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.

Ralph Klein – The Alberta Everyman who led with authenticity

Ralph Klein gave protesters the finger. He derided “Eastern bums and creeps”. He drank too much. He apologized a lot, often for good reason. But Ralph Klein could lead us with authenticity, because he was like us; with fault.

Premier Klein also balanced the damn budget.

Ralph wasn’t idolized just because he balanced the budget, which was formidable enough; the success he enjoyed politically was for these two simple reasons:

1. He did what he said he was going to do.
2. He acted authentically.

That we idolize a human being, for acting in what should seem to be a natural and authentic way, says a great deal about the actual rarity of these traits in any person, let alone a politician.

You could argue that being Ralph Klein today would be impossible, or at the least, political suicide. Now our politicians are under attack from all angles. Social media is a 24/7 source of badgering from the peanut gallery, cameras carried on every person, and nary a spoken or written word goes undocumented or un-scrutinized.

But I think this is where the mistake is being made. Politicians have stopped being real, in exchange for trying to become something manufactured.

The mistake in shaping your behavior to some kind of “public-opinion ideal”; is that the shiny, sharp-edge of authentic leadership is dulled. I can’t follow you if you’re spending more time programing your character, than you are demonstrating your real one. Even if that means you might make a mistake. Mistakes are not blemishes, if the intent is good. They are the inevitable by-product of advancing towards something.

Which brings me back to Ralph. He had a vision, albeit a simple one for Alberta. Restore the Alberta Advantage. Come hell or high water, Ralph was going to bring us back from the brink of a $23 Billion debt. But here was the magic of Ralph:

Knowing the hardships we would have to go through as a Province, Ralph knew that people wanted a leader who would stand with them as they go through them. He recognized the willingness in Albertans to take some bitter medicine, as long as he was the first to take it with them. Wearing a denim shirt, as he took it. That’s the Cowboy Way really, isn’t it?

To me it somehow feels like our Albertan political landscape has become less Albertan. Our politicians no longer embody the scrappy risk taker, pioneer, entrepreneur or even “cowboy-ethic” that is undeniably part of our quirky identity.

There really is something admirable in our identity as hearty trailblazers, and yet we have none leading us. Some may have the ideas, but lacking is the authenticity.

I miss Ralph’s World.