Friday, April 15, 2011

I Love Alberta

For the last several months I’ve been on an incredible journey as I have sought the Leadership of The Alberta Party. I’ve met wonderful people who have great ideas – about what they want to see this Province become.

They have told me they want a long-term vision for Alberta; not just for the next election or to grab a headline, but for generations to come. They have told me they want government and leadership that will build a solid long-term plan around that vision as well. And they want political leadership to actually make it happen.

In my campaign, I have brought these issues from the majority of Albertans – rural and urban – to our Party. Those voices reflect a clearly moderate, centrist and inclusive Alberta and Canada.

I’ve also had the opportunity to recently meet with several senior members of the Alberta Party, who told me that many of my fellow Alberta Party members find it distasteful, even offensive, that I do not (in their opinion) respect the Party’s policies and philosophies by coming out with definitive statements that “put a period at the end of the sentence”. They have also suggested I should not bring up issues that have not been raised through the “Big Listen” process. I’ve been told that the Leader of our party is to simply listen, and is not to attempt to shape policy in any way.

With all due respect – If we are not prepared to “put the period at the end of the sentence” on ending Aboriginal poverty; on ending industrial wastewater and emissions; on eliminating illiteracy; on demanding stable, publicly funded healthcare and educational systems – then, yes, my campaign is clearly at odds with the philosophies and policies of The Alberta Party.

A couple of weeks ago, Jeff Blodgett (one of President Obama’s organizers) inspired us with many things, but particularly that "leaders needed to be authentic and genuine". But during the past couple of weeks I have been asked several times by Party people to “tone down” the fact that I’m an energy CEO, and to “soften” the message that I’ve been in the energy industry for 28 years. I had hoped that my energy sector knowledge would be seen as a benefit to the Party. I had hoped it would be seen as an opportunity to build bridges and help move Alberta forward into a long-term vision of energy and the environment. Instead, I’m told this is a bad image for the Party.

To be authentic and genuine, I want to make this clear (again): The energy industry needs to make positive change. It needs to change its practices with regard to industrial wastewater and emissions. It needs to continue to improve its methods of environmental response. It needs to take a long-term view of wealth creation, and long-term capital infrastructure investment for all Albertans. I was very clear on these issues during my campaign. And I also want to be clear that I am very proud to be part of the energy industry and the new generation of professionals that are determined to bring balance to that industry.

Many Albertans have asked me to make a statement on the “power line” issue. I have held off making such a statement, as it would have been definitive, and not in keeping with the Alberta Party policy process. But it needs to be definitive, particularly for a leadership candidate. This has a dramatic impact on all Albertans, as well as the energy industry. We need to take an immediate and courageous stand on this issue. But, as a Leadership Candidate for The Alberta Party I cannot make a definitive statement because, to many in the Party, this would not respect the policy process.

I want to express my sincere, heartfelt gratitude to all of you who have encouraged me in the campaign. Your support, encouragement, thoughtful and heartfelt discussions about real issues that really matter to you, your families and your communities is what always made my day.

However, I cannot continue to run a campaign that offends the Party, including some of the Board, and causes them to say I don’t respect the Party’s policies and processes.

All of my platform issues and comments have always been within the clear context of Alberta Party policies. And, to be true to myself and not hypocritical, I will continue to “put the period at the end of the sentence” with respect to poverty, illiteracy, sustainable funding of healthcare and education, wastewater and emissions, an Alberta-first agricultural strategy, and other issues. I will not, as was suggested to me by a senior Party member, “embrace the ambiguity”.

I am a moderate, centrist and inclusive Albertan. At the 61st Annual Canadian Oilmen's Executive Association Governors' Ball, which I attended a few days ago, several senior energy executives told me they found such a notion appealing. But they would only support strength, not ambiguity.

Here is my video:

I will continue my efforts strenuously to bring a moderate, centrist and inclusive long-term vision and strategy to Alberta. I have listened to Albertans, and I have heard what they’ve said. And I am prepared to act on what they tell me.

Many of you know I’m on a journey to lose 50 lbs by 2012. You’ve shared your personal stories and congratulated me. I’ve talked about it a lot, thought about it a lot, and consulted with my doctor about it. I thank all of you who’ve given me encouragement. And I haven’t lost a single pound. In fact I’ve gained a few. This morning I woke up, got on the exercise bike, and had a healthy breakfast.


Mark said...

Hi Chris,

I'm sorry to hear that you're withdrawing from the Alberta Party leadership race. I think you have a lot to bring, and I hope you'll continue to be involved in the party.

To me, this raises a larger question; to what extent should a leader place their "stamp" on a political party? It is, of course, exceedingly undemocratic for a single person, even if elected, to make the decisions about where the policy of a party stands. On the other hand, leadership is needed, because even the members of a small party will never agree on issues as wide-ranging as land use and health care. I don't have any answers to this question, and I hope the Alberta party can strike a balance between allowing the members to make decisions on policy, and leadership in crafting policy that all Albertans will find appealing.

However, if there are any Alberta Party members who think that the party can have any success without understanding the energy industry, then they need to radically re-think their position. There are certainly environmental issues that must be addressed about the industry, and we in this province need to have a debate about the long-term future of the industry and our province, and what, exactly, we want it all to look like. But I think the energy industry is here to stay, and it remains the economic engine of this province. If experience in the energy industry is bad for the party's image, then I fear it isn't a party that will connect with the many, many Albertans who work, directly and otherwise, in that industry.

I wish you luck on your next goals!

dale f galbraith said...

Hello Chris

I recently came across your leadership bid and your blog through a link from one of the many politically astute Albertan's and after reading about your dilemma, I felt compelled to ad my comment.

Although my political affiliation does not coincide with the Alberta Party, I am, non-the-less, an avid supporter of democracy as expressed through the strength and view points of all political parties.

It is under this guise that I find the response from your party executive somewhat troubling and in my opinion, represents a rather short sighted view of open democracy.

I find the reasoning for your approach to the leadership bid sound and transparent, and particularly relevant given today's seemingly dysfunction political arena particularly at the federal level.

In support of your expressed views, I would like to present an excerpt from a letter (presented in a similar situation), which emphasizes the importance of political transparency at all levels;

"I am confident you will agree that the unity and strength of any organization, more often than not, comprehensively depends on the quality and integrity of its members. As history has so often proved, there are few organizations that depend more attentively on those facts (to their success or in many cases their detriment) than those whose members unanimously form the basis of a political association, no matter their stripe."

All of us involved in political parties should continue to reflect on the "why" of our political meaning, particularly those who wish to establish a formidable Political Association.

All the best to you in your future political aspirations no matter their stripes !