It’s Coffee Time: Doug Griffiths arrives in Living Rooms across Alberta

Okay – I admit it. I had never been to a coffee party before May 5, 2011. It seems to me that the era of the coffee party was a bit before my time. I’ve heard the days of the coffee party praised by board members from both Calgary Shaw and Calgary Foothills. Many claiming that that was the way Premier Lougheed won – that was how they met him – and that is how they knew he was a great leader.

There is something about coming into someone’s home, being on their turf, and embracing their friends, their neighbours and their community. It’s the principle of breaking bread together but in this case it’s sipping coffee. I laughed when I saw some comments on a Facebook photo Chris Harper posted of a coffee party he hosted this past week – his friends were amazed that a PC leadership candidate would come over to his house just to talk to his friends. It really is the simple things that amaze people the most.

And a coffee party is a very simple thing.

There is nothing to know about a coffee party before you have one. Nothing to learn. No membership to buy. No prerequisites. No expectations.

A coffee party is whatever you want it to be. It’s a passionate Albertan coming to talk to, get to know and share their vision with other passionate Albertans. A coffee party is what comes to my mind when I think of the term grassroots engagement. It’s literally invite your friends – gather them in your living room – listen to a visionary – ask questions – mingle.

My favourite part? The questions! That’s when you see people truly engaging. The questions are when you find out what makes your neighbours tick and what has been on their mind. It’s when you find out that many of us are passionate about the same things and want the same things for Alberta’s future. The questions are what get a room excited. And the answers to those questions are what keeps the room excited and triggers a desire to purchase a PC membership and get involved in the process – at least that’s what is happening at coffee parties featuring Griff.

I may be biased but Doug Griffiths’ strength is certainly in the coffee party. It’s no secret that he is passionate about people and communities. Without strong communities we cannot build a better Alberta together. In a room full of new friends his excitement about Alberta’s future is clear. He is personable, thoughtful and enthusiastic. You can tell he feels right at home in the living rooms of his volunteers and supporters – why? Because that is the kind of man he is. When he has the day off work he is hanging out in the living rooms of his family and friends. That’s where he watches his boys grow up, that’s where he invites his friends to watch the game and that’s where he hammers out his vision for Alberta.

Doug wants to get to as many Albertan living rooms in the next several months as possible. He wants to come to you … not make you come to him. He wants to build a better province … and he knows he can’t do that alone. Every community is different, every group of people gathered will be different but we are all passionate about Alberta and passionate about making it the best it can be today and for future generations.

So why don’t you have a coffee party? The latest people to sign up for coffee parties in Calgary? My parents! Lisa Mackintosh’s friends. A new supporter who DM’ed us on Twitter. And an incredible 70-something women I met at Chris Harper’s coffee party for Griff. She is so excited. She told me that it isn’t time for change in this province … it’s time for the next generation to step up and take their place in Alberta … and that place is in leadership roles. She told me that the last time she was this excited is when she attend a similar gathering for Premier Lougheed decades ago.

Everything old is new again. Why? Because Alberta has realized the importance of the community, of personal connections and that the only way we can advance this province is if we advance it together.

If you want to have a coffee party email the campaign or even just reply to this blog post. We will get you in touch with the right people and do our best to get Doug into your living room.

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to have a coffee party. Political engagement is personal – it’s flexible – it’s simple. Doug Griffiths’ coffee parties are political engagement.

Can’t wait to have a coffee with you in your living room and watch your neighbours get excited about our next PC Leader, Doug Griffiths.

CR xo

Guest Blog by Doug Griffiths: On the Budget

As you may have noticed there is a PCAA leadership race going on in Alberta – it is an exciting time and there is promise of change in the air. What excites me most is that a party leadership race often sparks the opportunity to share new innovative ideas. There is an expectation that there will be fresh prospective.

Doug Griffiths and his Build a Better Alberta campaign is exactly that, in my opinion. His first, in what he tells us will be a series of blogs, talks about the Alberta Budget in a different way that we are used to. Sit back and take it in … and pay close attention to the need for a long term fiscal framework.

