7 Thoughts About The Alberta Party

This won’t be recognized as big news by most people, but it could very well be the catalyst for big events in the future. The Renew Alberta movement and the Alberta Party have come together, and will be relaunching with a project called “The Big Listen” to set out the Alberta Party’s new policies.

I have a few thoughts on this, and I’ll share them here:

1. I agree with points 1-3 in Calgary Grit’s post on the subject. In fact, you should give his entire post a read.

2. To reiterate one of CG’s points, I have a lot of time for the people involved with this. That is, frankly, the biggest reason I’m paying attention to this initiative. If they can get some of these people to run for them in the next election, even better.

3. Different options are good, and I hope the Alberta Party will be successful in bringing new ideas into the political forum.

4. Do I support or agree with the Alberta Party? That’s hard to say, given that they effectively have no policies right now. I do support the concept of “The Big Listen” and hope it is successful. That said, the practices of “consulting” and “listening” to the public have been so often abused in the past that one could be forgiven for being a skeptic. I believe the Alberta Party is sincere about this, so I hope that open consultation and participation becomes a standard practice in the party. In any case, I think the most important thing is that the role of “the Big Listen” and where the party goes after that is well understood by people.

5. Transparency is a good thing, so it would be nice to put some names and faces to the Alberta Party (and Renew Alberta as well). Right now, no one is identified on the website except Alberta Party leader Edwin Ericksen and the Renew Alberta co-chairs. I give my friend Chris LaBossiere a lot of credit for disclosing his role on the Alberta Party board (you should also read Chris’ post on the Alberta Party). No other members of the Alberta Party board or the Renew Alberta organizing committee are identifiable. For the record, you can find the Tory, Liberal, and Wildrose Alliance boards listed on their websites.

6. The two biggest challenges I see for the Alberta Party, or any party for that matter, are differentiating themselves from the other options on the ballot, and attracting strong people to the party, especially as candidates. There is progress on this already (see points #2 and #4).

7. An idea about how politics can be done differently: Start acknowledging when other parties have good ideas. They all do. So there’s no reason to completely reinvent the wheel as far as policy goes. Conversation should talk about what we do well already, not just things that should be improved.

Sunday morning update: Dave King notes his role with the Alberta Party board in his latest blog post.

Ken Chapman’s take on the Alberta Party deserves a read as well, as does Jane Morgan’s blog posts where she asks some tough questions about the Alberta Party. Finally, Daveberta writes about his breakfast with the new Alberta Party.

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Rebooting Alberta: Instant Reaction

The afternoon at Reboot Alberta is drawing to a close. So far, I have had some fascinating conversations – both inside and outside of the formal sessions – with a number of old friends and new acquaintances.

We began this morning by choosing topics for discussion during three consecutive time slots. After breaking for lunch, we moved into a session with four breakout groups – one around each of the major themes for action identified (phrasing largely mine): “reinvigorating the existing political system (including parties)”, “a new political party if necessary, but not necessarily a new political party”, “creating new movements and initiatives for change (outside of formal political structures)”, and “working through existing initiatives for social change”.

This morning, I participated in sessions titled “What Exactly is a Progressive”, “Defining a Progressive Vision for Alberta”, and “How Do Progressives Bridge the Gap Between Rural and Urban?” All three sessions were very engaging, and thought-provoking. In particular, I enjoyed sitting back and listening during the “rural/urban gap” session; it was informative to listen to the perspectives of Albertans from rural areas and small towns.

This afternoon, I sat in on the “new political party if necessary, but not necessarily a new political party”. Most of the discussion ended up around the Renew Alberta initiative. The group, some of whose organizers are present, is collecting signatures in order to register as a political party. I’ve expressed reservations about the merits of starting a new party (here and here), but I will say that there a number of insightful comments – some in support of the idea, some raising questions or offering caution. What is evident is that almost everyone in the room is unsatisfied with the status quo, and looking for solutions.

With the play-by-play out of the way, I’ll comment on three themes – values, social change, and political parties. I’ll write more about Reboot Alberta a few days from now, when I have had time to further reflect.

On Values
I feel like there is general consensus in the room on values. There has been a lot of discussion in my sessions about values, and about what defines a progressive, and a progressive vision. I’m very pleased with this; values must be the foundation of everything we pursue, and want to see accomplished. Some of the major themes that have emerged are around the necessity of conversation between political parties and citizens, of valuing diversity – in the economy, in our culture, and of being open to new ideas, new practices, and new institutions.

On Social Change
Successful social change is the result of a number of different converging efforts. It’s not the sole initiative of a political party, or a handful of concerned citizens or social groups. To achieve lasting, meaningful change, many different people and groups need to converge and work in concert. I hope this gathering has helped foster connections that will help make that happen.

On Political Parties
The question I feel many people are asking (including myself) is ‘what is the best avenue for achieving our change?’ Is it a new political party (or parties?) Is it redoubling efforts with an existing party or parties? Is it affecting public opinion that guides political decisions? There is interest in the Renew Alberta concept; I haven’t fleshed out my thoughts on it, but I will be watching efforts towards change both outside and inside the current system as this weekend progresses and comes to a close.

Also Worth Reading:
Chris LaBossiere: Pushing Ropes and Herding Cats; I Just Rebooted Myself…and It Feels Good
Daveberta: Rebooting Alberta 2:11pm
Reboot Alberta on Twitter
DJ Kelly: Look Out Alberta, You’re About to Get “Rebooted”
Atypical Albertan: Progressives Gather to Reboot Alberta