A well overdue thank you – for Mr. Will Munsey

Being from Alberta one must accept certain truths. The first, is that we are a unique bunch, the second is that we are more alike than we care to admit. Last May 6th 2015, I was reminded of both by a good friend, Mr. Will Munsey.

Mr. Munsey is, as he will tell you, a railroader, a farmer, a father, and – rural to my city. But he is more than that.

I met Will in our tireless, some would say fruitless, pursuit of establishing the Alberta Party as a legitimate option in Provincial politics. I left the party a year after serving as it’s Provincial Board President. Will, assumed the role and worked it amazingly. We both wanted the same thing, a centrist government – but I was frustrated by the inability of the party to consolidate support from average Albertans. I chose two years later to track that with an attempt at the PC seat in Edmonton Rutherford, he stayed on the Alberta Party Board and has ran as a candidate in two elections for them.

As I ran in May 2015 for the PC’s, Will was good enough to support me by delivering brochures in Edmonton Rutherford, easily against his disdain for the 43 year reign of that government.  That is Will, friends above party.

But, this story is not about politics. It’s about the thing we should truly care about, friendship.

The day after the good citizens of Edmonton Rutherford delivered me our well-deserved loss, something terrible happened. Our dog Murphy, of ten years, suddenly went into a complicated diabetic shock and we were faced with the inevitable choice but to have him put down.

I was devastated and in utter shock.

The election, the day before, was frankly a shot of relief. As I have mentioned before, serving politically was always an uncertain pursuit. But being the master to a mediocre hunting dog, the one that our whole family loved more than anything, was certainly who we were.

The day after the election, in total disarray and without any idea what to do, I remember calling Will – he knew I was crying – and we both ignored that, as men do. At the veterinary clinic with my wife and two daughters, all of us in disbelief and emotional ruin, I reached out. It was 2:00 in the afternoon.

Will, who was working and on a train somewhere in Alberta, had built a newly started pet cemetery on his farm in New Serepta. He was immediately supportive and invaluable. The best of friends. Will suggested that he would pick up Murphy, well after midnight, from the Vet, and make sure he would respectfully bury him on his beautiful farm. He did it without question, without payment, and certainly on top of what would have been another long day for him on the railroad. We, as a family, could go home and not be burdened with the horrible reality of dealing with the physical outcome of the day.

I am writing this tonight because I need to thank Will. He was and remains, a very important friend. I can’t ever properly thank him for his kindness. I love him and his family because, at the time, he didn’t need me to do anything – he just helped.

I can’t place where politics matter much anymore. It’s a game where sometimes people take advantage of those who can’t see past the first layer of what partisanship is. But beyond that layer, there is a place where most of us reside, and that is where we stand behind each other as friends.

Thank you Will for your support and friendship. I loved my dog, you honoured that. You are the best of Alberta.

7 Dog Years Later.

A year ago tonight, I was summarily rejected by the people of Edmonton Rutherford; caught up in the election sweep of Alberta by the Rachel Notley led NDP – benefactors of a widespread rejection of our 44 year old PC government. In my opinion, history will prove it was PC establishment arrogance that lost the election and had nothing to do with any new ideas, let alone better ones, from the NDP. But the NDP won, and for that they own the right to govern Alberta for four years. I will always be cheering for Alberta – so by extension, I will cheer for them/us. Until of course the next election.

I wasn’t ever 100% sure I wanted to be a politician. I have always wanted to drive my ideas and ideals into good governance; but the role of an elected official was always one that still freaked me out. As an independent business owner and the kind of guy who likes to call a spade a spade, it became very obvious, very fast, that running for office is no place for someone who has a strong opinion and can’t keep it to her/himself.

Frankly, seeking the nomination, the two-months of glad-handing and door-knocking, was in many ways a daily hell. I was expected to bite my lip and told to skip debates, I had my written words changed by the people behind the war-room curtain, and every day as I walked to the doors of regular Albertans, who I am sure I would have normally really enjoyed… I was called a liar, a cheat, arrogant and entitled. Not because they knew anything about me, since of course they didn’t, but because every political race needs a loser and far too many regular citizens think all politicians are assholes. Of course in 2015 our PC party, as a whole, essentially fit both descriptions.

These are not complaints. I quite sincerely found daily energy from the 150 volunteers who gave me their support in time, money and encouragement. Because of the volunteers, family and friends, it was all, almost, bearable. Perhaps like a sexual rendezvous with an exotic stranger, it may come with some exhilarating moments…. but, just as likely, it can leave you with lingering regret, a sore back and some questioning of your own judgement.

So why bother writing this piece of reflective, self-indulgent and essentially pointless piece? Well, basically because I needed to finally put the whole thing behind me. My year since May 5th, 2015, has been everything but politics. I have literally hidden in corners of rooms to avoid having to talk about my brief political experience. I am ready to finally think about what it might mean to get back involved in my community and my vision for all three levels of government. That doesn’t mean I am interested in ever going back to politics… just that I am hopeful for good governance and will be there to help find it.

I am happy to be back writing as well, and hope to publish here more regularly.

Politics – Reflections from the brink and going forward.

The Provincial election in May 2015: This is a topic I might need a full year to develop and several bottles of whiskey to relive.

Personally, I was blessed with so many lessons in partisan politics; well considering my experience, a lifetime’s worth.

Even now, as I write this, my stomach tightens and my blood pressure rises at the thought of the work, the humiliation, and the appreciation for hundreds of people (many strangers) who stopped their lives to help me. I, of course, lost my bid for Edmonton Rutherford, as did almost all of my fellow PC counterparts. I don’t begrudge the people of the constituency; they chose to pursue a fresh path away from what looked like a set of tired ideas.

The PC’s ran a horrible campaign at the Provincial level, but personally, I feel we achieved many amazing things at the constituency. I was blessed to have had the support of hundreds of volunteers from all walks of political life, and a campaign team that was amazing in talent and dedication. We spent the most money of any campaign (that’s easy – and means nothing) in the Province, and frankly would never have been able to overcome the broader narrative developing against our Party. Not to take away from some of our really dumb mistakes…. like “The Blog”.

