In many ways, this blog serves as a public archive of my journey through and the evolution of my beliefs about politics and democracy since January 2005. Rather than a disclaimer, an informer is posted in the sidebar to your right:
…my thoughts and opinions change from time to time. I consider this a necessary consequence of having an open mind. This blog is intended to provide a semi-permanent point in time snapshot and manifestation of the various ideas running around my brain, and as such any thoughts and opinions expressed within out-of-date posts may not the same, nor even similar, to those I may hold today.
Re-reading my posts over the past year will give a reader an understanding of how my reflections on politics and democracy have evolved. The intent of this post is not be prophetically deep, but sensibly reflective of my experiences and how they have shaped my current feelings towards politics and democracy.
I attended the annual Alberta Liberal Party convention last
December October. The Liberal Party was in the midst of a leadership contest, but was only able to attract around 200 supporters to its convention. It was my experience that many of the party members and delegates held a deep bitterness towards the governing Progressive Conservatives and towards the Albertans that voted for them. I may not have liked the outcome of the last election, but I trust Albertans and believe that they are intelligent enough to understand and make decisions. I worked hard for that party in the past, but it was during that convention that I came to the realization that in many ways I had outgrown the Liberal Party.
I am tired of negativity in politics. I love my province and have no patience to be involved in any political organization that thrives off undertones of negativity. At the convention last December and since, I do not see a political party in Alberta that fits this qualification. That is why I left the Liberal Party and have not renewed my membership since.
I have wandered since leaving party politics, I have talked about politics and democracy with many people over the past year, and I have observed that while our politicians continue to focus on the spectrum of left-right politics to define themselves, their parties, and their opponents, it is a fairly insular idea. I am guilty of writing about politics in the left- or right- context, but with all the current political parties floating in what they perceive as “the middle” of the political spectrum, I wonder if the concept is as outdated as the Berlin Wall.
Nothing big has happened without the risk of failure. The risks of not doing something are greater.
This weekend’s Reboot Alberta meeting in Red Deer was exciting. Around 100 participants travelled from all the corners of the province – and represented a diverse range of Albertans from vast agricultural- and forestry-based rural areas, villages, towns, and small and large cities.
I am a proud Albertan. In the 1890s, my family followed an Oblate priest from Quebec and settled near Morinville (Alberta was still part of the North West Territories at the time). They worked hard, against many odds, to help build their community. Skip forward one hundred and thirteen years later and I am a third generation Albertan. It is my home. But as proud as I am of being an Albertan, I am less proud of how our leaders have handled important issues like the development of the oil sands, the social issues in Bill 44, and basic issues of integrity in governance.
One very wise man stood up and talked about wanting to feel proud of being an Albertan again and how he did not that currently. This pride was not a boastful or arrogant pride but simply the pride of feeling good about doing the right things and doing them well. He noted that the conversations that had taken place at Reboot were about possibility, not just about problems. He urged us to accept responsibility for what is and resist the urge to blame the government. We are the government. We must not feel victimized, fatalistic, hopeless or unable to act. Instead by accepting our responsibility, our culpability for the current state of affairs, we take the first step towards making the change. He marvelled at the increased sense of ownership in the room and the powerful authentic connections.
I am a progressive. A number of discussions last weekend focused on what it meant to be a “progressive” in Alberta. While it is easy to fall into the trap of pigeon holing “progressive” as “lefty,” this would not be an accurate description of the real conversations that happened. When asked to define “progressive,” the three words I heard that resonated strongly with me were: adaptability, understanding, and interconnectivity.
One of the main characteristics of Reboot Alberta that really struck me was the positive and respectful tone of the debate over the weekend. In a room filled with 100 type-A personalities, no egos dominated the discussion, no ideology dominated the room, and there was a willingness to listen and consider other points of view. Participants were honest about the challenges facing our province, but little of any discussion dwelled on the negative. The conversations focused on the solutions, and how to turn thoughts into action. This is a tone that I would like to see set for the politics of my home province.
I have written a lot about the need for a new political movement, and at times I have wavered in whether or not this is the best idea. There are still questions, but a new movement is emerging. It exists through the participation of citizen in open discussions like ChangeCamp, CivicCamp, and Reboot Alberta. It is open source democracy, a new way of participation in civic society.
Opinions at Reboot Alberta were diverse, but there was a clear belief by the majority of participants that our current political parties are not fulfilling the potential of this province. There were differences in terms of the solutions offered, some wanting to work within the current structure, some interested in working outside of it, and some who believed that a new political movement needs to be formed (like the folks involved with Renew Alberta).
On December 15, 2008, I wrote that I was:
…a politically engaged and frustrated Albertan who is looking to become involved in 1) an organization that is serious about engaging and challenging Albertans to be better citizens, and 2) a viable and competitive alternative to the current governing party.
There were many participants at Reboot Alberta who sincerely expressed and seriously discussed their desire to help create a movement that embodies these two characteristics. If something new and meaningful can be created from of the positive and creative energy of the participants who attended this weekend, I want to be there and help make it happen.