Time to Get Serious About the Rise of Alberta’s Alt-Right

Twitter exploded last night. Thousands of demonstrators jammed American airports to protest Trump’s Executive Order banning Muslims from certain countries from entering the US. Refugees traveling with valid documentation, permanent residents with green cards, temporary workers on visas, and dual citizens were detained, some were deported. ACLU lawyers fanned across the country, meeting with detainees, […]

via Three Reasons Why Jason Kenney is Scarier Than Donald Trump — Susan on the Soapbox


Two Pipelines Approved: The Opposition Reacts (badly) — Susan on the Soapbox

Do you have a headache? Are you an Alberta conservative wondering how to react to Trudeau approving the Trans Mountain and Line 3 pipelines and, horrors, singling out Notley’s Climate Leadership Plan as being vital to getting to yes? If so, your conservative leadership team has prepared a carefully considered, cogent response. Here’s what it […]

via Two Pipelines Approved: The Opposition Reacts (badly) — Susan on the Soapbox

Do Not Normalize the “Alt-Right” — Oil Sands Ken

The mainstream media is getting suckered. It has been accepting the term “Alt-Right” as a euphemism for fascism, racism, and American white supremacy movements that have emerged behind Trump and the Republican Party. We need to call out these political positions for what they are and not let anything divert attention from the facts and reality…

via Do Not Normalize the “Alt-Right” — Oil Sands Ken

It’s Electricity Week…and the Opposition Won’t Stand for it — Susan on the Soapbox

After the events of this week it’s unclear who the Opposition is standing for. The NDP government announced it was: settling the PPA dispute over the enforceability of the “Enron clause” with Capital Power, TransCanada and AltaGas, leaving Enmax the sole outlier, compensating Capital Power, TransAlta and ATCO for the early closure of six coal-fired […]

via It’s Electricity Week…and the Opposition Won’t Stand for it — Susan on the Soapbox

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!