political and public policy conversation around how Canadians better understand the challenges we are facing.

Conversations are game changers.  We all know we need to change politics to be less about games and more about both Canada and Alberta

Big Business Calls for Tax Increases to Pay for Harper's Budget Deficits

The Globe and Mail Report on Business top story today is about “Balancing the Books” and quotes a recent survey of corporate executives in Canada where most of them say it is time to raise taxes if the federal government is to balance its books.

Conservatives are fond of their ideological mantra that Klein used often. That was “The only way taxes are going is down.” Well Harper’s promise of deficit budgets through to 2015 and using borrowed funds to do it are just tax increases by other means and they are imposed on our children who will have to pay for the deficits in a time of anticipated extended flat or low economic growth. Hardly the stuff of prudent fiscal management that is the myth of conservative governments and the Harper hypocrisy is showing.

Almost 60% of the Canadian senior executives in the Gandalf poll done for the Globe and Mail said it will be necessary for the federal government to get back into fiscal balance of the public purse. Harper has another plan however. He wants to cut government to the point where it is incapable of doing the public service jobs we expect of a progressive, caring, productive and innovative society.

Harper wants a more Libertarian social and fiscal regime where government’s role is shrunk and stifled. He sees the world as best served where individuals are totally personally responsible for their own well being in a Darwinian law of the jungle kind of competition not only for success but for survival. The poor, infirm, elderly and disabled just have to pull up their socks…if they have them.

Harper has a tentative and tepid toe in the policy pool of fiscal prudence going forward and that is not impressing big business. Half of them think Harper is doing a “poor job of reducing the deficit and 2/3 think it is bad policy to continue to run deficits through to 2015 as the recent Budget says.

So our Ayn Rand wanna be Prime Minister will cut and kill social, cultural, education, aid and support programs instead of raising taxes. This is because Harpers governing philosophy is to diminish and demolish the capacity of government to be an enabler and a partner with society and citizens.

Nobody likes taxes but we all know we need services provided as a society that individuals can’t do themselves. That is one of the fundamental roles and responsibilities of progressive governing and public policy. Business now knows that Harpers slash, trash and burn approach to public policy in social and environmental areas is going to harm Canada’s productivity and capacity to grow in the future and stifle and constrain them as well.

The market place is not the total answer nor is government as nanny state but finding the balance between them is the key. We need governments to help build educated, safe, secure, healthy, diverse, inclusive, innovative, adaptive, resilient and respectful societies where a person can achieve their potential for their own benefit and contribute to the common good at the same time.

None of these concepts are in the Harper play book of grinding down government’s role regardless of the toll it takes on vulnerable people. Business leaders get it but Harper and his callous caucus could care less. We need an election in Canada to have an adult conversation about what kind of government we want and then to see who is prepared to provide it.

Citizens can’t presume cynicism will be ok and we will sustain democracy. That is not the obvious democratic default position when we are governed by social libertarians using fiscal foolishness as a trick to destroy our capacity to be caring and compassionate as a society, to grow our capacity and economy and be assiduous in how we must learn to live in and part of the planet.

Liberal Party Scores Big With Canada at 150 Thinkers Conference.

Sayta and I are back from a very successful and effective thinkers conference convened by the Liberal Pary of Canada this weekend in Montreal. There was a very full and frank discussion from the event.  Here is a clip of Satya Das' comments on CTV about the event.

That success of citizen engagement and shaing ideas and comments was reflected further in the social media space set up for Canadians to follow and particpiate in the conference too.  The successful use of social media by the Liberal Party at the Canada at 150 conference showed them that they can reach thoughtful Canadians from all over the country directly and engage them in meaningful conversations. 