CR xo

Doug’s words start now …

I have been reading over the budget and I have a few comments I thought I would make since there is ‘sort of’ a leadership race going on and so many have asked me for comments and my evaluation.

First, it is a little tough to fully evaluate this budget without the context of a long-term fiscal framework to judge it against. A long-term fiscal framework lays out the spending, saving, and tax policy over the next few years so that all Albertans know what to expect—not just this year—but in years to come. A long-term fiscal framework would ease fears by putting into place plans that would show the course for getting out of the red ink, but also for managing the next round of surpluses that would come with the next boom.

Some will want to simplify our current fiscal challenges as either a spending problem or a revenue problem. Our situation is, unfortunately, more complex than that. We have both revenue and spending problems. Natural gas royalties provide about two thirds of the province’s royalty revenue. With prices consistently low it is causing huge revenue shortfalls, and there is no end in sight as forecasts predict natural gas prices to remain low for years to come. Any upward revenue adjustments that come from, and will come from, increasing crude oil prices are, and will continue to be, offset by the rise in the Canadian dollar, which lowers revenue to the provincial coffers. So we have a revenue problem.

We have a spending challenge as well. We consistently spend more per capita than virtually anywhere else in the nation, and unfortunately we often spend more while seeing average or below average results in some of our largest programs. It has been too easy in Alberta to simply spend more money, since we had lots, and hope the problem would go away. It’s not simply the government’s fault for that either, though it is easy to blame the government. We, as Albertans, consistently demanded more money be spent on our challenges. Often money is the last step in the process to find a solution, and often isn’t necessary at all, but we got used to saying and hearing how much money was going to address a problem, and we accepted that everything would be okay. So, we have a spending problem too, since spending isn’t always the answer we think it is, but have come to rely on it.

Now, I am going to shock a few of you by saying that there is nothing inherently or morally wrong with running a deficit. A deficit is a one-year shortfall of revenue over spending. It is necessary, on occasion, to run a deficit to cope with unforeseen circumstances, such as the worst global recession in 70 years, or a steep and long decline in the price of natural gas. Circumstances like that happen and so it is appropriate to offset steep, sudden, and unforeseeable revenue declines with acute deficits that are covered by accumulated savings deliberately set aside for this very purpose.
It is important to have the savings to ensure there is no need to cut essential programs and critical investments, such as in education, research and development, and necessary social programs due to a temporary situation. It would be short-sighted to cut investments that ensure our long-term success because of a short-term issue. Building a savings account, such as our Sustainability Fund, to cover shortfall revenue is sound government policy, especially for such cyclical economies as ours. It affords us the opportunity to cushion and pad the boom and bust blows we are all too familiar with in our economy.

We have some long-term revenue challenges, as I identified earlier, that could keep us in a tight spot for a while, so it is critical to watch spending. I am pleased that this budget keeps the spending to only a 2.2% increase; pretty good by anyone’s standards. In fact, if you look closely, you will see that the province is running an operating surplus of almost half a billion dollars. That is good because operating deficits are dangerous even with a Sustainability Fund in place. Operating deficits have the potential to become chronic, rather than acute, and accumulate into long-term debt. Long term debt accumulated because of operating deficits is unacceptable. This is a tax on the next generation for what we want today. That is spending money our children have not yet earned. Thankfully, we are not in this place. Not yet.

It is also important to have the resources available to invest in infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, and roads that will be used for generations to come. The province had an Infrastructure Fund, which it rolled into the Sustainability Fund. That was a pool of funds set aside to deliberately build infrastructure during the economic downturn when the province would get much more value for the money spent than at peak economic cycles. That was prudent planning and the province is spending much of that money to build infrastructure while costs are still down. Once our economy heats up again and the private sector increases their investments, we will not get as much value for our money. We need a solid plan to provide the necessary infrastructure to support our economy, and manage that investment throughout the market cycles.

As a wise and successful man once said, “When everyone else is afraid, be bold, and when everyone else is being bold, be afraid.”

