Reboot Alberta

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Raise a Reader Campaign for Literacy

I applaud the Edmonton Journal and the rest of the Postmedia people for their annual Raise a Reader campaign focused on children's literacy.  I was "solicited" this morning to buy a newspaper by Alberta's Education Minister  and long-time friend Dave Hancock to make a donation for the cause.

Dave is a big advocate for all aspects of the literacy challenges we face.  Alberta is the most literate province in the country but the results are not impressive when you consider the implications of the lack of literacy on the economic, social, health, justice, education, community capacity, costs, well-being and competitiveness of our people.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

James Cameron - David Swann & the Plight of Fort Chip People

I had dinner with Liberal Opposition Leader David Swann last night at Rigoletto's, my favourite restaurant in downtown Edmonton.  We were talking about the Reboot3.0 and the next steps for the progressive citizen's movement known as Reboot Alberta.  I, and others, are working hard at changing the political culture in Alberta.  Progressives from all political stripes and walks of life know that we must move Alberta away from the shift to the Libertarian right in our political culture caused by the recent rise of the Wildrose Alliance Party.

David mentioned in passing that he was having breakfast this morning with James Cameron and others from the First Nations people from Fort Chipewyan.   David's chat with James Cameron is happening before Premier meets. An interesting prelude and a great opportunity for James Cameron to see another side of Alberta...for sure.

I expect both Swann and Stelmach will be hospitable and curious about Mr. Cameron's observations and reaction to what he has seen and heard in the past couple of days. I hope there is a realization of the enormous good that can happen from responsible development of the oil sands.  That responsible potential has to integrate the health and social concerns of the people of Ft Chip as well as the environmental, habitat protection and reclamation responsibilities inherent in development.

The dinner conversation last night reminded me of the first time I met David Swann.  Ironically it was two years ago in Ft. Chip at a Keepers of the Water Conference he and I attended with many others.  It was while I was working with the Canadian Boreal Initiative trying to figure out a system to compensate for the loss of wildlife habitat from oil sands development with the use of conservation offsets.

I remember a warm summer evening where David and I whiled away the evening lying on a rock high above a field watching the sun set over Lake Athabasca and gazing at the starlit clarity of the night sky. We talked way into the night on that rock that night and mostly about the future of Alberta.  We talked about the need to take an integrated, balanced holistic approach to the development of the oil sands that was respectful to the needs and rights of First Nations people.  David and I shared some thoughts, hopes, aspirations and even a few fears for the future progress of our province that night - and we have continued to do so ever since.

The wisdom of Albertans today is that the proper development of the oil sands should be the goal.  That includes assuring Albertans, as owners, that the government and development corporations are not being indolent in their duties.  Some of those duties is a guarantee that no harm is being done to human health and the well being of wildlife and the quality of air, land and water in the course of oil sands resource exploitation.

I hope when James Cameron and David Swann meet today that they get to share that  same kind of great conversation David and I did that night.  I hope they get to share thoughts about what kind of energy and commitment it will take for Albertans before we can realize the potential for the province.  I hope they get to compare notes and impart to each other a shared sense of common cause.  I hope they both agree to commit to help co-create that progressive prosperous and preferred future for Alberta that benefits everyone, not just a few.  I hope they connect with the same great intensity and share that same sense of inspiration, hope and obligation David and I felt as we discussed the blessing and burden of being Albertan with the birthright of the oil sands.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Obama's Rolling Stone Interview

I seem to be getting copies of interesting but long articles these days.  Here is the "Obama Fight Back" interview with Rolling Stone magazine.  Definitely worth a read.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Linda Duncan Steps Up With a Report on Water and Oil Sands

I have not read this report on the oil sands by Linda Duncan - MP for Edmonton Strathcona yet...but I will soon.

I disagree with Linda politically on a few issues and agree with her on many others.  We both share a passion for good music and Leonard Cohen in particular went together to his concert in Edmonton earlier this year.  Full disclosure of my bias and friendship with Linda.

One thing for sure you cannot question Linda's integrity, honesty, accountability and transparency when it comes to her application of her environmental expertise.  Based on that I suggest every Albertan, as an individual owner of the oil sands read her report.  Reflect on the implications and come to your own conclusion as to the implications for the responsible development of our resource.

Here is the link and I look forward to a full and open discussion on the content on this blog.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Gaming Rivals Royalties in Alberta Coffers

Albertans own some of the greatest and largest collection of natural resources to generate wealth now and for future generations. Those include forestry, coal, oil, gas and oil sands in abundance.  But are we getting good value from our tenants?  Are we getting good management from our government?  How are they jointly providing for the proper stewardship?  Are they taking a comprehensive long-term integrated development approach that embraces the social, political, cultural, ecological and economic elements related to exploitation of our resources.

If so, why then do we only expect to collect revenues from those resources at about the same level as we garner from gambling in the province? What is wrong with this picture?  This is a perfect storm example of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.  Gambling revenues are apparently highly concentrated from a small and not very wealthy portion of the population and is a very socially expensive tax system.

Non renewable resources have only one time to generate royalty revenues from our natural capital. But we forgo them in exchange for subsidized jobs in the energy sector especially.  This is nothing short or selling out the birthright of future generations as we use these capital revenues to subsidize our about a third of current public service programs instead of taxing our selves properly to pay our way.

Instead we adhere to a narrow-minded Alberta Advantage mantra of low taxes at all costs.  Foolish and selfish are the only conclusions one can come to when gambling is as important a public revenue source as natural resources.

Any political party prepared to suggest to Albertans that we return to our self-reliant, self-respecting and resilient selves and actually pay our own way for health care, schools, seniors, safe communities and so forth.  that may mean a rise in taxes and a closer look at value for money as taxpayers.  It also beg the question of the proper role of government and the appropriate level of funding for government to do the jobs we ask of it.

Time to wake up and grow up Alberta.  We got serious about getting rid of debt and deficits in the early 90s in no small part so we would not leave that burden on our children and could look them in the eye.  Not so sure we can do that now.  This is especially true given how we are squandering such resource wealth and opportunity and at the same time stifling our capacity for caring, compassion and dignity for the young, vulnerable and marginalized in our society by under funded government programs because we will not pay our way as taxpayers.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Canadians Split on Oil Sands Development???

Asked if energy is more important than environment Canadians are split 51-49.  Ipsos Reid poll for CBC shows no clear opinion on that opinion.  

Even more important is 41% of Canadians don't know or don't care about oil sands implications one way or the other. Are 40% of Canadians naturally oblivious or just living under a rock?

Maritimers are mostly concerned about energy over environment - it couldn't be Fort McMurray jobs tainting that opinion could it?  Surprisingly Ontario has a economic over environment bias too.