Richard Feehan, whom I ran against and of course won, was a classy and considerate challenger. We will almost certainly disagree on methods and the ideas required in running a government, but knowing what I now know about this nasty business, he deserves our support and best wishes.

But… what a hell of an experience! I still now want to puke; and that’s from the good memories 😉

Going forward, as I am still want to muse about politics, I must work to be WAY less opinionated here about the individuals and people of politics. I will still strive to be focused on ideas, to hopefully reflect on the inspirational ideas of others, maybe even invent a few of my own… but what I won’t do is attack, cajole or berate another political player here again. It’s too easy, it’s hurtful, almost always unfair, and it’s the path of the weak-minded. It is also how people win in politics. Which sucks donkey-balls…

We have an amazing Province and from all I can tell, the current government, the past government, and hopefully future governments, are, were and will be filled with people who care about our collective future. We will disagree on what it takes to get there, and even what “there” might look like… but I have gained something valuable from my very brief time in politics; my unending respect for those who put their name forward, regardless of party. It’s truly thankless.

Now… there are some things from the election of 2015 which are still worth talking about; reflection on the PC implosion from an insiders perspective, my personal failings as a candidate, our arrogant war-room, and the role of the media in this nasty business…. and beyond that, of course, I simply must talk about why I still think Alberta needs a fiscally conservative government to lead us in both good times and bad.

As I believe strongly in the words of Larry Kudlow... “that free market capitalism is the best path to prosperity.”

Discuss.

Peace, Order and Good Government

FIRST HALF

The phrase ‘peace, order and good government’, a technical component of the Constitution Act, has meaning beyond my understanding; stuff of parliament, provincial vs. federal powers, taxation, etc. The cultural principles of POGG however make sense to me. I firmly identify with it as a Canadian and I suspect most everyone else does too. It’s really who we are as citizens.

Strangely, I thought of this with about 2:00 minutes left in the CFL version of the Battle of Alberta, Eskimos vs. Stampeders. A redux of the same battle from last weekend, an important game for both teams as first place is within the grasp of each. Absorbing the sunshine and a few cold beers, I was with my family and friends, sharing a gorgeous Saturday evening with 41,000 fellow Albertans.

At the exact same time, just one train stop down the LRT line, another Battle of Alberta (a PC party optimist would argue Battle FOR Alberta) had come to a close.

The leader of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta and our new Premier was elected by a group of members smaller than half of the football fans at Commonwealth Stadium. The announcement witnessed at the Expo Centre, by an even smaller group, no more than the first 20 rows of fans seated in our Section X. Also, interestingly, a new Premier for the Province and nary a word from the football game announcer. A smart move by the team, as the Eskimos could ill-afford a misdirected chorus of boos from a cynical citizenry. Even at the PC Convention, the room was reportedly subdued. No raucous after-parties were advertised, the Prentice team avoided the typical hubris of this type of victory; as if everyone knew, “tonight proves nothing”.

I couldn’t help but feel torn. I wanted to be there to hear the outcome, feel the room and assess the character of a Premier who says he is committed to changing how a 43 year-old government, well, governs. But, the Battle of Alberta was still within reach of my beloved Eskimos so I stayed and enjoyed the end of the game .… joining the clear majority of Albertans, at least at that moment, not caring about politics.

INTERMISSION

I have questioned myself a great deal lately, wondering (wandering?) for a political home. It’s unlike me to avoid a fight for something and I have searched for answers politically, nearly my entire life. I believe in the systems and science of good government and know that we are lucky to have, in democracy, the best of a bad lot. I don’t take it for granted and yet I have chosen the partisan sidelines. I need to unpack that, and I can only start by letting some thoughts flow freely:

I am convinced that Alberta is basically drowning in ‘Peace, Order and PROSPERITY’. Prosperity, to many, is a good enough substitute for good government; ignoring that for short periods of time, it can be had with or without good government. A stroke of luck, like high priced oil, can also mask a lot of bad government. Of course we may ignore the actual problems created by prosperity: a damaged environment, economic stragglers, or the risk from lacking economic diversity. But, if $150,000 50/50 draw prizes are any indication, we are basically inclined to sit fat, dumb and happy when presented the opportunity. Me included.

I also believe that normal citizens care little for politics and only concern themselves with outcomes (see above); and as long as things are moving along swimmingly, we can ignore the responsibility of having to stay informed or getting involved with politics. This became obvious as I spent a few years of my life trying to help build a new political party with the Alberta Party. Thankless work to say the least, many would argue a complete waste of time.

Finally, I am convinced that many of those who do choose partisan politics, think they can remedy a declining interest in citizen politics with a raised, shrill voice. Attacking and mauling any idea, good or bad, that is not theirs. Crafting ridiculous spin to ridiculous issues, made up for selfish partisan reasons only. A cause and effect, leading to smaller parties and even more cynical citizens. Definitely making it harder for the good ones, fighting the good fight. (This is where many on Twitter have devolved for anyone who follows the #ableg hashtag)

SECOND HALF

I am ready to get back in the game of democracy; if not on the field, maybe as a simple commentator, maybe as a coach, definitely as a fan. As a taxpayer I have certainly bought my ticket and I am going to get my money’s worth.

But in an Alberta context, what is one to do? There are as many opportunities to get involved, as there are bad sport analogies. We must also be honest with ourselves and accept that over the next two years, a Jim Prentice government will reveal it’s ability to provide us good government or it will not. As an Albertan first, I am never going to undermine those efforts. Well beyond that, I am going to hope and trust that it can be done. Mr. Prentice is a very accomplished public servant who had little to gain personally taking on this rotten task – so I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he will reveal his plan and implement many changes to a positive effect.

