Danielle Smith David Swann Doug Horner Ed Stelmach Iris Evans Norman Kwong Preston Manning Reboot Alberta

save the date: alberta politics in 2010.

New LG?: On January 20, the traditional 5-year term of Lieutenant Governor Norman Kwong will come to an end. With a lower profile than his predecessor, Lois Hole, Kwong brought a different personality to the office of Alberta’s viceroy. All of Alberta’s LGs appointed since Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne have been former attempted or elected politicians (including Helen Huntley, Gordon Towers, and Bud Olsen). If Kwong does not continue in the office I am at a loss to name who the next LG might be, but I can think of someone who might be an interesting pick.

Cabinet shuffle: Premier
Ed Stelmach is expected to shuffle the provincial cabinet early in the new year. I have laid out my thoughts here

Manning Centre: The conservative politics institute formed by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning has taken an interest in provincial politics and will be holding a ‘Conference on Alberta’s Future‘ on February 5 in Edmonton.

Speech from the Throne: This year’s Sessional Calendar has
not yet been posted on the Legislative Assembly website, but all indications point to a Speech from the Throne on the week of February 8. If a new LG is appointed in January, this will be their first high profile event.

Provincial Budget: Another tough economic times budget is expected to be tabled during the week of February 15. The Finance Minister at the time will wear this budget, whether it be Minister Iris Evans or a successor (odds are on Minister Doug Horner). Potential deep cuts to pubic health care have led some longtime PC supporters to question the longtime governing party.

Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission: The deadline for release of the interim report (including interim riding maps for the next election) is February 26 and the second round of public hearings are set to begin in April 2010. A final report will be released by July 2010.

Reboot Alberta 2.0: Following a highly successful first meeting in Red Deer in November 2009, a larger gathering of progressive Albertans is being planned for February 26 to 28 in Kananaskis. I reflected on the first Reboot Alberta meeting in early December 2009.

Alberta Liberal convention: Alberta’s Official Opposition Party will be holding their annual policy convention in Edmonton. There is not any information on their website, but I believe that it will be held in March 2010. Expect to hear more from the Liberals in the new year following David Swann‘s recent State of the Party Address.

Alberta Progressive Conservative convention: On April 30 and June 1, members of Alberta’s near 40-year governing party will gather in Edmonton. With low approval ratings and dropping party support in recent polls, expect Premier Stelmach to use the first four months of 2010 in an attempt to boost his political fortunes.

Wildrose Alliance convention: Since selecting
Danielle Smith as their leader, the Wildrose Alliance has conveniently been able to avoid answering questions about social issues under the guise of self-described libertarianism. One of Smith’s largest challenges at their 2010 policy convention will be to moderate some of the more destructive social conservative elements within her party’s membership.

Municipal Elections: Monday October 18. More to come…

ChangeCamp Edmonton David Climenhaga Reboot Alberta Renew Alberta

what will be the 21st century tidal wave?

The politics of the latter half of the 20th century were shaped by the Cold War. Communism and free-market capitalism were the tidal waves that splashed everywhere and pooled into hundreds of mini-ideologies across the world (in Alberta, this included formation of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, the United Farmers of Alberta, and Social Credit). We tend to forget our history, or accept modern day revisionism, and ignore how much our history has shaped modern day politics. Even as they gravitate their policies towards the ‘centre’ of the political spectrum, the traditional political parties in our Legislative Assembly continue to frame their debates, their ideas, and their opponents in a similar left-right context.

After attending the recent annual conventions of both the Liberal Party and New Democratic Party, I have not seen convincing evidence that the membership of either party are willing to step out of their traditionally defined comfort zones. A participant at the recent Reboot Alberta gathering in Red Deer framed it well by suggesting that when the party logos are removed from their campaign material, it becomes difficult to tell which motherhood and apple pie statement belongs to who. I see Reboot Alberta as an incubator of new progressive ideas, something that is easier to do when liberated from traditional party loyalties.

I have talked with a lot of people who have had a difficult time understanding why I have become involved in a non-party progressive group like Reboot Alberta. “Join the Liberals or NDP, Dave. Pick your side,” is a phrase I have heard a lot over the past two weeks. “Politics aren’t going to change, so join what exists” is another common response. What exists is not good enough. Unlike the delegates at the recent Liberal and NDP conventions, many of the participants at Reboot Alberta have made a commitment to contribute to the reshaping of political ideas in Alberta beyond what already exists.

