Something’s Happening Here & It’s Not Exactly Unclear!

History may not repeat itself, but it could perhaps return in the form of old rhymes and reasons. Back in 1967 Stephen Stills and Neil Young had a folk-rock group called Buffalo Springfield.  They released a protest song entitled “For What It’s Worth.”  Listen carefully to the lyrics.  They are as resonant and relevant issues and events of today as they were in the late 60’s.

What is Happening in American Politics?

Both Republican and Democratic Party establishment and elites are being challenged as entitled, corrupt and self-serving.  They are not seen as being serving the public interest. This is especially true of perspectives held by the misanthropic but steadfast supporters of the outsider Presidential candidacies of Trump and Sanders.

The traditional institutional underpinnings of both partisan power elites and establishment Influentials have been ineffective in grasping root causes for the backlash nor do they seem to know how to respond it it.

The Democrats have made moves towards accommodating the values behind the Sanders protest movement. Sanders persisted successfully ensuring progressive polices are in the Democratic campaign platform. It is what Sanders calls “the most progressive Democratic Presidential Campaign Platform ever.”

In exchanged for a keynote prime-time convention slot, Sanders endorsed Clinton.  He was clearly more motivated out of fear of a Trump victory than any genuine feelings of fealty to the Democratic Party or it’s Presidential Nominee.

Cruz, on the other hand, used his  prime-time convention concession speech and did nothing to heal the internal Republican Party wounds. He intentionally ignored appealing to the Trump radicals or establishment reactionaries. And he did not endorse Trump as the Republican Nominee.  Ouch!

Speaking of Angst and Anger; Aggressive Politics Are Now Normative!

Americans are seriously and demonstratively divided.  The fault lines run through everything from income gaps, to gender gaps, education gaps, regional and faith difference, just to name a few.  Of course there are always racial concerns but that is now made even more complicated by overlapping issues around ethnicity and fear of the domestic and foreign “Other.”

There are deep divisions within the American political parties.  Polls also consistently show most Americans dislike and distrust both Nominees.  Consequently the pending Presidential, Senate and House elections are totally uncertain.

The rise of  Libertarian and Green “third parties” increases uncertainty about who will win and why. These alternative are becoming more attractive for disgruntled Democrats and Republicans plus disgusted moderate Independents.  Will they undermine the major candidates and have an impact the results?  Time will tell!

Alberta is also in the midst of political change and turmoil, somewhat similar to the States. So far the Alberta political culture clash is less acerbic and the Westminster governance system prevents American style legislative gridlock, at least provincially.

Albertans recently, dramatically, democratically and surprisingly,  elected a social-democratic majority government. Albertans of all stripes were fed up with the status quo.  They dramatically rejected what they saw as the embedded, elitist and entitled Progressive Conservative-Corporatist collusive political culture.

That said, we also have the Wild Rose Party.  That is as right wing, socially conservative and fiscally reactionary, as any group of American Republican partisans.  They would also probably find a Trump-like approach to political leadership in Alberta as very appealing.

Perhaps Jason Kenney’s descent into provincial politics will show them the way to those ends.  He was an uber-acolyte of Stephen Harper, the “Republicanesque” former Conservative Prime Minister.  Will Mr. Kenney become the champion of this “Trumpesque” segment of Alberta-based  political activism?  Again, time will tell.

His campaign to unite current conservative parties must start with him winning the leadership of the moribund Progress Conservatives.  He plans to dissolve that party as leader and then move to undermine the viability of the Wild Rose Party.  Then Kenney says he will start a totally new Conservative Party of Alberta out of the remains to “Unite the Right.”

He can then be the political Phoenix to fabricate a new fiscally austere, socially regressive and environmentally indifferent political movement to put political power in the control of the Wild Rose Party base.

Antiquated Attitudes and Emerging Alternative Institutions

We are seeing a hardening of Left versus Right politics in the States.  The same thing is happening in Alberta as the “Unite the Right” initiative campaign is mostly about defeating  the leftist NDP government.

This dichotomous partitioning of politics gives the general population the wrong impression there are only two competing dogmas. The contest is framed as between the Left  and the Right, pejoratively called Socialists and Capitalists by the competing factions.

The Left is more focused on adaptive social change in service of  the greater good through collective approaches.  The opposite is the Right which is more focused on status quo protections of individual private property rights and market-based economic approaches.

What the “Them versus Us” proponents of politics ignore are the Other. These are communities of interests who pursue common social needs and take on ecological responsibilities while pursuing progress through genuine wealth creation.