Also, since I am mostly concerned about the Good Government leg of the tripartite motto mentioned above, (it’s the one we as citizens have the most direct control), it would seem this is the best place to focus one’s efforts. It’s time to support a real effort in reforming the way the government functions. We should be pushing our ideas on transparency, citizen engagement, and good policy. We should admonish the government if they stray from this. But this is our government today, is our home team, like it or not.

Many of my partisan friends will mock this as blind faith in a team that has lost its moral authority to govern, or that “past performance indicates future results”. It may be and they might; but I am going to join the majority of Albertans and eschew the partisan rhetoric.

Good luck Mr. Prentice. Don’t forget that you are playing the game FOR us Albertans. We are your team, not the PC Party.

Go Alberta Go!

It’s Show Me Time in Alberta Politics

Trying to find an opinion about the Alberta PC Party and its recent leadership race is easy. Finding one that is new, or would make a difference after being said, is nearly impossible. For this alone, the person who invented the word ‘clusterfuck’ might deserve a Pulitzer. But in my stupidity, I will try.

For the first time in my political adult life, I am exhausted by a situation. The fact of the matter is that the next PC Leader will be our next Premier. The next Premier will lead a party that has control over a piece of political real estate that every other plausible governing Alberta party wishes it could: the Centre. Social Progressive and Fiscal Conservative. (Some share that space, one pretends too, but none control it).

Clearly Jim Prentice is the likely candidate to emerge with the PC job. No matter how hard Thomas Lukaszuk might scrap for it, or how blindly Ric McIver may think he is equipped for it, neither could sustain the party as leader with no support from caucus. People who think otherwise are loyal and idealistic at best and delusioned at worst. Contrary to what they might think, I still admire many of them.

So, what?

Well all I can think to write, that has not been said enough, is this:

It’s fucking Show Me Time.

Here is what I mean by Show Me:

  1. A damn near brand new cabinet.
  2. Many notable retirements across rural, urban and rurban constituencies by PC dead-weight who have served more than 2 terms
  3. Retirement of any MLA caught in ethical or legal conundrums
  4. New MLA candidates that represent the best of Alberta. I’d personally like to see the Top 40 under 40 of farmers, policy wonks, artists and entrepreneurs. Piss off career politicians and graduate degreed “know it alls” who haven’t done much past suck at the tit of people in power.
  5. A massive by-election, of say 10 constituencies, where these new candidates can prove (or not) if the people of Alberta are really ready to give this government one more shot… as we are led to believe.
  6. Mr. Prentice and his team endorsing a slate of candidates for this fall’s PC Party executive elections. The Party is more than it’s elected leaders, and although the party has many great volunteers, it’s Executive, Regional Directors and even many CA Presidents need to be replaced.

Now, dear friends from other centrist parties, who think I am part of the problem even supporting the idea of another PC government. Well, truth is, as I have said above… we will have a PC government for another 2 years like it or not. If they can’t do much or all of the above, then they will be dealt a mother of a blow and be out of the government business anyways. Then, if that happens, we will have this… which isn’t all bad either:

  1. A complete collapse of the Party in 2016 election results
  2. The legitimate land rush to the political real-estate left behind
  3. New alternatives, like the Alberta Party, getting a chance to really prove themselves

Everyone wins. Either way.

 

Questioning a Jim Prentice coronation

Danielle Smith Leader of the Opposition

Danielle Smith
Leader of the Opposition

I have met Danielle Smith. I like her. She is forthright and a great communicator; fun, authentic and passionate for her ideals.

I’ve known Greg Clark for some time. I really like him. Greg is the perfect example of the new Alberta in my opinion. Young family, entrepreneur who started and built a fast growing knowledge economy business, passionate about a social safety net and innovation in politics, but still fiscally pragmatic and experienced. He is also leading a movement of young, idealistic, and innovative Albertans.

Greg Clark Alberta Party Leader

Greg Clark
Alberta Party Leader

I’ve even met Brian Mason and Raj Sherman, who both interest me. Mason, has been perhaps the most passionate supporter of his beliefs of any MLA I have watched. A great public servant who wears every one of his ideals on his sleeve. I’d suggest most Albertans admire his work ethic, even if his political beliefs are often in conflict with our business-loving ethos.

Sherman, who in my opinion, has troubles containing his hubris, still busts his ass for his struggling party and brand. He is an animated character, and I think a pretty good guy. Even if I wouldn’t trust him to good governance.

But, for every one of these party leaders, I have an idea of their character. They have made mistakes and they have made impassioned pleas about a future Alberta. Love them or hate them, I at least understand them.

So, let’s shift to Jim Prentice, the heir apparent to the PC Party of Alberta. What do we really know about him? Sure, It could be as simple as me not knowing him personally; maybe he is the finest character known to politics. I just don’t know. I hope we will learn more about him. He has certainly been very quiet when it comes to Albertan issues.

But, let me share with you how I FEEL.

Two weeks ago at at the Edmonton PC Premier’s Dinner, I was lucky to be the guest of some great Albertans. Two past Premier’s Chief of Staffs (to Klein & Lougheed), a First Nation’s Chief, and an Edmonton business Legend, all at my table. We were treated fairly quickly by a visit from Jim Prentice, for obvious reasons.

Jim Prentice PCAA Leader Candidate

Jim Prentice
PCAA Leader Candidate

Mr. Prentice was surrounded by a throng of party insiders. I did feel like I was witnessing the chosen one. I don’t begrudge Mr. Prentice for this, what a great position to be in. But I did pass two judgments in that moment:

  1. What has this man yet done to connect with the party machine, to prove that he has a plan to give it the reinvigoration is most desperately needs? The tribulations of the party are not entirely due to the bad leadership of Alison Redford. Much of their problems are a result of desperation in clinging to power over a genuine interest in reinventing a politic commitment to service for Albertans.
  2. Why does this party get so excited about a messiah figure, and not realize that it needs to rebuild its relationship with regular Albertans? Does the party desire to rebuild its infrastructure to serve the citizen and party member, as opposed to just their elected official. Finally, why does it pretend that things are A-OK as long as a popular new leader is found?

