April 7th: Intervention Day

After four days in Quebec City, I’ve returned with a renewed sense of confidence about Alberta. Yes, I stepped in many puddles because I was riveted by the twitter feed surrounding the resignation of our Premier while walking the streets of Old Quebec. Yes, I was fascinated with how the soon-to-be wannabes started to position themselves for an upcoming leadership race. And yes, I watched as the opposition, media and self-proclaimed journalists licked their lips as fresh blood lingered in the air.

But when I step back and reflect on the tragedy of last week in Alberta, and compare it to the multi-generational calamity in Quebec, I remain conflicted with the fact that Alberta is repositioning for a prosperous future while Quebec is degenerating toward isolated antiquity.

The relentless quest for independence by the Parti Quebecois (PQ) continues to spread the idealism of blind hope and fiscal denial across a province that has such great potential for reinvention. But for 30+ years the province has held onto a strategy of rural tradition, political intimidation and backroom corruption that has led to a culture of dependency and economic decay.

The status quo can go on no more.

The youth in Quebec will soon rise up and demand a new world of openness, acceptance, tolerance, connectedness and transparency … a new world of opportunity. These will not be rallies for independence; rather, they will be upheavals of the old guard and generational mistrust. Today’s youth is activated: they will not be kept down; they will not be blindly led; and they will no longer be sacrificed for political gain. We witnessed it in the student rallies of 2012 and we are seeing it again in the resurgence of the Quebec Liberal Party.

As I walked through the narrow cobblestone streets of la Belle Province, I could feel the retrenchment of the PQ leadership in the air … its quest to campaign on fear … fear of population growth, multiculturalism, expressions of religion, inclusion of new voters, economic realities and the fear of discussion on the future for today’s youth.

The quest for independence will soon come to an end.

It is time for an intervention, and it will come on April 7th. Surrounded by an abundance of natural resources and beauty, it is time that for the youth to take control of the future of Quebec and start the new quest forward.

Back in Alberta, we will do our part to build a strong country through the building of strong provinces. Regardless of location, let’s ensure a culture of entitlement and dependency is never allowed to flourish across Canada.

Time to Move Forward

Many people may disagree. That’s perfectly okay.

This blog is for the optimists, the idealists, the innovators and the romantics. It is for those searching for new solutions and for those who always strive to make things better. It is for the doers, not the talkers. It is for those who want to help; rather than for those who sit and complain – the critics.

On April 23rd, 2012 the Progressive Conservatives won their 12th majority government, winning 61 of the 87 seats across the province. It was a compelling mandate towards a progressive Alberta with a renewed focus on making our two major cities – Edmonton and Calgary – into strong, vibrant metropolitan magnets for thousands of new Albertans. The internal vision centered on culture, public transit, education, and compassion while the external efforts focused on repositioning our brand amidst growing global pressure to restrict our growth.

That was the vision that we elected, and I believe it was the right vision for our province.

The 18 months that have followed have been mired in controversy and missteps. And there have been plenty of issues that have given people cause to be upset and disheartened. I have shaken my head on issues of political interference, precipitous legislation and cavalier budget cuts, and there were many things that gave reason to hold certain Ministers to account.

So on Friday, the Premier took action and shuffled the cabinet, and I compliment her on the decisions made. To many it didn’t seem like a big shuffle, but the changes were made like a precision surgery.

Dave Hancock as Deputy Premier and Minister of Advanced Education and Innovation will return leadership and vision to the foundation of our economy, while recognizing the need for policy capacity and intellect at the senior Minister position;

Doug Horner as President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance will ensure much needed continuity and accountability to the fiscal plan set forth;

Diana McQueen as the Minister of Energy will bring thoughtful determination to energy policy that is grounded in technology and sustainability;

Manmeet Bhullar as Minister of Human Services will bring discipline and caring to a portfolio of services that needs to protect those in need and of those being left behind;

Ken Hughes as Minister of Municipal Affairs will bring a consultative respect for the differences between our large and small municipalities and an urgency in addressing regional cooperation for us to truly move forward together;

Doug Griffiths as Minister of Service Alberta will accelerate the speed of rural connectivity and the speed of eGovernment such that our institutions do not become anchors to achieving our potential; and

Robin Campbell as Minister of Environment & Sustainable Resource Development will bring an acute understanding of how we need to live with the consequences of our growth.