Now the challenge is for the Liberals to use this new found insight into social media in a way that delivers a positive political purpose.  There is a chance for authentic (no spin) communications directly with those citizens in all kinds of local communities and communities of interests in personal thoughtful and effective sharing of ideas through the Internet.  This must be one of the central on-going efforts to capitalize on the success of this past weekend.  All parties are behind in understanding how social media works and how to use it effectively.  The Liberal Party of Canada got a taste of it this weekend and are starting to get it.

There is archived presentations being set up at the conference website at  I strongly suggest a number of visits and revisits by anyone interested in citizen engagement and looking for "adult conversations" about public policy in Canada. They got that from speaker after speaker at this weekend's conference.

I will be doing a series of blog posts in the next few days on my reactions to the presentations I heard.  Conversations are game changers and my sense is the "game" of politics changed this past weekend and become more of an "adult converstion," the kind that David Dodge called for at Canada at 150 in his presentation.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Canada at 150: Rising to the Challenge

I am attending Canada at 150:Rising to the Challenge this weekend in Montreal where Canadians of all political stripes and backgrounds are meeting in a non-partisan setting to take on big issues and challenges that will shape our nation's direction.

I am attending as part of the discussion and will provide my feedback into the Reboot Alberta community, I encourage us all to post our insights on how we can address the challenges that face our country as we head to our 150th birthday in 2017.

There are lots of ways to get involved. You can RSVP to the live webcast where you will be able to submit questions during the sessions, by attending one the events being hosted or hosting your own. There is a lot of info on how to here:  You can sign up for the live webcast of the event here as well.

If you can’t participate over March 26-28, you can submit your thoughts on the challenges for Canada that are going to be addressed now at by linking on each heading:

• Jobs Today and Tomorrow: the Productive Society of 2017

• Real life issues for Canadian families: How do we care?

• The Creative and Competitive economy

• Energy, Environment, Economy: Growth and Responsibility in 2017

• A strong presence in the world of 2017: Commerce, values, and relationships

If any readers have comments on any of these topics and want to share them now, I welcome the input as comments.  I will be posting from the event on this blog and on Twitter as well. You can follow the event on Twitter at #can150.  I encourage everyone to follow this event.  I'm thinking it will be historic.

BTW my business partner Satya Das and Green Oil author is speaking on panel about Clean Energy and Canada's Potential in the Low Carbon World: What's Missing.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fraser Institute Report Comparing Schools is Educational Folly

I always dispair at the superficial analysis and misleading inferences from the Fraser Institute when it ranks  schools based on standardized test results.  When you ask a shallow and silly question you are bound to get a useless answer.  As the world gets more complex and informed engaged citizenship becomes more important than ever we need to ensure the skills we teach are those that are essential for this new and emerging world. 

Of course the traditional subjects are still important but not as the only things worth teaching and testing. To compare schools and insist that they compete for credibility when private schools can restrict who they enroll and public schools will and must take all comers and to say this is a quality measure is misleading at best.  This fundamental reality about enrollment and the socio-economic differences in schools make the Fraser Institute comparison reporting such a disservice.  How are students, teachers, parents and the public able to use such selective comparisons when trying to discern if our education system is doing the job it needs to do to prepare the whole student for the changing and emerging reality they will face.

If students and teachers are only ranked and rated on narrow focued standardized test results we only get a bellcurve distribution but no insight as to how well prepared the whole student is for adaptation, resilience, self-sufficiency and survival in a complex interdependent globalized social, environmental, economic and political culture. 

The Fraser Institute reports on public education is as helpful as counting the number of nails in a house and presuming that measures its value to those who live in it.  It is not even worthy of being taken with a grain of salt.  It is beyond useless, it is dangerous

Friday, March 19, 2010

Jon Stewart's Classic Piece of Political Satire on Progressives.

Here is a clip by Jon Stewart of the Daily Show that is destined to be a classic.  As a friend of mine said about this clip "It would be funny if it were not so true."  The sad state of fearmongering and misleading from some of the media in America is also present in Alberta. You just have to scratch the surface a little and you will find it in more than a few places.