When asked to define “progressive,” the three words I heard that resonated strongly with me were: adaptability, understanding, and interconnectivity. I am not sure that these ideas fit in a left-right spectrum and I know many people who have had a difficult time understanding that.

Does a political generation gap exist in a constructivist versus structuralist context?

Another new (and similarly named) group,
Renew Alberta, is collecting signatures to start a new political party. I am not at the point of jumping on any bandwagon, but I am supportive of the people involved in this group. Political warhorses, like David Climenhaga, are understandably skeptical, but are relying on traditional partisan labels to frame the yet to be registered political party. An honest dose skepticism is healthy, but when it is mixed with undertones of negativity and mistrust it quickly becomes toxic.

With countless election results (and recent polls) showing that the traditional opposition parties are not resonating with Albertans, there are many people who are feeling vulnerability in this volatile political environment. I remain open-minded to any group of people who are willing to put in the personal commitment to contribute something new to the politics of our province. A successful new political party cannot be a mirror of the current unsuccessful political parties, it must be different or it will fail.

Twenty years ago, the Berlin Wall fell and communism collapsed. A generation of 20 to 30 year-olds now exist whose only exposure to this time period is through reading about the Soviet Union and Bert the Turtle alongside Rome and the Renaissance in their social studies textbooks. If the political waves that shaped my parents and grandparents politics are now in the history books, what are the waves that will shape the politics of the 21st century?

Social media like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter are connecting citizens with new communities and instant information in incredible ways. Groups of citizens have begun gathering organically in movements like ChangeCamp and CivicCamp, but what is next? Does the interconnectivity built through the online social networks need to translate to change on the street level?

It is an exciting time to be involved in politics in Alberta! As a next step for Reboot Alberta, I have joined a group of participants in generating idea papers that will be used to stimulate more positive debate and discussion when we gather again in February 2010. Questions I plan to raise include: What does the word ‘ progressive’ mean in the 21st century? What does progressive change mean in the 21st century? Will the change be technological? Will it be environmental? Will the next generational waves even be ‘political’ in the traditional sense of the term?

Reboot Alberta Renew Alberta

buzz about reboot & renew.

There is still a lot of buzz being generated about the Reboot Alberta weekend. I continuing to get questions from people all across the political spectrum about the event and a new group called Renew Alberta. If you have yet to hear about Renew Alberta, one of their organizers commented on one of my previous posts with some information:

Josh Kjenner said…

I think this would probably be a good time to make a pitch for the movement I’m currently involved in: Renew Alberta. We’re attempting to build a party that will appeal to moderate Albertans, and address some of the issues people speak to above: viability, pragmatism, and the embrace of change.

Provincial legislation requires the signatures of 0.3% of the electorate (currently 7050 people) for registration of a political party. We initiated our petition campaign last weekend, and we’ll be working toward 7050 signatures over the coming months. We’re very much interested in finding people to help us reach this target, and to help us shape the party into something that can address some of the shortcomings of current parties while maintaining electoral viability.

If you’re interested in getting more involved, or learning more about us, I’d suggest joining our group at, or checking out our website, (where you can’t do TOO much for the time being, but you can sign up for updates, or get in touch with us using the “contact” link at the top right of the page).

You can also follow them on Twitter at @RenewAB.

Reboot Alberta

my political reboot.

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.

Participant Sue Huff quoted another Reboot Alberta participant on her blog:

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.

Reboot Alberta

reboot alberta (8:25 am)

Dateline: Red Deer
After an interesting first day at Reboot Alberta (and a late night/early morning for some participants), a number of participants have put their thoughts together and published some initial reflections on the weekend thus far:
Chris Labossiere: I just rebooted myself and it feels good.
DJ Kelly: Look out Alberta, you’re about to get “rebooted” – first impressions
Alex Abboud: Rebooting Alberta: Instant Reaction
Jonathan Teghtmeyer: Progressives gather to reboot Alberta
The weekend event wraps up this morning and I will have some more detailed insights into the weekend in a soon to come post.
Reboot Alberta

reboot alberta 2:11pm.