The moral of this story is that Canadians are not yet decided on the best options for oil sands development.  Our research at Cambridge Strategies shows Albertans are much more decisive when you ask them about the values they attribute to development of THEIR oil sands.

None of this polling predicts behaviour unfortunately. Our research on the values that Albertans want to drive and guide oil sands are unequivocal that reclamation, habitat, ecological monitoring GHG and water usage trump the economic issues. There is still a large Alberta swing vote in the middle that could go against for for the oil sands development and there is an erosion of pride in the oil sands by the most educated, influential and progressive parts of the population.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Monday, September 27, 2010

A PC MLA Speaks Her Mind on Public Education

Genia Leskiw, the Progressive Conservative MLA for Bonnyville Cold Lake has written a very interesting piece on her website.  It takes direct aim at the Wildrose Alliance Education Policy.  You can form you own opinions about the Wildrose policy

I love the political spunk and personal exercise of free speech that Genia represents in this posting.  MLAs need to speak out more often like this and on critical issues of the day.  They also need to be able to change their minds based on new knowledge and better information from time to time without being accused of flip flopping.

Tip of the Hat to Daveberta for the link and good for you Genia.  You make me proud to know you.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Envision Edmonton Going to Court Over Muni?

Media report says the Envision Edmonton group is off to court to try and get a ruling to force City Council to hold a plebiscite.

Waiting to see what the grounds for judicial review will be but those reported in the Edmonton Journal don't seem all that strong.  Saying for instance suggestions that the Municipal Government Act requiring a petition to be filed within 60 days of the council vote under dispute is trumped by the Mayor's "open invitation to come up with visions for the airport" made the petition legit????  Coming up with a proposed vision is legit but to say a call for planning options for city lands take precedence over the laws of the province - that is a stretch.

The law also says the City Clerk does not have to provide scrutineers in the review of the validity of petition signatures.  The City Clerk is an administrator not a political operative.  There is a need for open disclosure and reasons for disallowing certain signatures by the City Clerk.  That is being promised "once the rush to deal with the start of the civic election was completed." This court action should wait to see the reasons for rejections. It may make the entire litigation exercise functus.

I wonder what FOIP restrictions apply to those disallowed signatures?  I hope that is not a barrier to Envision Edmonton or others from reviewing, rejecting or validating the disallowed signatures.  Looking forward to seeing the analysis and evidence behind the City Clerk's decisions to reject certain signatures.

Going to court is an interesting tactic but it is not the solution long term.  I applaud Envision Edmonton, its volunteers and financial backers - whoever they may be for this exercise in citizen engagement.  That said, the likelihood of getting the requisite number of signatures on a petition in 60 days is pretty impossible in a large city like Edmonton that is embedded in a dynamic surrounding region where confusion as to eligibility is going to be a problem.

I wonder is we can't use the technology we have available via the Internet to allow for a notice to go out to eligible citizens and allow them to sign an electronic petition on line.  To get face-to-face with that many people i that short a time makes the plebiscite protest a moot solution.

Edmonton is becoming active in open data and may be a leader amongst municipalities in Canada in that regard. Internet petitioning is not a walk in the park but it is doable and we should, as a smart city, start thinking about how to make that happen.  Just about everyone has email these days and those that don't can sign up the old-fashioned way if they wish.

The Province will have to change the Municipal Government Act but that is possible once the mechanics of Internet petitioning to identify eligible citizens are worked out.  Service Canada has a secure system for Internet access by individuals to their own records all worked out.  It has been done before and can be done for this purpose - and others so why not do it.  It will also advance a strengthened democracy and enable more effective informed citizen engagement - both of which are in serious need of support these days.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Every GOP Candidate in US Mid Terms = Climate Change Deniers!

Here is a link to a very disturbing story where mythology and faith are replacing objective science in determining policy and politics in the United States.  The Tea Party is dumbing down the Republican Party with ignorance and fear promoted by fundamentalists in religion, economics and politics rule the day for them.

This quote from the story alone is most telling and terrifying.  It is showing the decline of intelligent reasoned political deliberation and the pursuit of power through merchandising of fear and ignorance amongst GOP politicians.

"Remarkably, of the dozens of Republicans vying for the 37 Senate seats in the 2010 election, no one supports climate action, after climate advocate Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) lost his primary to Christine O’Donnell. Even former climate advocates Sen. John McCain(R-AZ) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) now toe the science-doubting party line."

Progressive political thought can't remain quiet and assume all is well when this kind of ignorance pervades the political culture.  I wonder how many members of the federal Harper Conservatives and their  provincial counterparts in the Wildrose Alliance Party are climate change deniers.  Quite a few is my bet.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Are Albertans, Like Americans, Becoming Fat Dumb and Lazy & Losing Our Advantage?

Thomas Friedman has a very interesting piece in the New York Times comparing the energy of authoritarian China and the torpor the democratic United States.   Before we get into any anti-American Canadian sense of superiority, it is my observation that what Friedman says holds true for Canada and even good old Alberta.

Democracy is broken in Canada and in Alberta too.  It is partly the fault of the system, the politicians and the media, but it is mostly the fault of indifferent and compliant citizens who have defaulted on their duty of citizenship.

Power is the purpose of the political machines we see running what passes for democracy today in our country too.  The best evidence of the citizen culpability in the democratic deficit is the lack of voter participation.  But the problem goes much deeper to the consequences of an uninformed and politically illiterate population that can be manipulated by language and fear.

Friedman describes this as a lack of ability for democracy in the USA (Canada and Alberta???) to >>>"generate the kind of focus, legitimacy and stick-to-it-iveness to do big things - democratically."  He notes "we have done it before.  But we're not doing it now because too many of our poll-driven, toxically partisan, cable-TV addicted, n=money corrupted political class are more interested in what keeps them in power than what would make America (Canada and Alberta???) powerful, more interested in defeating each other than saving the country." (Canada and Alberta???)

This is the political cultural backdrop that Reboot Alberta started to seek some sense of and solutions about.  It is time for progressives to become activist again.  The number of Reboot people running in the current local school board and municipal elections is a positive sign that this is starting to happen.  Reboot 3.0 has to take that energy and start identifying issues that progressives feel need something done about them.  That is at least informed citizen engagement, democratic reform, intergenerational equity and acting like owners of the oil sands to ensure they are developed in an integrated, open, honest, transparent, accountable way with an overarching concern for ecological stewardship.

