Thursday, March 31, 2011

An Integrated Action Plan for Alberta

I am passionate about Alberta and what we can achieve. But, for Alberta to be the best it can be, we have to act on what Albertans say they want. Yes, there are real solutions, and those solutions come from the people who know the most about the challenges: Our healthcare professionals, the business people, our educators, our municipal leaders, our Aboriginal communities, and our farmers. But these solutions must go beyond the next election cycle ... they must be integrated, and have a 50-year window so political opportunity does not derail them.

Here is my vision and action plan for Alberta.

Develop a Balanced Partnership with Alberta’s Energy Sector to establish Alberta as a world energy leader for the next 50 years, including immediate transition from dirty coal usage to equivalent natural gas and renewables usage for electrical generation by 2020.

Develop a 21st Century Environmental Policy on non-recycled industrial wastewater and waste fuel by 2020, with incentives for development of new technologies and early adopters.

Develop a Balanced Partnership with Corporate Alberta to establish economic priorities, and how we will meet demands for the next 50 years in Alberta.

Establishment of a 50/50 Fund for Albertans – A $50 billion fund by 2031 for the next 50 years – for the development of economically viable “Made in Alberta” industries, post-secondary education, and long-term capital infrastructure. 50% of this fund will be allocated to “Made in Alberta” industries.

Set a Goal of Full Employment by 2020. Why would we settle for less? Not some politically palatable number of 5% or 6% unemployment, but as close to rock bottom as is humanly possible. Every Albertans who wants to work, should be able to work. We must create the environment and the opportunity to turn this into a reality.

Set a Goal of a Fully Literate Alberta by 2020. Our public & separate school systems must have the very best schools, best educational infrastructure, and best qualified teachers ... with sustainable funding. This must include a significant investment in the trades.

Create a Balanced Partnership with Healthcare Professionals to establish a market-competitive employment system for medical professionals within Alberta. This includes ending the wasteful billing system currently in place. Most healthcare professionals want to be healers, not business managers. Also put in place healthcare policies with significant incentives for accomplishing health & wellness milestones (e.g., smoking cessation, diabetes reduction).

Create a Balanced Partnership with all Provincial Unions that impact Government operations in Alberta, to establish economic priorities and how we will meet demand for the next 50 years in Alberta.

Implement a Hiring Freeze in the Bureaucracy, until a full 3rd party independent audit is completed to identify systemic waste. Systemic waste is not caused by the civil service who work diligently to help Albertans; it is caused by a broken system which must be fixed. An independent 3rd-party audit of all areas will uncover financial waste.

Implement an “Alberta Empowered, Alberta First” Agricultural Policy. Strongly promote and encourage the use of agricultural products from Alberta farmers & ranchers by all Alberta institutions. Make a significant investment in “100-Mile” agriculture solutions.

Institute a "Zero Loss" of Alberta Communities Policy. Establish an “At Risk Community Inventory”. Focus on municipal revitalization and innovation. Foster less reliance on subsidization from Edmonton. Encourage, empower and enable the local level to increase reliance on local innovation.

Institute a "Zero Tolerance on Aboriginal Poverty" Policy. Ensure that all Aboriginal communities – Status / Non-Status and M├ętis – are made full partners in Alberta’s economy, and that the “tribal system” is addressed and no longer supported.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Let's Keep Our Community Schools

Dozens of community schools across Alberta are scheduled to close this year. And their communities will wither even more when they do. While budgets might suggest closing a school will help with spending and taxes, the reality is quite often the opposite.

A school is often the centrepiece of a neighborhood. A school brings fond memories and the people in a community together for concerts, sporting events, music, fundraising and community meetings involving children and adults. Schools and real neighborhoods make our cities more livable and friendly.

The limited and simple "numbers crunching" practice of removing the heart out of our communities and thinking that they will somehow magically continue to thrive and prosper is ludicrous. They will not. Such simple solutions only encourage migration to the outer reaches of a City that has already sprawled out of control. It creates "bedroom communities" without neighborhoods or real community.

It is time to revitalize our inner city communities. Closing down our community schools goes to the very heart and lifeblood of neighborhoods. It does not require courage or leadership to take the "simple" road of closing down these community schools. That is an abdication of our responsibilities to our families and neighbours. 

How do we put a value - dollars and cents - on the loss of community? Some suggest the "simple" solution of just looking at the amount spent, and deciding that it costs less to close a school when a community is in transition. Simple. And a truly false economic. It assumes a community is static and will never again thrive. Most school board members and teachers know that it just doesn't work well for the children, and not for the parents nor the community. But, funding is political and doesn't address the bigger question of "what makes a community?" That's too complicated for some politicians.

We talk about bullying in schools, yet faceless bureaucracy often comes wagging its financial finger and bullies public school boards into closing community schools, leaving no reasonable alternative.

