3 #ableg predictions for 2016

The start to a new year wouldn’t be complete without a few provincial political predictions. Here are mine – based on 2015 observations.

In 2016 Albertans will watch …

… the MLA for Calgary-Bow, Deborah Drever, welcomed back to the NDP caucus.

For many this does not seem to be ground breaking but more and more we see this independent member being treated as if she never left the caucus. Her passed private member’s bill that was supported unanimously by the NDP caucus was the icing on the cake in 2015. The bill surfaced after a summer long road trip touring non-profits supporting vulnerable women, no doubt orchestrated by the NPD caucus after our Premier gave her a special assignment. The by-election saw Deborah become a NDP campaigner. And her swearing in was attended by and cheered on by a NDP caucus leader.

But, the less obvious, is a recent community newsletter article that social media politicos are obsessing over. The story the online army of conservatives is professing is the fact that Deborah “copied” a neighbouring MLA’s monthly article. I don’t see it that way. I worked in a constituency office and we would regularly get community related copy intended for newsletters. They were written centrally and many MLA office managers, including me, used the copy to supplement articles or even simply be the entire article. So no, I’m afraid Deborah didn’t copy her neighbouring MLA, she simply used the NDP caucus communications suggested newsletter content – and that’s the story. As an independent she shouldn’t have access to those communications but clearly she does. For the record I live in her constituency and my newsletter was different than the one referenced, which does further confirm the message was indeed a centrally crafted based on specific community needs. The last sign that she is already unofficially back in the fold, and the official announcement is imminent.

… the PC Party’s most progressive voice make a bold political move.

It’s been interesting to watch the PC Party grapple with two core components of the party – conservative and progressive. In order to win back the grassroots support it has lost they have to choose which grassroots support to focus on – those that have looked to the progressive side of the spectrum and are flirting with the Alberta Party or those that looked to right and are flirting with the Wildrose and a conservative merger. In a caucus of over 60 the voices that were considered the extremes of the party were often muted because of the wide range of voice representing the center. Now, with a fraction of those voices on the bench, the progressive voices have gotten louder and so have the conservative ones – which makes the vast differences of opinions in the party more obvious.

One voice has been particularly loud in recent months – unsupportive of a merger, loud on progressive issues, and a defender of the previous government’s social policy. I believe Sandra Jansen will make a bold political move to show her true progressive allegiance. The move will either be a floor crossing to the Alberta Party, which some have already predicted, or a decision to run for PC Party leader with a platform that will attempt to sway progressives back into the fold of the party. She would be the voice of anti-conservative reunification sympathizers.

… a by-election in Calgary-Mountain View.

Tragically Albertans will have to watch a by-election in Calgary-Greenway in 2016. But I believe we will see 2 elections when this writ drops. Calgarians will also go to the polls in Calgary-Mountain View. David Swann has been a true champion for the Liberal movement in Alberta for years and has publicly acknowledged he has considered retirement in the past. As the sole member of the Liberal Party caucus one can assume that he is working long hours but with the Liberals barely on Albertan’s radars those hours may not be paying off.

Plus how could we go one year without a provincial election in our province? Seems to be one of Alberta’s new political staples. J

It will be an interesting race to watch. My prediction for a winner? The Alberta Party. I believe the Alberta Party could attract a high profile candidate, like Matt Grant, who is fresh off a high profile federal campaign, and is maintaining his election ready social media presence.

There is no doubt that this will be another interesting year … policy changes, economic diversification (or attempts at), political protests, progressive movements, and conservative realignment.

It will be a ride – so put on your seatbelts and look forward to an eventful political year.

CP

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Jim Prentice is the Real Deal

I’m preparing for a presentation to my MBA class next week on the question: What should we know about ourselves to become better leaders?

As I prepare, I can’t help but be inspired by Premier Prentice as he navigates his way through the process of establishing himself as the leader of our province. While it’s only been a week since he’s been sworn in, it’s clear that when it comes to ability to lead, Mr. Prentice is the real deal.

As part of the research I conducted for this presentation, I came across an interesting study about the impact that “Authentic Leadership” has on “Psychological Ownership”. Short of getting into the heavy academic theory behind all of this, I can say that based on how my own feeling have suddenly become positive again towards the PC led government, this theory seems to resonate with me.

The study makes some general comments about authentic leadership, which it also correlates to the concept of “transformational leadership”. These include:

  • Authentic transformational leaders set personal examples, create a shared vision, take risks, promote trust and collaboration, and reward others for their accomplishments;
  • Authentic leaders are deeply aware of their values, emotions, goals, motives, strengths and weaknesses.