This piece of sketch comedy should cause Progressives in Alberta to laugh and reflect but not cry or dispair.  We have to stand up and decrie such prejudice and bigotry. We have to speak out against the kind of screed that get passed off by some as a preferred but uncivil society that would put us back into an unjust and doctraire society.

I think I have said enough.  Go to the link and let Jon Stewart speak for himself. He also speaks for many others of us who are progressives but have been too complacent and too indifferent and for far too long.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Stelmach and Emerson Both Speaking at Oilsands National Buyer/Seller Forum

There is an amazing amount of activity in and around the oilsands these days. Deferred projects are back on the front burners, mergers are happening and foreign investment is looking aggressively for places to play. The impact of the oil sands development in Alberta, across the country and throughout North America and now infiltrating into Asia has been the focus of many project conversations and contract negotiations for at least a decade.

The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association have been sponsoring the National Buyers and Sellers Forum for a decade now too. It brings people into Edmonton from all over the world to look at how they can participate in the opportunities inherent in Alberta‘s oil sand development. To underscore the importance of future oilsands development Premier Stelmach and The Honourable David Emerson, Chair of the Premier’s Council for Economic Strategy are both speaking at a National Buyers and Sellers Forum dinner on March 23 in Edmonton.

The theme for this year’s NBSF is aptly entitled “The Maturing of the Oil Sands.” I like the theme because it has a few nuances around the concept of maturity. There is enough longitudinal experience with the oilsands, as well as recognition that it is more than economics but also an environmental and a social concern.

Consistent with the theme, Premier Stelmach will be speaking on his government’s priorities with particular attention to the new Competitiveness Act. David Emerson will be making the first public presentation on the progress of the Premier’s Council for Economic Strategy as it delves into the unique challenges and opportunities for the future wellbeing and prosperity of Alberta.

There is an estimated $1Trillion of economic value to be created by oil sands development in the next decade. Environmental responsibility and energy efficiency are rapidly emerging part of the corporate culture and consciousness in oil sands development. The recoverable oilsands, using current technology, and at current commodity prices is a $25Trillion asset.

This oilsands asset is owned by each and every Albertan and we each individually have a $4.5million stake in the potential of that resource. This is not just a get rich quick opportunity. But it is an enormous opportunity for individual Albertans to realize the benefits and burdens we have carry to ensure we can be proud and profit from its proper exploitation.

As the owner of the oilsands, every Albertan needs to become more aware, informed and engaged in the public policy discussions on it responsible and sustainable effective development. I am a big fan of oilsands development but see it as an integrated social, ecological, economic and political set of issues and opportunities. Government is our agent and proxy holder and it supposed to serve our best interests. Industry is our tenant and contracted to develop the resource for the benefit of investors, markets and the greater good. That will only happen if citizens are duly diligent, engaged and informed enough to insist that these goals are all served.

I will be doing a future blog post on the Premier’s remarks and Chairman Emerson’s comment too at the dinner to try and add to the light and reduce some of the heat around oilsands development. I hope this will help Albertans get tuned in, stay tuned in and make sure that government and industry are in tune with the hopes and aspirations of Albertans around proper development of our oilsands.

BTW if you are interested attending in the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association NBSF, you can register here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reboot Alberta is Getting Momentum

When I see Letters to the Editor like this one by Alan Hayman I get the sense that there is a real possibility of serious citizen's movement forming around a more progressive political culture in Alberta.  This is independent proof for me that the Reboot Alberta Citizens Movement exists and is growing.  The conservative culture wars between the reactionay Stelmach government and the reductive Smith wanna-be government is waking up and unnerving the somnabulist centre of the Alberta citizenry. 

We Albertans have had a pretty easy ride for quite some time. We have become dis-engaged, complacent queiscent and querulous in our relationship to our govenment and governors.  We have recently come to the realization that it is our province, our govenment and our resources and our responsibility to do something about the direction and desitination that the reactionary right is pushing our province.  We are now becoming respondant instead of dispondent as we see the unrealized potential and unrequited response to crystallizing concerns of citizens over the legacy w of environmental degradation and debt we are leaving our children.