 

I can be convinced that Jim Prentice is a great potential Premier of the Province, but ONLY through his actions. He has chosen an old-school approach to his early leadership campaign, which relies on the typical PCAA maneuvers, and is ignoring what I think is important in any political movement in 2014. Show Albertan’s, the general public, your authentic self.

This is why I am actually more interested in seeing a PCAA race, which includes other interesting PCAA candidates. Ric McIver has been a lesser known, but certainly more authentic candidate from the start. As a Calgarian, I simply don’t know him as well, or understand his style. I have read that he is trying to tackle the “everyman” narrative, and that’s a good thing, but I am still unconvinced he has the “Royal Jelly” to transcend the party past with a renewed vision for Alberta. In a different set of words, he strikes me as a “Ralph Klein Light”. Not bad, necessarily, but not NEW, and not INSPIRING… In my opinion, certainly not enough of a character to beat Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Party, who are the best version of old politics in Alberta right now.

 

Thomas Lukaszuk Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training & Labour.

Thomas Lukaszuk
Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training & Labour.

Thomas Lukaszuk however, has an interesting potential. We know him quite well. He acts with authentic impulse on almost every issue. His social media presence in the last three years as a cabinet minister, has been polarizing to say the least. But, assuming he was playing the “bad-cop” role for Premier Redford on the Advanced Education file, we can describe him during that time as an “aggressive loyalist,” at best. Many, and I wouldn’t disagree, feel that his handling of the post-secondary (especially U of A) funding crisis was an abomination. Interfering with the Board of Governors in full public, was poorly handled and not consistent with the way the government in Edmonton has typically dealt with its appointees and normal supporters.

BUT, I have to give some credit where credit is due. Lukaszuk has been 100% authentic with us. And as much as he may have offended some Albertans, he has also made up for it by being one of the most tireless political workers I have witnessed. As past PC MLA Doug Elniski has suggested, none of the potential leadership candidates understand the grassroots public service as well as Minister Lukaszuk.

A leadership race can be a fickle and interesting thing. Day by day challenges from the opposition (outside the party) and the opposition (within the party) can make a hero transform to zero very quickly. Jim Prentice is the most accomplished individual in the race. Hands down. But he is also the most vulnerable, and deserves a tough analysis of his vision for the province.

I don’t know if I like the man or not, mostly because he is still an unknown local personality. I do wonder this:

How much can he connect with regular Albertans? How much does he value economic diversification or democratic transformation? And how much is he committed to changing the way the PC Party serves the average party member and citizen?

If these are a few of the ways we evaluate a successful Leadership candidate in Alberta right now (It’s how I do), I like Thomas Lukaszuk, Greg Clark, Danielle Smith, Brian Mason and Raj Sherman… at least right now, until we hear from the polished and old school Jim Prentice.

I like them better, because I feel I know them. I FEEL I have seen into their heart, if only a little bit. Not just their expansive wallets.

I like authentic, servant leaders. Even if they are not perfect.

Alberta Innovates?

Alberta Innovates?

Yes, of course it does. But we need a new coordinated rallying cry.

Why would we be here if it wasn’t for the ability to innovate? We want to find a way to stay warm, trade, celebrate and worship together, all to build a stronger community. Our aboriginal ancestors call such a place “Pehonan”. A highly enlightened concept that has been the foundation of what makes Albertans great cooperators, and builders.

But, for some reason, the “Alberta Innovation Ecosystem” has been spinning its wheels. It has become a government funded set of institutions and competing interests which seem more interested in self-preservation than hitting the ball out of the park for a future diverse Alberta economy.

Today I was lucky to have been invited to a forum event, hosted by our new Premier and interim PC Party leader, Dave Hancock. The event, “Transforming Alberta’s Innovation System” was a very interesting opportunity to re-imagine this ecosystem. Sure many of the self-interested were represented, including President’s and CEO’s of schools, innovation organizations and of course bureaucrats; but also there were entrepreneurs and accomplished innovators. Which was a great start.

In one of the breakout sessions, we talked about what would make a successful new “Innovation Council”. I won’t get into what an “Innovation Council” is, because frankly I am still not 100% sure I know. But, I wanted to share with anyone who would listen what I think WOULD make a difference right away in a refreshed Alberta Innovation Ecosystem. My thoughts below:

  1. CORE PURPOSE. We need the Alberta Innovation Ecosystem, at least the one funded by government, to have an easily identifiable core purpose, which must be understood by all Albertans. Here is what I would suggest as an example of a solid core purpose:

    “Alberta’s Innovation must maximize its resources and resource economy, so we may use the benefit to help fund other sustainable economies… ones which will secure opportunity for an alternative economy, and our future generations.”

  2. BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). Perhaps as important, I think this Province needs to rally behind a goal that matters, and exemplifies the above. An example we can all understand, was by US President John F. Kennedy, who stated the American goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade (1960’s). His goal was clear, easy to understand and measure. It had a number of outcomes that justified it, but perhaps most importantly, it was simply stated,In that context, what could Alberta’s goal be?

    – Can we be a state that shoots to become a “net-zero” environmental jurisdiction? Setting a goal to produce ZERO WASTE in a generation? Asking our industry and citizens to find ways to reduce waste (physical and GHG), and innovate new ways to offset the waste we produce? Funding both innovations in existing economies and new waste reduction industries?

    – Can we set a goal to be the healthiest place to live on the planet? Measured by quality of life, health programs and boasting the greatest LIFE LONGEVITY, achieved in a generation?

I don’t know the goal…. but I am sure that if it was an inspiring one, we will suddenly have a framework for which to structure all of our Innovation work around. I do know that our BHAG needs to be bigger than one cycle of any particular government, but achievable within one generation. Something we can all get behind, and hope to see happen within a foreseeable future.

A common goal is the chance to focus our innovation. It also may give us the social license to continue our core business of mining resources for the World.