The old paradigm of Left or Right, Capitalist or Communist, Private or Public Sector divisional dynamics are passe to the progressive Others.  They see these simplistic perspectives as ineffective.  In fact they are perceived as dangerous in dealing with the complex reality of a networked world of globalized economics, shared ecological responsibility and inclusive social relationships.

There are communitarian groups of individuals forming outside the traditional partisan political structures.  They are seeking to integrate and balance the best of pubic and private sectors within a whole-systems approach to achieve a progressive political culture. Henry Mintzberg identifies this as the “Plural Sector” approach in his recent book “Rebalancing Society.” This is a good read that I highly recommend.

This Internet enabled movement of communities of common interests initially emerged amongst influential environmentalists.  That is well documented in Paul Hawken’s book “Blessed Unrest.”  That is also a good read that I recommend. This movement has since expanded into realms of global economics, international stewardship and mutual well-being that crosses national borders and supersedes the parochial partisan political ideologies of the past.

What Goes Around Comes Around

I am a front-end Baby Boomer and a product of the 60’s and 70’s. As I reflect on my youth I see today that we are once again in the midst of a massive change and a political evolution.  Then as now, this is also based on outsider’s rejection of authority and its legitimacy.

This is animated today by a revulsion of the abuse of power by politicians, the  disdain for democracy by partisan establishments and policy manipulation by monied elites and self-serving Influentials.  All very familiar themes to me coming back from the 60’s.

Yes “Something’s Happening Here.”  But to my mind it is very clear. The old order is once again in chaos.  It is being over thrown by a new consciousness that questions the legitimization of people in authority.  It is demanding a reset and a rethink of the processes and purpose of our democracy in a much more complex world.

This emerging movement for progressive change is ironically captured (at least ironic to me) by the 1964 lyrics of  Dylan’s “The Times They Are Changin'”.  Here is an excerpt of those lyrics.  It will give you a sense of what is happening now is also something that fomented before and is seemingly coming around again.  Read and reflect.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

Bob Dylan, written in 1964


Are Alberta Conservatives Becoming United or Untied? Do You Care?

Conservative politics in Alberta continues in tumult and turmoil. The spiteful in-fighting within and between the PCs and WRPs is a culture war for dominance as the preferred standard-bearer for conservative Albertans. It isn’t helping either party’s cause.
That culture war has now morphed into other fragmented and fallacious conservative forces, each out to “unite-the-right” and save Alberta from itself.  They want to restore the mythological and ideologically-based “Alberta Advantage.”  Their mission is consistent.  They are out to rescue Alberta from the dire democratic consequences of the last election.  In their minds Albertans made a big mistake in electing the NDP socialist-cum-communist majority government.
However, these apoplectic Alberta right-wingers seem to be doing more to Untie the right than Unite it. They acknowledge that conservative “brand” choices were soundly rejected in the election. Notwithstanding they steadfastly retain the old thinking as their value-proposition on offer to Albertans.  The generally perceived options to replace the NDP are the Reactionary PCs or Radical WRPs. Neither of them are particularly palatable to progressive voters, who reflect the value set of the majority of Albertans.
The leaderless PCs are searching for their lost souls and are fondly reminiscing over the halcyon days of Lougheed.  The leadership-challenged Wild Rosers are trying to  closet their social conservative base and are out to sell Albertans that they have really changed, into the Mild Rosers.  Each thinks the other is politically “done” and that they will prevail. In the end they stay split and spiteful towards each other and most Albertans could care less.

Then there are the new conservative”outliers” who are also out to unite-the-right. That phrase is becoming dog-whistle messaging to hard-core conservatives who believe the NDP is a socialist hoard that has illegitimately taken political power away from them.  They believe economic ruination is the only possible result if conservatives are not restored to exercising political power in Alberta.