The current shortfall in this budget, therefore, is not due to operating deficits, but rather investment in infrastructure. Some people may suggest that the government should not be using savings to invest in infrastructure. They may suggest the government should only invest in using in year cash available. In reality, infrastructure is utilized over generations, and as the foundation on which the economy is built, must be capitalized over longer terms, especially in economies such as ours that grow at such incredible rates. The investment in infrastructure during this downturn is an investment in the future and for future generations. Government is a $36 billion dollar company and requires long-term planning and vision, and must invest on market cycles, not cash cycles. Cash in-cash out thinking is how you run a flea market, not a $36 billion corporation.

That said, we cannot cease to be vigilant. The investments we make in infrastructure must be wise and prudent, be critical to the foundation of our economy. As a province and as a public we cannot afford to build our infrastructure in cycles that compete with the private sector and exacerbate the boom and bust cycles we so often experience. We must ensure a planned flow of investment to ensure wise spending of taxpayer dollars. As well, we can never place ourselves in a position where short term program spending deficits caused by unforeseen circumstances become chronic spending deficits. Currently we are not running a deficit on program spending, but with consistently low revenue pressures and consistently high spending pressures, the situation has the potential to get away on us.
This all warrants having a discussion, and Albertans, not just politicians, need to be front and centre participants in that discussion. We need to be deliberate architects of our own destiny.
Without a long-term fiscal framework, it is hard to assess whether this situation is still short-term acute or at risk of becoming chronic.

Without a long-term fiscal framework it is hard to evaluate if we have ensured the right time to invest, or the right way to save, or the right programs for government to provide. Without a long-term fiscal framework we don’t have a plan to manage the next boom, which will then prepare us for the next bust. Without a long-term fiscal framework we don’t know whether we are making the right choices for ourselves, and for our children to ensure their future is bright. Without a long-term fiscal framework we simply have no context to assess whether we are making all the choices necessary to build a better Alberta.

Doug Griffiths

Old School Politics

I was at the Throne Speech yesterday and now feel the need to write a blog about something that really bothers me – the way some people act around a leadership contest – old school politics.

It is no secret that I am a Doug Griffiths supporter.

So, let me start by expressing my deep appreciation for people in the Alison Redford camp and for Alison – from what I saw yesterday, they get it.  We were all friends who respected each other immensely before and the fact that we are supporting different candidates during the leadership race doesn’t change a thing.

I had a great chat with Ted Morton and a few of his supporters yesterday.  We discussed the importance of uniting the PC Party and strengthening the brand – Ted gets it too.

I am disappointed by how some other people acted towards me yesterday – people who I have even vacationed with could barely say hello.  Those who did were all about key messages and no real social interaction.  That mentality will divide the Party.  I was told several times that I need to support particular candidates because they are the only person who can win this race and that is why we need to get behind them.

I’m sorry folks, but that is the old school politics that people are tired of!  I WILL NOT support someone because people tell me they are the only person who can win – I WILL support Doug Griffiths because, to me, he represents the future of Alberta and the kind of province I want to help build.

What bothered me even more were the rumors some people tried to float by me – things that have no factual base – downright lies.  These people should focus on the policies that will shape the future of our great province instead of acting like immature children – It’s so tiring.

During the Dinning run, these same tactics were used to pressure people into supporting Jim – and he lost.  Jim Dinning is an amazing man who would have made a great Premier – unfortunately for him, some of the people who made up his team completely turned people off with their old school political tactics.  I saw yesterday that similar tactics are already being used by some folks this time around and it’s tiring.  Frankly, it didn’t work last time and I’m confident it will fail again. These old school politics do not interest me, and do not interest the majority of Albertans.

If you are a PC who is being pressured into supporting a candidate because people tell you they are the only person who can win, please take a step back. That is not what the PC Party is about. Think about the future of Alberta and our future as a party.  Support the person who you think will be the best leader, the best person who can stand up against the opposition, or the person who presents the best vision for Alberta in your mind.  This was pointed out to me yesterday by a few people who get it.

Make a positive choice – don’t worry about the pressure, the baseless rumors or the threats – they are empty and meaningless and represent the politics of yesterday – a blast from the past.

