I looked forward to the Cabinet Post Announcements yesterday with great interest and anticipation, hoping, like many Albertans, that Premier Redford’s choices would be a clear indication of the significant change she has promised. Of course I understood that wisdom would call for a mix of experienced and fresh faces around the table, and I ‘m glad to see that solid attempts to bring some new faces and fresh ideas to cabinet has occurred. Names like Diana McQueen, Doug Griffiths, Fred Horne and Jeff Johnson are evidence that our new Premier-designate show that she is trying to hold true to her promise of change. She has also held to her promise and reversed the education cuts, returning $107m to the system. In many respects, a good start. But then again…
Because Premier Redford positioned herself as a change agent, expectations are running high. During her campaign, she released a ton of policy positions and made lots of promises, like extricating the OBC (Old Boys Club) and implementing broader inclusion of caucus and Alberta as a whole in decision-making. A lot to accomplish to be sure, certainly requiring a good team with the ability to set aside personal agendas for the good of progressing strong action; a team that can work to develop a shared vision in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Is this that team? Really?
She pronounced yesterday that this is “what change looks like”. Really?
I see some real problems with some of her choices for “experienced” cabinet members. Yes, perhaps she could not avoid choosing some of them. But when I saw predictions and rumours of Liepert and Morton returning, I nearly swallowed my tongue. Really? Ron Liepert? Giving him one of the most senior cabinet jobs is a huge sign that meaningful change cannot be realized through a PC government. Consider this:
– He is commonly and regularly identified as OBC
– He is not enamored with social programs & the social safety net
– He is a top-down decision maker, a “my-way-or-the-highway” guy
– He’s not exactly a proponent of engagement and respectful discourse. I’ve sat in meetings where people were bawled out for asking questions and where he was extremely dismissive of dissenting opinions, even when there was evidence to support the questioner’s position. Of course this is just part of the OBC culture, and there are others still in cabinet (*cough*Danyluk*cough*) who share the idea that the unwashed masses have no business questioning the infinite wisdom of The Government.
In other words, he epitomizes old school politics and resistance to change.
Colour me naive, but I had sincerely hoped that Redford would choose her Cabinet based on forthright criteria such as merit. There are various theories going around about why she chose Liepert as finance minister – many say he is a close friend and she is rewarding him for running her federal campaign back in 2000 (not exactly fresh political thinking). She says she chose him because he is a loyal friend and trusted adviser. Granted, these are important qualities to have in a senior cabinet portfolio, and perhaps those attributes are few and far between in the current litter. Maybe a good decision for Alison, but from the outside looking in, this looks like a super bad decision for Alberta.
In addition to all his character and mindset shortcomings, I believe that having Liepert in cabinet also effectively sets her up for failure.
I foresee a lot of pushing back and forth between our new premier and her finance minister. Any efforts to bring about change will be met with resistance at every turn. He’s already stated he will refuse to participate in a judicial inquiry in health care – and that is before she, or he, was even sworn in.
When Redford was elected, we knew she would have a huge and quite possibly impossible job ahead of her – reunite the party, get cabinet and caucus on her side and all on the same page. Now, she has put herself in the position of having to work side-by-side and face-to-face with someone (and he’s not alone – *cough*Morton*cough*) who has a very different agenda and who does not appreciate working with a consensus building model. It’s extremely unfortunate that enough remnants of the OBC still wield enough influence to make change very unlikely.
The Alberta Party, on the other hand, already has buy-in within its ranks and within its membership. We are a party that is at peace with ourselves because we’re building on a foundation of respectful discourse, common sense over personal agendas, and visions of true change. Listening and engaging with each other, experts and all Albertans is something that is fundamental to our process.
If this is change, you can keep it.
Expecting a 40-year old party to bring real, meaningful change isn’t reasonable, because they appear too far removed from real people to understand what it really looks like. The Alberta Party, born out of a citizen-driven change movement and filled with real Albertans who care more about what’s best for their province than what’s personally politically advantageous, is your only reasonable choice, and is what gives me hope for the future of this great province.