If you are tired of being complacent, mislead and manipulated you will want to be part of the Reboot Alberta progressive citizen's movement.  If you are not impressed with the serious shift to the right in the Alberta political spectrum by the two leaking parties, you will want to be part of the Reboot Alberta progressive citizen's movement.  If you want to be proud to be an Albertan again as we look beyond being the best place in the world and aspire to be the best place for the world, you will want to be part of the Reboot Alberta progressive citizen's movement.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The "Slow Hunch" Process to Innovation

Here is a quick (4 min) engaging video by Steven Johnson that provides a summary of some thoughts on how creativity and innovation happens in an incubated format.  Hunches need to bump into each other to become new ideas or innovation breakthroughs.  The increased connectivity of the Internet - networked world provides unprecedented opportunity to combine and borrow ideas from each other.

Progressives have lots of hunches but do not have a disciplined space to take chances and share our hunches and ideas so the synergy does not happen as much as it could.  This is an inspiration for me as to what RebootAlberta could become-that place for hunches and ideas to bump into each other.

Progressive live in their heads and need a place where their creative progressive thought engage with others in face-to-face and connected spaces to share hunches. I am thinking long term to convert Reboot Alberta into a space and place for Alberta progressives to come and share, learn, create and engage in defining and designing the Alberta Aspiration - something much more vibrant than the low tax mindset of the Alberta Advantage.

BTW Johnson has a wonderful closing comment that resonates with me "Chance favours the connected mind."  That is a mantra worth living in this day and age.

Thanks to Mark Holmgren for the link

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Here is the Real Oil Sands Message for Albertans

Cambridge Strategies joined forces this week with CAUSE, Enmax, Mountain Equipment Co-op, ConocoPhillips, Calgary Centre for Global Community, Take Action Grants, the Calgary Foundation, the UofC Students' Union, the City of Calgary, Alberta Acts of Climate Change and the Good Earth Coffeehouse and Bakery to sponsor the Hunter Lovins lectures.

Hunter spoke on "Lean and Green: Sustainable Energy Solutions for Alberta." She spoke about options for our current electrical challenges. She made the business case for climate change protection,  She outlined a way for Alberta to lead the way to energy solutions.  All of these themes are near and dear to my heart and my business partner Satya Das and are outlined in his book "Green Oil: Clean Energy for the 21st Century?"

She and her husband co-founded the Rocky Mountain Institute and co-authored a book called Natural Capitalism with Paul Hawken.  That is one of the most dog-eared books on my shelf and was a epiphany producing read for me a few years ago.

The Calgary Herald sure captured the essence of Lovins message in this editorial "Go Green and Get Rich!".  
There is a great deal of soul searching for business and Albertans around our oil sands development as a source of prosperity, pride, innovation and most of all environmental stewardship.  These are integrated aspects of responsible and sustainable oil sands development not mutually exclusive issues to be managed politically or with public relations.

I went into the Lovins lecture with an aspiration the my Alberta to be not merely destined to be the best place in the world but rather to aspire to be the best place for the world.

I came out of the Lovins lecture with more resolve than ever around the implications and potential that Alberta Aspiration to become reality.  Progressive thinking Albertans have to get over their compliant complacency and return to full citizenship and activist participation in the political culture of this province to make that happen.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Satya Das & Ezra Levant Square Off Over Oil Sands at LitFest.

The Edmonton Litfest is all about non-fiction literature and promises to be great event this year.  One of the highlights for Albertans will be a presentation of differing views about the Alberta oil sands by Satya Das the author of Green Oil-Clean Energy for the 21st Century and Ezra Levant the author of Ethical Oil.
Satya Das
Ezra Levant

Full disclosure I am the publisher of Green Oil and Satya is a long time friend and my business partner. I have purchased but not yet read Ezra's book...but I will soon. I have read a considerable amount of media on the Levant book and was at a dinner meeting with Danielle Smith, the leader of the right-wing Wildrose Alliance Party last Monday and she repeated the premise of Ethical Oil in her presentation.  That being while we in Alberta may be dirty oil providers from the oil sands, compared to the alternative suppliers we are, on the whole, a much better ethical option for American fossil fuel needs.

I whole heartedly agree with Ezra's premise and have in fact posted a blog giving some free advice to Premier Stelmach in his recent meeting with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  I suggest the American political interference in the middle east, the dishonest premise to start the Iraq for example is about US taking "blood oil" relative to our "dirty oil."

Where I think Ezra and Das (and I) would part company is while the premise is Ethical Oil is well founded it is insufficient to fix the problem of our so-called "dirty oil."  I don't think the ethical arguments gets Albertans, as owners of the oil sands, off the hook...and we know it.  We need to develop our oil sands with a higher ethical bar than we are the best of a bad lot.  We know from our conjoint research done in conjunction with the Oil Sands Research and Information Network at the University of Alberta that environmental stewardship is the driving ethical values Albertans what to see guide and drive our oil sands development.

Creating prosperity without an integration of habitat protection, set standards for land, water and air quality, reclamation assurances to support on-going biodiversity and a focus on fixing the carbon footprint of development we are not really ethical oil.  We expect more or ourselves than just being socially better and more secular than Saudi Arabia.

So come to Litfest on October 19 at the Stanley Milner Library Theatre to hear and participate in the Das-Levant discussions on the future development of the oil sands.  The full Litfest program and ticket info is available at Tix on the Square:

Advance Passes and Individual Event Admission Tickets on sale now from Tix on the Square,online or by phone 780.420.1757 or Toll Free 1.877.888.1757.  (Address - 9930 102 Avenue). 

As a publisher let me suggest you buy the books and read them before hand.  You can get them in better book stores in Edmonton.  Green Oil is also available as a download from

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Practicality of Life as a Vulnerable Post Secondary Student

I ran into  Rebooter Carol Neuman yesterday.  She is the soul behind the Student Councils' Executive group who represent all non-university post-secondary students in Alberta.  She was quickly telling me about the serious hardships many students in Norquest and Bow Valley Colleges were facing due to a computer screw up at Alberta Employment and Immigration that has delayed support cheques getting out from government to marginalized and vulnerable people who are trying to upgrade their education.

The government funds they rely on to survive as students have been delayed due to some computer SNAFU.  It also seems to me that the system, both technological and human,  is too insensitive to the critical consequences of such screw ups on these students.  I was told many had to drop out of school because they could not continue because of the delay receiving in the life changing funding they are relying on.

This is an emergency for these people and I hope the powers that be understand this and don't just see it as some kind of technical computer glitch.  This has serious human consequences.  I understand that the Alberta government messed up on the processing of funding for these people.  This is obviously a life changing experience for many - but not in the way it is supposed to be changing their lives.

Personal debt levels are very high these days for everyday Albertans.  Debt concerns are to the point there is a general anxiety amongst many middle class Albertans over how sustainable their futures are.  I am told that many middle class people are just two pay cheques away from poverty.  Scary. Aspirations to better their standards of living are diminishing as they feel they are running harder and longer just to stay in the same on the treadmill.  Youth are even in worse shape.