According to the study, psychological ownership is a natural feeling by individuals that is concerned with feelings of possession. The study goes on to say that when followers perceive leaders as authentic, they tend to display more organizational citizenship behaviours, commitment, satisfaction or performance. It also says that because open and truthful relationships are integral to authenticity it is reasonable to expect that authentic leaders fulfill the followers’ need to belong. Finally, and perhaps most encouraging for the PC Party and Caucus, the concept of “positive modelling” may result in followers identifying themselves with the leaders as a person.

So far during his short but action packed week as Alberta Premier, Mr. Prentice has certainly had this kind of impact on me and based on conversations I’ve had with many of my PC friends, I’m not alone in that feeling.

When it comes to the theory of authentic leadership, Premier Prentice seems to be the real deal. Of course it’s very early and only time will tell for sure, but so far I feel proud of my new leader and I hope the feeling not only continues, but deepens, matures and flourishes.

Thank you Mr. Prentice for bringing back that feeling of pride that was once associated with a PC led government – keep up the great work!

PP

The Freedom to Express my Thoughts

I’ve remained quiet online regarding the recent events of #ableg. Like many PC Party members I haven’t really been sure what to say. I’m embarrassed but also on the edge of my seat waiting to see what’s next.

Today it became apparent that I can no longer keep quiet.

Today Jim McCormick, PC Party President, held a press conference and said this:

“I don’t think people should be disciplined for their thoughts or expressing them.”

This is offensive to me. Why? Because I have been disciplined by this Party for expressing my thoughts.

It started with a blog I wrote about being invited and then uninvited to the 2013 budget  – you’ll notice that blog is gone from the site – but I know many of you remember reading it. I wrote that this wasn’t good practice in terms of volunteer retention and how frustrating it was to be removed from the invitee list just days before an event without any legitimate reason as to why. In the end I was offered a ticket to attend by the Leader of the Opposition. I accepted and attended.

That blog was posted the afternoon of March 6, 2013. I received a call that evening to let me know that “I had made my point” and it was time to remove it. I removed it. I did it out of respect for the individual that called. The next morning I actually received a phone call from the Premier’s Chief of Staff over my ticket. He apologized to me for the mix-up. True example of the squeaky wheel … and I truly appreciated it. For me that particular issue was resolved.

But then a few minutes later, this is what I received from the Party.

A letter of censure explaining to me that my “blog crossed a serious line” and I needed to give “second thought prior to any communications that may reflect negatively on either the Party or our Leader.”

Sending letters like these to your members is the exact opposite of encouraging people to express their thoughts.

I have been a long time advocate of #changefromwithin for the PC Party. But as Donna Kennedy-Glans pointed out yesterday … I’m just not sure that’s possible.

CP

Meet our Friend Matt

The New Year got me thinking … we have a ton of new MLAs (can we still call them new?) sitting in the Alberta Legislature … we don’t necessarily know a lot about them … which leads to my excuse for a new series (hopefully) of blogs. A New Year featuring New MLAs.

First on the list? Our friend Matt.

Peter and I met Matt Jeneroux, Alberta’s MLA of Edmonton-Southwest, before the 2012 provincial election. He attended the nomination workshop we were hosting on behalf of the PC Party. He stood out in the room. I remember standing at the front of the room looking at those that were learning about the process and wondering who might go on to become MLAs. Matt was an excellent choice by the constituents of Edmonton-Southwest.

Since that day Peter and I have gotten to know Matt and consider him a friend. He is strategic, dedicated, hard working  … and thoughtful. Peter and I received the loveliest (“official”) letter from Matt after we got married – I must admit that the inner political geek in me was quite excited about having something like that grace our mailbox but the words written and sentiment behind it truly demonstrate the type of individual Matt is – gracious, kind-hearted, and, like I said, thoughtful! Perhaps a side of a MLA you don’t often hear about or get to see.

Matt always seems to be up to something new. Give him a follow on Twitter or check out his website. He has quite an impressive schedule. My favourite of his posts? The photos of him visiting schools and students in his constituency – making a positive impact on Alberta’s next generation. He’s quite active online – keeping Albertans posted on his goings-on, tweeting directly with those that have concerns, and sharing information not only about government but the things that matter to his community. Like this one from yesterday:

We asked Matt a few questions to start off 2014 so Albertans could get to know him better. His answers are in italics.

Why did you choose to get involved in politics?
It was a decision I made after a lot of thought & consideration. I have 2 young daughters and I want to ensure they have every opportunity to grow up in a remarkable Alberta like I was able to do. I want them and their generation to have pride in a province that is quite simply the envy of the world. I want them to be able to say, “I’m from Alberta” anywhere in the world and be proud to say it!

