A few weeks ago, Alberta Party President Chris Labossiere asked if I would be interested in sharing some closing remarks to this past weekend’s policy conference. I accepted Chris’ invite and shared some closing remarks this afternoon in Red Deer. After the remarks a few people have asked if I could post my remarks on this blog, so here are the rough notes from my closing remarks.

Alberta Party Convention Closing Remarks
November 14, 2010

I want to thank Chris Labossiere for inviting me to give the closing remarks to this weekend’s conference. We have all had a long weekend and some of us have a long ride home this afternoon, so I am going to keep my closing remarks short.

When I met with Chris over breakfast to chat about the Alberta Party a few weeks ago, we spoke a lot about why we were looking for a new kind of politics. We both came from different political experiences, but we both see the need for change.

I want to share with you why I participated this weekend and why I have joined the Alberta Party.

For many years, I was involved in a different political party. I had great experiences in my previous political life and met great people, many who I consider to be close friends, but as a member I came to feel disenfranchised by both the political system and the party of which I was a member. After I let my membership in that party lapse two years ago, I was very hesitant to join any political movement.

As a politically active citizen, there were a number of things that pushed me away from the institutional parties.

To quote Bing Crosby: “You’ve got to accentuate the positive Eliminate the negative Latch on to the affirmative Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.” I found the negativity in opposition politics to be too much to stomach.

The current government is many things, but not everything they do is bad. One of the biggest problems we face is not bad leadership from our government. It’s extremely mediocre leadership from our government, which in many ways feels almost worse, because we can see the potential that is not being realized.

Alberta is a great place to live, but it could be much better. If we want to create that better Alberta, we cannot focus on the negative, on what is wrong. Let’s talk about what is right, what’s almost there, and what we can do to push it forward.

We also need to respect Albertans. We have all heard opposition candidates or leaders in the heat an election defeat call Albertans “stupid” or say “they got what they deserved” because we have elected the same governing party for the past forty years. Albertans are not stupid. When presented with a positive alternative, Albertans will consider and embrace it.

But it is not just about replacing Party A with Party B, what we need is a change in how governments operate in Alberta, we need to change the way we do politics.

This week, it was revealed that the Energy Minister has been consulting a secret council of oil sands experts. Our elected officials should always be consulting the best and the brightest in their fields, but when it comes to our most valuable natural resource, we deserve to know who is influencing our elected officials. I do not believe that the decision to hide the identities of these secret advisors to be malicious or nefarious. It is a sign of a governing party that has lost its way. A governing party who holds stakeholder meetings instead of talking with Albertans. They have forgotten how to talk with Albertans.

There is an appetite for a new kind of politics. A new kind of participatory governance. We saw it in the recent municipal elections in villages, counties, towns, and cities across Alberta. People stepped up and took the risk to challenge not only institutional candidates, but an institutional culture. A top-down institutional culture that has driven many Albertans away participating in their politics and governance. In many ways, we are all taking a similar risk.

We can see political change all around us. Our province is a different place than it was even ten years ago. Our politics has not reflected that, but it is starting to. This weekend we provided Albertans with proof that politics can change. Let’s challenge them let’s challenge the other parties to do better.

In closing, last weekend some friends and I scrambled up one of the peaks of Mount Lougheed in Kananaskis Country. It was tough and it was hard work. On our way up the mountain, we switchbacked left and right, left and right, but we kept on leaning forward up the mountain. When we reached the summit, it made me think of what a great metaphor that day was for what anyone trying to change politics in this province. It made me think of what a challenge it must have been the last time someone changed the way we do politics in this province.

As David King described in his opening remarks yesterday morning, forty years ago, it was a group of young forward thinking Albertans, led by Peter Lougheed, who changed the way we do politics in this province. When I look at the group of people here this weekend. When I think of the positive and respectful debate that I participated in this weekend, I know that it is possible that if we keep leaning forward, we can reach the top of our mountain and change politics in this province forever.