Posts Tagged ‘Political Culture’

A New Party

April 15, 2010

I am interested in the emergence of any new party on the provincial political scene.  We have two recent examples, although neither is, technically, new.  And, indeed, I am not interested in a “new” party in the sense of it being most recent to register.  Both the Wild Rose Party and the Alberta Party have been around for some time.

On the basis of what I know of their work so far, the Wild Rose Party seems to be aiming for a position that could be described as the most sophisticated expression of the old way of doing politics.

There seems to be a widespread public agreement that Danielle Smith is the most charismatic of the current party leaders:  perhaps she has the best chance of being the next paramount leader.  But what happens if Albertans are becoming disaffected by charismatic leaders?  What happens if Albertans are moving toward a preference for servant leaders?

The Wild Rose Party is moving quickly to create policy review committees, made up of experts and insiders.  But what happens if Albertans are becoming disaffected by decisions made inside a black box and then presented to the public as received wisdom?  What happens if Albertans are moving toward a preference for public policy created by the public in a public process.

Personally, I am looking for a party that has a new model of self-government and representative democracy.  I am looking for a party that has a new model of the relationship between Cabinet and the Legislative Assembly, and a new model of the role of M.L.A.s.  I am looking for a party that has a new model of openness, and accountability.  I am looking for a party that has a new model of the relationship between the provincial government and local governments — both municipal and school.  I am looking for a new party that has a new model of justice, and equity, and collaboration, and community, and sustainability, and the list goes on.

When the next election rolls around, I know that one of my options will be a “new” party representing the most sophisticated expression of the old way of doing politics.  I hope that another one of my options will be a “new” party that represents a sincere — perhaps imperfect — expression of the emerging potential of self-government and democracy.

Democracy — Challenges for Alberta

February 21, 2010

On the matter of democracy, Alberta faces some exciting challenges.  There is a wider and increasing awareness that our democratic practices are very imperfect, and need to be improved.  There is an increasing expectation that democracy needs to function better than it does.  There is frustration with the current political culture in Alberta, and a willingness — even a determination — to change the political culture and practices.

All of this seems to reflect a growing realization that democracy in Alberta — and elsewhere — is an unfinished revolution.

We need to attend to three essentials.

The First Essential

We need to absorb the truth that democracy is self-government.  Democracy is a system of self-government in which everyone, first of all, has the right and the responsibility to participate in making the rules about self-government, and the rules protect the minority.  Sovereignty originates with the people, who grant it to the government.  Democratic governments are not a party to the social contract; they are the product of the social contract.  Leaders and representatives are servant leaders:  they are not paramount leaders.

It would be wise to consider limiting the power of parties, and party leaders.  It would be wise to consider giving the electorate more frequent opportunities to be directly involved in decisions, and a better means of controlling rogue representatives.  It would be wise to consider different forms of voting.

The Second Essential

We must reject the politics of fear and adopt the politics of hope.  We need to reject the politics of confrontation and intimidation, and adopt the politics of collaboration.  We need to reject consumer politics and adopt the politics of participation.

It would be wise to consider how to make government more transparent.

The Third Essential

We must decide what we mean by community, and whether our decision-making community varies depending upon the political decision to be made.

I remember seeing a large billboard near Claresholm.  It read:  “Less Ottawa; more Alberta.”  A confusing message.  Does the sponsor mean “less Ottawa; more Edmonton”, or “less Ottawa; more local decision-making — in Claresholm, or in Calgary”?

It would be wise to consider how much decision-making should be made in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and in provincial government departments, and how much should be made in the local community, by municipal councils and school boards.  It would be wise to consider revenue sharing, so that local government has the resources to effect the decisions made locally.

As a new member of the Board of Directors of the Alberta Party, I look forward to the Big Listen.

Reboot Alberta

November 26, 2009

Tomorrow, and through the weekend, about 85 Albertans, from communities throughout the province, will gather in Red Deer to discuss “rebooting” — or perhaps “upgrading” — Alberta.  As one of the initiators, I have to say that the weekend will likely surprise me as much as anyone else.  I know a number of the invitees:  there are many others who are friends as yet unmet.

The event has generated a considerable amount of buzz in some circles.  But even so, it is generally unknown.  Most of the people I’ve spoken to about it have been unaware, and that hasn’t surprised me.  I talk to many people who have no apparent interest in provincial politics, or parties, or the work of elected representatives, or public policy writ large.  What has surprised me has been the number of such people who have broken out of the shell, expressed real interest in the gathering, declared their frustration, and said they expect more of themselves and their province.  People are talking about finding ways to do better, and be more, than our recent history suggests.

I go to Red Deer determined to find a new way of making progress, and determined to find other Albertans, in and beyond my current circles, who are equally — or more — determined, energetic, imaginative, inclusive, respectful, creative, collaborative, and hopeful.

I have no interest in mere opposition and confrontation, criticism, fear, intimidation, exclusion, or victimization.

I am interested in democracy, self-government, our obligation to the 7th generation.

As I read this, it seems very insubstantial.  But it isn’t.  We need to write a different story for ourselves, using different words and images.  We need a story about possibilities, not problems.  We need a story about the far horizon, not the next step.  We need to raise our standards as well as our eyes.

I expect to have my eyes opened, and raised, in Red Deer.