Dateline: Red Deer

What do you call a group of people who have decided to spend the Grey Cup weekend debating and discussing the future of Alberta? Passionate and weird.

Reboot Alberta has been an interesting experience thus far. It is hard to describe what this weekend has looked like, so I will try to articulate my thoughts deeper in a future post. Around 100 progressive thinking men and women are here from across Alberta – north, south, central, urban, and rural. I have had some incredibly meaningful discussions about what the future of Alberta should look like. The challenge is how to put these discussions into action.

There is a lot of talk about the future of Alberta politics. Many of the people here want to change the existing parties, some want to work outside the party system, and some want to talk about a new party. There has been a lot of talk around Renew Alberta and there is a lot of deep debate about whether a new political party is a solution. It is my opinion that Alberta is ripe for a new political movement. Starting a new political movement in Alberta is a risk. It can absolutely fail, but big things rarely begin without that risk.

Follow Reboot Alberta via Twitter at #rebootab. More updates coming…

Reboot Alberta

rebooting citizen engagement and democracy in alberta.

Earlier this month, when I asked what an empowered Alberta would look like, it became clear to me that the majority of Albertans do not see value in participating in the traditional liturgy of our established democratic institutions. I also made two reflections that have stuck with me since:

1) As our society has changed in monumental ways, we have seen very little change in our democratic institutions.
2) Creating value in citizen participation is key to re-engaging the millions of Albertans who have disengaged from our democratic institutions and the process governing them.

Because of these two reflections, I am excited to be attending Reboot Alberta in Red Deer this weekend. I have no clue what ideas the discussions at this weekend’s event will produce, but I am excitedly anticipating meeting, debating, and sharing stories and ideas with other Albertans who are passionate about the future of our province. Bloggers Alex Abboud, Chris LaBossiereAlexander Muirthe Unknown Studio, and Ken Chapman (among others) have written passionately about why they are attending this weekend. You can follow Reboot Alberta on Twitter at #rebootab.

As I have written before, it is only a matter of time before we witness a big political shift in our province, but it will be up to Albertans to decide what this change will embody. I love Alberta and I am eager to continue participating in the debates that will shape this change.

ChangeCamp Edmonton David King Don Sherman Ken Chapman Michael Brechtel Reboot Alberta

reboot alberta.

As the Second Session of the Twenty-Seventh Legislature re-convenes in Edmonton, I am finding it increasingly difficult to get excited about the kind of debates that we have become accustomed to witnessing on the floor of our elected assembly. With only 13 opposition MLAs in the Assembly, much of Hansard have unfortunately become an endless echo chamber for the chorus of backbench PC MLAs either reading pre-scripted soft-ball talking points or attempting to gain points with their political masters through flattery. Of course there are exceptions, but they remain far and few.

The debate outside the Legislature is a very different story. Over the past year, I have met an increasing number of engaged citizens who are intent on carving a new direction for our city and province outside the realm of traditional partisan politics. Evolving across the province – ChangeCamp Edmonton, CivicCamp Calgary, and even out at lunch – I have witnessed engaged citizens congregating to flesh out the next big out-of-the-box ideas to drive Alberta into the future.

I am particularly interested in attending the upcoming Reboot Alberta meeting to be held in Red Deer from November 27 to 29. Organized by Don Sherman, Michael Brechtel, former Cabinet Minister David King, and increasingly disengaged PC member Ken Chapman, the weekend event is billed as an opportunity for progressive-minded Albertans to work together to develop a vision for our province, and start to explore how to bring that vision to life (which is key).

Last week, Ken and I met for coffee and had a great discussion about the potential for re-visioning citizenship in Alberta and how to re-engage individual Albertans to participate in the way they are governed. Ken successfully pitched the concept of Reboot Alberta to me and I am excited about the opportunity that this meeting presents. While I am not convinced that a new political party should develop from this meeting (nor is it the ultimate solution to re-engaging Albertans), the leadership vacuum that our province is feeling presents an opportunity for change that Albertans haven’t seen in a long time. As I have written before, it is only a matter of time before we witness a big political shift in our province, but it will be up to Albertans to decide what this change will embody.

If you would like more information about Reboot Alberta, please email Ken at