I truly believe we can and should invest in our communities and neighborhoods, starting with properly sustainable funding of public schools, investing in the students, parents, teachers and neighborhoods. This is a complex issue, but it requires a Partnership to build the communities we want. Please join me in this partnership.

Monday, March 14, 2011

About my "Alberta Empowered, Alberta First" Agricultural Policy

I can guarantee you that the United States is not putting Canada on the plate first, nor is anyone else we trade with.

And let no one be mistaken - I am a capitalist. I do not believe in protectionism, legislated socialism, nor deep subsidies to keep markets competitive. I'm not talking about closing markets.

But, as a candidate for Leader of the Alberta Party, I do propose a provincial government strategy (under my leadership) to empower Alberta farmers so they can have the opportunity to actually get their products to markets. 

For those who insist that NAFTA stands in the way of such a policy, I respectfully disagree. If NAFTA had actually been drafted so that we would have to bypass healthy, locally grown food for cheap processed alternatives from the U.S. or elsewhere ... then I believe our current government would have a lot of explaining to do to Alberta's farmers and ranchers. I am fully aware, that in order to comply with NAFTA, we cannot legislate an Alberta Only agriculture policy. But we can choose to "Put Alberta on the Plate First". We can also stop granting carte blanche massive municipal tax incentives to big box stores. Instead, we can give tremendous incentives for choosing local Alberta agriculture over cheaper, industrialized products from elsewhere.

This is why I will argue that "cutting government out of the food supply", as proposed by some, is to say the least, very misguided. Government is and must be 100% involved in the bureaucracy of our food production, safety, supply and distribution ... but they are noticeably absent when it comes to promotion and choice. The pseudo-libertarian view, as promoted by some Alberta politicians lately, of the little fleet of local pickups trying to change the food system is simply a smokescreen for continuation of the industrialization of the food supply. They propose that it's simply a matter of keeping a few farmers' markets running and everyone will be happy. As nice as it sounds on the surface, this is just too simplistic a model.

Everyone who is involved in trying to promote a local food economy, and proponents of the "Slow Food" movement, knows beyond a shadow of a doubt - although the movement must include the determination of committed individuals willing to fight the system - that until wholesale systemic change occurs in the food chain, at best it is a naive notion that the system will change. It is in fact the adoption of "Slow Food" by various levels of government in Europe that has led to its worldwide success. The discussions will require courage and leadership ... not excuses that since government isn't handling the job, let's just go ahead and let large multi-national corporations self-regulate and tell us how it should be done.

I have met with many people throughout Alberta, far more knowledgeable in this area than I. As a result of hearing their opinions and wisdom, I will not be dissuaded from my contention that we must empower Alberta agriculture to begin the process of creatively and actively getting their products onto the tables of Albertans ... fully supported by an empowered food system in the Province that supports and empowers our local producers. We all remember the recent $3 million handout given by our current government to one of the world's largest food-processing corporations. This could have gone a long way to ensure that healthy, safe, rotationally grass-fed, grain supplemented, local abattoir processed beef made it into the cafeterias and plates of Alberta's government institutions. Instead, the Government chooses to buy cheap products, and ignores the negative impact on smaller communities.

My "Alberta Empowered, Alberta First" agricultural policy is about promoting health and wellness, and absolutely about choice.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Governance in a Mature Democracy

It is quite remarkable to me that those who would advocate the abolition or reduction of government use government to advocate for such a position. I would advise caution when evaluating such an approach.

I absolutely do not for a moment advocate "rule" but I do advocate for governance. Accountable and effective, it empowers and equips the bureaucracy to embrace efficiency and effectiveness, thereby truly supporting its citizens. Such an approach will not support systemic waste. It will not support mediocrity. It will not support "politicizing" as none of those things are truly capable of coexisting within the governance model I propose.

Fundamentally supported by the power of an engaged electorate, political leaders then must act to execute with courage and commitment the mandate given to them. Those who have ensured their election expect their leaders to serve their communities. It is in my view highly cynical that that same electorate is simply electing the candidate so that they can advocate for the termination of the very system that they would lead you to believe that they support.

Cutting government, cutting services, cutting open, constructive and courageous dialogue with all sectors of "The Alberta Partnership" is quite frankly a simpler, quicker and less accountable approach than the governance model. We have seen the disastrous effects of lack of corporate governance. We wag our collective finger at the corruption in the system. And yet with, in my mind, far more valuable matters - our health, children, seniors, families and communities - some are prepared to allow a market model to replace governance because we have been convinced it doesn't work. I disagree. It is in fact the very inattention to the system which has led to its disrepair and the fact that those inside it no longer feel empowered or equipped to work within it.

Easy answer - get rid of it, and allow an individual and corporate competitiveness model to be the "new system". Courageous answer - and the one I feel the majority of Albertans want and need from their political leaders is to fix the system by addressing its inherent redundancy, waste and in some cases mismanagement, thereby empowering and equipping the individuals within it to meet the needs of Albertans for generations to come.