Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Future of the Alberta Party

This, in response to Graham Thomson's opinion piece about the Alberta Party:

Alberta Party looks to future

Dear editor,

Graham Thomson’s history lesson of the Alberta Party (Aug.2) was excellent.  We did create a progressive political party to re-engage Albertans in a respectful, grassroots dialogue.  In two years, the Alberta Party attracted over 2,000 members (of all political persuasions) saddened Alberta politics had become so angry and divisive.
Alison Redford did take the wind out of Alberta Party sails.  The minute she was elected, she ripped her party to the centre because she knows that’s where most Albertans stand.  When Albertans looked at their options on April 23: the moderate new face of the PCs or the Wildrose Party—espousing social conservatism Albertans will not tolerate, a disregard for climate science and a philosophy of privatization of public services—they ran back to the PC Mother Ship.  It was their safest option.  The Alberta Party, as Thomson pointed out, was simply too new and unknown in the face of such a threat.
Even as a candidate for the Alberta Party, I was relieved we avoided a Wildrose government.  However, as hopeful about Ms. Redford as I am, I remain pessimistic the PCs can truly reconnect with average Albertans.  Forty-two years of power makes it difficult to feel much empathy with ordinary Albertans.
We can hope the Wildrose Party distances itself from its social conservatism and an aversion to public services.  We can hold our breath the Liberal brand suddenly catches on in Alberta. We can cross our fingers the PCs commit to more than superficial transparency and accountability.  Or… the Alberta Party can continue to forge something new and exciting for the majority of Albertans... in whatever form that might take.
Graham Thomson is right, The Alberta Party has the best name in Alberta politics (not to mention the coolest logo).  But we also have a history of respectful debate, quality candidates, grassroots involvement, transparency and creative solutions that cannot be denied.
Whatever happens in coming months, Alberta Party supporters will protect the high standards that went into the creation of Alberta’s freshest political party, but everything is on the table.

William Munsey (New Sarepta)
VP Policy
Alberta Party

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Social Media Almost Got My Message Out

Tonight was the third candidates' forum for the constituency of Leduc-Beaumont.  It was hosted by the Town of Beaumont at the Coloniale Golf & Country Club.  In my invitation, it was noted that the forum would be recorded and posted on public media.  I was thrilled with that.  I've been doing well at each of the forums.  Many have said they've been swayed by my earnestness, my speaking ability and my grasp of the issues... but most importantly that I have been respectful and positive.

Just before we were to be introduced, however, it came to light that the PC MLA was the one sponsoring the filming company that was there to do the filming.  While I was momentarily taken aback that George Rogers was behind the filming, I wasn't fazed for long.  I'm proud of everything I have to say and I'm confident in my ability to articulate my ideas and those of the Alberta Party.

I expressed my disappointment at not being told beforehand that the filming had been requested by the sitting MLA, but I was still happy to have the forum recorded and posted.  The NDP candidate's response was similar to mine.  We haven't seen the Liberal since this thing started so I have no clue how he would have answered.

The MLA apologised for his lack of effective communication and I accepted that.  He may be many things but I believe him to be an honest man and that his intentions were as he told us... simply to use modern social media to spread the forum to a wider audience.

Unfortunately, the Wildrose Party candidate would not have anything to do with the recording.  He claimed his words might be taken out of context... or that segments of the filming might be spliced together to make it appear he'd said something he hadn't.

He may have been entirely earnest... but in light of recent events in which Wildrose Party candidates have shown themselves to lack good judgement and speaking skill, I had to wonder if there was another reason for him to pull the plug on the idea.

I get that the MLA made a mistake not informing all of us.  He said he told the Town of Beaumont but they had not conveyed completely who had the idea to tape and post the forum.  I get that this has been a tough week for Wildrose candidates.  But I also get that we missed a chance to use social media to reach a larger audience.  I accepted George Roger's assurances that the forum would be broadcast in it's entirety.  Although I am running against George, he has never given me any reason to doubt his integrity.

We concluded that if any of us was uncomfortable with the taping and posting of the forum to YouTube, we would not precede with it.  Well... one of us did not agree and instead of perhaps thousands of "hits" we reached the 100 people who took the time to attend.

I'm disappointed.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Doug Griffiths, Alberta’s Minister for Municipal Affairs commented to me recently, “Alberta is in an enviable position and it was our PC government who got us into that position.”

I somewhat agreed with him (I admit I like Doug) and believe Alberta is a great place to live and work. I even give credit to good government and the many dedicated people  who make Alberta a great place to live…

“… but,” I added, “you guys now take for granted ALL your decisions are right for Albertans.”  It looks to me you see your role as persuading Albertans (after decisions are made), rather than consulting with us about what's best for our future.