I believe that our core-economy can fit in a World that demands our valuable resources, but it must be done in a way that ensures future relevance for our citizens and the consumers of our oil, gas, trees and food. If we are to use resources to fund our growth, we should also come up with a meaning that is bigger than the immediate economic impact for doing so.

Then, we have served our community in the long run.

A disappointing day for Alberta

Everything that is wrong about Alberta Politics was on display today as the Premier fought off more internal party fighting and her Deputy Premier Dave Hancock, was left to be a spokesperson for.

In many ways I admire how hard-working and loyal Minister Hancock is to his party, constituency and leader. He is one hell of a listener. But his loyalty has stretched to a fault. In trying to defend his leader and his party, he turned his back on the principles most Albertans subscribe to. Fairness, humility and frankness.

Now, I don’t think for a second that Minister Hancock wants to be anything but fair. I also don’t think he strives to be anything but humble. But today, he seemed to avoid his opportunity to be frank, because he works for a leader who confuses such frankness with disloyalty. Of course this is my opinion and observation. Here is my argument.

This is borne from the problem with our Premier right now. Maybe intentionally, but I suspect more due to a personality flaw; she perceives anyone who speaks against her mistakes, as an attack born from disloyalty.  It’s HER character flaw that she can’t hear truth to power. As a lawyer, maybe she only hears fact-based arguments and is hard-wired to win all arguments as opposed to valuing nuance and differences. I personally think it’s what happens when someone succeeds again and again, and has never experienced failure or rejection to any large degree.

But, in Deputy Premier Hancock I was most disappointed. He had an opportunity to both defend his party, his leader and good governance, by being a bit more fair, humble and frank. Today he acted in a way I don’t think was consistent with his character.

I have fantasized what he should have said, when given the difficult task of speaking for a caucus that is obviously fractured. Here is what he could have said:

“Clearly Albertans and some of our caucus and members are frustrated with us. The Premier herself has apologized for violating certain trusts, and we just met and talked about how we need to rebuild that trust together; for Albertans.

It’s not time to blame those who have lost confidence in us. It’s time to reconnect with the people who lent us their vote. Rest assured we want it back. Not because we think we are entitled to it, but because we think we have the best plan for Alberta.”

This is what Minister Hancock said:

“This premier is a very strong premier. She has got strong leadership qualities and she has a strong caucus.”

Hancock said Webber’s remarks are tainted by the fact he is an ex-cabinet minister.

“He could not take the fact that in this business there are ups and there are downs,” said Hancock.

“He’s a very sad man.”

The amazing simplicity of things, is this. The Premier and her Deputy, would be significantly more popular and have avoided these problems, by simply being more humble and honest with themselves. More important, I think they both would be more effective, if the Premier was more open to frank challenges and the best ideas which surely must be available inside her own caucus, and even her from the opposition. She should admit her mistakes more rapidly; encourage and listen-to a wide range of criticism.  For practical and political reasons.

Great leaders want straight-talk from their subordinates. Great team players give it, respectfully. Both the Premier and Deputy Premier have failed us, respectively, in this regard.

Ironically, people will be hurt by my comments, thinking I am playing politics. But I am not a politician. I am an Albertan, who like many, has lost faith in our leadership. I simply see a Province losing its opportunity to be it’s best self. A Province where we have everything going for us, except good governance.

If you disagree, consider that today our Premier has created a leadership vacuum, where against all laws of physics, she finds herself putting out fires. Cancelling all meetings, speaking engagements and her role in question period in the legislature at a time where her leadership was most needed.

I am less critic than I am constituent. Something the current PC leadership seem to have lost a sense of accountability to.

The Tale of Two Leaders

Today served me a reminder of what leadership should look like. I have an ideal for leaders. It revolves around three key standards I personally wish to be judged on, and frankly for which I hope our Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and our Premier Allison Redford to subscribe to.

Leaders should be: Humble. Authentic. Servant Leaders.

My Don Iveson Leadership Observation:

You can read an interesting post here, by Paula Simons of the Edmonton Journal, who describes how Don Iveson may have slightly let us down today at his “State of the Union” event.

I agree with Paula in how she “felt” at today’s luncheon, which was attended by a record 2200 business people. Hell, we all stood in ovation before he even spoke… his is a political victory and style which makes us all feel proud and excited for his potential (and ours as a city). A narrative everyone wants to be a part of. But also a narrative he and his whip-smart team of handlers have created for him. It was bound to let us down.

I must admit, I know Don Iveson enough to have not been surprised by his speech today. Don is possibly one of the most articulate, thoughtful and policy wonkish politicians I have had the chance to meet. Paula’s description of him as Clark Kent ,when we perhaps unfairly set him up to be our Superman, is a fantastic analogy of who he is and where he is right now in his new role. It is by no means a reason for him to be criticized; in fact if anything, it should serve as a criticism of ourselves. We want the perfect politician. Populist, great communicator, fiery style and impassioned service person. We want what we ourselves are usually not.

But, Mayor Iveson is also at an important inflection point of his career as our Mayor and hopefully something greater in the future. Don, has been successful in inspiring what Edmonton can be. He swings a big vision. For that exact reason I am hopeful and ready to give him a free pass.

Don works tirelessly to try and be the perfect politician, in a modern context. He communicates openly. He tweets personally to the average citizen; he is accessible and coined (and lives) the phrase, “politics in full sentences”. That said, I think he has created his own problem. He wants to know everything about every issue. He wants to apply his own solution to each of these.

Don has won at everything he has applied himself too. That can create a feeling of invincibility. I don’t think for a second he thinks of himself in this way. Not at all, and possibly quite the opposite. But, perhaps someone who has won on every front thinks the best way to engineer the solutions to problems is by working harder. I think Don works tirelessly this way… but I think he will also have to learn how to let others help him lead. Don may mistakenly think he can do it all… because honestly… to now, he has.

