Reboot Alberta

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Threats to Democracy in America: Lessons for Canada?

I don't usually put in "guest blogs" but this article from Robert Reich former Sec of Labour in Clinton administration, and great writer, has information I thought needed to be shared.  The Americans are our largest customers and what happens there impacts Canada.  So here is his blog post I think has serious implication for us domestically and in terms of US-Canada relations.

H/T to Bill Totten for the link 

by Robert Reich (October 18 2010)

It's a perfect storm. And I'm not talking about the impending dangers facing Democrats. I'm talking about the dangers facing our democracy.

First, income in America is now more concentrated in fewer hands than it's been in eighty years. Almost a quarter of total income generated in the United States is going to the top one percent of Americans.

The top one-tenth of one percent of Americans now earn as much as the bottom 120 million of us.

Who are these people? With the exception of a few entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, they're top executives of big corporations and Wall Street, hedge-fund managers, and private equity managers. They include the Koch brothers, whose wealth increased by billions last year, and who are now funding tea party candidates across the nation.

Which gets us to the second part of the perfect storm. A relatively few Americans are buying our democracy as never before. And they're doing it completely in secret.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are pouring into advertisements for and against candidates -without a trace of where the dollars are coming from. They're laundered through a handful of groups. Fred Malek, whom you may remember as deputy director of Richard Nixon's notorious Committee to Reelect the President (dubbed Creep in the Watergate scandal), is running one of them. Republican operative Karl Rove runs another. The US Chamber of Commerce, a third.

The Supreme Court's Citizens United versus the Federal Election Commission made it possible. The Federal Election Commission says only
32 percent of groups paying for election ads are disclosing the names of their donors. By comparison, in the 2006 midterm, 97 percent disclosed; in 2008, almost half disclosed.

We're back to the late 19th century when the lackeys of robber barons literally deposited sacks of cash on the desks of friendly legislators.
The public never knew who was bribing whom.

Just before it recessed the House passed a bill that would require that the names of all such donors be publicly disclosed. But it couldn't get through the Senate. Every Republican voted against it. (To see how far the GOP has come, nearly ten years ago campaign disclosure was supported by 48 of 54 Republican senators.)

Here's the third part of the perfect storm. Most Americans are in trouble. Their jobs, incomes, savings, and even homes are on the line.
They need a government that's working for them, not for the privileged and the powerful.

Yet their state and local taxes are rising. And their services are being cut. Teachers and firefighters are being laid off. The roads and bridges they count on are crumbling, pipelines are leaking, schools are dilapidated, and public libraries are being shut.

There's no jobs bill to speak of. No WPA to hire those who can't find jobs in the private sector. Unemployment insurance doesn't reach half of the unemployed.

Washington says nothing can be done. There's no money left.

No money? The marginal income tax rate on the very rich is the lowest it's been in more than eighty years. Under President Dwight Eisenhower (who no one would have accused of being a radical) it was 91 percent.
Now it's 36 percent. Congress is even fighting over whether to end the temporary Bush tax cut for the rich and return them to the Clinton top tax of 39 percent.

Much of the income of the highest earners is treated as capital gains, anyway - subject to a fifteen percent tax. The typical hedge-fund and private-equity manager paid only seventeen percent last year. Their earnings were not exactly modest. The top fifteen hedge-fund managers earned an average of $1 billion.

Congress won't even return to the estate tax in place during the Clinton administration - which applied only to those in the top two percent of incomes.

It won't limit the tax deductions of the very rich, which include interest payments on multi-million dollar mortgages. (Yet Wall Street refuses to allow homeowners who can't meet mortgage payments to include their primary residence in personal bankruptcy.)

There's plenty of money to help stranded Americans, just not the political will to raise it. And at the rate secret money is flooding our political system, even less political will in the future.

The perfect storm: An unprecedented concentration of income and wealth at the top; a record amount of secret money flooding our democracy; and a public becoming increasingly angry and cynical about a government that's raising its taxes, reducing its services, and unable to get it back to work.

We're losing our democracy to a different system. It's called plutocracy.

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

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dogmatism Explained! Thank You Facebook

I really LOVE social media.  I get to meet so many interesting people - virtually and IRL. I run across them by happenstance, introductions or even recommendations from Twitter and Facebook.  Dr. Judy J. Johnson is just such a discovery coming to me as a recommendation while confirming a new Friend request via Facebook.

We have a number of mutual Friends and I visited her page and clicked on the link she provided.  That lead me to a piece on her new book: What's So Wrong With Being Absolutely Right: The Dangerous Nature of Dogmatic Belief 

Go to the link and read the Q&A section but think about the kind of right-wing reactionary commentary we see from the Harper government, the Fox News commentators and the Tea Party movement.  It will clarify and chill but it will also help you understand just what is going on at a deeper level in the minds of these dogmatic political sources and operatives.

I will be making an effort next time I am in Calgary to meet her, encourage her to be part of the Reboot Alberta progressive citizens movement and invite her to Reboot3.0. 

The democratic deficit, like in Canada and Alberta, will not be fixed by inertia or ennui.  It will only be fixed by a re-energized progressive voice from activists citizens speaking up, showing up and demanding a change in political culture.  Progressives want a governing philosophy that aligns with the moderate and inclusive values of diversity, fairness, equity accountability, honesty, transparency and most of all - integrity.  

We have veered so very far off that course in our federal government especially.  We are in danger of doing the same kind of damage to our society in Alberta without a significant course correction away from the reactionary and retrograde retreat from the culture wars we see happening on the right side of the political spectrum between the aggressive Wildrose Alliance and the tired and timid Progressive Conservatives.    

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

Friday, October 22, 2010

Owning a Canadian | Words You Dont Know

Owning a Canadian | Words You Dont Know

I enjoyed this website because I love words and exposing ignorance. It's Friday night. Not a segment in such a day to take entirely seriously. We have the rest of the week for that.

Have a good weekend everyone.

