WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND would want to be premier?
We don’t want the job. And we’re not looking to be coaxed.
Donna served as a Progressive Conservative and for a spell, a provincial cabinet minister in the Redford Administration. It didn’t end well—for her or the party—it’s not an experience one quickly forgets or shrugs off as ‘this time it will be different’.
Don says he would make a terrible politician. That’s why he only flirted with the notion (as a Green federal candidate, yes… a ‘green’) and soon realized he had made a horrible mistake. Smartly, he backed out of the nomination. Linda Duncan, a fresh face in 2008, handily won the riding for the federal New Democrats.
The rest is history.
POLITICS IS A MUG’S GAME
Being a political leader in difficult times may as well be a curse. If you need to be loved don’t apply. Mind you, the wrong people for all the wrong reasons have been known to want to sit in the wrong chair—a pathology—no matter how foul the political weather.
If you’re not easily led, how do you recognize a good leader when you meet one or two?
Everybody seemed to like Ralph Klein. Most folks felt they were on a first-name basis with the premier. From the perspective of where our province sits today, the parade of opportunities missed, and all the rest of the carping you hear, how smart was that?
Then there’s Angela Merkel, the German stoic, a leader who pragmatically tried to step away from the job, but finds herself trapped. She serves as a cornerstone of leadership in a very troubled European Union and can’t retire.
Would it be a good guess to think members currently elected to the provincial legislature are just as frazzled as everyone else in a pandemic state of mind? And if they’re not making stuff up as they go along, who is writing the script? Would it be useful to know what informs the decisions you & your progeny will have to live with?
Alberta has a triple whammy on its dance-card—a shattered economy, a health pandemic, and an orchestrated hostility to our petroleum products—the stakes have never been higher in a hundred years.
This is not the time for partisan politicians who reject on principle, everything except their own ideas (or lack thereof) during a crisis.
We intend to be useful.
Our job is to shed light on how decisions get made no matter who makes them. If there’s a whisper of manipulation—by charm, baffle-gab, statistical tricks, parti pris ingenuity, dynamic inaction, whatever—we’re going to point that out.
And if we see something that’s got legs, we’re going to be just as loud about good ideas as we have been about things that have staggered around punch-drunk stupid (the tone-deaf antics of the province’s health minister comes to mind).
LEARNING FROM OUR POLITICAL HISTORY
Premier Peter Lougheed set aside Saturday morning to phone people across the province, checking their pulse on issues they cared about. This was smart politics back then, as much as it is smart period.
Jason Kenney, meantime, kind of echoes his predecessor and appoints blue ribbon advisory panels, independent enquiries, and experts: the MacKinnon panel, the Steve Allan inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns, the Fair Deal Panel, the Jack Mintz/Stephen Harper led Economic Recovery Council. And, most recently, country-music icon Paul Brandt leading the Alberta task force against human trafficking.
None of this is very useful now.
None of it.
A brief listen to callers to ‘open line’ radio shows says as much.
SMALL GESTURES MATTER
Right now, it’s the small gestures that make a difference.
A culling of the cultural sector in Alberta during this pandemic may have been necessary, but couldn’t the UCP government have allowed a process where the sector got to decide for itself how to make things smaller (like they’re doing in Quebec)?
It’s questionable and perhaps fiscally responsible to shutter tiny parks in the middle of nowhere (translation: nowhere near Edmonton or Calgary) but why do this at a time when Albertans are being encouraged to stay home and vacation in the province? Would it have been smarter—politically—to mirror the free public transit policy in the capital city and make the campgrounds free-of-charge during the pandemic?
And in the time before COVID-19, what is to be made now of cuts to the extremely modest funding once bequeathed to the tech sector? Does that not chase away the very people who can invent a digital future with Alberta in it? The current government behaves like it could give two shits about anything not squirting out of the ground and into pipes that will likely ramp up to a brick wall.
A double negative.
Donna has no desire to be premier. And Don couldn’t because he’s unelectable.
Decisions being made in the Alberta Legislature, regardless, must be questioned (or sent back to the kitchen). Mainstream journalism (what little remains of it) is either under-resourced or too timid to ask the really tough questions for fear of being cut out of the loop and therefore have nothing to fill the news-cycle.
We don’t scare easy.
The UCP government backstopped the Keystone XL pipeline with massive public subsidy—your money. And affirmed those billions and billions of dollars with a press release saying it doesn’t matter that Joe Biden, the Democrat’s heir apparent for the president’s job says, when elected, there’s no way our miracle pipeline will ever cross the 49th parallel.
Go Trump Go! That’s what’s inferred by the Alberta government’s press release.
And should there be a second term for a president who is unabashedly America First, and has shown Canadians what that actually means during a crisis, well…how smart is that press release?
And about the ND: you folks aren’t getting a pass either. Where, oh where is an original idea that’s not a knockoff of some green pipe dream? Or some education hokum that makes sense to nobody outside of a teachers’ convention. Or just about anything else you’ve imported from socialist space without so much as a thought as how it will land here in the (former) Petroleum Paradise.
LOOKOUT FOR WHATEVER WORKS
Pre-COVID-19, it was easy to be unaware of each another, even people in your own neighbourhood. The coronavirus has created space for collaboration. Kids are biking and playing on the streets and the whole neighbourhood is keeping an eye out for them. It’s the same with adults. Now, we’re noticing people with a lot of expertise right here in our own territory, and thankfully, many of these people are still here. We simply need to invite individuals to act.
We’re not looking for a political party nor to create a new one. We’re not obsessing about process.
We’re watching for anything that can work in Alberta.
Times ahead are going to be tough (our challenges are far greater being a land-locked territory) and we must work together, even when we hate each other.
We would rather build something here than give up or play victim. We’ve built out Alberta before when the pathway forward hasn’t been obvious.
Perhaps the future of decision-making will be different; politicians may even turn over some key decisions to artificial intelligence (where Alberta scientists have a leg up in the world). But right now, we’re still in the early days of the pandemic and we need to get our act together.
No squawking. It’s not business as usual.
This time it really is different.
This column is the consensus opinion of the writers Donna Kennedy-Glans & Don Hill. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to BEYOND POLARITY — scroll down on your phone or tablet, or look to the right in the panel beside this post. Enter your email to FOLLOW, a wheel spins, hamsters get fed.