That said, because he is humble, authentic, and a servant leader… I have every faith he will adapt. I think Don will become on of our greatest mayors, and one of our city’s most successful leaders. What he may lack in instinct and charisma, will undoubtedly emerge.

My Alison Redford Leadership Observation:

I have tried to give our Premier the same benefit of the doubt. Like many Albertans, I was intrigued with her resume and her narrative; at the same time when I had given up on the Alberta PC Party. An internationally experienced human rights lawyer, our first women Premier, a young and socially progressive politician, who seemed to also be willing to be a fiscal hawk when needed. I was somewhat smitten. The timing of her narrative peaked around an election where we had a choice between something scary or something seemingly smart and safe.

What a disappointment she has been.

The Premier’s mistakes are more alarming. The reason I find them as such, are based on what Paula Simons was trying to say today about Mayor Iveson (I think), and that is one based on expectations. I think we all wanted her to be a beacon of something, and she has taken a turn for the opposite.

I have given her the benefit of the doubt. Hell, considering what’s at stake, I am tempted to still do.  By winning the PC leadership as the initial third choice, she won the leadership on an arguable technicality. After that, she won the election in the middle of a storm of political uncertainty. The Wildrose party was the favourite, until truths were revealed about cracks in their readiness to lead. Their “lake of fire” candidate and “conscience rights” stance were simply too radical for a Province which has evolved to something more complex.

But, this is all a past reality. What this Premier has done with her opportunity is more worrisome.

The Premier has betrayed this opportunity by thinking her personal narrative was bigger than the responsibility of leadership. She is the antithesis of a humble, authentic servant leader. She can’t seem to connect with those of us who have elected her. She is uncomfortable with the rural Albertan, the back-room style Edmonton establishment and a firebrand Calgary ethos. She is lacking a cohesive vision for the Province, or at least communicating one for us to latch onto. She is also clearly unable to make us see her as one of us.

Each of these things requires a commitment to mix it up with the local community leaders who embody them. The Premier, in her failure, has relied on her initial success and confused it with the real ingredients of leadership. Unlike the Edmonton Mayor, she has stopped trying. Worse, she may not know how.

She has lost the faith of her caucus, some inside her cabinet, and the trust of the public. Our Mayor, in spite of a lack of “Superman” qualities in style, has a complete council behind him and can draw an ovation from 2200 business people. Out of trust in a narrative and because he works his ass off to earn that trust.

They are quite different leaders. They both have had success fall onto their laps in a mix of serendipity and hard work. One of them, the Premier, has run out of free passes.

From here on forward, and in as little as a few days or weeks, the Premier will face a tidal wave of objectors. Even more controversies will emerge. It will seem unfair if you are only a PC loyalist and it will be schadenfreude if you are anything else.

Me personally, I will wonder how two smart, surely caring, public servants can end up on the opposite side of history.  I can only guess it comes down to this. A commitment to the principles of what I think makes a great leader.

Humble. Authentic. Servant Leader.

Make Something Wildrose?

If you have read this blog anytime over the last 4 years, you know that I have been pretty tough on the Wildrose Party. Never have I been that critical of their Leader Danielle Smith, as she has been effective at staying on message about their fiscal conservative message. What has caused my concern stems largely from the supporters who have defined their social conservative culture. At one event hosted by the Alberta Party in 2010, I recall getting into an argument with a supporter about Gay Marriage. Believe it or not, his position was contrary to supporting it because in his words, the slippery slope of legalizing Gay Marriage could lead to allowing people to marry their pets. Crazy, and I am not making this up.

Of course this is no position of the party, and it’s a radicalism they are working to shed. But when you are measuring a movement, you have to make some assessment based on the types of people it attracts. We could criticise the party as being disingenuous to it’s roots, but perhaps that is no longer true? We should also be honest and give credit where credit’s due. The party is striving towards a mainstream message.

Tonight, in a room of 350 Edmonton supporters, Danielle Smith made humble strides, admitting to many mistakes connecting with Edmontonians. I am not going to rush out and support them. But let’s be honest, they have no where to go but up in Edmonton. Also in Smith’s presentation tonight, was a significant nod to the Make Something Edmonton movement for which I am a Co-Chair.

When I was asked by the Mayor, Stephen Mandel, to Co-Chair the City’s Image and Reputation campaign, now called Make Something Edmonton, I had to rely on many years of experience loving and serving this community; also as a knowledge economy business founder. Volunteering for the City is what we as Edmontonians do. We serve this place, to help others, to move the community forward together. I am unapologetically excited about our future and believe that with our current momentum things like Make Something Edmonton and Startup Edmonton (which I am also currently the Board Chair), are very really changing the confidence of this place. So… it goes without saying that the Wildrose and Smith’s speech, got my attention.

Ironically, as Smith was delivering her speech down the street at the Shaw Conference Centre, Startup Edmonton hosted our Fourth Annual Launch Party event at our amazing 104th street campus. 10 new companies were featured and hundreds of Edmontonians came out to celebrate them and our Startup Culture. Also, just this past  Monday, we held our annual luncheon to kickoff  Global Entrepreneurship Week, and again hundreds attended to celebrate the our Startup City initiative. Easily, our work has become the standard for Startup Ecosystems and communities across the country.

Startup Edmonton Campus - Launch Party 4 Event

Startup Edmonton Campus – Launch Party 4 Event

So. Back to Smith’s speech and Edmonton.

Clearly, her party missed the mark here during the last election. But, if her speech tonight was any indication, the Wildrose are ready to open a new front on the political war for Alberta’s next election. And frankly, I think Edmonton will play a large role in who wins the next election.

There’s no guessing how they will do, and I hope the Alberta Party and PC Party will also work to continue their building parties, showing respect for an energized Edmonton. But one thing is certain. Edmonton is an important political front of the 2016 provincial election.

Below is the entire text of Danielle Smith’s speech. Judge for yourself if she is making headway. I happen to think she made all the right points.

I’m going to start out tonight with a bit of a confession.

Well, it’s not so much a confession.