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

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hancock Shows the Path Forward for Public Education in Alberta

I highly recommend that every Albertan read this blog post by Dave Hancock, Alberta's Minister of Public Education.  It presents a great compilation of what he and his department is doing to rethink, revise and retool our public education system in anticipation of the needs of the next Alberta. This is all being done under the banner of Inspiring Education.

Dave puts a challenge to all the new and returning School Board Trustees to pick up their game and assume their responsibility to ensure Alberta continues to have one of the leading public education systems on the planet.  Ensuring a quality, relevant and effective Public Education is a place were every citizen can and should become engaged - even if you don't has kids in school.   A quality public education system is one of the best legacies one generation can leave for the next.  We sure could use some serious examples of positive legacies that we are leaving for the next generation in Alberta these days.

We have such an amazing public education system now.  It has its flaws and failures like any human endeavour but that is a challenge not a detraction. The Inspiring Education process has given Albertans some insight and a  serious sense of how we can make it even better.

Public education is (and ought to be) a source of pride for all Albertans.  Hancock knows and believes this.  His blog post shows that pride and that sense of challenge.  Definitely worth a read and reflection.

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

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Progressive Reflections on the Alberta Elections

The local elections in Alberta last night were significant, maybe even momentous.   The single-minded media focus on the culture wars between the right wing parties for political power shifted last night.  This happened in many municipal mayoralty contests around Alberta but nowhere more dramatically than Edmonton and Calgary.  As someone who has been focused on getting the progressive voice of Alberta back into the political culture, I have to say last night was gratifying and encouraging.

Elections all over urban Alberta last night sent a strong message to the other orders of government that this province has a new progressive narrative that is forward thinking, intelligent, vibrant and very very energized.  The significant increase voter turnout in the big cities shows that people want change and it is not good enough to merely offer a choice between very right-wing Progressive Conservative Party agenda and extremely right wing Wildrose Alliance Party agenda. 

There was the emergence of a progressive political agenda in evidence in these municipal elections.  It came to life in many parts of urban Alberta last night.  I know that progressive political agenda came to life in the Mayoralty contests in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, Hinton and County of Strathcona. 

The Mayor and entire town council of Rimbey were sent packing.  It was discovered through FOIP that they were using taxpayer funds to go to conservative related fundraising dinners and incurring other inappropriate expenses.  They were all replaced by some progressive thinking Albertans who want values in their local government and value for their tax dollars. I am sure there are other examples but I have not had time to research them yet.

The contests had different contexts but the consequences are the same.  The old hierarchical, command and control, top down, power broker model of politics in Alberta is no longer acceptable in much of urban Alberta.  I’m betting that rejection of the outmoded model of politics will translate into Alberta provincial politics both urban and rural.  It is sure not a preferred governing model for the not-for-profit, NGO and the rest of the voluntary sector in the province.

Nowhere was this more evident that in the Edmonton and Calgary mayoralty campaigns.  Progressive candidates for Mayor trounced the status quo and conventionally hide-bound conservative candidates in both cities.  Progressives found new ways to enhance the typical election campaigning by networking and creating communities of ideas and issues through social media.  

Progressives found a new, young, articulate, cosmopolitan candidate in Calgary and stuck with a revered forward thinking imaginative candidate in Edmonton.  The revitalized progressive citizen realized these two men they could believe in and trust.  These two candidates came to their campaigns with forward thinking, creative ideas for a modern vibrant and sustainable city.  They outline their ideas in platforms that resonated with the aspirations that progressives want for their cities.  They were pushing towards designing and delivering a better tomorrow while the opposition candidates wanted to hit the pause button to stop progress, or in some cases, go to rewind and take us back 50 years in our thinking.  Nenshi and Mandel both showed grace and dignity in the face of some very nasty but unfounded personal smears and slanders in some vicious but anonymous campaign attacks.

Calgary progressives showed up in droves (50%+ turnout) to send a message to the presumptive (and past?) power brokers that they really don’t own or run that town any more.  Nenshi’s enormous and dramatic win as an outside progressive underdog undid and devoured the Harper Cons election machine that ran the McIver campaign.  Then it defeated and devastated the old Klein cum Dinning election machine that recruited and promoted Higgins.  Those “front-runner” campaigns never saw this comeuppance coming.  Watching the coverage I could tell both conservative based campaigns were obviously shocked on election night by the severity, size and soundness of their rejection by the revival of progressive Calgary voters.

In Edmonton the full court press by Envision Edmonton was intended to undermine Mayor Mandel.  It didn’t just fizzle – it imploded and then burst into flames.  The Envision Edmonton effort in citizen participation unraveled in scandal.  The admitted fraudulent dirty-trick political activities by a key Envision Edmonton volunteer sealed the demise.  The man who managed the Envision Edmonton petition drive fraudulently posed as a Seattle newspaper reporter and deceitfully created a controversy that destroyed the credibility and respect for an otherwise laudable effort at citizen engagement.

He falsely accused Mayor Mandel of personal and political corruption in the potential redevelopment of the municipal airport lands.  Instead of undermining Mandel he energized progressives to actively support the Mandel campaign.  When they showed up on Election Day they made a big difference in the size of the Mandel win and the size of the wreckage that was wrought on the Dorward campaign.  Sadly, I think the deceit and dishonesty of the Envision Edmonton impostor was a cause for voter concern about the integrity, ethics, honesty, accountability and transparency of the entire Envision Edmonton airport effort.  Envision Edmonton made matters worse by refusing to distance and denounce this perpetrator for his dirty tricks and fraudulent actions.  He also unfairly implicated the Dorward campaign under similar suspicions because Dorward was the Envision Edmonton endorsed candidate for Mayor. 