Take that level of concern and add marginalization, poverty and vulnerability to the emotional mix and you get a toxic brew for folks trying to better themselves through education and upgrading.  When they get the courage and conviction to take on more education in order to become self-reliant and resilient  they sure don't need the kick in head of a funding fiasco.

I am told the bucks problem stops at Minister Thomas Lukaszuk's desk.  I know Thomas and believe he is all about doing the right thing.  This right thing is urgent as well as important.  I hope Minister Lukaszuk if fully and forcefully engaged in resolving this problem given the emergency it is for so many vulnerable Albertans who are just trying to better themselves.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ken Robinson is Coming to Alberta

Sir Ken Robinson is a gift to consciousness about culture, education and creativity.  He has humour and humanity as a gift to his audience.  You need to watch this and watch for when he comes to Alberta and be there.

He is one of the most influential minds of our times...and times are a changin'

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Why Have School Board Trustees

Kim Bater is the Chair of the Canadian Rockies School District and an innovator and leader in innovative public education governance in Alberta.   The Inspiring Hearts and Minds project of this Board is a breath of fresh air.  It is ahead of its time and will prove to be a model for other school boards to consider and adapt as they move towards a more modern, effective accountable and transparent governance structures.

Kim is running for re-election and has posted a helpful blog on why we need school board trustees.  I recommend you read it.

New generative governance is an concept envisioned by the Inspiring Action on Education process instigated and developed by Dave Hancock Alberta's Minister of Education.  This re-visioning process for public education in Alberta also sees more public engagement and awareness of the role of citizens in setting the goals and means to achieve them in an even more vibrant, inclusive, effective and responsible public education system in Alberta.

Alberta is recognized as the second best public education system in the world, just behind Finland.  Alberta and Finland are working together at the teacher levels and increasingly at political and administrative levels.  Kim Bater is part of this collaborative effort with Finland and the OECD and has taken the Inspiring Hearts and Minds to Europe to show what is being done in his district at the school board level.

COME TO REBOOT ALBERTA 3.0 "TAKING ACTION FOR A PROGRESSIVE POLITICAL CULTURE IN ALBERTA" If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Monday, September 20, 2010

Local Elections Are On in Alberta - How Will You Vote?

Local election nominations are now closed and the municipal and school board elections will happen on Monday October 18 all over Alberta. I smell democracy in the air.  I can't say yet if we have more candidates running this time than usual and fewer acclamations -  but I sure hope so.

I want to congratulate and thank all those Albertans who have taken the time to run for local municipal and school board office all over the province.  Our democracy only works if we have citizens who are prepared to contribute their time and talents to serve the greater good - for the benefit of the rest of us.

There is a lot of legitimate disillusion with politics in Alberta and elsewhere these days.  Giving up on politics has the net result of diminishing democracy and that is too dangerous to consider.  Our government and governors  are only as good as the quality of commitment of citizens who stand for office and the engagement of citizens how get informed on the issues and actively engaged in figuring which candidates best align with their values.

While the current elections are local I strongly believe the values Albertans have are consistent with those they look for in provincial and federal elections.  We have the research that shows the values lens that Albertans want their politicians to use when making policy and political decisions that impacts individuals lives.  I recommend Albertans view the characters and content of the candidates campaigns using the same primary values we found from the Reboot Alberta random sampling of Albertans.

  1. Accountability
  2. Integrity
  3. Honesty 
  4. Fiscal Responsibility
  5. Personal Responsibility
  6. Transparency
If a candidate's character and personal qualities do not impress you on these values then find another candidate.  Tell you friends and family you impressions about candidates on there value measures and encourage them to vote their values too.  There are no parties in local elections so you do not have to worry about partisanship.  This election is personal as well as political but about your community and the education of the kids in it.  Everyone needs to be engaged in all aspects of both elections.

Best of luck to all the candidates and as for you get back into the political culture of your community, province and country.  To abdicate this duty means you will be governed by the decisions and even the whims of others.  In a democracy you always get the government you deserve - especially if you failed, refused or neglected to vote.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta come to Reboot Alberta 3.0 November 5-6 in Edmonton at the Delta South hotel.  Register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at  

How is the Alberta Economy Working for You?

Took a moment to look back at the Canada West Foundation and Western Centre for Economic Research that was done March 2010 of economic thought leader all over western Canada.  The summer slowdown of the usual informed activist engagement in such matters is only part of the reason.  We have had a lot happening to divert our attention from the economy like the British Petroleum Gulf of Mexico well blow-out, the abolishment of the vital Long Form Census, the Gun Registry political wedge ranting and the mass arrests of demonstrators at the very expensive G20...oh yes...and the Queen's visit. There was some $2Billion of taxpayers money borrowed and blown on bogus security and fake lakes. That made us all feel good and safe as a reckless abuse of political power and responsible fiscal management.

Back in March almost 70% of the 124 Alberta based thought leaders believed our economy would be Much Better (9.7%) or Somewhat Better (59.7%) over the next six months.  Well the six months are over and the next  thought-leader survey will be out in October. and I wonder where the new collected wisdom on the prospects for the Alberta economy in the pending six months will be now.

BTW the Albertan thought leaders were the most pessimistic about the economic prospects for Canada but still 60.2% thought it would be Somewhat Better and nobody thought it would be Much Better.  The federal stimulus money was manipulated to support Conservative candidates and took a long time to get out but I believe overall it has helped avoid a depression and lessen the impacts of a severe recession.

Equally interesting was the thought-leaders overwhelming support for a national securities regulator.  All of the west saw 69.1% in favour and even in Alberta 68.3% favoured this proposal. The official stance of the Alberta government is opposed to a national securities regulator.

An overwhelming 98.7% believed that Canada must pursue new export markets outside the US and 63.6% believed finding news markets should be the highest priority for western Canada.  In terms of the American centred debates over dirty oil from the oil sands that cannot happen soon enough.

There is an ongoing concern of a double dip recession in the US that will impact many of Alberta's markets if it happens.  The other alternative is a long slow growth of the US economy but nobody knows what is rally going to happen.  Confidence in the future is a strong predictor of the economic outcomes, good or bad.  We know from some of our research are Cambridge Strategies that there is not a lot of confidence in our federal MPs to take care of Alberta's interests in Ottawa these days and that makes the mood going forward even more unpredictable.

Looking forward to the next version of this western Canada Economic Expectations survey next month.  IN the mean time why not take the poll on this blog and lets see how readers of this blog predictions align with the experts.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hunter Lovins in Calgary September 21st and 22nd.