I don’t want anyone thinking there are videos of me floating around out there like a certain big city mayor. It’s more of an admission, really. I believe in admitting mistakes and learning from them. So here it goes:

So far Wildrose has not been viewed as the party of Edmonton.  I think there is a reason for that. We haven’t been on the same page as many Edmontonians about the issues that mattered most to them.  And because of that, most Edmontonians didn’t come out to support Wildrose in the last election.  And as leader, I regret that, because I genuinely believe that Wildrose is the party best positioned to support Edmonton and Edmonton’s causes in the Alberta Legislature.  However, I think Edmonton hasn’t been convinced yet that we will be their party and their champion on the provincial stage.

But that’s going to change. Edmonton is a city that is commanding attention these days. And it’s certainly got ours.

Let me tell you about the Edmonton I see.

I see an Edmonton on the front lines of so much of what drives the modern global economy.

I see an Edmonton bursting with possibility, possessing that rare and powerful combination of blue-collar work ethic, leading edge innovation and a true entrepreneurial spirit.

It has the finest symphony orchestra in the country – a tribute to a dynamic arts and culture scene that gives Edmonton an unmistakeable flair. World-renowned musicians come to Edmonton to record with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, and it stages brave and bold musical productions which other orchestras traditionally shy away from.

Its colleges and universities regularly break new ground on research and consistently perform among the best in Canada. The University of Alberta, our province’s largest and best renowned university, is an institution whose research is known globally.  It forms the basis of a dynamic research hub which is at the cutting-edge of biotechnology, engineering, software development, pharmaceuticals, and countless other fields.

Edmonton’s public education system has set an international standard in innovation, providing an example that has been emulated around the world.  The Edmonton model for public education is held up as the gold standard in many US States, the United Kingdom, and other developed economies who are as impressed as we are that the very best education can be offered in public schools.

Edmonton is also a healthcare hub not just for Alberta, but for Canada.  Edmonton has even pioneered some of the most innovative and effective treatment protocols for today’s most pressing illnesses.  The Edmonton Protocol for treating certain types of Type 1 diabetes is now a standard procedure world-wide and improving the lives of countless individuals afflicted with this disease.

Edmonton’s municipal leaders – starting with Mayor Stephen Mandel and now with new Mayor Don Iveson – have worked incredibly hard to re-orient Edmonton’s collective attention towards the bright horizon, towards the days ahead. In my opinion, they have redefined what it is to lead a city into the future – with poise, with confidence and with vision.

What I’m getting at is this: There is a new optimism in Edmonton. You can feel it.

It’s all around us.

It’s on campus, with the ongoing expansion of what is already world-class research and development.

It’s downtown, with construction cranes and new glass towers popping up in an ever-growing skyline.

It’s winding its way out of the city core and into the suburbs in the form of new light rail lines.

And it’s everywhere in between. It’s the bounce in Edmonton’s step and the swagger in its walk.

One of my favourite new Edmonton initiatives is Make Something Edmonton, a project spearheaded by Mayor Mandel and a committee of fiercely proud Edmontonians determined to tell the city’s story in a way that hadn’t been done before.

Together, they have asserted with tremendous conviction and style and fun that Edmonton is the best place to make something. To create something. To take what’s in your heart and mind and built it for the world to see and the city to support.

The stories are phenomenal. An Edmonton architect offering free Portugese language lessons for Edmontonians planning on attending the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. A local artist sketching personal portraits in exchange for donations to combat Cystic Fibrosis. Even a group of hearty folks who want to celebrate Edmonton’s abundance of parkades by occasionally transforming them into venues for rooftop parkade parties.

Make Something Edmonton says this:  The Edmonton question of the future is not “Why do we live here?” The Edmonton question of the future is “What are you making?”

In speaking with Edmontonians over the years, you once got the impression that perhaps the city’s best days were behind it – that when people spoke of Edmonton’s golden years, it was harkening back to a period now gone.

However – and I think everyone in this room will agree with me – you don’t hear that anymore when Edmontonians talk about their city.

They talk about how Edmonton’s best days are still to come.  They see a future in which Edmonton will be leading the way and shaking off the misconceptions of those who think it is anything other than a city which defines a modern Alberta and drives our province forward.

There is a new Edmonton, and this it. An Edmonton that is coming into its own. An Edmonton that will in no way consider itself anything but a first-rate, forward-thinking capital city. And an Edmonton that is out to prove it.

This Edmonton reflects Alberta’s desire to be excellent. And our desire to be excellent is what defines us as Albertans.

I’ve been Leader of the Official Opposition now for almost 19 months. And in that time I’ve become keenly aware of something that truly disturbs me – and affirms why I’m doing what I’m doing.

This desire to be excellent – this thing that makes us uniquely and distinctly Albertan – is not reflected in the government that we have.

I get to see these incredible things Albertans do for each other, like the folks who participate in Make Something Edmonton. I see the lengths we go to just to do the right thing for our families, friends and even strangers  — especially strangers — I’ll get back to that in a moment.

I get to meet the Albertans who do these incredible things. I am inspired, time and time again.  We are a province of heroes and leaders.

And then I get to the Legislature. I face down the government across the aisle. I see their faces and hear their words. And something doesn’t add up. There is just no comparison.

Albertans are thoughtful. This government is glib.

Albertans are diligent. This government is careless.

Albertans are humble. This government is arrogant.

Albertans are consistent. This government is erratic.

Every day, this disconnect between who we are and the leadership we receive becomes clearer and deeper.

Albertans are hopeful. This government is cynical.

Albertans are trustworthy. This government is misleading.

Albertans are forthright. This government is secretive.

Albertans are compassionate. This government is callous.

Make Something Edmonton. An invitation to the entire city to identify gaps, weaknesses, problems and opportunities in the community and come up with creative ways to address them, together. That’s the Alberta I love. The Alberta I fight for.

But the more time I spend trying to make sense of what this government is doing, the more frustrated I become. I’m frustrated because we can do so much better than this.