Dorward said, in a post-election CBC radio interview, that he does not think that the Envision Edmonton meltdown or the fraudulent blogger hurt his campaign.   Perhaps he is right.  We will never know for sure but I think it did.  Consider for a moment that Envision Edmonton pushed the fact that the 90,000+ signatures on their petition needed to be heeded by Edmonton City Council.  Well, only 58,000 voted for Mr. Dorward.  Where did the rest go or did they really care about the airport issue in the first place?  Did Dorward pick up many new votes as a result of the scandalous anonymous and inaccurate attacks on Mandel?  Many people sign a petition with no intention of being really engaged on the issue.  Do these low voter numbers for Dorward compared to the number of petition signatures show that, or was it a more serious rejection of his campaign?  Don’t know but it does matter, especially if you want a working democracy based on integrity, honesty, trust, transparency and accountability.

So what does this all mean for changes I see coming towards a more progressive political culture in Alberta?  Some things are clearer than others.  For sure dirty trick and fraudulent politics will not be tolerated.  It will cause a significant portion of voters, and progressive citizens in particular, to take offence and rise up to oppose such tactics.  There is a need for a more refined level of media literacy especially in the new and digital media world.  There is a growing group of Albertans who know that it is just not enough to denounce these activities…you have to show up, expose them and defeat those who engage and acquiesce in the perpetration of such incorrigible activities.  Progressives did that in Edmonton and Calgary, on-line and at the ballot box.  

There is also a new value set that is emerging in Alberta.  Many progressives will want a hand in writing that new narrative and want to help design and deliver the next Alberta That new narrative is not going to be about continuing a simple-minded conservative ideology bent on perpetually lower taxes as a way to chase/attract foreign investment then coupled with royalty give-aways.  It is going to be about the current generation paying its way and leaving asocial, environmental and economic legacy to the future we can be proud of.

The new narratives are in the hearts and minds of progressive thinking citizens who see themselves coming back to democracy and electing servant leaders not political power brokers.  They see the economy working for the society not the other way around.  They see the economy and society embedded in the environment and that we must work in harmony with the ecosystems of the plant instead of just trying to engineer our way around Mother Nature.

The winning progressive candidates for Mayor in Edmonton, Calgary and other cities campaigned to create communities that are vibrant, diverse, dynamic, inclusive, conscious, meaningful and imaginative. They wanted to ensure public policies and local politics integrate economic, environmental and social concerns based on shared political and other cultural values. These progressive candidates see a positive role for government that creates a shared means to protect property, provide effective institutions and quality infrastructure to support and sustain citizens and their families.  They seek to make municipalities that are responsible, safe, caring and compassionate societies where individuals can realize their personal potential and in turn contribute in ways that advance their lot in life and also add value to the greater good. 

Progressives are not prepared to stand back and allow the contemptuous policy approach of many fiscal conservatives who see the marketplace as the only public policy option.  Too many fiscal conservatives are not trying to get value for taxpayer dollars in ways that advance our society.  They mostly want to cut taxes to levels that will starve vital public services like education and health care.  Without sufficient taxpayer provided resources these sectors simply can’t do their jobs.  By pushing a tax policy designed to under fund public services they ensure these public services will fail to perform.

The next step is for the libertarian or ultra-conservative dogma to kick in and demand that the private sector comes to the “rescue.”  Historically that has been a failed and expensive strategy because the taxpayer inevitably has to bail out the private operator. Remember the recent bankruptcy of the private surgical clinic in Calgary we spent millions to sustain as a case in point?  That is not an isolated case and we must not allow it to become the norm.

As part of the Reboot Alberta progressive citizen’s movement I have to marvel how fast and far this idea of a progressive Alberta political culture has come in one short year.  The proof is in the increased voter turnout and the progressive election results in Edmonton, Calgary and many other Alberta communities.  Progressives are coming to life again all over Alberta.  I am encouraged by this and know it is not too late for Albertans to take back the political agenda of the province - and it is about time.  The stage is set. The times are a-changin’ and the progressive Alberta voter has to come back to democracy and seems focused on taking back control of the political culture and agenda of our province.  I saw that return to citizenship start to happen on October 18 in local elections all over Alberta.

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

Monday, October 18, 2010

Edmonton Journal Exit Poll

Here is a link to the Edmonton Journal Exit Poll.  This is an interesting exercise in political participation.  I wonder how closely the on line participants will reflect the final results.  Vote first and then come to the Exit Poll and tell us your story.

If you are not sure where to vote use this like to Elections Edmonton for the polling station in your neighbourhood.  They are open until 8 pm so you have time but be sure to take the time.

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

Edmonton Candidates for Mayor Encourage Young Voters

Thx Rick Lee of Sonic Radio 102.9 for this video on encouraging younger people getting out to vote. Thanks also to all the Edmonton Mayoralty Candidates for participating.  AND THANK YOU to all those citizens who have taken the time to get informed on the issues that concern them in this election and who will show up at the polls today to make a difference in the way they see the future of our city.

I have voted in Ward 6 and my choices were Mandel for Mayor, Batty for Councillor and Spencer for Public School Trustee.  Now go make your own choices.  YOU will be glad you did.

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

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Edmonton Sun Endorses Mandel

OK - the political ground in Alberta is really shifting.  The Edmonton Sun has endorsed Stephen Mandel for Mayor.  Mandel is the most progressive, proven and capable candidate on the ballot this time.  He deserves another term for all the reasons the Sun points out and more.  Mandel is the clear, credible, competent and conscientious choice to lead Edmonton for the next three years.  For the Sun to recognize this is counter-intuitive given their past positions dramatically opposed to progressive values.

BTW the Calgary Sun has done the same thing.  They endorsed Nenshi, the other openly progressive candidate for mayor in Calgary.  The political culture of Alberta is not all right wing and reactionary - not any more.

There is a serious disappointment and clear effort at diminishing our democracy in this Edmonton municipal election. The Mandel opposition has come from the well funded Envision Edmonton group who are mostly a one issue group around the closing of the municipal airport. It has been loud and oft-time loutish with orchestrated heckling and booing of Mandel at forums.  I have no problem with activist and aggressive citizen engagement.  I have encouraged it in this blog for years. What we also need is informed and respectful citizen engagement where we can disagree without being disagreeable.  That has not always been the hallmarks of Envision Edmonton. This is not a condemnation of all the responsible, respectful and dedicated volunteers who have done an admirable job of motivating thousands of citizens to their cause.