Sick of seeing Alberta portrayed as the bad guy in the news? Meet with others who want to find real, effective solutions and create a truly sustainable Alberta with Newsweek Magazine’s Green Business Icon Hunter Lovins September 21st and 22nd in Calgary.

The group Citizens Advocating the Use of Sustainable Energy (CAUSE) along with Cambridge Strategies Inc. a range of other sponsors is presenting lectures with Hunter Lovins of Natural Capital Solutions.  Hunter is a true leader in combining sustainability with business - among her many other areas of expertise –

During her visit to Calgary, Hunter will make two presentations focusing on sustainable energy solutions for Alberta:

- Tues. September 21st, 4:00 pm, ConocoPhillips Theatre (ENMAX CEO Gary Holden to act as MC. Coffee reception to follow).

- Wed. September 22nd, 7:00 pm, University of Calgary MacHall Ballroom.

Get details and your tickets now through to discuss current electricity challenges, the business case for climate protection and how Alberta can be a leader in energy solutions rather than always playing catch up to our critics.

Natural Capitalism Solutions is recognized internationally for its work in the field of sustainability and is led by Lovins, who has over 40 years experience in business, sustainability, change management, globalization, climate change, economic development  and energy and resource policy,

Natural Capitalism develops innovative and practical ways to increase efficiency and environmental practices, as well as economic sustainability, for a long list of
government and corporate clients and shows how to restore and further enhance natural and human capital while increasing prosperity and quality of life.

Hunter developed the Economic Renewal Project and helped write many of its manuals on sustainable community economic development.  She is currently a founding Professor of Business at Presidio Graduate School, one of the first accredited programs offering an MBA in Sustainable Management.

Hunter has consulted for governments and the private sector, briefing senior management at such organizations as Walmart, the International Finance Corporation, Interface, Inc., Bank of America, Calvert Social Investment Fund, Royal Dutch/Shell Group and numerous utility companies and the U.S. Defense Civil Preparedness Agency of the Pentagon, Environmental Protection Agency, numerous states and cities, and the governments of Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, Jamaica, Germany, and New Zealand.

Hunter has  also co‐authored nine books and dozens of papers and has received several honorary doctorates. Her best‐known book, Natural Capitalism, released in September 1999,  was the subject of a Harvard Business Review summary. She is currently working on Climate Capitalism, to be released by Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, in spring 2011.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Monday, September 13, 2010

Suncor About to Reclaim Pond 1

Suncor Energy is about to reclaim Tailings Pond #1 at the end of September 2010.  There has been a lot of work done and even more to go but this video is the kind of information Albertans as owners of the oil sands need to see to appreciate and understand what is involved, what is being done and how reclamation works.

This is an actual reclamation of a tailings pond and I think the first in the history of the oil sands...but I could be wrong.  I will find out and let you know later.  Recent Cambridge Strategies research on the values of Albertans on what should guide and drive the development of the oil sands noted reclamation type, habitat and ecological monitoring were the top choices for about 60% of us.  This video addresses all but the ecological monitoring but I am sure that is not being ignored in the reclamation efforts.

In the meantime as we start to consider the reclamation and habitat protection and replacement around oil sands more seriously, give this video by Suncor on their initial efforts a view.

Full disclosure I am a Suncor shareholder and have done work for them in the past but not presently.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Why is Harper Avoiding the Media?

I picked up this link this morning on Twitter via @BrianMCarroll from the Nanaimo Daily News.  It shows that our totalitarian Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper is in image control but not into communicating with least not through the conventional media.

I am on the PMO distribution list of what Harper is doing and the activities are mere message massage and manipulation.  I can't understand why cash strapped and staff starved MSM even bother to cover these circuses of events where photos are allowed but journalists questions are not allowed or severely limited.

It is becoming more obvious that our democracy is in decline and the personal ambitions of Prime Minister Harper are pleased and promoting that demise.  Canadians have to wake up and smell the political rot - and it is not just in Ottawa.

Many of our political parties and leaders have forfeited the benefit of the doubt from citizens that they are acting in our best interests.  The uncertainty amongst citizens it there but individually they seem to be afraid of the consequences of taking back political power into the hands of the electorate and not the elites in political parties or back rooms.

Giving up on democracy is not an option.  Showing up, speaking out and insisting on accountability, integrity, honesty and transparency from those who seek our consent to govern us is the only option.  If you are better off today than 4 years ago I can understand a contentment to the status quo...but not many of us are as well off.

The fear uncertainty and doubt we are feeling about the future can best be fixed by citizens taking action.  We need to change the political power structure, who is in political power and how we select those to whom we grant political power.  If you are not content with the status quo and the infighting between left and right politics you can re-engage in a progressive approach to democracy through Reboot Alberta   Join us and start making a difference in the future of Alberta and even Canada.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Accountability, Integrity & Honesty is What Albertans Want from Politicians

We have done some interesting research about what values Albertans want to see guide and drive policy decision by the provincial government. There seems to be a critical disconnect with the governors and the governed about what values citizens want to see used to make public policy decisions.

The top values Albertans want to see from government are Accountability, Integrity and Honesty.    When it comes to oil sands policy we are seeing a serious distance between the political culture citizens want and what they are getting.  This is especially true in the areas of environmental monitoring and mitigation in areas like habitat, CO2 emissions and reclamation.

There is a very interesting set of quotes from politicians about the water quality in the Athabasca River and conflicting independent peer reviewed reports of unsafe levels of toxins that differ from the  messages we have been getting from our government politicians.  Government administration and independent experts seems to be saying very different things based on science than the political messages we are supposed to believe.

Click here is a link to a very enlightening blog post from the Calgary Herald that illustrates this point.  How can this be happening  in a modern democracy like Alberta?

I have to applaud the forthright comments of the government experts on the issues for their integrity, accountability and honesty in these quotes.  It will be interesting to see if there are career consequences for bring truth to power when power has a different agenda.

Add to this the Globe and Mail story where Premier Stelmach says the meeting with US House of Representative Speaker Nancy Pelosi will emphasize that "The environment is the first and most important issue" but the rest of the story is all about investment and jobs.  I hope the story is not fully reflective of the comments made by the Premier and he has had something specific to say about concerns like ecological monitoring, water use and safety, CO2 levels, habitat protection and reclamation.

Then we have another news story in the Globe and Mail saying a study is finding the destruction of ducks in oil sands tailing ponds is estimated to be 30 times that reported by industry and government.  What is going on here?

We Albertans as owners of the oil sands need to start getting serious about insisting we get the facts behind the development decisions on this very important resource for Alberta's continuing prosperity.  When sustaining or gaining political power supersedes the duty of politicians to govern responsibly with integrity, accountability and honesty citizens have to take matters back into their own hands.