The tired old and tedious tendency to see everything as right and wrong, left and right, us and them, winners and losers is past its prime and turning into something very dangerous in our new interdependent global reality.  We need to get past the pro-forma political positioning of traditional partisan poliitics that sees choices between the idealization of the welfare state or the ideology of the markets as the only optoins open to us.

We need a pragmatic progressive political culture that builds on the strengths of the welfare state and the marketplace but also finds ways to overcome their weaknesses. We need citizens to reinvigorate and to return to the public life of a vibrant democracy.  Fear-mongering and an epidemic of ennui are not viable go-forward attitudes for Albertans.

Join the Reboot Alberta Citizen's Movement and be the change you want to see happen You only have yourself to blame if it does not happen.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Alberta Venture Magazine "The Right Call" Column is On-Line.

Here is the link to the March edition of Alberta Venture magazine and The Right Call column on business ethics that I often contribute to.  This month we tackle about what to do with an employee who publicly expresses views in conflict with a company's mission.

This month the other contributors are Heather Douglas the CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce and Janet Keeping, President of the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics and Leadership along with our noble leader and author, Fil Fraser

Alberta Venture also did a review of the book Green Oil written by my business partner Satya Das

Is Violence and Abuse of Women and Children a Significant Concern for Albertans?

With Karen Bigelow’s breakthrough as the first female to win a Directing Oscar I guess we can assume all is well with the plight of women in the world and International Women’s Day is no longer needed. NOT.

On a much more significant and serious note but with much less buzz here is a piece from Mother Jones that showed up in my mailbox this morning on violence against vulnerable women in the world. The hypocrisy of the American’s proposing to domestically pass such “international” legislation may be one focus to view this effort. Even though they will not, for example, sign on to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child or the International Criminal Court I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that this “International Violence Against Women Act” is well intended, not just na├»ve and hypocritical as it appears at first blush.

The problem of violence against women and children is growing especially in poor and countries devastated by wars (Afghanistan) and disasters (Haiti). The evidence is that violence, exploitation and abuse of women and children is growing. I don't know what to suggest as solutions but I know others who do.  I sure do recognize the seriousness of the problems but wonder where the pressure will come from to make serious changes on the ground and not just pandering political photo-op efforts.

Is Canada doing its share to help solve the problems? Prime Minister Harper mused months go about dealing with the problems at the upcoming G20 meeting in Canada this summer. Nothing much has come from his re-calibrated government on the subject since - except to say that foreign aid will be frozen.  Will anyone follow up and stand up on these issues for women in Canada and abroad?  Or are we just so disengaged and disillusioned with democracy that we just can't be bothered!

The Reboot Alberta survey of progressive’s values found that 85% of us a concerned about abuse of women and children around the world as one of the Creative Culture questions we canvassed. Of course there is an amazing amount of work to do about these issues right here in Alberta too but the problems are not mutually exclusive due to geography or culture.

I wonder if anyone in the Reboot Alberta movement will be picking up on this concern of violence and abuse of women and children and making it a matter of political importance. In the meantime happy belated International Women’s Day.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Reboot Alberta Survey Helps Define Progressive Values in Alberta

One of the directions coming out of the Reboot Alberta launch event late last November was a request to get a better understanding about what we meant by the term “progressive” in a 21st century Alberta context. Part of that exploration was a number of blogs and discussion papers posted on the Reboot Alberta website under the “What is a Progressive” link.

Another part of the exploration of “What is a Progressive” was a conjoint survey to study some value preferences that progressives see as important to guide and drive policy advisers and politicians when they make laws, regulations and public policy pronouncements that impact the lives of Albertans.