The Envision Edmonton efforts have failed to gain momentum and has now in a much deserved decline.  They has lost the respect and forfeited the trust of Edmontonians looking for integrity, honesty, accountability and transparency in politics. The admittedly unfounded and dirty trick smear campaign against Mandel by Nathan Black, the Envision Edmonton petition manger was a dramatic indication that at least this leader of Envision Edmonton was prepared to resort to Nixonian levels of political dirty tricks. Passion is not a free pass to promote and participate in political corruption.

 The fact that Envision Edmonton has stood by Mr. Black shows that they don't understand nor ascribe to the political values of integrity, honesty, accountability and transparency that Edmontonians demand of our political culture.  They, like Mr. Black, are now suffering from self inflicted and fatal wounds.  This citizen's movement has fallen from grace and now should not be trusted by any reasonable voter in Edmonton.

I support the closure of the municipal airport.  I have seen no substantial evidence or proof of Envision Edmonton claims of city council acting undemocratically on the closure issues. They has produced a petition that is too little, too late and contrary to law but pursue the matter in the courts anyway.  I also categorically reject the tactics employed by Mr. Black and Envision Edmonton by association since they have stood by him in the face of his admitted breaches of integrity, honestly, accountability and transparency in politics.

I encourage the citizens of Edmonton to send a clear message that we are tired of old-style politics based on personal power or propaganda where self-interested ends justify any means.  Reject those candidates who are endorsed by Envision Edmonton on October 18.  Send a clear message that we do not want and will not tolerate a Tea Party approach to politics in Edmonton.

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

ARTES Releases Edmonton Public School Candidates Report Card

ARTES is another progressive citizens movement in the spirit of Reboot Alberta but focused on the Edmonton Public School Board elections. They have published a "report card" on various candidates that may help you get some focus on what questions you need to ask yourself as you pick a candidate on October 18.

They have published their methodology to arrive at these ratings and comments on candidates too.   The criteria they used to assess candidates are interesting too:

  • Ability (competence, experience, professionalism)
  • Independence (courage, open to new ideas, does not rubber-stamp, questions assumptions)
  • Accountability (honest, trustworthy, transparent, understands board governance)
  • Responsiveness (communication, listens to and represents public, supports disadvantaged groups)
  • Vision (leadership, co-operation, passion)
I like this list of qualities used to assess candidates.  It aligns well with the values we found in a Reboot Alberta survey of Albertan's values in politics and policy making, namely integrity, honesty, accountability, transparency, fiscal and personal responsibility.  Ver much aligned with the values criteria used by ARTES in their report card. 
With the Edmonton municipal elections getting most of the media attention it is easy to overlook the critically important concurrent election of school boards.  There is a significant increase in the number of candidates running for school boards all over the province and fewer acclaimed candidates.  This is good news for progressive politics and a healthy democracy in Alberta.  

Do not forget to mark you ballots for your local school board elections all over Alberta on Monday.  This is a critical voting opportunity too.

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

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Alberta Gets to Vote on Monday - Will Progressives Show Up?

There are elections for municipal politicians and school board trustees all over Alberta on October 18.  These elected officials are the closest to the community but ironically result in the lowest voter turnout.

There are some indications that this is changing in Calgary and Edmonton at least.  I have not had the time to review other places to get a sense of voter turnout intentions.  I can only hope the sense of the import of the opportunity to participate in our democracy is hitting home with Albertans.

One of my passions is citizenship and citizen engagement.  This blog is often focused on those concerns.  I hope for more than citizens turning up to vote but actually knowing what the want from government and making an effort to see which of the candidates comes closest to their values and concerns.  That takes a bit of time but with the Internet this research is very easy to do.

I am not going to tell you how to vote but I do want to encourage you to vote.  I especially want to encourage the progressive thinking Albertans to vote.  The people with this value set have become very disillusioned with politics and have withdrawn from democracy as a result.  That is no way to change the system.

Elections are about choices, change and charting courses. So let me make some observations about the Mayoralty races in Edmonton and Calgary in that context.

Edmonton is a two-horse race between Mandel and Dorward.  Both fine candidates but with very different world and local views about issues and the direction for the city.

There is an undercurrent of this contest being a proxy race for the next provincial election in Edmonton.  I think there is some truth to that.  Dorward is an unsuccessful PC candidate from the last political election but is now the favourite of the Wildrose faction in the culture war in right wing politics in Alberta.  Mandel is less defined as a partisan politician but he is being framed as the PC Party choice.  I actually think he is better understood and the anybody but WAP choice.

How this will undercurrent of provincial party influence plays out on the choice for Mayor of Edmonton will send a message about the potential strength of the WAP in Edmonton.  Right now the WAP is very weak in Edmonton but a win or even a strong showing by Dorward will be seen as a serious shift in momentum for the Wildrose in Edmonton.

It is entirely possible for Mr. Dorward to win this election for Mayor on Monday but only if progressive voters continue to stay home on election day.  If progressive stay indifferent to consequences of elections or presume a Mandel victory so they don't need to bother - don't be surprised by a Droward win.

This is an even more interesting race for Mayor.  There is the same provincial implications undercurrents.  McIver the early leader is the Wildrose choice.  Then we have Barb Higgins, the recently retired TV news anchor cum candidate who thinks she is the right person to run a multi-billion dollar civic budget.  She is the PC darling with the backing of the Dinning PC leadership brain trust.

Then we have Naheed Nenshi, the upstart outsider progressive candidate with a more modern and motivated campaign approach based on issues and policy. Nenshi was at first a group of third tier progressive candidates including Wayne Stewart and Bob Hawkesworth but he broke from that pack.  Nenshi is now tied with the original front runners all around 30% support according to a very recent Leger poll.  Hawkesworth has withdrawn and is supporting Higgins.  Stewart has also withdrawn and is supporting Nenshi. Just to make it more interesting.