We Albertans are the owners and ultimately responsible for how our oil sands are developed.  We are also responsible as voter for who we allow to make these development decisions on our behalf.  There is no "them" in this issue - only Albertans as owners and citizens.

It is time to speak up Alberta and insist on demonstrable political integrity, accountability and honesty from our governors again.  Changes have to be made and a healthy democracy demands that we have viable political alternatives who demonstrate the core values we want applied to our public policy decisions. 

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Why Did Our Government Avoid Announcing the Premier-Pelosi Meeting?

This week should be a game changing opportunity for re-framing the oil sands narrative in the minds of some of the most powerful political personalities in the United States of America.  The meeting this Thursday with Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, arguably the most powerful woman in America, could be and should be a game changer for Alberta and our oil sands to be understood in a broader and deeper context than merely "dirty oil"

The credible case for oil sands cannot be made by pushing the investment agenda or the jobs advantages.  There is so much more to the potential than those concerns, vital as they are.  There is a need to have an integrated conversation about the oil sands in terms of environmental elements of land, water and air impacts.  There is a need to talk about health and habitat implications and mitigation.  There is a need to talk about science and technology advances and its potential elements for a cleaner future for oil sands development.

There is a need to do all of this to dispel the mythology of dirty oil but not in the context of it not being so bad when you consider it in comparison with the British Petroleum Gulf of Mexico disaster.  Being better apple in a bad barrel is not good enough for Albertans.  We Albertans want to be proud of the oil sands as well as being able to prosper from them.  Being the best of a bad lot is not good enough.

That said I do feel there is a need to compare the so-called "dirty oil" from the Alberta oil sands with the "blood oil" from the other US sources.  Considering the Presidential level false pretense of weapons of mass destruction to justify an invasion of Iraq and the waste and blood that deception created I wonder is we don't need a broader definition of "dirty oil."  The American government is guilty of creating really dirty oil that involves supporting war, terror, death and corruption, both aboard and domestically..  I hope someone is prepared to point that out to Speaker Pelosi this week.  We need to frame the responsible development of the oil sands as a way out of that political, moral and ethical quagmire for the Americans.

The Iraq war was really about deceit, political hubris and securing an oil supply for the United States.  It was not about freedom and democracy for Iraqi citizens as the ultra conservative rhetoric out of the White House would want us to believe.  The George Bush political pantomime of the "Mission Accomplished" performance n the on the deck of an aircraft carrier shows the depth of the political posturing that regime was prepared to resort to in order to sustain its hold on power.  Anyone see a parallel to the current Harper regime in Canada?

The terrorism fostered by the funding of extremist religious fundamentalist enabled by the Bush-Regime friendly royal family of Saudi Arabia is another aspect of "dirty oil" to my mind.  Then look at the social costs in civilian deaths and the political corruption in Venezuela and you can add more granularity to the picture of "dirty oil."  There are many more examples of blood oil as dirty oil in the world that are as least partly due to past American foreign and energy policies.  

None of this justifies Albertans being complacent about insisting that the oil sands be developed in a much more environmentally and socially responsible way.  But to lecture Alberta about our "dirty oil" and to allow the BP blowout to happen and to invade and support corrupt regimes around the globe in exchange for domestic fossil fuel supply is hypercritical in the extreme.

The opportunity to provide a more integrated and honest narrative about the potential of the oil sands as an energy resources to the American market has to be clearly and persuasively presented.  If anyone making these points needs notes to make these points one should wonder if they are not sufficiently akin and aligned with the core values of Albertans around our oil sand development.

The point is to be realistic about our challenges in responsible oil sands development.  Pelosi has to hear and the Premier has to make the point that the oil sands are a viable transitional energy alternative that can relieve the human costs of corruption, death and terror resulting from these other truly dirty oil situations the American people find themselves supporting..

This does not let Albertans off the ownership hook to assure the world we can develop this enormously important resource in a responsible and sustainable way with wisdom and integrity.  It is significant that this meeting with Speaker Pelosi is happening in Ottawa with the Premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan plus key Influentials invited too, like Marlo Raynolds of the highly respected Pembina Institute. (BTW Marlo is a Friday night presenter along with me at RebootAlberta 3.0 in Edmonton Nov 5-6) There will be a  balance of perspectives on the oil sands available to Speaker Pelosi for sure and it is a credit to her that balance is happening.

It is more than a little disturbing to note that this meeting with Pelosi was not announced by Premier Stelmach's office.  As Graham Thomson notes in his recent column, the Alberta public would not have known about it likely until after the fact if not for the fact others were invited and announced they were going.

This lack of public disclosure that our Premier is attending this meeting looks to me like a lapse of accountability and transparency by our government - and it is disturbing.  We Albertans own the oil sands.  We have a right to know what is going on in relation to them  What is our government doing in meeting the stewardship responsibility of our resources, especially the controversial oil sands, is our public business.

The elected representatives are not the absolute rulers over the development of our oil sands.  They are merely our proxy holders as owners.  They are elected to represent our best interests.  They owe us a duty to prove to us that they are serving those ends.  They should be conducting themselves in the service of our best interests openly and honestly and with integrity.   Citizens of Alberta have to start acting like owners of their natural resources and not merely employees for the industry tenants.   The industry tenants need to earn our respect to sustain any social licenses to exploit our natural resources for the benefit of shareholders and citizens.  Our governments need to learn some humility as servant leaders and be dissuaded from assuming they are entitled to govern without being accountable, transparent and honest with the voter.

To not disclose this meeting as part of the regular release of the weekly schedule of the Premier is an indication of a personal and institutional character flaw.  It is not good enough and further erodes the public confidence in the capacity and truthfulness of this government.

There are times when confidentiality is required.  On those occasions we owners still need to know why it is required and be able to trust the integrity of those entrusted to act on our behalf in such confidential circumstances. That is not the case now in terms of being informed as to why s discussion must be confidential  or can we trust the integrity and accountability of our representatives who are involved in such confidential discussions.

Any of secret meetings held behind closed doors by our government proxy holders are inevitably with self-serving parties.  That is why they are a serious source of citizen suspicion.  There is  that there is more back room self-interested collusion going and that is totally inappropriate.  There is plenty of evidence that the current government of Alberta has at best lost the benefit of the doubt that they are to be trusted and believed.  To not disclose the Premier-Pelosi meeting unnecessarily adds to the suspicion and distrust.

Democracy is founded on trust and confidence of the citizenry towards those to whom we delegate authority over us to make decisions on our behalf as informed engaged voters in meaningful elections. I know that is a fiction in Alberta and too many other dissolving democracies.  The Pelosi meeting was a perfect opportunity for our government to show they are worthy of our trust and to justify our confidence in dealing on our behalf with the American mis-perceptions about "dirty oil."