What did you do before you were a MLA?
I worked for the Federal Government as a Policy Advisor.

What is your favourite part about being an MLA? 
The opportunity to have a voice for our generation, specifically opportunities like being on Treasury Board. Also being the youngest government caucus member, I often get to provide a viewpoint from our generation and add insight as a single dad raising a young family. It’s a tough balance sometimes where I have to bring my two daughters to a number of meetings but I’m hopeful hard work and sacrifice will help to give us a voice at the decision making tables.

What is the number 1 issue you are passionate about in our constituency? 
A few issues have really stood out for me. As of recently, being able to speak about and provide insight on our changing interprovincial and international relations has been quite interesting. I have a very forward thinking constituency with a lot of young families who are passionate about Alberta’s place in the world. I’ve been able to bring a proactive and forward thinking discussion about our future to the table on a variety of topics which I’ve had the luxury of chatting with my constituents about again and again!

Oh, and of course the continued growth pressures and the high demands for increased infrastructure i.e. New Schools

And, any New Year resolutions?
Hopefully avoid the stigma of overweight & unhealthy politicians and continue to go to the gym often… even if it means at 11:30pm after evening sittings!

Good luck in 2014 Matt! We’re watching (especially that 2014 resolution) and looking forward to all you’ll accomplish as government’s youngest member (which is an accomplishment in itself) … thanks for representing your constituents, our generation, and most of all for your friendship.

– CP

Industrial Revolution Values vs. 21st Century Education System

Last week, the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA) unexpectedly walked away from the province-wide tri-partite negotiating table with an announcement that the best they can offer is a four year deal with wage increases of 0%, 0%, 1% and 3% over the term of the contract.

The ATA did this knowing full well that wages are not the issue.  They were hoping to pull the wool over the eyes of Albertans.  They came out on the offensive by pointing to just how reasonable they are being.

When it comes to the issues the ATA and Government actually disagree on, however, the teachers’ position is the furthest thing from reasonable. It’s based on concepts applied during the industrial revolution, when the rise of unionism was an important counterbalance to the rise of the industrial enterprise.  This is a time that has long passed – and our education system needs to get away from.

Before reading on, I urge readers to take the time to listen to Minister Johnson’s audio interview
(http://www.education.alberta.ca/department/ipr/tripartite.aspx) for a very full and detailed explanation of the Government’s position including a q&a with the media.

The sticking points between the Government, School Boards and the ATA come down to 2 key issues –  workload and what the Minister calls a comfort letter, which is essentially an agreement from the government that they won’t make any changes to regulations, teaching quality standards or legislation that pertains to a teacher’s role for the duration of the contract.

The ATA’s position here is patently unreasonable and completely predictable.  All parties involved in this discussion will say that they want what’s best for students, but the teachers’ union by its very nature is there solely to look out for the interests of teachers and, by extension, its own power over the system.

While the Government of Alberta and school boards are looking to transform the education system so that it can function properly in the 21st century, the teachers’ union is protecting long cherished and severely antiquated principles of seniority, as well as the power the union holds when its members keep a monopolistic grip on the education system.

In other words, for the ATA these negotiations are about the very core of what gives a union its power. And for the Government, it’s about taking some of that power back in order to bring transformational change to how education is delivered.

Seniority is important to a union’s power because the longer a worker stays in the system the more money they make and the more union dues they pay. Long term workers have also been paying union dues for longer, which means they deserve more loyalty in return. It’s a closed loop system that leaves little room for innovation and even less room for change.

As the Minister explains in the audio clip, the issue of workload can be addressed in two ways – through a hard cap on hours or by giving teachers additional support in the classroom and redesigning their roles so that low value tasks are removed and more time can be spent on high value tasks.

Given the union’s inherent bias towards the long term worker, the concept of changing a teacher’s role becomes more difficult. A teacher who has a year or two left in their career will be more resistant to this kind of change. It’s natural. Change is hard. Change takes work.

But the union’s motives in this negotiation are more sinister than their systemic bias towards more senior members. These negotiations are about the union’s own relative power over the system. Monopoly equals power – anything less is seen as an erosion of that power and unacceptable to any union in a negotiation.

The union’s solution to workload is to put hard caps on the number of hours a teacher can teach in say a day or a week. Hard caps mean more teachers; more teachers mean more union dues for the ATA. It’s simple – if a teacher can only work 40 hours but there is 60 hours of work that equals 1.5 teachers or 50% more union dues.