Here is a chance for progressive voters in Calgary to vote for a young, intelligent, articulate and capable political alternative.  They can show up and support the momentum of Nenshi and send a message to the establishment that runs Calgary that their presumption of the perpetual traditional right-wing conservative political culture is not a given in the future of that great city.

Full disclosure - I know Nenshi the best of all the candidates.  He is involved in Reboot Alberta too and was one of the people who helped merge the Renew Alberta group with the Alberta Party as a progressive centrists political alternative for our province.  I worked with Ric McIvor a few year ago on men's issues in bullying and domestic violence and his knowledge and understanding of the complexity of the issues impressed me.  I have never met Barb Higgins but know a lot of the people running her campaign.

There is a very important subtext to the Mayoralty races in Edmonton and Calgary with potential implications for the future of provincial politics in Alberta.  If McIvor and Dorward win the Wildrose will become even wilder and emboldened.  If Higgins wins the Calgary establishment will rise up and once again want the run the province from behind closed doors like they did when Ralph Klein was Premier.  If Mandel and Nenshi win we can see signs of a shifting in the political culture in the province and the old one-party system is an artifact of the past.  It will show that there is a yearnings for a more progressive, inclusive, accountable government that is open, based on integrity and stewardship - not just getting and keeping personal political power

The choices made by Edmonton and Calgary represent two-thirds of the Alberta population.  That alone has serious implications for politics in the rest of the province.  None of my readers  will be surprised by my choices.  I am voting for Mandel and would vote for Nenshi - if I lived in Calgary.

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

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Alberta Local Elections Less Than a Week Away!

Early indications are that there is more interest in local elections for municipal government and school boards this time than three years ago.  Only anecdotal but the advance poll in Edmonton shows a marked increase in voter turnout.  The Edmonton Sun non-scientific on-line "poll" shows 67% of us say we will vote.  We always say we will vote but we perpetually lie about our actual voting behaviours.  Maybe citizens will have more integrity this time and do what they say on October 18th

Three years ago things were pretty rosy in Alberta, energy prices were soaring to new highs and everyone was scrambling to keep up with the overheated economy.  Now the change is dramatic but in reality we are in a more normal economic situation but tinged with some critical uncertainties.  Uncertainties like the US economy and the rise of the BRIC nations and enormous personal and public debt overhanging the psyche and climate change seeping in as a reality.  It all adds up and with record gold prices we see the economic angst being acted out in the market place.

Back to the local realities in Alberta - will we see a revived sense of citizenship in improved voter turnout next Monday?  What will be the ballot questions?  Calgary is in a culture war that is illustrated by the wide array of candidates for mayor.  I wonder if Calgary wants a new face for their city or if the entrenched power structure will opt for a version of a status quo candidate, McIver or Higgins.. Mandel won in Edmonton two elections ago because both highly touted front runners were found wanting in some fundamental way.  The chance for change took over and both of them were rejected in favour of the third place candidate - Mandel.  Could that happen in Calgary this time?  Would Nenshi, Stewart or Hawkesworth benefit from this kinds of yearning for real change in Calgary?

Edmonton started out as a yawner of a campaign but has heated up significantly thanks to Envision Edmonton efforts to press for a plebiscite on the municipal airport closing.  The mayoralty campaign here is turning into a battle for the next narrative of the story Edmonton wants to tell itself about itself.  There is a sense by the traditionalists Envision Edmonton types to almost emulate the Wildrose as the yearn for an Edmonton of a  time past.  The modernists just want to be left alone and get on with their lives, make some money and without having to worry about messy things like politics, democracy, citizenship and social issues.

The real question in Edmonton is will the progressives show up and support Mandel or just presume his win is a foregone conclusion so they can stay indifferent and inert politically.  If that happens and the grumpy types from Envision Edmonton show up then anything can happen.  That is the nature of politics.

School Board elections are interesting in Edmonton - have not followed them in Calgary.  EPSB is in for some serious change for sure, not sure about the Catholic board here but will ponder that in the next few days. too.

I encourage all Albertans to get informed and get into discussion with friends an family about what they want from their government and make a conscious considered choice at the polls.  I especially encourage progressives to take this plea to heart.  Indifference is inexcusable in tight races.  The progressive voice is being lost in the Alberta political culture because we are not speaking up and not showing up.  Other voices are speaking up and showing up.  And they are taking over the political power in our province.

Remember it is not THE government.  It is OUR government - whether you voted or not.

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

Inspiring Hearts & Minds = Innovation in Education

Here is an updated blog post by Kim Bater - a candidate for School Trustee in Banff.  Kim is a very creative leader and thinker with a dedication to public education.

Thanks to Esme Comfort, another candidate for school trustee in the same district for the link on Twitter @esmecomfort if you want ot follow her.

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

Monday, October 11, 2010

Social Media 3Q Update: Who Uses Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, & MySpace? | Social Media Today

The digital world is still an amazing force that is changing communications, community, consciousness and content that we pay attention to in our daily lives. The demographic mix of users is changing and the growth is leveling off. It had to at some point but the level of engagement is still a phenomenon the be reckoned with. The impact on any business that depends on a social license to operate - like forestry, banks, oil&gas and oil sands need to figure out how to tap into this new world and how to use it.

Social Media 3Q Update: Who Uses Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, & MySpace? | Social Media Today

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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Alberta Tea Party Possibilities Update

I recently did a post on the possibility of an Alberta Tea Party forming at some time possibly from the social conservatives and separatists in our midst.

Canada 2020 recently hosted a panel on Polling with Frank Graves (Ekos Research) Nik Nanos (Nanos Research) and Bruce Anderson (Harris/Decima) moderated by Don Newman.  The panel was broadcast on CPAC last night and I missed it but hope it will be repeated.  Should be worth a watch.

I point this out because Susan Delacourt who writes on this Ottawa-ish for the Toronto Star picked up on a comment from Harris/Decima about the possibility of a Canadian Tea Party equivalent. She wrote a story about it here.  Susan has also written a blog post on it the concern here called "Distemper of our Times."

