Is it Time to Reboot Reboot Alberta?


It has been almost three years since anything was posted on this site.  It was designed to be a hub for the progressive Albertans to exchange ideas and share concerns about the future of democracy in Alberta.

Citizen engagement was an underlying goal but an informed critical thinking citizen, not just a blind-faith follower.

Reboot Alberta was an organic grassroots movement that had three gatherings designed to  enable authentic conversation about progressive Albertans and how to get that energy focused on having a positive impact on public policy, elections and institutional change to a more centrist progressive approach to governance and government.

The participants self organized into four distinct but complementary progressive initiatives.  Some wanted to influence the existing political parties and institutions to adopt a more progressive policy agenda.  Some, like in the not-for-profit sector (now being called the Social Profit sector) wanted to have a great voice and influence on public policy.  Others wanted to start a new progressive political party,  The Alberta Party was the result of that Reboot Alberta motivation.  Still others just wanted to be better informed, more active and effective citizens dedicated to a progressive policy agenda.

There was a fundamental issue about what it was to be a “progressive” in the Alberta context.  Hundreds of people came to Reboot Alberta gatherings from all over Alberta.  They paid their own way, used their own time and gathered together for their own reasons.

Progressives managed to elect Naheed Nenshi as Mayor of Calgary.  They coalesced at the ballot box to elect Premier Redford.  There are other electoral examples around Alberta of progressives showing up to make a difference at the ballot box.

But is that enough?  Are we seeing public policy at all levels of government become more progressive as a result of being there at the ballot box but not otherwise?

Lots of people are coming to me again, as in 2009, to say progressives need to do something to impact lasting positive change in the quality of life in Alberta – for all Albertans.

So in response, I have taken the step to dust off this blog and to put it out there to see if anyone is prepared to revive the Reboot Alberta movement. Was it a spark in a place and time but that place and time has passed?  It is an unfulfilled possibility that needs to be revived?  Is it that progressives in Alberta have to rethink what it means to be an informed, active, engaged and effective citizen and to start doing something about it?

So let me know what you think?  Comment on this blog post and share your thoughts.  Tweet using #rebootab to engage.  You can connect confidentially with me at kenchapman46@gmail.com if you wish.

Looking forward to see if there is still a need for a focused conversation about Alberta  becoming and being progressive in a 21st century context.

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4 Responses

  1. Few people will sacrifice a familiar and comfortable economic status quo to invest in a healthier economic future, especially if they can’t imagine how their investments will benefit them personally. This is why Albertans are doubling down on an increasingly vulnerable and volatile status quo, and deepening their dependency on oil and gas. Exactly what industry wants, but the last thing Alberta really needs.

    This is what real Progressive Conservatives like Peter Lougheed hoped to avoid by creating the Heritage Fund forty years ago. The people of Alberta have failed Lougheed, by subsequently electing short-sighted and weak-minded politicians who aided us in avoiding necessary sacrifices. With the explicit or implicit consent of most Albertans, these ‘leaders’ raided the Heritage Fund and used royalty revenues to cover an ever larger share of the government budget.

    We got the governments we deserved. Future Albertans less so.

    Subsequent progressive initatives in Alberta have failed consistently because they have consistently failed to craft and communicate a compelling vision of an alternative economic future that Albertans will actually buy into. Typically, such initiatives have become reactionary, political and self-destructive long before they could make any substantive difference to Alberta’s cultural or political landscape.

    I participated in the first Reboot Alberta event because I understood the goal to be crafting a new narrative for Alberta, a new sense of purpose – NOT a new political party. In my perception, the initiative was hijacked by impatient and short-sighted political reactionaries before it ever had a chance to define a meaningful vision or purpose for itself. By the end of that first event, the political reactionaries had closed ranks and it was clear they were determined to build a cart without any horse to pull it.

    How about that Alberta Party?

    This is not to say that a progressive initiative can’t succeed in Alberta, even without the benefit of an acute and sustained economic crisis. There has never been a greater need for progressive change in this province, but progressives desperately need to get their priorities straight. Vision, narrative and communication are the absolute essence of the challenge, and it is critical to nail it all down before even *thinking* of getting political.

    A few simple rules:

    1) Get the STORY straight, keep it brain-dead simple, and don’t waste time listening to Joe and Janet Albertan. As Steve Jobs once quipped, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” This is one of those times.

    2) Learn to tell the story in the most meaningful, engaging and compelling terms for every audience. Wrap a half dozen stories around a single, unifying narrative, and focus on one really great idea… not three, or five, or ten.

    3) Do NOT set out to become a political party. If there is support for such initiative, it MUST emerge from a critical mass of people who have first bought into a clear and broadly compelling vision.

    ‘Reboot’ is a technological term that implies disruption to an operating status quo. Far too many Albertans won’t properly understand the intended meaning, and besides, rebooting only changes how things work if you’ve first installed an upgraded operating system. We haven’t designed or developed that yet.

    What we really need is to ‘re-root’ Alberta.

    Like a perennial plant that has outgrown its pot, Alberta has outgrown the narrow visions and narratives that have long shaped our sense of ourselves in the world. Our potting soil (culture) is stale and tapped out, and our roots (vision and narrative) are too weak to support the growth that Alberta needs if it is to prosper sustainably. To become wealthier in the most meaningful sense, Alberta must focus on becoming healthier.

    This means cultivating a much broader and deeper vision for Alberta, and a much broader and deeper way of making sense of ourselves in the world… a new and evolving narrative that accurately reflects the rapidly evolving realities of economic, social and cultural globalism in the 21st century. Basically a much healthier root system.

    To quote Thomas Friedman,

    “The ideal country in a flat world is the one with no natural resources, because countries with no natural resources tend to dig inside themselves. They try to tap the energy, entrepreneurship, creativity, and intelligence of their own people-men and women-rather than drill an oil well.” [The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century]

    Amen to that, and bring on Re-root Alberta.

  2. Ken, so much bad has happened in the last few months that I’m not sure Alberta can be “saved” (from your or my perspective). The average (voting majority) of Albertans apparently likes it like this. The only credible opposition is from a party that wants “even more like this”, which the PCs have tried very hard to emulate (and thereby draw their sting) in the last budget.
    As a higher-education professional, even in an “applied” field, I am seriously considering other career options and/or locations — my work is obviously not valued in this province.
    Jeremy Richards (U of A)

    • Ellen Tieman on June 21,2013
      Unfortunately I have to agree. Our government as put us back so far again. I do not think we can get back to the time when education was important in Alberta and Health Care was the best. Until we quit thinking Conservative,Wild Rose or another off shoot of Conservative we will be a province that does not care about our welfare.

  3. Reboot Alberta has no pragmatic vision and no execution.

    To insinuate that the vast majority of Albertans have progressive values is so disingenuous as to be frankly self-serving if not arrogant. Where, where is the data on which you stake your claim?

    I suggest to you that a ‘progressive’ is nothing more than a cynic that has mastered the art of public acceptability.

    In very real form, the Redford government has decimated any kind of ‘progressive’ activity in health, education, and resource use. Was she not elected as a ‘progressive’? Is she not focussed on self-serving power maintenance for its own sake? Do you not see this? Where have you been for the last year?

    Please shut down this blog and website and get a grip on reality.

    Alternatively, put your money where your mouth is and do something useful – for example, where were you and the glorious ‘progressives’ when Alberta Health Services cut funding to disabled groups that are living independently and trying to stay that way? These people largely took care of themselves – through their own actions – and have had funding restored. Real world, real problem, real solution. No progressives required.

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