Relative Advantages at Risk

Like many, I watched both the Canadian and U.S. political debates last week. And like many I shook my head at the shameless pursuit of these potential leaders to get their media sound bites, as opposed to the much needed presentations of progressive economic, environmental and social policies that will advance our respective nations.

In Canada, I blame that on the debate format that allowed for multiple microphones to be on at the same time. In America, I blame that on the presence of Donald Trump.

But as the various caricatures struggled for air time, one thing became incredibly obvious:

Canada’s opposition leaders are on a path to creating an uncompetitive, bureaucratic, socialist state while opposition leaders in the United States are passionately committed to making the American economy the most entrepreneurial, innovative and competitive economy in the world.

And this should concern Canadians.

It should concern us because the advantages Canada has built up during the Obama Administration are at risk, and at risk of reversing rather quickly.

Advantages are relative. And, just as Canada has been successful in the attraction of business, people and investment relative to the U.S. over the past eight years as the Obama Administration was increasing debt, deficits, taxes and bureaucracy … we risk losing our advantage if we start doing the same.

For me, there are only three ballot questions:

  • Do we want to be a high-tax or a low-tax jurisdiction?
  • Do we want big government or small government?
  • Do we want to be a social welfare nation or a globally competitive nation?

I don’t advocate for any one political party – they all have their faults – but I do love my country and all of her potential. We have the world’s second largest land mass with a well-educated and peaceful population and an economy that is inter-connected and inter-dependent from coast to coast. We have the strongest banking system on the globe and a quality of life that ranks us consistently among the Top 5 nations, and consistently considered the most desirable country in the world.

Yes, we have massive work to be done in the areas of Indigenous rights, environmental stewardship, infrastructure investment in our cities and safe energy production and distribution. But, these next steps in Canada’s evolution can only be done on the back of a strong economy where Canadians are all productively working with small, medium and large scale competitive companies and on projects that will build a stronger nation.

From what I saw at the debate the other night, the Canadian opposition leaders are enamored with the Obama Administration, while the American leadership hopefuls are enamored with what we currently have in Canada.

America needs change.

In Canada, we should be seeking improvement … not change.

Entrepreneurs Matter

Becoming an entrepreneur and starting a business completely changed my life. At first, it was a quest for independence and freedom … to move away from working for someone else, to take the risk, to see if I could do it on my own. But the reasons I continued ran much deeper … reasons that motivate so many business owners each and every day … reasons I respect so very, very much.

Today, in a world where many students are taught that business and capitalism are fundamentally based on the pursuit of greed, selfishness, exploitation and profit maximization … there is a need to re-introduce and re-romanticize today’s entrepreneur … the lifeblood of our communities and our economies.

Entrepreneurs start things. They try things. They see the world as a system full of gaps, of opportunities, and they set out to solve those problems by envisioning something better. They set out on a wonderful journey of purpose, adventure, risk and creativity … not to maximize profits and greed … but to see if what they imagined is, in fact, possible.

That is what fuels the hearts of entrepreneurs.

They envision new ways to deliver groceries and advanced drill bits to work in extreme climates. They suggest better ways for dentists to serve the poor and they improve the ways 3rd world countries filtrate drinking water. They imagine new video games for disinterested teens and they design new vaccines for impoverished children. They also start shoe stores and daycares and construction companies and cafes and corner stores.

Entrepreneurs Matter.

Entrepreneurs not only solve some of our most difficult challenges, but they also sign the paychecks that feed, clothe and shelter 78% of our local families. They not only represent the largest contributors to charities and non-profits, but their pursuit of free enterprise innovation and social cooperation has also led to unprecedented prosperity for humanity.

Over the past two centuries, free enterprise entrepreneurs have brought extraordinary economic growth and prosperity to hundreds of millions of people around the world. Extreme poverty has declined from 85% of the world’s population to 16%. The undernourished population has declined by 50%. Average income per capita has increased 1000x, with only 5% of that population living in North America. Sanitation, medicine and agricultural productivity have progressed to maintain a world population that has grown from 1 billion to 7 billion. 84% of the world can now read. And average life expectancy has increased from 36 years to an astonishing 86 years.

Our world is far from perfect … we have much more to improve … but we also need to appreciate the progress that has been made.

Governments didn’t accomplish these feats … entrepreneurs did. They innovated. They experimented. They took risks. They tried new things. And guess what? When their solutions worked and people derived value, their businesses grew and became profitable … which allowed them to invest in more ideas, create a broader vision, pay more taxes and extend their solutions to new markets.

That’s what changes our world. That’s what improves our communities.

That’s what matters.

So, as we move forward and continue progress on environmental, inequality, health care, animal welfare, and other global challenges …. let’s let entrepreneurs continue to be the lifeblood of innovation, our communities and our economy …. and let’s not turn them into the lifeblood of government.

Wanted: 100 of Alberta’s Best

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Wanted: Over One Hundred of Alberta’s Best Leaders

Role: Dynamic team member responsible for building a better province.