Everyone has their reasons for supporting various leadership contenders. An important discussion we’ve had time and time again during our meetings for the Doug Griffiths campaign is that we will never question reasoning for choosing a candidate or disrespect another candidate. We are all on the same team and are all fighting towards the same goal – building a better Alberta together and strengthening the PC Party brand.

Let’s not forget that!

One thing that was clear yesterday at the Throne Speech was that it is an exciting time in Alberta! See you on the campaign trail.

PP

Run Griff Run ….

Something happened on Facebook and Twitter this weekend, which has me personally very excited – a campaign started to show Battle River – Wainwright MLA, Doug Griffiths, that he has support if he were to take a run at the Progressive Conservative leadership contest.

Griffiths, who at the young age of 38 already has nine years of experience as a PC MLA, is a potential candidate that would stand out as someone who is truly different from the rest.  Doug is very bright, charismatic and engaging.  He is a typical Albertan who resonates with corporate leaders just as much as rural landowners. He comfortably fits on a ranch, on a motorcycle, in rush hour, or on a weekend of self imposed survivor in the elements with his friends and family.

What is most exciting about Doug is that he transcends traditional political party lines.  In fact, for the past 6 months, the Alberta Party has been courting him to cross the floor and give them the boost they are trying to find.  For the six months before that it was the Wildrose Alliance Party trying to capture his attention.  Being a man of principle, however, Doug stayed with the PC Party and was instead seriously contemplating not running in the next election.  Almost a week later, his serious contemplations are of a very different and far more exciting type!

Several years ago I had the good fortune of working as Doug’s assistant when Premier Klein promoted him to the position of Chair of the Standing Policy Committee on Energy and the Environment.  At the time, he was also the Chair of Rural Development.

Doug is the best boss I have ever had (and I have worked for some very impressive people).  He’s a hands-on mentor who works collaboratively with his staff.  His constant reminder to me was that I didn’t work for him, I worked with him and while it wasn’t technically true, he certainly made me feel that way every single day.  Doug’s approach is collaboration and empowerment, but he will always be the first to roll up his sleeves and get to work – an approach I’m confident Alberta would get behind.

Doug is a big picture thinker with a passion for philosophy; he is an ideas guy who likes to spend his time thinking way outside the box, yet has an impressive capacity for detail.  His tremendous skills as an orator, creator and communicator make him an excellent choice for leader. He is inspirational.

When I worked for Doug we travelled throughout rural Alberta, where we went from town to town delivering his now famous 13 Ways to Kill Your Community speech and talking to Albertans about rural development and any other topic they wanted to discuss.  The speech has morphed into a popular book and series of videos on the internet – I never got tired of watching him give that speech and loved watching people nod their heads in agreement as they went from “aha” moment to “aha” moment.

Because he was the Chair of Rural Development and because so many Albertans wanted to hear his 13 Ways speech, I’m confident Doug has visited and talked to more people in rural Alberta than any other elected official in the province. He is also Alberta’s political leader in using social media to engage constituents. I think you would be hard pressed to find a politician who has a better grasp on the desires of the electorate.

If he decides to run for Leader, he will have to get better acquainted Edmonton and Calgary, as well as what he calls Alberta’s five other “bright lights” – Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Peace River, Grand Prairie and Fort McMurray.

Not that he is an unknown in the cities – he has served as the Parliamentary Assistant to the Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security as well as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance – but he will be competing for attention with some better known urban MLAs vying for the job.

Winning will take a huge effort and will require a truly grassroots campaign.  But if anyone in the PC Caucus can pull this off, it’s Doug Griffiths.  As a political animal that has been paying close attention to politics in Alberta for my entire adult life, I can see that Albertans are looking for something truly transformational and different.  The people within the PC Party I have talked to consistently tell me that its time for something fundamentally new.

It my view that the Alberta PC Party can give the electorate the new and different they are looking for in this leadership race or take our chances in the next election, and I am completely confident that Doug Griffiths is the right man for the job.

Run Griff run!!!

PP

Stories Are Gifts

I bought @ppilarski and me these mugs from Starbucks today. They are cute and got my attention. I was working on my thesis (which I can’t wait to share with all of you … be patient with me and keep sending me good vibes so I can finish asap), and noticed these mugs to my right. Cute little festive Christmas mugs that said “Stories are Gifts .. Share”. Wow. It got me thinking … and it also got me motivated to keep telling the story of my thesis and to keep blogging.