The way this high-level policy event has been handled so far shows that the default of the powers that bee is towards political posturing and secrecy.  That is trumping the greater duty to govern with a sense of stewardship and sustainability with integrity, accountability, honesty and transparency.  Instead they have just reinforced our worst suspicions about how poorly we are governed instead of redeeming themselves by a gesture towards restoring public trust and confidence. I don't hold any hope that the Wildrose Alliance Party would be any better if not worse given their secretive and significant financial reliance on the Calgary based energy sector now.

As thoughtful and responsible Albertans we have to get past our defeatist attitude and insist upon or create another viable political alternative.  To stay in a torpor means the future choices will be between an exclusively market driven govern philosophy or a reactionary social conservative option.  Both are too restrictive to meet our potential and responsibility to aspire be more than the best  place in the world to becoming the best place for the world. That is the preferred future for the Alberta I want to achieve.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Monday, September 06, 2010

Haley Simons and Other Rebooters Are Taking Action.

So one of the life lessons I am learning from my encounter with the concept of Rebooting Alberta is the energy that is starting to emerge from individuals who have come to the Reboot Alberta community.  One of the most animated new activists is Haley Simons.  She has taken up the crusade for Creative Alberta with an enthusiasm that is infectious and soon to be viral with the energy she has and the traction she is getting.

A concert pianist with a PhD in music Haley is another Ordinary Miracle Edmontonian who wants to see positive change and is taking personal responsibility to create and be the change she wants.  She is typical of what I see emerging from the early start of a progressive citizen's movement in Alberta less than a year ago.  More and more we see people taking action to make a difference in the communities where they live physically or intellectually or emotionally.

I met Haley on the phone when I was at a local food conference in Drayton Valley for the Grande Alberta Economic Region.  She said she was give my number and told to call me by Senator Tom Banks.  Tom is a long time friend and one of my early mentors in the arts and culture world as used to be more immersed in and miss that involvement as I have shifted my personal focus on to politics, democracy and governance.

Haley regaled me with her idea of getting Edmonton and perhaps Alberta to be one of the internationally recognized "Districts of Creativity."  She noted this was a new initiative but had already connected with certain communities in Flanders, Catalonia, China, France, Scotland, Germany, India, Finland, and Italy I immediately invited her to attend Reboot 2.0 and promised her she would find her "Tribe."  She came to Reboot and she did find her tribe and she got engaged as a responsive and responsible citizen.  Now she is taking a leadership role in establishing CreativeAlberta...and writing a blog called SimonsSays. Here is a link to her first post.

So welcome her to the blogosphere and visit her often.  She will soon be on the blog roll and mine too so you can keep in touch.  Follow her on Twitter too @haleysimons.  For a chance to meet the other Haley - the concert pianist - give yourself a treat and listen to her here.

If you want to know more and become involved in CreativeAlberta and meet Haley in person come to RebootAlberta 3.0 Nov 5-6 in Edmonton.  Registration and details are a click away here 

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Science Around Athabasca River Toxins Raises Questions.

I have been following the commentary and mainstream media reports on the issues around the recent release of a scientific study about amount and source of toxins in parts of the Athabasca River.  For those of you not in the loop the context is a concern about the levels, concentrations and source of certain toxins in portions of that river.   The other concern is the differences of opinion between Dr. David Schindler’s study and the 
Alberta government’s claims from their own studies on the river system.

There are a number of serious concerns that focus on the environmental impacts of the oil sand development including  the responsibility to do ecological monitoring and the integrity of those processes, the various findings and the implications of any results...just to name a few.  Problem is we don’t see public disclosure of all the data and don’t really know all about what is actually being monitored.

A media based yelling match between scientists over the integrity of their respective data is not helpful. The sniping between environmentalist and government is tedious at best.  The sense that industry is turning a blind eye on these matters to ensure investment returns continue unabated is not helpful.  It is not just damaging to any useful public understanding of what is really happening.  This is harmful to the overarching need to ensure develop the oil sands in a prosperous, responsible and sustainable way.

All of these unhelpful and harmful things have been happening around the recent comments and rhetoric about Athabasca River toxin levels, concentrations sources and implications. The public knows there is a need for an adult conversation about all of this, and lead by some adult in authority.  The first indication of any adult-based governance leadership I have seen comes from Premier Stelmach.  He advisedly stayed silent on the early contributions to the controversy.  His first utterances have been solid and sound in asking for the university and government scientist to get together and compare data and methodologies and to help us get to the truth of toxins in this river system.  Truth in science is always a proto-truth.  It is true until disproven by a better truth.  Nothing is absolute and progress is marked by new science supplanting previous “truth.”  So don’t get all absolutist on the science – it is not the nature of science.

As a citizen of Alberta and an owner of the oil sands, I want to know the facts about what is happening in the Athabasca River system.  I want to know what my government, as my ownership proxy holder, is doing to steward this resource development.  I what to know what the oil sands industry, as my tenants, are doing to responsibly generate the wealth of the resource and protecting the environment and habitat at the same time.    

What are these two agents of the public interest doing together to make sound and accountable decisions about the long-term responsible development of my resource?  I want reliable authoritative independent assurance that my oil sands are being developed based on the best evidence-based science available...and that the search for the best science is an on-going operational principle for all those involved. 

As a result, my review of the river toxins controversy is in a governance context more than a political or through a science lens.  I see the politics being played out in ways that dismays me.  It is more about positioning messages and preserving power than seeking sound policy or stewardship approaches.  Due to such contemptible political posturing we have a serious democratic deficit in Alberta.  Couple that with an adversarial/advocacy system that is more about an absurd theatre of false choices instead of thoughtfully designed and effective presented policy options we fail to see how or governance model is helping to move us forward.

I can’t comment on the science involved or the reporting of it because I don’t know enough about it.  However, like Premier Stelmach, I also want to know what is happening t the health of the Athabasca River.  I want to understand what is happening and have the implications of what is happening clearly explained to me.   Equally important I want to be able to trust the integrity of the experts and the policy makers who make important decisions on my behalf as a citizen, presumably based on the advice of the experts and their advisers.

So instead of adding to the heat around the water issues (and others) in the Athabasca River, I hope to focus some light around the importance of getting  to the bottom of the toxin levels, sources and concentrations – and right now.  I think we citizens need to put the scientists, the environmentalists, the politicians, the industry leaders to a values test around everything they do in oil sand development. 

Some recent research my firm has just done about Albertan values.  It shows that we feel there are certain values that need to dominate public policy and politics in Alberta.  They are Integrity, Honesty, Accountability, Transparency, Fiscal Responsibility and Environmental Stewardship.  We also have to apply those values to ourselves along with Personal Responsibility as we assess the information we get and how we come to judge our policy makers and their decisions.