Nik Nanos, a very reliable pollsters at the Canada 2020 event, commented on "...the forces of disaggregation, the forces of discontent and the forces of dilution...of power."  He concluded by saying "So to wrap up: expect political instability and turbulence.  I believe we are at a risky but unintended place in our democracy -- that the forces of disaggregation

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Premier's Awards for Alberta Public Service

The 2010 Premier's Award of Excellence are now out.   These are the Alberta Public Service employee awards for "outstanding achievement in business excellence and service delivery to Albertan."  There are Gold, Silver and Bronze levels

These are a great form of recognition by the Premier. I actually won one of these awards even though I never worked as a public servant.  I am very proud to wear the Gold level pin.  I was one of the external people bought in to help design and execute the Future Summit back in the day.  The folks who ran that terrific project were generous enough to include me and another external consultant in their team to receive the award.

Ironically I was an external consultant on the Domestic Violence and Bullying project a few years back.  It was  dealing with male perpetrators and victims of domestic violence.  It was a tense situation and a delicate role to play.  I think I was the only male in the front lines of this very important project.  It was the inspiration of the Minister of the day Iris Evans and Colleen Klein, the wife of former Premier Ralph Klein.  It also won the Gold level that year.  A different attitude by the internal administrative powers in place then actually excluded external people from participating in the Award of Excellence recognition. This had nothing to do with the Minister of Colleen Klein - just a small minded senior bureaucrat at the time.

I was proud to be associated with a great team of dedicated civil servants who worked on the ground in these projects and exemplified the essence of "business excellence and service delivery to Albertans" in both projects.

So my congratulations go out to this years Premier's Award of Excellence recipients. Thank you for your great work and service to the people of Alberta.  I for one really appreciate it.

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Canada Touted as a Green Energy Powerhouse

Interesting quote in the Calgary Herald today.  "The most pressing business challenges in the Alberta oil sands are the same ones the environmentalists have identified" according to Samir Brikho, the CEO of the international engineering firm AMEC PLC.

Looks promising to see some of the energy industry talk be about transforming Canada into a clean energy powerhouse.  That is the central premise of the book Green Oil written last year by my business partner Satya Das.  We published it through the Cambridge Strategies Inc. imprint Sextant Publishing so you can buy it at better book stores and online in hard copy or by digital download at the Cambridge Strategies Bookstore

Ironically the government of Alberta has the policy positions in place to promote this objective but is seems that there is insufficient focus and political will to design and execute an proactive plan to those ends.  Check out the report "Responsible Actions: a Plan for Alberta's Oil Sands"  This document outlines six integrated strategies to optimise economic growth, reduce the environmental footprint and increase the quality of life in Alberta.

The Strategies are:

  1. Develop Alberta's oil sands in an environmentally responsible way;
  2. Promote healthy communities and a quality of life that attracts and retains individuals, families and businesses;
  3. Maximize long-term value for all Albertans through economic growth, stability and resource optimization;
  4. Strengthen our proactive approach to aboriginal consultation with a view to reconciling interests;
  5. Maximize research and innovation to further support sustainable development and unlock the deposit potential;
  6. Increase available information, develop measurement systems and enhance accountability in the management of the oil sands.
The resent values research we did with OSRIN on what Albertans want to see guide and drive the development of their oil sands...remember Albertans own this resource...track very well with this "Responsible Actions" policy proposal.  

The Priority Actions in the plan for a focused implementation include:
  1. Revise the current environmental impact assessment process to support cumulative effects management;
  2. Increase the pace of reclamation in the oil sands areas;
  3. Continue implementing the Fort McMurray community development plan to address housing shortages and investigate opportunities for regional service delivery;
  4. Leverage bitumen royalties to develop value-added oil sands products;
  5. Develop a regional plan for the Lower Athabasca Region within the Land Use Framework
  6. Conduct a pilot project to assess the cumulative environmental impact of oil sands development on the rights and traditional land uses of aboriginal people.
Some significant progress is being made in some of these Priority Action areas notably #3 and #5.  I am not sure of the progress in the other areas. I just don't know.  Strange we don't hear more about the progress in the work in these areas and less about multi-million dollar taxpayer paid advertising campaigns that we hope will counteract the negative messages of some aggressive ENGOS.

As an owner of the oil sands and a citizen of Alberta I want more updated information on this policy and its implementation.  If it is being attended to aggressively it would go a long way to assuring me that the right things are being done.  I want to know my government, as my proxy holder, and the industry, as my tenant, is doing the right things in the right way and right now to promote integrated action in create responsible prosperity from this enormous advantage we have from the oil sands.

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Alberta Party and Doing Politics Differently

I was unable to make it to the AGM of the revitalized Alberta Party on the weekend. I had a speaking engagements in Calgary of the Oil Sands Leadership Initiative and the Banff Centre Leadership Development program.  Then I had to be back to host a table at the Gandhi Foundation Dinner my partner Satya Das was speaking at.  It was a busy weekend already.

From all accounts the Alberta Party AGM was a positive exercise in doing politics differently.  Dave Cournoyer was there and offers a comprehensive blog post on his impressions of the meeting.  It is worth a read and some time for reflection on this new political initiative.

The comments on Daveberta's blog post are interesting too in that the sense of the Alberta Party is working on doing politics differently.  The goal is not to beat the other party in the pursuit of political power but rather to make Alberta the best it can be.  I see the potential for Alberta to aspire to look beyond trying to be the best in the world but rather to be the best for the world.  I hope the Alberta Party can help refocus our province towards this kind of future.

Dave King is very active in the Alberta Party too and one of the co-instigators of Reboot Alberta.  He has written a thoughtful blog post that sums up this progressive spirit of the Alberta least to my mind.
Dave King captures my sense of where we need to move the political narrative and culture of the province.  The adversarial gamesmanship of conventional politics turns off citizens, discourages quality people with the necessary wisdom and servant-leadership qualities and capabilities from getting involved in politics and governing.