This week has been a trying one for active tweeters like me. I don’t usually like to share personal stories online. My personality is one that attempts to remain positive no matter what. But this week the online trolls almost won.

After sharing my health care experience from 5 years ago after being in a serious car accident I was told by several online that my story was insignificant and did not justify my reasoning for distracted driving legislation. I was a pedestrian struck by a car in a parking lot by an individual distracted at the wheel. This is no pitty party … I am a survivor and I am stronger after my accident than I ever was before. The accident reaffirmed who my friends were and taught me to appreciate those who love me and accept their love in whatever form they are giving it. It taught me that it was okay to count on people and that without people we are nothing. Without a story to tell we are nothing. Without our individuality we add nothing to a political party or movement. And without a story we have no authenticity on Twitter or Facebook.

Yes – my story is why I have become a strong advocate for the distracted driving legislation and why I was ecstatic that it passed in the house. The vote passed without a single member of the Wildrose Alliance Party in attendance and with the support of thousands upon thousands of Albertans – those politically engaged and those not.

Your support, or your disdain, for the legislation is about your own story. That story maybe your passion about libertarianism or about a fender bender you were in. Needless to say it is a story – one that consists of policy or one that is personal.

@ppilarski also shared a personal story this week – something out of the norm for himself as well. It was about his beautiful mother (a woman that was strong and vivacious, a survivor as well – one that I wish I could have met because I know we would have had a ball together … and she would be great assistance in distracting him during a game of cards) who passed away in an emergency room. This was no pitty party either – it was a part of his story and a part of his ER experience. In my opinion the emergency room story is a bad story for our government, but with a growing population and an ever increasing aging population it is a problem that will be one we will be fighting for a generation and I know we are trying. It is, in my opinion, a great story for the PC Party. MLA Raj Sherman spoke his mind and shared his story. I was proud after watching his speech in the legislature emergency debate. Although he did appear nervous, he did the right thing. The PC Party has evolved and voices like Raj and Doug Griffiths are valued and being listened to.

I’m proud of the stories that make @ppilarski and me who we are. It is because of our story we have this blog. It is because of our stories on the His and Her pages that we are engaged with politics.

I encourage you to think about your story – and share it with us here. I stress over and over again that the PC Party is one full of amazing individuals – each has a story.

Don’t let the online trolls get you down – they don’t have a story. Continue to stand strong and share yours. I’m going to keep at it – and I’d like to thank all of you that have been encouraging @ppilarski and I along the way. You have become a part of our stories … and “Stories are Gifts” … and I intend to keep giving.

CR xo

Will the real Doug Griffiths please stand up?

Another PCinYYC collaboration– I’ll be the one writing in italics (CR).

I just read a letter from Wildrose Alliance Party Executive Director, Vitor Marciano, which warns me that “the Stelmach PCs could force through a new Provincial Sales Tax at virtually anytime”.  The next sentence tells me they “need my donation today to mount an effective campaign against this new tax.”

Holy smokes folks, I better hand over my wallet and run for the hills – the two headed tax monster is after me and he goes by the names of Ed Stelmach and Doug Griffiths!

Wait a minute, Premier Stelmach has said several times that there will be no provincial sales tax under his leadership and Doug’s comments have been taken completely out of context.  He has advocated for a “long term fiscal framework about spending and saving … and must include a review of taxation levels and systems of taxation.”  Yes, he mused about a provincial sales tax – and the people have spoken loudly and clearly against that.  From most people’s point of view this discussion has passed and we should all move on – I share this sentiment.

I was very impressed by Premier Stelmach’s strong stance against a provincial sales tax at the PC AGM in October. Several times he was unwavering in his decision that while he was the Premier it would not be an issue up for discussion. He pointed out that we are the only province in Canada without one and the only province not in debt – we must be doing something right.

But before I am ready to move on, I want to share what I know about the ‘Real’ Doug Griffiths – the man behind the politician – because it reveals something about politics in Alberta that we need to pay attention to.