These, along with those staying in portfolio, are a committed group of people now leading some of our most important ministries, and we all have a choice: Are we going to support them and help move our province forward, or are we going to spend the next 2.5 years buried in cynicism, apathy and resignation?

I submit that the opportunities and risks in front of us are far too significant to let the next 2.5 years pass hoping that some balanced alternative emerges. We have work that needs to start today, not in 2016, and from my perspective there is much work to be done:

• As pipelines move toward approval, we need to start planning for the massive infrastructure projects that will immediately follow;

• As our GDP continues to expand at twice the rate as the rest of the country, we need to prepare ourselves for 150,000 new Albertans, with 40,000 coming to the Edmonton region;

• As the world continues to challenge our social license to develop the oil sands, we need to liberate it as a platform for invention within a well-functioning innovation system;

• As more people, materials and goods move across traditional boundaries, we need regional cooperation that equitably shares both burdens and gains to the system;

• As a larger population becomes dependent on education, healthcare and social supports, we need a revenue model that provides stability and long-term planning;

• As our cost of healthcare balloons at an unsustainable rate, we need to embrace innovation and delivery options that allow generations to come to afford a similar level of high-quality care; and

• As our major cities become the major economic drivers of the economy, we need to redefine what is delivered centrally versus locally within a new municipal funding structure.

Time is ticking away. Everyday. And frankly, we cannot wait for 2.5 years to pass in order for some new government to emerge and suddenly solve all these “simplistic” challenges. The work needs to start today, and I encourage us all to shift our energy from critic to contribution.

I said at the beginning that many may disagree. That’s perfectly okay.

There is work to be done.

But if we want to compete globally, we cannot wait.

Building and/or Re-Building

There is a big blue Alberta flag that flies proudly in front of my house. There aren’t too many around, so this one seems to stand out. The big blue skies, snow-capped mountains, rolling hills, rushing rivers and vast wheat fields … such resilient history; much uncharted potential.

Our ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys, booms and busts have always challenged us … while our obstinance, optimism, defiance and tenacity have continually defined us. Through drought, flood, tornado, avalanche, blizzard, epidemic, landslide, hail, beetle and wildfire … we have always survived, always carried on … always will.

What I love about this province is that when disaster happens, we respond as if it was family and we pitch in to help as best we can. Firefighters head to Slave Lake to combat the flames while volunteers flock to Calgary to help clean up – each a unique act of kindness; all defining moments that unite our province.

Amidst endless effort to pit north against south and urban against rural, these unforeseen events and heartwarming responses are often the things that bring us closer together as Albertans. They allow us to build the Alberta brand – one of resilience, generosity, compassion, and collective responsibility – and they force us to drive through crisis while never losing sight of the provincial vision.

Over the past 30 days, southern Alberta has been devastated by one of these unforeseen events, and both the government and the people of Alberta have responded with the utmost resolve and compassion. An unbelievable outpouring of support … or actually … an unprecedented outpouring of support. So unprecedented, in fact, that it has changed the provincial vision and discourse from “Building Alberta” to “Re-Building Southern Alberta” which unfortunately now has the potential to undo the very things that have brought us closer together.

In times when the government is reacting with as much foresight and grace as possible, it is important that we respond as opposed to react … or over-react … to the fear that all focus has now shifted to the south. Our elected officials are tasked with governing the whole province, and in times of unforeseen crisis they know the importance of building the economic engine in the north while they figure out the policies and programs needed to help re-build the south.

As the headlines, blogs, talk-shows and tweets start to take shots at our provincial leaders who have worked relentlessly to restore the fundamentals, I hope all Albertans take a moment to appreciate our history of hardship and resilience, and our brand that is grounded in empathy and survival.