The survey tracked 22 such values using a most/least approach to determine the highest and lowest values that progressives believe should be applied to how we are governed. The survey also asked some attitudinal and satisfaction questions and asked about some engagement questions about Alberta too. It also looked at the influence of the participants and inquired about if survey participants were cultural creatives too. The survey results also give some significant insight in what it means to be a progressive in Alberta these days.

A total of 544 people completed the survey between January 30 and February 11, 2010 and a pretty distinct and consistent picture of what is an Alberta progressive emerged. The top five values progressives want to see used to guide and drive politicians were overwhelmingly dominated by Integrity, Honesty, Accountability, Transparency and Environmental Stewardship. Over 90% of participants have one of these values and their #1 choice. This consistency of progressive beliefs about what are the important values to judge how well we are being governed is very strong.

I was curious if these values were rated to high is because they are so obviously foundational to good government that they would of course rise to the top. Or was it because the perception is that yes they are important but there is a sense we are not seeing them applied now so that is why they are the most crucial governing values. I surveyed the 124 people at Reboot2.0 with those choices. Rough count was about 80% at Reboot2.0 had done the survey. An even larger number at Reboot2.0 believed these values were most important because they felt they were lacking in how we are being governed today.

That straw vote at Reboot2.0 pretty much determines the reasoning for the dominance of these values and provides some significant focus where Alberta’s progressives thinking about politics, governance and power in our province these days.

The next grouping of important value drivers for progressives in Alberta who did the survey was Wisdom, Well-being, Equity, Fiscal Responsibility and Respect for Diversity. When you add these values to the top five you start to get a substantial sense of what progressives in Alberta are thinking and paying attention to their relationship with democracy, politics, government and governance. On Sunday Morning participants at Reboot2.0 were asked to look at this group of values and use them to share what they saw as a preferred vision for Alberta. I will share those outcomes and their implications for the political agenda in Alberta in future blog posts as well.

I will also share the outcomes of the Influentials assessment and the level of Cultural Creative engagement of the survey participants. Influentials are the 10% of the general populations whose opinions matter to the rest of us as we try to make sense of a complex and fast changing world. The Reboot Alberta survey participants are astonishing Influential with 88% of them qualifying in the survey. That means if the progressives in the Reboot Alberta movement ever start using their influence they will be a force for any political party, government, governing agency, board or commission to pay close attention to what they are saying. That influence is already being shown given the rapid rise of participation and awareness of Reboot Alberta in the 100 days or so since it came on the scene in late November 2009.

The alignment of progressive Albertans with the growth or the Cultural Creative component of society is also extraordinarily strong. Paul Ray has done extensive work on defining and tracking the growing power and potential of cultural creatives to influence the society we see emerging in Alberta. Again a full 86% of progressives who took the survey were overwhelmingly in sync with the values of cultural creatives. The 18 value elements Paul Ray uses to test for qualifying as a cultural creative were used. I will deal with some of those elements and the implications for progressive values and the future of Alberta in follow up blog posts.

The survey tested the level of satisfaction and personal engagement participants had towards the province. This was perhaps the most interesting aspect of the survey findings. It shows that progressive Albertans are kind of iffy about what they say about living in Alberta and if they would strongly recommend people move here. But they are overwhelming committed to the future of the province and believe their personal actions are contributing positively to the future well being of the province. That coupled with a very strong sense of dissatisfaction with how we are being governed currently and a belief that the government is not listening nor considering the opinions of progressives.

This all makes for a very volatile political future for the province espeically IF Alberta's progressives decide to engage, use their influence and start forming into an activist citizen’s movement.  That would be a new force to drive some serious changes in the direction of the political culture of our province.  It will be an effective counterbalance the more radical social conservative, social libertarian and short-term shallow fiscal and environmental policy thinking we have seen happening in the province.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

O Canada Should Not be Sexist

O Canada need not be sexists and should not be sexists.