For those of you who have met Doug, you will know that what you see is what you get.  Doug is principled, articulate and visionary.  He is a father, husband and great personal friend to many, many people.  He understands complex policy, but takes a common sense and practical approach to issues.

Doug likes to cut through the politics and put all solutions on the table.  He wants to get the job done and his motivations are clear and simple – future generations – his boys and your kids.  Doing what is right because it is the right thing to do.  This is a brave stance in a turbulent political environment, but it is the only stance Doug lives for.

To me this is why the PC Party is different. We have representatives that are willing to look at all options, listen to all opinions, and speak up when necessary. Our party is cultivating a culture of engagement and discussion. It is an exciting time. I challenge you to talk to your PC MLAs one on one if you have a problem, need direction, or have a brilliant idea for our province – they listen. They live for this stuff – especially Doug. His community knows he does and respects him for it – he won the last election with79% of the vote in Battle River – Wainwright in 2008.

I have to admit that I am biased when it comes to Doug Griffiths, since I have had the opportunity to work for – or with – him.  He makes an excellent boss.  His inclusive style is always open to suggestions, questions and comments.  He listens to every angle and compares his opinion to yours; he responds after giving your position careful examination and consideration.

I’m fortunate enough to call Doug a friend. I have approached him for advice more times than I can remember. As a passionate young woman in the party it could be easy to get lost and become apathetic towards the cause, but Doug doesn’t let people like me (and you) slip through those cracks. He knows how important it is to foster the next generation of PC leaders. He will be ushering us in – and is welcoming us.

I like that whenever I go to him with my latest idea or struggle he looks at it objectively. I never expect it to be sugar coated. I expect it to be honest, caring, and upfront. His encouragement is from a thoughtful place – he meets you where you are at and puts himself in your shoes (which is hard in this case – I’m a big fan of pointy-toed heels). I am so thankful that Doug takes time to listen to me and give me calculated advice. With everything else on his plate he still makes sure to pour in to Alberta’s people.

The way that Doug has responded to Vitor Marciano’s fear campaign against the supposedly proposed sales tax speaks volumes about Doug’s true character.  Wildrose Alliance MLA, Rob Anderson, wrote a commentary defending his friend and former colleague.  Alberta Party organizer, Ken Chapman, called Doug “the kind of progressive, forward thinking and consciousness raising kind of politician we need in Alberta.” Heck, even Graham Thompson from the Edmonton Journal came to Doug’s defence.

While both these commentaries are completely accurate and more or less sincere, they are also politically motivated.  If you read between the lines, you see two new political parties trying to become or represent something Doug Griffiths embodies with a high degree of grace and ease – a true progressive conservative.

This drives me crazy, but also makes me laugh. Doug is a sought after, highly intelligent politician and he stands firm with Team PC. Of course the two latest political parties on the scene would be vying for Doug’s attention – whether that is by firing him up or flirting with him. They want people like Doug to stand firm with them … and those people are hard to find. Graceful, go-getting, gutsy people are what the PC attracted and still attracts. I am excited about those stepping up to run in the next election and I am excited that these two new parties will allow our PC candidates to define themselves even further.  

Doug is also, by all measures, a Minister-in-waiting.  He holds the title of Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance.  He has excelled in his positions, and has written a book based on his popular speech, “13 Ways to Kill Your Community”.  He holds an Honors Degree in Philosophy, specializing in Environmental Ethics.  A rural guy with urban flare!

Like I (we) said before, Doug is a principled, articulate visionary.  The kind of representative you would want as your Minister of Environment, Employment and Immigration, or Advanced Education and Technology – my top vote the latter.  He makes a great spokesman for Alberta, crosses all political and geographical lines, and raises the bar in political discourse.

Will the real Doug Griffiths please stand up?  This Progressive Conservative would like to see you take the stage, challenge those who strive to twist what this party is about, and represent the ‘real’ values the PC Party believes in and advocates for.

A real party full of real people having real discussions … what’s not to love? So proud to be a PC member, and so privileged to know I can count on leaders, like Doug, to push me to be all I can be.

PP and CR