The Unite-the-Right Outliers are a diverse group of disgruntled, disenchanted, disaffected and somewhat disturbed conservatives. Some were lead by the likes of the gormless George Clark and his “Kudatah” movement of crazy-train followers.  They are Albertans who would vote for Donald Trump, if they could.  They seem to have had their 15 minutes of infamy and have exited…stage right!
The next set of Outliers is the Alberta Prosperity Fund. This is a sophisticated and professional group of conservative political influencials.  It is a self-described Alberta Super-Pac akin to the anonymous big money machine approach used to control American politics.  They are well funded, well organized and well affiliated with the old Reform wing of the federal Conservative Party.  They are election-focused movement intent on defeating the NDP with a united common-sense conservative voice.  They are dedicated to “unite the provincial political right” and are on a listening tour of Alberta run by uber-conservative and former talk-radio host Dave Rutherford. These guys want to regain control of the province and ensure that the “right hands” are on the levers of political power in Alberta.
Next is the “Alberta Can’t Wait” group.  It is a more progressive leaning group emerging out of the ranks of the old-time Alberta Progressive Conservative party with a few Reformers and the odd disgruntled WRP-type on board.  They convened a gathering on April 30 to test the temperature of some 400 disaffected conservatives.  There were four alternatives presented. The temperature in the room was tepid for the status quo, joining the PCs or the WRP.  The vast majority wanted to start a new party.  Almost 60 “Ambassadors” signed on as”committed to a principled, fiscally responsible and competent alternative to the current government.” Who “together will bring back the Alberta Advantage.”  Yet again a conservative group who want to appear to be moving forward but only see the world through their own rear view mirror.
So where do they go from here?  They will assemble again in the fall to talk about what should be the under-lining political values of the new party.  In the meantime the word on the street is they aspire to take over the Alberta Party.  Not interested in much more than the name I expect.
While the Alberta conservatives fragment and flounder there is also an emerging and somewhat urgent need for a progressive values-based government-in-waiting as an alternative to the old (conservative) or new (socialist) status quo.  That isn’t going to be the Alberta Liberal Party.  They are leaderless and have significantly postponed their review process to find a replacement.  Besides the active Liberals in Alberta are more likely to be focused on the federal scene now.  Volunteer efforts will be better spent with the recent federal party success in electing four MPs rather than finding a political defibrillator to restart the heart of the flat-lined provincial party.
That leaves the Alberta Party as the best progressive option.  It is time to co-create a socially progressive, fiscally prudent and environmentally protective viable political alternative to ensure good governance. We don’t need an alternative intent on taking over political power (aka entitlement) as the various conservatives aspirants now avow.  We need a political alternative capable of and dedicated to serving the greater good of Albertans, now and for future generations.
Is it time for progressive Albertans to dust of the duty of citizenship and re-engage in public policy design and development through the political process? Or else will complacency means they will suffer the consequences of not having a viable progressive alternative government-in-waiting.  The future-forward alternative now is an Alberta New Democratic Party that is burdened with the anti-Alberta Leap Manifesto.  Otherwise we get some Reform-Alliance inspired Conservative revisionist party dedicated to return to the past and self-serving “Alberta Advantage” that only benefited themselves and their privileged friends.
 Think about it.  Surely we can do better.  Let us know what you think!

Watch This Space!

There is something vibrating in the political air in Alberta these days.  It’s not as astonishing as the discovery of gravitational waves. But there are major ripples of change happening in the political culture of Alberta.

The last time this happened was back in 2009.  Reboot Alberta emerged then as a citizen-based movement to rethink the political culture of Alberta.

It started as the end of the Stelmach government was approaching.  The discontent of Albertans with the current PC regime was strong. The rise  of a radical right social conservative Wildrose alternate was unnerving.  Then there was a general despairing at the desolate situation of Liberal and NDP opposition at the time.

There was a clear sense of a need for change from the current political situation.  What was not clear was a kind of change would be needed to move Alberta forward.  Reboot was the place for that conversation to be shared.

There were results of the Reboot Alberta initiative.  One was the establishment of the Alberta Party.  It caused progressives in other political parties and civil-society organizations to reaffirm a desire to progressively influence the direction their own organizations.  It engaged and re-engaged those Alberta citizens who attended to become more informed and active on issues that interested them.

A lot has happened in Alberta and to Albertans since then.  Unfortunately not much of it is very positive.  We have dramatically rejected the inept, entitled and pretentious long-running reign of the PC Party.

We have suddenly and surprisingly elected a large majority NDP government.  We left the Liberals with one seat.  It is held by the interim leader with a party elite showing little interest in actively finding his replacement.  We have given the upstart Alberta Party a toe-hold in the politics of the time by electing its leader.

The time are tough.  Our economy is turbulent and uncertain with low oil prices uncovering a lot of Alberta’s problems with competitiveness, productivity and innovation shortcomings. The solutions to our recession is mostly beyond our control as OPEC and private-sector big oil play chicken over sustaining market share.

Some Alberta citizens are once again thinking it is time to rethink the political, economic, environmental and social culture of their province.  They are talking about revival the spirit of Reboot Alberta.