Janet Keeping weighs in with a piece published in the Calgary Beacon

How about "True Patriot Love that all our hearts command"

Friday, March 05, 2010

An Update on the Foster Child and Alberta Director's Contempt of Court Case.

UPDATE MARCH 5, 2010 5:11 PM - GOOD NEWS.  I have just been contacted by the Deputy Minister of Alberta Children and Youth Services who advised that they are not appealing the Guardianship Order of the Foster Mother as stated in this blog.  I understood from earlier communications that the department intended to appeal.  If the facts about the appeal intentions of the department are in accurate in this blog post I owe both Children and Youth Services and the Foster Mother an apology.  I hope they both consider this factual update to correct the record an appropriate apology.  I am going to correct the content of this blog post to refect this update from the department by overstriking the irrelevant commentary and incorrect facts according to Children and Youth Services advice to me.

For those of you who follow this blog on a regular basis (and I thank you) you will recall I did a series of posts on problems in the Alberta Department of Children and Youth Services last summer. I centered the series on a Contempt of Court finding against a Director level official in department over a foster child and the impact and implications for the child. I am writing this post as an update on the case but first let me put you back in context.

I have to be careful in writing about the case to ensure the parties are not identified due to privacy concerns for the child at the centre of the case. I also wrote the series about the Foster Mother who was a champion for the child to stay with her. She took court action to that end and won in spite of the contrary and rejected recommendations of the government.

The attitude and actions of those in control of these matters in the Department of Children and Youth Services were criticized by the Court of Appeal. The former Minister launched an external review of how these matters were handled and I was interviewed by the external reviewers as part of their work. One of the things I said to the review committee was I believed there may a destructive culture in the senior levels of the department if this case was an example that could be generalized.

My impression was garnered from reading the Court files, background documents, as well as considering the actions of senior management involved in this case and the attitudes expressed in their communications from the department. My sense was that senior management was more interested in protecting the Minister from political ramifications than it was in serving its duty to represent the best interest of children in care. I pointed this impression out to the review committee and asked them to be aware of this possibility in their work and in their reporting.

Now for the update! It is timely given the death of a 21 month old little girl in foster care in Morinville this week but that is another story and perhaps for another time. Since the blog series last summer the Foster Mother who went to bat for this little boy has contacted me directly and kept me posted on developments. I will still have to be careful not to disclose identities but I can tell you as part of the original court process there were competing interests vying to take care of this child. The Foster Mother applied for Guardianship. Others, with a competing interest in the child and who had temporary custody granted from the lower court, had also applied to adopt the child. I can tell you the child is aboriginal and so cultural issues arise as well as caring, safety and other best interests’ issues.

I have just been advised by the Foster Mother there is good news.  The good news is her application to the Courts for Guardianship of the child was granted. The Adoption petition of the others was denied, in fact the other party’s request for continuing contact with the child was also denied. In addition the Foster Mother was awarded all her costs in the matter to be paid by the Director of Child, Youth and Family Enhancement. The Foster Mother was granted a similar order by the Court of Appeal to have all her costs paid in the original action. That means she not only won on the merits based on the law, the award of total costs is a major victory on the equity of the situation.

Now for the bad news! It seems as though the Director of Child, Youth and Family Enhancement intends to appeal the Guardianship Order and rejection of the Petition for Adoption. This department has lost at every instance and issue on this matter every time except for the first trial and that decision was a travesty of justice in my opinion. So this Foster Mother has to continue to fund and fight if the Director follows through with the threat to appeal.

The arrogance of this approach by the Department of Children and Youth Services is breath taking. How much abuse must this Foster Mother endure and how much uncertainty must this child suffer? How is this abuse of power by our government serving the best interests of this child? If the department can’t get it right the first time given all the power and resources they have at their disposal, what justifies them to continue to persecute and pursue this family? Please tell me it is not political or bullying and intimidation of citizens and at-risk vulnerable citizens as we are seeing in other areas like PDD funding.