Requirements: Abundance of ideas, strategies, policy capacity, courage, accountability, transparency and urgency.

Reward: Basic pay, limited bonus and tremendous significance.

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They may not contain the same words, but Government of Alberta job postings like the above will be plentiful over the next 6-12 months, and I’d like to encourage many of our best and brightest to take a serious look, take a risk and step forward.

After 20 years working in the private sector, I took a risk, I took the challenge, and I became part of a team with the vision of transforming EEDC into a market-facing organization responsible for helping build a great city.

And nothing has been more rewarding.

The change came with responsibility. It came with accountability. And it came with a deep sense of purpose … three things that are desperately needed in our public service.

Today, our province needs to undergo the same leadership, management, professionalism and cultural transformation, and it will require a new generation of leaders and future leaders to be part of the journey.

Alberta will need you to step forward … in public service … to build a better province.

If you are stalling in your career, looking to make a contribution, wanting to leave your mark, or seeking a sense of purpose … I encourage you to take a similar risk and help accelerate our great province towards our potential.

I’ve never regretted a day in my role, and I love implementing the change that is needed.

When opportunity comes calling … which it will … I encourage you to step up and be bold.

Some of our best people are needed.

The King is Dead; Long Live the Queen

The grumpiness is deafening. The astonishment is mind-numbing. And the continued entitlement is unbelievable. No different than the morning after Iveson was elected as Mayor, no different than when snowboards were first allowed on ski hills, and no different than when women were finally allowed in the spike bar at the Mayfair.

Gasp! This place is going to hell and these young folks don’t have a clue how to run this place.

Welcome to the new Alberta. Average age, 36.

The new Alberta has come off being the strongest economic region in North America for the past ten years and a lot of people have made a lot of money – which is a good thing. We’ve been the lowest tax jurisdiction in North America, with a royalty structure that has promoted investment and the development of our resources at an unprecedented rate.

But that same policy environment has created a hyper-inflated economy when oil prices are high and a deficit-debilitated budget when prices are low – which has been confirmed through two economic summits as a bad thing. So if citizens, business leaders and economists all want to have a more balanced approach to growth and development going forward, then looking at incremental changes to these taxation and royalty policies is certainly not incomprehensible.

It just really upsets those who are used to getting their way.

Enter Kevin O’Leary, with his made-for-reality-TV personality, shouting fears that Alberta will be dragged into the abyss, will be filled with unions, and will be brought to its knees because it voted in the NDP.

While his blue suit and sharp tongue work on network TV, he embarrassingly proves himself and other crony colleagues out of touch with the fact that our resource assets remain incredibly valuable, our carpenters, electricians, plumbers, nurses, boilermakers and other unions are not invading, and we have a long history of never, ever, being brought to our knees.

The change in government was not some freak event. Over 72% of Alberta voters expressed their desire for change, expressed who they are and expressed what matters most to them – things like good governance, sustainable growth, fiscal management, transparency, and engagement.

Alberta still represents the same abundance of opportunity. And like any good company, the shareholders have expressed their desire to make incremental changes along with a restructuring to the board, in hopes of creating more value. In short, they lost confidence in the King, and they elected the new Queen. The grumpy guys may not like it, but all the rhetoric in the world won’t change a thing. It’s time now to pull together, make the necessary changes, and continue to be the highest performing economic region in North America for the next 20 years.

What Happens Next Matters

People ask me what I’m hoping for as a result of this election and I say “an effective opposition.”

By late Tuesday night, Albertans will have chosen 87 Members of our Legislative Assembly that will form government from a blend of different colors and from an assortment of different backgrounds. Collectively, they are charged with representing the needs and aspirations of all Albertans – from north and south, urban and rural, rich and poor, old and young. They are charged with serving the needs of their constituents. And they are charged with leaving our province in better shape than it is in today.

And, the next five years must be a lot better than the last five years.

Whatever the party colors, and however many the number of seats, it is time for this province to shed its monopolistic ways and start governing itself with a renewed sense of character, respect and service.

And the world is watching.

On Wednesday morning, no matter who has been elected, our MLAs need to agree that the past does not represent our potential, and that our potential is so much more. We can argue and debate issues in healthy ways, but they should be issues of relevance to the future of this province, and not the minutia that we have been debating in recent times.

Alberta is young, but it is growing up fast, and it needs to shed its childish ways and start making progress on topics of significance, topics like: Governance, Aboriginal Treaty Rights, Healthcare Innovation, Cities as Economic Drivers, Mental Health & Addiction, Gender Inequality, High-Performance Bureaucracy, Long-Term Commitment to Education and Citizen Engagement.

Governments always need to always be held to account, and not just by the media. For progress to occur, we need to shift from power to accountability and from authority to stewardship.

We need the best possible MLAs to be elected, and we need an effective opposition. It’s what they do next that matters most.

Please remember to vote tomorrow – May 5th.

This is your province. Let’s leave it a better place than we inherited it.