The next chapter in the Alberta story

Preston Manning – Globe and Mail December 3, 2009

Let's give Albertans the future they desire and deserve
Abraham Lincoln once began a famous address to the politicians and citizens of Illinois with these words: “If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.” Such words would be similarly appropriate if spoken at the outset of a conference on Alberta's future, to be held in Edmonton in early February. Increasing numbers of Albertans are asking key questions concerning the political state and direction of their province. Will the Progressive Conservative administration, long in office, be able to reinvigorate itself under Premier Stelmach? Will the Wildrose Alliance Party under its new leader Danielle Smith be able to mature into a governing party. Is the unique pattern of Alberta provincial politics about to re-assert itself – a pattern characterized by long periods of one-party governance during which the governing party remakes itself several times, periods of political upheaval as Albertans become seized with a new idea and/or the need for change, and periodic replacement of the governing party (if it fails to renew itself), not by its traditional opposition, but by something and someone new? To provide a cross-partisan forum to address these questions, Nicholas Gafuik, managing director of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, and a team of young Albertans are organizing the Conference on Alberta's Future. Invitations will go to members and supporters of the Stelmach government, the Wildrose Alliance, other opposition parties, unaligned policy experts and grassroots Albertans. Representation will be balanced between north and south and rural and urban – the two fault lines that currently threaten to divide Alberta politics. Strenuous efforts will be made to convince the political players – in government, opposition, and unaligned – that the intent of the Conference is neither to denigrate nor advance any particular political interest but to provide a unique opportunity for attendees of all

political persuasions to give their very best answers to the following three key questions: Question One: What is your vision of Alberta’s future? Or expressed another way, if you could write the next chapter of the Alberta Story, what would it look like? Question Two: How well is Alberta performing as a province in the following key areas of vital importance to Albertans and to Canada? (Attendees, after appropriate discussion, will be asked to complete a Report Card on Alberta’s Performance, with scores ranging from Unsatisfactory to Exceptional.)
1. The handling of public money: Includes control of public

spending, taxation, and the prudent saving and wise investment of non-renewable resource revenues.

2. Balanced economic growth: Includes responsible

development of the energy sector (renewable as well as nonrenewable) along with other key sectors and the knowledge economy.

3. Environmental Conservation: Includes protection and

conservation of Alberta’s soil, watersheds, air sheds, forests, wildlife, and landscapes.

4. Health and Education: Includes evaluation of performance and

achievement in the two highest categories of provincial social spending.

5. Democratic Participation: Includes not only voter participation

in elections but also the effective engagement of Albertans in public policy decisions affecting them and their future.

6. Leadership on the National Stage: Includes consideration of

progress toward Alberta’s becoming a recognized leader on the national stage, protecting/advancing Alberta’s provincial interests while contributing positively to the advancement of Canada’s interests. Question Three: Where performance in the six key areas covered by the Report Card on Alberta’s Performance is considered inadequate, what policies and actions should be pursued to improve that performance? In many respects, this will be the most important question to be addressed by Conference participants. While it is relatively easy to be critical of governmental or provincial performance in the various key subject areas, it is quite another thing, and not so easy, to propose substantive policies and actions which would significantly improve performance. The real test of whether the Conference on Alberta’s Future can produce an operable and appealing agenda for moving forward will very much depend on the quality, thoughtfulness, and practicality of the proposals generated in response to this third question. The organizers of the Conference on Alberta’s Future are committed to preparing a Summary Report of the Conference proceedings, distributing it to all conference participants, and making it available to the media and the public. Albertans will then be encouraged to judge for themselves, which of the various categories of participants – supporters of the government, opposition politicians, or others outside the formal political arena altogether – are best qualified to further advance those policies and actions which will provide the people of Alberta with the secure and prosperous future they desire and deserve. Preston Manning is president and CEO of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy. Click Here for more information on the Conference for Alberta’s Future

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