Doug responded with a cliché.  He argued:

“I know a lot of folks who are happily married for 40 years. They don't have to change partners just for the sake of change. Many simply renew their vows to each other. That is what Alison Redford and I… and so many other new PC's are asking Albertans to do: renew our vows to build better communities and a bright future for the next generation.”

He went on to warn that change simply for the sake of change is dangerous. 

That’s where “the penny dropped” for me.  Doug honestly believes people simply want change because things have gotten too comfortable and predictable.  That’s why he used the metaphor of marriage.  He equates his government’s relationship with Albertans to a long marriage… one that has become a little stayed and predictable… but still healthy.

Now… I’m not that fond of the metaphor to begin with, but since Doug started it… I’m going to take it further.  What Doug (and his party) don’t seem to recognise is that when one partner in a marriage stops listening to the other… when one goes out and spends all the money on something without talking about spending priorities… when one partner starts to make commitments without checking with their spouse… that’s when partners begin to look elsewhere.

Albertans are looking elsewhere.  Our eyes are wandering… and perhaps much like someone in a dysfunctional marriage, our eyes have fallen upon the most available attraction… the one promising to make life more exciting... the shiny Wildrose Party.

Abandoning years of partnership for a more exciting partner might not work out the way we dissatisfied Albertans expect, but it will sure as hell wake up our jilted partner.  What that partner does starting April 24th, might bring back us back… or maybe not… but it should sure be pause for reflection.

I like Alison Redford.  I think she inherited a whole bunch of voter dissatisfaction she had little to do with and is now shouldering.  That’s unfair.  Her problem is that the PCs simply waited too long to notice Albertans were starting to look across the street at other possibilities.

Change for change sake might be a dangerous thing.  But that's not what is going on here.  We are looking for change because (for too long) Albertans’ hopes and dreams have been ignored by a partner who thinks it knows better.  The PCs simply forgot it was a partnership.  They forgot how to listen and respond. 

Perhaps a period of separation will let the PCs know they’ve ignored us too long… and their last ditch efforts aren’t going to hold us.

They have some serious wooing to do, if they want us back.  Are they capable of the self-reflection they’ll need to return to us humble and changed?  I don’t know.  Time will tell.

I don’t think we’ll be looking at divorce on Monday, April 23rd… but I think we’re going to look at a trial separation.  While I find I'm not all that impressed with the new suitor on my porch, I find the power of democracy quite liberating.  Now that I'm feeling more confident about my self-worth, I’m not going to let any new suitors take advantage of me anytime soon.  I may just shop around for a bit... and find one I really like.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

New Sarepta High's All-Candidate Forum

Last night saw the largest crowd in the eight-year history of the New Sarepta Political Forum.  Every election... municipal, provincial or federal, social studies teacher Kirsten Newman has her grade 10 social studies class invite candidates to introduce themselves, explain their party's platform and answer questions posed by the students and all the people in the community.

Last night, along with candidates from the governing Progressive Conservatives, the Wildrose Party and the NDP, I had a chance to introduce the new Alberta Party to voters.  Unfortunately, the Liberal candidate didn't attend.  Neither he, nor the ND candidate are from the constituency (which I find a cynical response to an election for local representation... but I won't deal with that now)

Over 120 people showed up to hear the four of us explain our vision for Alberta's future.  A huge portion of the crowd walked into that gym believing their voting choices were limited to the ruling PCs or their conservative cousins... the Wildrose Party.  I have a personal bias, but I'm pretty sure nearly all of them walked out shaking their heads, kind of shocked another credible choice had been offered to them... one they hadn't even considered two hours earlier.

Our current MLA George Rogers was his usual, articulate self... but there were some hard questions for him which he handled with noticeable (not by me... but the audience) disdain.  The Wildrose candidate was a gentleman, but  not up to the task of making his party look like a positive, inspiring choice.  When asked for an explanation of his comments (last week) in a local paper describing today's young people as lazy, he provided a wandering story about his experience in business, teaching young people a work ethic.  He ended on an even more negative note, saying today's parents are failing their children.  That was not well-received... even by those tired of the PCs.

At the end of the night, I couldn't get out of the gym because of the number of people waiting to talk to me.  Hard right conservatives posed good questions about the Alberta Party. Dyed-in-the-wool supporters of the PCs told me, "I'm tired of George... and your party is something to consider." One older woman asked  if I really believed in the Alberta Party, and why voting for us isn't a wasted vote.  When I mused Albertans had so long voted against what we don't want, we had forgotten how to dream and hope.  If we don't start voting and supporting good ideas... even when they're young... we'll sink deeper into a malaise of cynicism and antagonism.  I hope my passion makes a small difference in her last moment in the ballot box.