The influence of big business and donors working behind closed doors in government relations seems like collusion for self-interest and not open collaboration to create a better Alberta for a greater number of citizens.  The merchandising of messages instead of sharing ideas and concerns and seeking mutually agreeable solutions is the basis of party politics these days.  Too many everyday Albertans feel their governments are not listening to them and that their opinions don't count any more.

We live in complex and chaotic times and solutions offered by superficial and artificial mock battles played out in the media between partisans is not going to get us to realize the potential we have as a province.  Achieving our potential will not result by one side merely proving the other side wrong and therefore "winning."  Albertans lose in that situations.  This progressive approach to politics will take a greater degree of pioneering leadership embraced by people with a genuine intent on serving the greater good not just winning the next election.

I am hopeful that the Alberta Party can be the beginning of that more progressive and enlightened approach to politics and government and can develop into being as a positive force in the betterment of the lives of Albertans.  The prerequisite for any of this is an informed, engaged and conscientious sense of citizenship. More citizens have to take back control of the power and become influencers on the politics of our time in order to overcome the deficiencies in our democracy that have been caused by decades of political indifference.

Full disclosure - I am a member of the Alberta Party but not actively engaged in their organizational efforts.  My time is focused on Reboot Alberta and that is a progressive citizen's movement in Alberta that welcomes participants from any or no political affiliation provided you want to do help Alberta to be more than it is and serve a greater good beyond ones self.  Reboot is a great place to start re-engaging as a fully responsible citizen without the burden of political affiliation.  If you are a partisan who wants to change from within your party you can find others with a similar goal at Reboot too.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 Nov 5-6 at Edmonton Delta South at

Monday, October 04, 2010

Donald Duck Meets Glenn Beck

This came via @prog_blog and is a very funny and telling narrative of the "reality"of the radical right

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Is There a Tea Party Movement in Alberta's Future?

Is there a potential for an Alberta Tea Party?  Where has Craig Chandler gone?  What happened to WAP leadership candidate Jeff Willerton? Where are the Alberta Separatists these days?  Where are the Libertarian activists located politically these days?  We get little or now news from them for quite some time but we know they are out more ways than one!

My sense is they are hiding quietly in the basement of the Wildrose Alliance Party.  So long as Danielle Smith can keep up the media generated momentum for the alliance side of the WAP, the wild side of the party will keep quiet and wait until the power shift happens.  If that happens after the next election expect the Tea Party types to come out of hiding.  they will want to reassert and impose their values on what has become a very compliant, confused and all-too content and comfortable Alberta public.  It will be a a hard-fought contest for the heart and soul of the WAP too but all of us will suffer in the internal culture war that will ensue.

The sense is the popularity of the Wildrose Alliance Party has peaked but at a significant level of support that cannot be ignored.  They are not going away but the question is will Albertans vote for them in protest just to send a message to the PC Party?   Smith has done a remarkable job of soothing the citizen's fears about the scary side of the WAP. This is in no small part because she is personally able to do that with her mellow messaging and skillful positioning of herself as a Peter Lougheed kind of politician.

There is a yearning for a return to Alberta of that kind of Lougheed socially progressive social, fiscal conservative and culturally diverse basis of public policy coupled with a long term view of good governance over short term pursuits of political power.  So far nobody has been able to capture the imagination of the Alberta public to convince us that any of the existing parties can deliver that kind of inclusive, creative and conscientious government we used to enjoy under Peter Lougheed.

I hope nobody is fooled by this illusion of the WAP selling us that they are going to be a return to a Lougheed style of governing .  The hard-nosed mean-spirited Harper Conservatives are very much behind the provincial Wildrose Alliance Party in our Alberta.  We have seen the dire consequences to progress from that kind of Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld inspired reckless abuse of power.

The way I see it is with the Harper-Cons coupled with the Fraser Institute inspired WAP will take Alberta into a socially conservative policy approach that will be marked by wedge issues, division and marginalization of minorities and further damage vulnerable citizens.  They abhor government because they think it interferes with individual rights and freedoms and is inefficient. While at the same time they fail to understand the need to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens - especially those who disagree with them.

They think individual competition and marketplaces forces are the only way to create a society based on economic wealth being the trump card in any political policy decision.  They scoff and the idea of a synergy existing between individual talents foster in ways the benefit those individuals and in the service of our society as a whole. They are proudly the anti-intellectual and rejects science, preferring superstition and fundamentalism as a basis to make public policy decisions.

They think nature is a resource only to be exploited now and not protected in a duty to ensure we leave the planet in better shape than when we arrived as an obligation to future generations.  Environmental policy is always seen to be in the way of their version of wealth-creation based on market forces that dictate conspicuous consumption.  Long term conservation and habitat protection policies it must be tamed to ensure "wealth" is created as quickly as possible with little or no regard for the long term environmental or biodiversity implications.  As "wealth gets created they have little if any regard as to fairness in how that wealth is distributed.  If you are poor or disadvantaged the social conservatives say it is your own fault.  You must simply pull up your socks...if you have no socks...well that is your fault too.

So is there a Tea Party in Alberta's future?  In my opinion, chances are yes!  Especially if progressive thinking Albertans continue to avoid their responsibility to re-engage in the political culture of the province.  Abdication  by progressive thinking Albertans of their duty of citizenship will leave the wielding of political power to those who aspire to take Alberta backwards.  If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta come to RebootAlberta 3.0, November 5-6 in Edmonton. Register now at

Don't Vote!

There is a link at the end of this post to an American video made for the 2008 election.  However the sentiment is very applicable to the Alberta local, provincial and national elections.  It makes the point that not voting is stupid...uninformed voting may be even dumber.  However, it is no longer acceptable for uninformed apathetic citizens to stay that way and give up on their citizenship responsibility to support democracy and cast an informed ballot for the candidate(s) of their choice.

So we are 2 weeks away from civic and school board elections all over Alberta.  You have 2 weeks to check out the candidates and see which one comes the closest to reflecting your values.  You have to consider which ones are wise enough to govern not just slick or rich enough to run.  You have to decide who is worthy of your trust to govern you and to make the hard far reaching decisions that will impact your life and your family.

