Holding Higher Expectations

by Mark Zaugg 16. March 2014 22:03
How can you not be sucked into the circus that is the Government of Alberta this week?  I keep waiting for the Keystone Kops to scamper across the stage flailing billy clubs and rubber hoses.  The title for this post was originally going to be "The Good Old Give and Take" which was meant to allude to the lame predictability of an austerity budget, followed by a fudgy number budget, followed with a good news budget and finally - just in time for the election - a break open the piggy bank budget.

Predictability has gone out the window this week.

I have long lost faith with the PC party in Alberta.  I don't know precisely when, but I believe I split permanently after Premier Klein cut five percent across the board regardless of consequence.  It seems to me it wasn't actually a five percent cut across the board - something twinges at the back of my mind that not all departments ended up with the actual five percent mark, but I'm more than willing to be corrected.  I know that five percent was not felt equally everywhere and I feel we are dealing with the consequences of that decision to this very day.

I didn't fit in with any of the provincial parties since then.  It has only been when the Alberta Party came onto the scene that I've felt I have truly been able to find a political home.  I like very much that my views hold weight, but I also appreciate the people around me share most of my views and we're more than capable to respectfully disagree when we don't share perspectives.

With your pardon, I'll first address my disappointments over the budget.  I am absolutely not a financial genius.  I have no great insight into the Alberta Budget as presented by the government.  My lack of understanding is the very point.  On every board I've been a member we get a budget presented periodically.  Usually, but not always, it is an annual budget with all the numbers presented in tabular format on a spreadsheet.  There is no split between the books - are a second set of books always looked upon most unfavourably?

In particular, inside the Alberta Party our budget was presented both annually and we get monthly updates on the status of the budget.  I am not expected to be a financial whiz, the books are presented to me in a clear and sensible format so I can make sensible and well-informed decisions.  Why is our provincial budget not the same?  I do not ask that every single Albertan will understand the budget as written, but I would expect that someone such as myself who has a basic familiarity with balance sheets ought to be able to  understand the state of the province's finances.

The problem goes beyond the bottom line of the budget.  It hardly matters if the government calls the budget balanced while so many Albertans question how they can possibly call it such when we are spending more than we are bringing in.  The problem goes beyond the spin.

The problem lies in the very culture.  The problem lies in the DNA of the government that drafted such a document and then pats themselves on the back to call themselves transparent.


In the Alberta Party, I'm spoiled with clear numbers and a willingness to work to find common ground.  Our party leader - Greg Clark if you weren't aware - presents an update to us every two weeks to let us know what's happening.  Greg is unflinchingly reliable to update us, he is consistently available and endlessly willing to assist us in anything we tackle that will help improve policy, engage Albertans, attract members, form Constituency Associations and, of course, achieve fundraising goals.  The culture, the attitude and the desire within the Alberta Party is entirely about creating something better, something more representative, more responsive to Albertans.

Now should you find a home within the Alberta Party as I have, I would be happy to welcome you.  This isn't simply a recruitment drive for Alberta Party members, this is a call to all Albertans to question just what needs to be changed to start getting better results from our government.

I expect the openness and willingness to communicate that Greg has demonstrated.  I expect clear budgets.  I expect collaboration and a willingness for each member to perform to the best of their ability.  I expect an open ear to every suggestion that gets voiced.  I expect everyone to be able to show their work instead of just blurting out an answer.

Our present government has been tone deaf to criticism.  The budgets are obfuscated and while claimed to be balanced, in whole they clearly are not.  Rather than collaboration and seeking the best answers we have endless sniping back and forth with political theatre in full force.  Over the past week there has been an absolute intolerable lack of respect within the Provincial workplace called the Legislative Assembly so extreme that I would expect to be fired should I act so shamefully at my place of employment.

Kids are afraid to attend Question Period!  Now I understand Question Period has been a staged farce for forever and a day, but imagine a government that would actually answer questions seriously and an opposition that scored points not for pouncing on failings but for presenting valid, well reasoned alternative viewpoints.  It sometimes happens, but not very much lately.  I got to watch Question Period this week, I made it about two thirds through it and felt disgusted.  Albertans deserve better.

Albertans deserve better than an insulated Premier who does not have the respect of her party, much less the respect of most Albertans.  You cannot demand respect, you are only paid respect through your efforts of earning respect.  I have not been a great fan of Ms. Redford, but her actions have convinced me she is incapable to represent me, to respect me and feels no need whatsoever to answer to me.

I had to search my own blog to find the Open Letter I wrote to her.  I'm shocked it's almost two years old.  I can't help but feel Premier Redford still believes she's striking the right balance so long as people on both sides of her are unhappy.  She appears to have reached the stage where the majority of people are unhappy with her now.

Just so you know, Ms. Redford, I don't think I'm willing to meet with you to talk any longer.  It's you, it's not me.

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