And here's the kicker (at least for me)... a very influential man in the community--and one who I never suspected I could move--approached me and asked to meet  for coffee. He said, "I think you might be able to have my vote.   I just want to talk about a few things.  I want to be convinced."  Wow! 

I suspect he wants to talk about are my feelings about abortion and and right-to-life issues.  I may not be able to convince him... because while I personally live an incredibly traditionally straight lifestyle, I accept differences without judgement.  What was striking though is that I got so far by talking about the Alberta Party and our way of looking at politics.

When I was a Green candidate, I always campaigned knowing my political affiliation  shut people down before they could hear what I had to say.  Telling people in east-central Alberta I was a Green was like slamming a door on someone's ability to accept a new idea... no matter how good it might be.  That was the biggest outcome (for me) last night; the message of the Alberta Party sold itself.  It is something a lot of people are craving.

Regardless of what happens on election day on the 23rd, the Alberta Party is a big idea... one Albertans are waiting for.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Forum Intro Notes

I'm appearing at the All-candidates' Forum hosted by the grade 10s at New Sarepta Community High School tomorrow night.  Below are the introductory remarks I've prepared.  Once I start talking, everything is bound to change... but this is the direction I'm going to start... and loop around to in the end.

Oddly enough, it was my own son (Curtis) who was randomly selected to introduce me.

Thanks, Curtis… and thanks to the grade 10s for organizing the forum.

I’m going to use my four minutes to give you an introduction of the Alberta Party. We’ve only been around since 2010 and many people don’t know much about us.

Albertans haven’t had much choice in provincial elections.  If you weren’t happy with the PCs… if you thought they’d stopped listening… if you figured they’d forgotten who pays their salaries… if you believed they’d lost touch with average Albertans… there wasn’t anywhere to turn.  Many Albertans simply stopped voting.

The NDP are too far left for a lot of us.  The Liberals are hamstrung by that name and a lot of unbalanced federal policy.  The fact is… neither of these parties even went to the trouble to find a local candidate for this election.

But this election, George is looking over his shoulder. The Wildrose Party gets credit for that.  But the alternative they offer makes some people uncomfortable…  Anyway, the Wildrose Party is largely made up of people who used to be PCs themselves.  I think their slogan ought to be:  “Send the PCs a message!  Vote for people who used to be PCs.

Enter the Alberta Party.  We began as a group of people tired of the partisan bickering and the negative tone of our public debate.  We believe good ideas can come from anywhere on the political spectrum… and when they do, they shouldn’t be ridiculed just because the “other guys” thought of them.

We formed the Alberta Party to find common ground… and look for a better way to do politics.

In the last two years, we’ve held hundreds of meetings with thousands of Albertans… all around this province… in coffee shops… in private kitchens… in town halls… and we asked Albertans three things:

1. What challenges do you and your family face and what concerns do you have for the future?

2. What are your hopes and dreams for Alberta?

3. What are you thankful for as an Albertan?

What we heard in those Big Listens has become the basis of our policy.

I admit, we aren’t as fully developed as the Wildrose Party… and we don’t have decades of government experience… and I can tell you right now… we don’t have a fraction of the money either of these guys have behind them… but I actually think that’s a good thing.  We don’t owe anything to any interest group.

The Alberta Party has created a credible option for people sick of partisan nonsense… for people who want to build on good ideas… not knock them down.  I’m going to leave it to you tonight to ask me about our vision for Alberta… so you can decide for yourself if we’re for real.

But I’m also going to promise you three things tonight… promises that won’t cost you a dime… and which I know I can keep:

  • We’ll be constructive.  We will offer solutions to the challenges Albertans face and not simply complain about what other parties stand for.

  • We’ll be respectful and positive.  We won’t attack other parties, or those who support them… and offer credit where credit is due.

  • We’ll listen and learn from you.  We know we don’t have all the answers.  I might not be able to answer every question… but at least you’ll know I’m not trying to snow you.

A lot of you want change.  I get that.  A lot of you are thinking the only way to get that change is to vote for the Wildrose Party. 

Others are worried about the change the Wildrose Party represents and believe a vote for George is the way to prevent change that makes you nervous.

But there is another credible choide… You can dream a bigger… help build the Alberta Party and it’s goals of cooperation, inclusion and public engagement.

We can dream bigger.  Achieving those dreams will take leaders who work for the common good… who don’t care about left or right  (or further right)…  or who has done them favours.  We need leaders willing to represent people… all people, regardless of economic or social standing, race, or political stripe.

Your choice is between cynicism and hope. Albertan’s dreams deserve more than short-sighted, partisan politics. Albertans deserve a government that seeks their input and makes common sense decisions for the common good.

We’ll always achieve more by voting for what we want than voting against what we don’t want.