That means taking back Control of our democracy, create an Alternative to the outdated Left versus Right political paradigm and Delete the destructive hyper-partisan politics that disengages the rest of us.

So if this revival happens, watch for this blog to reawaken from its extended dormancy.  It will become a place for comment and commentary and sharing ideas about moving Alberta forward, not just left or right.

We have changed our government but we still need to  transform our governance.

If interested, subscribe to this blog, tell your networks about it and watch this space!




Organized Religion Trends in Canada

Pew Research does great work.  Today I was sent a study on the trends in the Canadian population around organized religion. There are some interesting Canada-US comparisons too.  

The study is very comprehensive with lots of segmentation of age, region, and so forth. If we want to look at our emerging society and use some foresight reflection on what might be the implications for the role of religion in Canadian society, this is a good place to start.

Here is the like to the Pew study

Alex Abboud on Alberta 3.0: Thoughts on the Way Forward

What follows is a blog post from Alex Abboud, one of the original Reboot Alberta participants.  It was originally written in November of 2009.  I thought it might be useful/helpful to republish it.  Give it a read and reflect on what has changed in Alberta since this insightful thought-piece was originally written.


Alex Abboud is attending Reboot Alberta this weekend.  He has posted his thoughts on the future of Alberta.  Alex says Alberta does not need a reboot, it needs an upgrade.  His point is that a “reboot implies that problems exist, but the current system will suffice to handle them.”

He disagrees.  Alex believes the system and paradigm that is the conventional Alberta to today must evolve.  Alex observes that “The world is changing, and what worked for us in the past is no guarantee for future success. ”  He then proceeds to discuss “…where we have come from and where we need to go.”

Alex has penned one of the most evocative blog posts on the need for a comprehensive practical and yes, nuanced, conversation on the future of Alberta.  He calls it Alberta 3.0.  Treat yourself and create some space and time to read this blog post.  You will be glad you did.

Here is the Link:

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 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.

Are Progressives to Blame for Far Right Shift in Politics?

I am a former Federal and Alberta Progressive Conservative.  I got involved in federal politics to help Joe Clark win the PC Party leadership in the mid 70s.  I became an Alberta Progressive Conservative to help Peter Lougheed replace the social Credit government of Harry Strom.

I saw the demise of the federal PC starting with the second election of Mulroney, the reduction to 2 seats in the mess he handed to Kim Campbell and the betrayal of the PC brand by Peter McKay to the Reform Alliance types of Stockwell Day and Stephen Harper.

I left the provincial PCs with Bill 44 as the last straw and after years of frustration with Ralph Klein.  I did not suppor this leadership but did applaud his Premiership in the early years.  He was good at one job – getting rid of debt and deficit and then put his feet up and got lazy for 10 years until he was ousted by his own party.

I did not support Ed Selmach’s bid to lead the Alberta PC until the second ballot but it was an easy choice to make at the time considering the alternatives.   For the first year Stelmach was a great Premier but then he went off the rails and now is in survival mode running hard to the right in fear of the Wildrose Alliance.

All of this is background to the great column byLawrence Martin in the Globe and Mail today “Is the an old-style Tory in the House?” His conclusing is federally there is not any left.  Provincially there are few but they are marginalized and isolated from influencing the thinking of the right-wing reactionary conservative mainline thinking  of the “evolved'” Stelmach government.

There is a reason right-wing governments have taken  over.  A great deal of it is the indifference and disillusion and disengagement of progressive in the political process.  I was guilt of that in the federal PC Party and share the blame for its demise as much as any other part member.

Since I left the Alberta PCs I have worked hard on establishing Reboot Alberta as a place and space for progressives to meet and talk about what they want to see happen to have a more progressive political culture in Alberta.  RebootAlberta is welcoming regardless of political affiliation but is dedicated and focused on progressive political principles.  Go to and read what some Albertans consider progressive political principles.

I do not want to make the same mistake of presumptive indifference again like I did in the federal PC Party.  Progressives are partially to blame for the reckless and abusive nature of how power is used in the governments in power in Canada and Alberta today – because of indifference.

I am not committed to the PC Party but have joined the Alberta Party to help them grapple with their idea of doing politics differently and progressively.  I am especially committed to the idea of a progressive citizen’s movement like Reboot Alberta as a way to get political control back in the hands, hearts and minds of thoughtful, informed active and effective citizens.  Come and see this in action at Reboot 3.0 Nov 5-6 in Edmonton.  Click here to register.