It’s a bad deal deal for taxpayers and in the 60% of Alberta schools that hard caps are in place, the problem of teacher workload has not gone away.

The ATA’s other demand of the government – that it not change legislation, regulations, teaching quality standards or anything else related to a teacher’s role is, once again about nothing more than the teacher’s union fighting to keep monopoly control over the system – or its own power.

When the Education Minister talks about providing teachers with more support in the classroom or eliminating low value tasks, he is likely referring to bringing people into the classroom to assist teachers. This way, teachers can focus on the high quality tasks of educating our children while the teaching assistants and other classroom support staff can help with discipline, focus, attendance, paperwork or other administrative tasks.

From a perspective of relative power within the system, this doesn’t work for the teacher’s union.

This new person (or people) in the classroom, who is most likely not a certified teacher and therefore not part of the teacher’s union, will reduce the workload of the teacher, meaning less (or the same amount) of teachers and less union dues for the ATA.

While I’m oversimplifying the examples and I realize that there are many different aspects of a teacher’s role or a classroom environment that can be changed, refocused, etc. … my main point here is that the ATA’s position in these negotiations are purely about self preservation and cynical power politics.

In other words, while the various ways of approaching the issues may seem complex, understanding the motives behind the union bargaining position is extremely simple.  The union is there to keep its power and, by extension, the relative power of teachers within the education system.

It’s important to understand that for the union, there is a fundamental disconnect between the interests of teachers and the interests of students, school boards and the Minister of Education.  The union exists for teachers, not students – yes, there are circumstances when these interests overlap (the collective bargaining sweet spot); this is not one of those times.

However, in a time where the Government and School Boards are looking to bring sweeping transformational change to the education system, that bargaining sweet spot may be nearly impossible to find.

As a result, we have the ATA’s annoucement last week that they are walking away from the province-wide bargaining table.
Alberta’s education system must embrace the 21st century to prepare kids to thrive in today’s fast paced and innovative world.  The longer we allow the teachers’ union to hold onto the industrial revolution values that led to its creation (seniority and self-preservation), the worse the rest of society will be.

PP

 

PC Government deserves a ZERO for not doing their job

Sometimes, it’s difficult to be a PC supporter.  Reading stories about rampant corruption within our healthcare system are hard to stomach, especially considering the sub-par care my mother received in her dying days only a few years ago.  It took 3 months of doctor appointments (in her last 6 months of life) to get a diagnosis in our monopolistic system, yet when we flew to the US and paid for a diagnosis in a private clinic we got the diagnosis in 1 day.  After she was diagnosed here in Canada, our shitty healthcare system failed to provide her with homecare; somebody forgot to order it for her.  She died in emergency because there wasn’t enough space in the hospital for her.  It was a horrendous experience that left me very upset.

But I didn’t blame the PC government for that.  I understand that MLAs don’t run the healthcare system and I don’t think it’s a good idea for them to.  The healthcare system should be run by health professionals, which for the most part, it is in Alberta.

It is the job of MLAs and Ministers to broadly oversee the system and to make adjustments when those who run the system day to day make mistakes.  This is why Premier Redford took decisive action when the Merali story broke and why she is implementing more transparency in the way government officials report expenses.

The no zero policy story, which concluded yesterday with the firing of a high school teacher with 30+ years of experience is something I can’t believe our elected officials would allow to happen.  The Redford Government deserves a zero for not stepping in to stop this.

I agree that our Education Minister should not get involved in the day to day decisions made within our education system.  We have Trustees, Superintendents and other education professionals who are better suited to run our system at the local level.

But firing a teacher for giving HIGH SCHOOL students who don’t complete assignments zeros is far more offensive and egregious than any story of corruption or misuse of public dollars.  And the fact that Alberta’s Education Minister is not planning to step in to correct this is shocking and unacceptable.

The no zero issue is about far more than a teacher who isn’t following policies or a local firing decision as the Minister has suggested. It’s about teaching values and principles.  In a province where small business is the backbone of our economy and where our big businesses are global leaders, the values we teach with a no zeros policy is unacceptable.  Failing is one of the most important components of success and teaching our future leaders about consequences is one of the best ways we can prepare them for the competitive and cruel world.

Like I previously said, it’s the job of MLAs and Ministers to broadly oversee the system and to make adjustments when those who run the system day to day make mistakes.  A man lost his income because he would not follow the offensive no zero policy and the PC Government needs to make this right, just like they did recently regarding the expense claims of health officials.

Otherwise Albertans might decide to teach them that there are, in fact, consequences for not doing their work.

PP