28 March 2014

To Alberta's Political Parties: What Have You Done For Me Lately?

There is a lyric in Janet Jackson's song, What Have You Done For Me Lately, that I think sums up my current thinking on Alberta politics:

Used to be a time you would pamper me
Used to brag about it all the time
Your friends seem to think that you're so peachy keen
But my friends say neglect is on your mind...
Whose right?

What have you done for me lately?
Ooh ooh ooh yah!
What have you done for me lately?
Ooh ooh ooh yah!

Today, after originally reported by local blogger Kikkiplanet (a.k.a. Kathleen Smith) TWO WEEKS AGO, news of plans (although not confirmed to be implemented or finalised) to add a personal suite by & for Alison Redford (a.k.a. Alberta's former Premier) was released by Charles Rusnell of the CBC.

I GET IT.....WE ALL GET IT.  Another scandal about Premier Redford treated Alberta's wallet like her own...blah blah blah.  I got it the first 75 news reports released over the last two weeks years, ad nausea.  The fact that old news is being reported by lazy reporters who don't seem to do their job unless Kathleen stokes a fire up their ass is both amusing, and a sad commentary on journalism in this province.  But that is neither here nor there. 

Each political party in many ways resembles the first part of the lyric above.  As a voter, I've been enticed by many parties with their sexy promises, polished looks, and careless whispers of sweet policy caressing my ears.  Each party has a loyal group of partisan friends, saying how the other parties are up to no good and their party is peachy keen. 

But what I want to know from all political parties is what have you done for me lately?  It's not enough for me to simply say "elect us because the 'other' is <insert disparaging comment here>."  I want to know what you are going to do.  I want to know what your plans are for the future.  

I am not really interested in looking to the past.  As someone with a history degree, I am always cautious to judge the events of the past, without looking at the context of when a decision was made.  I also realize that sometimes it takes years to see the full realization of decision or action take, even the controversial ones. 

These are the things I want to hear from political parties in Alberta (that I am not hearing now):
  • "Who cares what the other parties are doing? Here is what we are doing."
  • "Here is our plan for what we think would would work."
  • "Here are our expense reports, so you can judge for yourself prior to the election if we are trustworthy."
  • "Here is how we would do this specific situation differently."
  • "We can't promise that our promises can be implemented, but we will try."
  • "We trust you, the voter, to make an informed choice."
Do not assume that a scandal is all it will take for me to vote for the "other."  With so many voices whispering in my ear, telling me who is right and who is wrong, my vote will be made in the silence of my own thoughts and observations, based on sound policy and bold vision.

21 March 2014

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right: An Alberta Tale

There is an old song by the group 'Stealers Wheels' that pretty much sums up the reality of politics for moderates (like myself) in Alberta. Here is a small part of the lyric of Stuck In The Middle With You:

It's so hard to keep this smile from my face,
Losing control, yeah, I'm all over the place,
Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

This week in Alberta, Premier Alison Redford was forced out resigned after two-years at the helm. Now granted, much of this was brought on by herself. For a woman who is probably the smartest person we have elected to the throne as Premier, she sure had an optics problem. There is no easy way to justify some of the decisions she made, in either spending, how she conducted herself, or who she surrounded herself. It's sad really, because she did do some good things - most notably taking an aggressive stance to fix the post-boom/Klein-era cuts that created a major infrastructure deficit. But it was clear she needed to go. You can't have the perception of the air of entitlement, even if other leaders in this country are just as bad or worse. If she (or us for that matter) walks away with one lesson, it's to make sure you have an effective crisis management strategy. 

Well you started out with nothing,
And you're proud that you're a self made (wo)man,
And your friend, they all come crawlin',
Slap you on the back and say, 

Now some might say that maybe the problem is with the Progressive Conservative of Alberta Party. They are a dinosaur party that has run it's course after 43 years of uncontested rule. Hogwash. They were elected for 43+ years because they effectively adjusted their strategy of governing to match the prevailing wind currents. When we needed growth, they provided growth. When we needed fiscal restraint, they provided fiscal restraint. And so the cycle goes. 

A good party of any persuasion is a better one if they adjust their policies to match the reality, even if it goes against ideology. A tough pill to swallow, but all the leaders of all the parties in Alberta know that. To promise they won't adjust their ideology to the situation is complete bullshit. An NDP government can't install socialist programs when the price of dinosaur farts goes down. The WRP can't push an assertive socialist ideology in a province as diverse as ours. All any party can do is move the province a little to the right and a little to the left....by mere millimetres. 

If the PC's loses the Wildrose, it better be because the WRP offered a better solution, not because they were simply the "best alternative." But the proof will be in the policy pudding. The "pin-the-tail-on-Alison" game is over. 2016 is a long way off, and they better make the best of that short window. 

So what is the problem you ask?

The problem with Alberta is that you have clowns to the left, and jokers to the right. 

Somewhere along the way in this province, you had politicians, both in government and opposition, who thought it was cool to pit people against each other. It wasn't obvious at first. It starts with passing legislation or spending decisions that pits urban vs. rural communities against each other. It's the 15-second sound bites that paint one side or one party or one person as "evil" and the other "good."  It's making broad generalisations that we are all Martha's and Henry's, when in fact, few of us can relate to the lifestyle of said characters. 

It's parties letting their base get nasty with the other side, on their behalf, and not intervening to tell them to tone it down. Or even worse, egging them on. Then the very next day, doing "selfies" with the "enemy", smiles and wine all around. 

It's people, rightly or wrongly, defining what it means to be a big or little "C" Conservative or a big or little "L" liberal. It's people who pick on each other because they aren't their brand of "C" or "L." 

It's people using social media or the actual media to promote their own profiles/beliefs/agenda's, but then take no responsibility because they are merely "engaged citizens", regardless of how accurate their allegations are. 

What baffles me is about the whole Redford affair is that the expense records have been posted for many, many, many, months. I knew about them. One lazy Saturday in the summer, I stumbled across many of those records. But I had nothing to benefit from exposing them? First off, I didn't know the context of the trip. Did the ends justify the means? Secondly, it's not my job to do the footwork for the media in this province. Third, what are my expectations for a leader or an associate-level staff. Is it reasonable to expect someone of that calibre to stay at the Hotel 8 or eat at McDonald's, or fly economy?

I don't have the answers to that, because I didn't know enough about the context. I sure as hell wasn't going to put my reputation on the line on allegations without context.

So here we are, once again facing a leadership contest. Perhaps what is needed is a citizen expectation review.

In the meantime, as a moderate, I'm just going to sit back and watch. And think. And come to my own decision. Because I have clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right and:

I'm stuck in the middle with you.