When a child in care dies it is a tragedy. When a child in care becomes a pawn of in an unnecessary nightmare of administrative insouciance and insensitivity it is still a tragedy that can last a lifetime for this already vulnerable little boy. Minister Fritz, you were was given this portfolio to fix up this department. You obviously have a lot of work to do. Call off the departmental dogs in this case and so get that departmental review fast-tracked and made public as soon as possible.

I have just done a conjoint study amongst progressive thinking Albertans on the values they want to see applied by our government when it makes laws, policy and other decisions that impact the lives of citizens. Those Albertans told us they mostly wanted integrity, honesty, accountability and transparency from their government. It is time to start delivering on these values Madame Minister. This case is an appropriate place to start to change the culture of your department and to start to show that you will reflect those core values of Albertans.



Thursday, March 04, 2010

An Olympic Thank You Note From NBC

I did not have time to watch much of the Olympics, even missed the Gold Medal hockey game because I was driving home from Reboot2.0.  What a saw was an astonishing Opening Ceremonies and with it the gift of poetry and humanity and being Canadian that is Shane Koyczen.  Then the magnificence of k.d. lang interpreting Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah as only she can do.

What I saw in the Closing Ceremonies was that classic unmistakable Canadian understatement of patriotism as we poked fun at our foibles.  The fun of the flame lighting fiasco of the Opening Cermonies finally being fixed and still celebrated was quintessential Canadian.  Then the self-depricating fun of the parade of Canadian stereotypes from moose to Mounties all the way to beavers and beer and beyond.  In typical Canadian fashion we did ourselves proud by being humble.  That Canadian quality of quiet deep pride was shown as we stayed humble and reserved while setting a new host country record 14 of gold medals relieved from our  collective self-consciousness as being the only host country ever to not win a single gold medal pre-Vancouver. 

What sparked this post was an e-mail I received form a friend enclosing a closing comment from Brian Williams of the NBC, the American Olympic broadcaster.  Canadians don't seek or need external validation to know and love who we are, but it is always nice to get recognized, especially in a way that resonates with us.  Here is what Brian Williams said about us and our hosting of the world at the Vancouver Olympics:

Leaving behind a thank-you note

Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor
to-night's broadcast and after looting our hotel mini-bars, we're going to try to brave the blizzard and fly east to home and hearth, and to do laundry well into next week. Before we leave this thoroughly polite country, the polite thing to do is leave behind a thank-you note.

Thank you, Canada:

For being such good hosts.

For your unfailing courtesy.

For your (mostly) beautiful weather.

For scheduling no more than 60 percent of your float plane departures at the exact moment when I was trying to say something on television.

For not seeming to mind the occasional (or constant) good-natured mimicry of your accents.

For your unique TV commercials -- for companies like Tim Hortons -- which made us laugh and cry.

For securing this massive event without choking security, and without publicly displaying a single automatic weapon.

For having the best garment design and logo-wear of the games -- you've made wearing your name a cool thing to do.

For the sportsmanship we saw most of your athletes display.

For not honking your horns. I didn't hear one car horn in 15 days -- which also means none of my fellow New Yorkers rented cars while visiting.

For making us aware of how many of you have been watching NBC all these years.

For having the good taste to have an anchorman named Brian Williams on your CTV network, who turns out to be such a nice guy.

For the body scans at the airport which make pat-downs and cavity searches unnecessary.

For designing those really cool LED Olympic rings in the harbor, which turned to gold when your athletes won one.

For always saying nice things about the United States...when you know we're listening.

For sharing Joannie Rochette with us.

For reminding some of us we used to be a more civil society.

Mostly, for welcoming the world with such ease and making lasting friends with all of us.

So my fellow Canadians, next time you visit a Chapters bookstore and you see the sentiment on the wall, "The world needs more Canada" reflect for a moment and know it is true.