I want my comfort level about this and other issues relating to oil sands development to be elevated too.  I want to be assured that the oil sands are being developed in the best way possible to realize the inherent prosperity, protect the environment and improve the quality of living in the province.    I am not satisfied with an old and outdated insurance approach to the administration of oil sands development.   We seem to be offered that with the current government monitoring of the river system. 

As I understand it, the industry pays for the water monitoring in the Athabasca River.  The government contracts out the ecological monitoring but I don’t know who does the work and even if they do it using the best science available or on some other terms they are told to use?  I also don’t get to see the monitoring results because the government does not disclose them. 

Ironically any oil sands monitoring done by industry is disclosed but my information is my government does not publicly disclose results of their monitoring.  Why is that?  If there is a problem and damage is done to the environment somebody will “pay” by writing a cheque for a fine or with their job.  But it is always after the fact when the damage has been done. Not good enough in this situation.

The conservative anti-intellectual attitude of the old Klein government made sure we were ill-advised, under-informed and kept ignorant about implications of the complex consequences of oil sands activity.  As long as the money kept rolling in Albertans were supposed to be satisfied.  And to our collective discredit as citizens, we bought into that mentality for the most part.  Those of us who didn't buy-in turned off and settled for indifference and disillusionment instead of standing up and calling for a different political culture.  We disengaged and left the political playing field to right-wing partisans who by and large seem to determine the public policy direction for the province these days. 

If I wanted a preventative approach to oil sands development I would we settle for an ensurance approach.  Here we get “best practices” as an operational model but we tend to not impose those best practices very stringently on the existing operations.  In fact if we “grandfather” these best practices on existing projects we get old problems persisting.  We don’t clean up for past sins unless there is a major crisis and then we react with investigations and task forces and commissions in order to make new rules, regulations, policies and laws. Again after the fact of some form of systemic failure.

The new policy, we always get told, is stronger so that people cannot easily take their legal responsibilities for granted.  But we tend to under fund any inspection, monitoring or enforcement to save money instead of really ensuring performance.  Corporate Social Responsibility efforts came into vogue by industry to show that they are the good guys who "get it.” They tend to respond to the standards set for them as part of the gaining public trust and present it in the form of marketing materials under rubrics like supporting the brand promise of the company.    All well and good but is it good enough?

We don’t really take on the tougher task of asking ourselves what ought to be the fundamental principles that direct our longer term policies for oil sands development.  We want people to believe we have done enough to ensure the oil sand development purposes are being served. Namely attracting investment, turning out projects as fast as can be and creating high paying jobs.  We can leave the ecological concerns for another time.  There is an absence of balance and an integrated thinking about oil sands development.

The intent is generally good too but the execution is too often less than rigorous.  The culture around ensuring the public is on-side tends to be PR, advertising and slogans.  Breaches too often get unreported or under reported.  When they become public there are efforts to bury the facts under privacy legislation or deferrals because “the matter is before the courts.”  So the public is no better off in assessing what is really going on and if what is happening even aligns with the societal values they want applied to the development of their oil sands resources.

The next level of stewardship performance is assurance.  This is a higher level that is akin to a moral obligation because it is principles based and in the form of a covenant with the public by government and industry.  It does not replace the other levels but builds on them.  It is an effort to show that everything that can be done to prevent, avoid, mitigate and remediate any possible and potential negative consequences of oil sands development is being done - and done well.  

Here integrity is more than doing what you say in ways consistent with the outcomes you expect.  Here integrity is about a wholeness sense of accountability and transparency.  It is about actually integrating all the vital information about a development or policy decision from a social, political, environmental and economic perspective.  Making all the integrated information public in an honest, accessible and transparent way shows that values trade offs have to be made in such complex decisions.  

Deciding what values get traded off and how that is decided is as important as anything else for politicians, project promoter and operators to decide.  To do it with integrity, honestly with transparency that shows accountability actually earns and sustains the public’s trust.  The industry needs this public trust from Albertans as owners of the oil sands to justify its continuing social license to operate.  The politicians need the public’s trust to justify their continuation of Albertan’s consent to govern.
The assurance inter-play between the public as owners, the government as proxy and industry as tenant becomes more collaborative instead of command and control.  Accountability is shared instead of traditional top down decisions directed by "higher" authority alone.  Decisions become principle based assurances not just minimalist adherence to the inadequate rules.

Once the approach to assure the public and the public interest is understood by government and industry then a new systems approach to politics and prosperity can be developed.  That systems approach would be based on ways to achieve sustainable prosperity, with a high quality of living in an enriched biodiversity context.  Conservation and preservation will help define progress in a longer term context than the next quarterly profit levels.  Government and industry decisions would look for ways that respect and harmonize with the ecosystem rather than trying to constantly engineer our way out of our environmental responsibilities.

So I hope to see the university and government scientists get together over the Athabasca River toxins and compare processes, data, findings and interpretations, just as Premier Stelmach wants.  I hope they share and learn from each other and tell Albertans what is going on regarding ecological monitoring, habitat protection for fish and wildlife, the human health implications of their findings if any. 

I hope we see recommendations about what needs to be done differently and better about oil sands ecological monitoring to assure the public interest is being served.   I hope all the government and industry ecological monitoring data on the oil sands is fully disclosed and any professional differences of opinion are explained to me in ways I can understand.  Expert opinions differ all the time and Albertans have to learn to accept that.

I hope the politicians cool the rhetoric, gamesmanship and partisanship around the development of the oil sands.  I hope the ENGOs refrain from publicity stunts and inaccurate hyperbole just to get media attention.  I hope the scientific community start to spend time more time to educate the public about what is needed to be done to provide a more integrated and whole-systems approach to oil sands development. 

Albertans are being told that the oil sand development is a drop in the bucket of the world-wide CO2 emissions.  That is true.  However, it is also true that on a per capita basis we Albertans are the largest emitters of CO2 on the planet.  We own the oil sands so, as citizens, we should be getting the benefits.  But we should also bear the burden of developing the oil sands.  That means individual Albertans have to take the enormous development opportunity and profound obligations of oil sands development personally and seriously.

We Albertans can’t just delegate or worse yet, abdicate our greater duty of care to ensure and assure that the oil sands are developed in the most effective and integrated way possible.  As owners we Albertans owe a duty to the environment and to future generations when it comes to how our oil sands are developed.  If we Albertans want better leadership and stewardship of our oil sands we have to look in the mirror first and be sure we are doing our part and taking our responsibilities seriously.  Then we have to convey our concerns and expectations to our politicians and our industry tenants about what to do and how to do it - all in our good name as Albertans.  Otherwise we will have nobody but ourselves to blame.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at