No candidate will be a perfect fit - that is life.  But that does not mean you can't support the closest fit to your values and issues and priorities.  You just have to take the time to find that candidate and with the Internet it is easy.  Google them.  If they don't show up on Google you may want to consider if they are even serious enough about the job of being a politician if they are not even with it enough to be using digital media to reach out to connect with citizens.

There are the values our research shows that Albertans want their politicians to use when making decisions.  I strongly suggest you put every candidate for municipal government or school board in your community to these values tests.  Do they have integrity?  Are they honest?  Do you believe they will be accountable and transparent?  Do you believe they will be fiscally responsible and expect you to take personal responsibility too - like being an informed voter!!!

Now take 4:45 minutes and watch this video and forgive the fact it is American.  If that offends you then make your own Alberta version and send it to me. I will be sure it gets an audience.

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Elizabeth May & Ezra Levant on CTV Question Period

Here is a great piece of informative video from CTVs Question Period where Green party Leader Elizabeth May and Ezra Levant discuss implications about the oil sands.  May makes the point that being "ethically" the best oil supplier in the world (ignoring Norway???) is not a pass to responsible developing the oil sands more responsibly. Being the best hydrocarbon provider of a bad lot is not good enough for Canadians.  It most assuredly not good enough for Albertan, as evidenced our recent research on values we want to see guide and drive oil sands development.  Only 31% of Albertans think oil sands are being responsibly developed now.  

I have written about trade off between dirty oil and blood oil on this blog in the past. My position is in agreement with Elizabeth May and many of the more progressive and responsible oil sands companies that have formed the Oil Sands Leadership Initiative (OSLI). Those forward thinking oil sands companies that are starting to realize they need the direct support of the Alberta public as owners of the oil sands to justify an on-going social license to operate in our natural resource.

It should not be lost on Albertans that two of the companies in OSLI are state owned by Norway (Statoil) and France (Total).  The other key members of OSLI are Nexen, ConocoPhillips and Suncor.  These companies are aiming higher than the ethical standard of competitive advantage of Mr Levant.  The get that there needs to be responsible prosperity from the oil sands that integrates concerns for issues of environmental integrity, social well being and fairness as well as a reasonable rate of return to the owners - Albertans.

BTW - you can see my business partner Satya Das the author of Green Oil in discussion/debate/dialogue (who knows what it will end up as) with Mr. Levant at LitFest in Edmonton's Stanley Milner Library October 19th at 7 pm.  Tickets available at TixontheSquare

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Sunday, October 03, 2010

Kennedy-Nixon TV Debates 1960 Strangely Familiar

If you have an hour and a belief if we don't learn from history we are doomed to repeat it you will want to watch this first televised presidential debate.  It is eerily reminiscent of today some 50 years later.  I am old enough to have watched this on September 26, 1960 and sad enough to wonder if democracies are making headway with the political structures, cultures and institutions we have.  Are they dated and deficient?  Do we need to redesign our political culture, parties and democratic institutions to reflect a different world we have today?  I leave that for you to reflect on.  Also reflect on the detail and depth of this debate compared to the emotional hot-button rhetoric and propaganda we see from our political discourse of today.

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The Eyes of the World Are On Alberta's Oil Sands

Here is a link to yet another excellent Sunday Reader feature in the Edmonton Journal by Sheila Pratt on what it might take to get a reconciliation between industry the environmentalists and our governments on what is appropriate oil sands development approaches.  I was interviewed by Sheila for this piece and pleased to participate.

What we need now is an adult conversation in Alberta and by Albertans on how we want to see our oil sands resources developed.  The basis for that conversation should be framed from the findings of our resent research at Cambridge Strategies Inc. on the values Albertan's want to see guide and drive oil sands development was done in collaboration with OSRIN (Oil Sands Research and Information Network)

The citizens of Alberta need to create the place and space for that conversation to take place.  That can be in community meetings, church basements, coffee shops, service clubs, business groups, union halls, educational institutions, political gatherings and kitchen tables, just to name a few.  That conversation can begin where ever  one Albertan takes the time to asks another about what they want to see done to assure us that our natural resource is being responsibly developed so we can be proud of all the outcomes.

I am quoted in the Edmonton Journal story saying Albertans are starting to lose pride in the province.  I believe this to be true partly because our research shows only 31% of Albertans believe the oil sands resource in being managed well.  The Influentials in the province are at the forefront of this emerging sense of a loss of pride in being Albertan.  When asked if they tell others great things about living in Alberta only 51% of Influentials agreed or strongly agreed and only 45% of them would strongly recommend living in Alberta to a friend.

UPDATE:  REX MURPHY ASKS WHY AREN'T WE PROUD OF THE OIL SANDS?  This industry also needs a human face and not just the nice folks who work in the industry that populate the full page colour newspaper ads the industry is wasting money on - as if that would persuade us of authenticity, trustworthiness and integrity

The reason the opinions of Influentials are so important is because they are trend setters and opinion leaders.  These are the people the rest of the population relies on to help form our own thoughts on issues, ideas and many of the decisions we make in our lives.  Some have suggested what Influentials think today is what the general population will be thinking in 12 to 18 months from now.

That is why government and industry better start a more meaningful, serious and adult conversation with Albertans about what we want to see happening with the development of our resource.  After all it is Albertans who own the oil sands.  Industry is a mere tenant that depends on public confidence to gain and sustain a social license to operate their businesses be it forests, oil and gas or oil sands.

As for government their equivalent of a social license it to be seen worthy of the citizen's consent to govern.  Right now all of the political parties and their leaders in are seen to be less than adequate to the task of effectively managing the growth of Alberta.  When Albertans were asked who did they think was best able to responsibly manage Alberta's growth the results were astonishing.  Premier Ed Stelmach was the choice of 23%, Danielle Smith garnered 19%, David Swann had 9% and Brian Mason only 4%.  None of the Above was the assessment of 45% of the 1032 Albertans who were in the random survey done last May.

Change is in the air and alternatives are needed based on this survey result. If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at