This isn’t a government that reinforces who are. Or a government that reflects the excellence of our people and proclaims it on a daily basis.

And really, isn’t that what a government should do? If we can’t look at the people who lead us and have confidence that they are taking us where we want to go, then we’ve got to do something about the people who lead us.

In many ways, Edmonton was ground zero for the cuts to the Persons With Developmental Disabilities programs that came out of the March budget.

For those unfamiliar, it was a $42 million cut to programs that help adults with disabilities function in today’s society.

For me, this raised a fundamental question about our province, and our government.  How is it  that in Alberta, the wealthiest province in Canada, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, how is it that we can’t afford to support the most vulnerable people in our society?

Why can’t a government in power for forty-two years manage our affairs  in such a way that those most in need aren’t falling through the cracks?

Those who rely on support from the government’s Persons with Developmental Disabilities program are those who face some of the most daunting challenges in life.  In many cases, they require a very high level of care, across a wide-range of fields.  Their families and friends also make sacrifices to ensure their loved ones can lead dignified lives in safe and supportive environments.  This spring’s budget demonstrated vividly the callousness of the government as they slashed support for PDD programs across the board.

For many individuals already facing tremendous challenges in their lives, this left both their families and their support workers completely in the dark about how care and support for their relatives and clients would be provided.

Instead of consulting with these groups, explaining the process for how these cuts would be implemented, and working with the families and caregivers of PDD clients to minimize the disruptions to care,  the government – claiming the need for budget secrecy -bulldozed ahead without a word to anyone.  Budget secrecy — it makes you shake your head in disbelief at the callousness.

The result of this approach was a disaster.  And after huge backlash from us, from other opposition parties, from families, from caregivers, from facilities and institutions, and from the public at large who were outraged at the callousness of this decision, the government put the brakes on implementing these cuts.

For many individuals, the damage was already done, and they are continuing to feel the uncertainty of the government’s short-sightedness.

Here’s the bottom line: Pulling the rug out from underneath the most vulnerable people in our society is not who we are. Failing to support them is unAlbertan.

Now, not every decision government makes will be easy, or popular, or simple.  Wildrose recognizes that sometimes tough choices need to be made by the government.  We anticipate that 2016 will see us making more than a few tough choices to fix some of this government’s messes.

Where we differ from this government is in how these decisions are approached.

We believe that what was missing from the government’s approach to PDD cuts was a pretty basic concept which most Albertans innately understand and display throughout their day-to-day lives.  This government just didn’t seem to care about the people who would be impacted by these cuts.  And this lack of caring made a difficult situation much, much worse.

But fortunately, while this government may not understand the importance of caring, this is not the case for everyday Albertans across our province.

In fact, I would respectfully suggest that Albertans hold caring at the very heart of who we are as a people. And this summer provided a tremendous example of just how caring Albertans truly are.

As many of you know, my riding of High River was impacted deeply by this summer’s terrible flooding.

More than two-thirds of our town was underwater, and many people are still wondering if they will be able to rebuild and restore their homes, or if they will have to relocate.  Thousands of Calgarians also faced similar challenges with water and mud-filled basements, ruined personal belongings, and prolonged dislocation from their homes.  Many were on the verge of despair, and were worried that might never recover from this disaster.  However, during this time of darkness, the character of Alberta shone through.  Despair turned to hope, and fear gave way to optimism.

Tens of thousands of volunteers mobilized to help their friends, neighbours, and strangers, especially strangers, recover.  They mucked out basements, donated supplies, offered up free meals, hot showers, and warm beds to those unable to return home, and they gave generously to the Red Cross and other organizations who worked tirelessly to help flood victims.  As someone from a town devastated by flooding, I can honestly say that without the help, support, and love from this army of Good Samaritan Albertans, my town of High River would have faced a truly bleak outlook.

And during this crisis, Calgary and Southern Alberta had no better friend than Edmonton.

As a Calgarian, I like to tease my Edmonton friends over things like football and hockey (although neither of us has much to be boasting about right now when it comes to either of Canada’s favourite sports), because that’s what friends do.

However, when the chips were down, and we really needed you, Edmonton was there in a heartbeat, because that’s what Albertans do.  Hundreds of everyday Edmontonians came South to help strangers with the clean up.  They donated water, cleaning materials, and other badly-needed supplies.  Your police and firefighters joined with our local authorities to keep people safe and protect our homes.   Edmonton’s utility workers joined in to help restore power to the tens of thousands of homes knocked off the grid by the flood.  Shoulder to shoulder, Edmontonians worked with Calgarians and others in Southern Alberta to help manage the biggest disaster our province has seen in its history.

And on behalf of my constituents in High River, and the people of Calgary and Southern Alberta who were impacted by the flood, I would like say thank you to Edmonton for your friendship, help, and support.  We couldn’t have made it through without you.

What we saw during this flood was an outpouring of support from everyday Albertans who, when they saw people in need, dropped everything to help.  And I think this speaks to the character of Albertans.  We are honest, hard-working, and fair.

We are generous in spirit, and compassionate towards those in need.

And we value things like integrity in our leaders.

These are the things that bind us together, and what makes us a magnet for people across Canada, and indeed around the world, looking to build a better life for themselves and their families.

There is a sense of optimism across Alberta.  You see it everyday in Edmonton – a new frontier spirit of neighbourliness, community and friendship which you can feel in our cities, towns, and villages.  We aren’t mired in the problems of the past like other provinces.  We approach each day with the belief that we can and will create a better and brighter world for our families and children.  In every sense of the word, we are a province of hope.  And it is that province that I want to lead.

Let me end by thanking you for the opportunity to speak to you this evening, and for coming out tonightto learn more about Wildrose.

We commit to you that if you put your trust in us, we will be a government for each and every Albertan, from every walk of life and from every corner of the province.

We will always strive to be a government that reflects the very best of our province, and its people.

A government worthy of Alberta and Albertans. The kind of government we can all be proud of again.