Engineering real change

When was the last time you heard a politician say something interesting during an internal party leadership campaign? If you’re not a keen follower of politics and policy, the most likely answer is: not ever.

When was the last time you heard a politician say something interesting during an internal party leadership campaign?

If you’re not a keen follower of politics and policy, the most likely answer is: not ever.

Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Jim Prentice said something interesting to a gathering of party members in Edmonton last week.

He said that if he became premier, he would bring in a bill imposing term limits on provincial politicians.

Current MLAs would be grandfathered, of course, but a new MLA would be allowed a maximum of three terms, and two terms for a premier.

He also spoke of the end of single-source contracts and a doubling of the “cooling off” period for ministerial staff and public service employees (to one full year, from the current six months) who leave office, before they could return to a government paycheque in some other form.

It’s strange that a candidate seeking to extend the world’s longest freely-elected parliamentary dynasty would talk about introducing Canada to the thought of term limits for elected officials.

But that’s not the only non-traditional thought he uttered that day.

Prentice is actually quoted as saying the government he intends to lead — which has been in office since 1971 with continuous landslide majorities — is “out of touch” with Albertans.

A quick observation: it is more than likely the government has indeed “lost touch” with the general populace. Given human nature and the nature of power elites throughout history, that’s inevitable.

But unless there’s been a seismic change recently, you could also suggest that Prentice is making a massive misreading of the Alberta psyche.

For all the talk about our so-called “independent, free-thinking Alberta spirit,” the reality is that Alberta voters have never wanted a new broom in government, or a rollover of new people with fresh ideas.

What Alberta has wanted from government, ever since Confederation, was to just hand the keys to a populist leader and to walk away. If we want a change, we’ll call you. And we almost never do.

The globe will experience major earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. Entire countries fall apart and disappear, with new countries springing up in their place. Entire species go into extinction and the world’s climate can change.

But Albertans do not change governments.

And Jim Prentice wants to bring in term limits to institutionalize change? Just who is out of touch here?

Peter Lougheed led the Alberta Tories for 20 years. He was premier for 14 years and extremely popular the entire time.

Before he took power, Social Credit had ruled Alberta for 36 years, all but 11 years of that under Ernest Manning.

Between the Socred and the Tory eras, Alberta voters have decided only one change in government since 1935, for gosh sakes. Just one.

Even party insiders will agree the last full term of Ralph Klein’s 14-year tenure as premier was less than dynamic, but that’s still a far sight longer than the eight years he would have been allowed under the proposal by Jim Prentice.

And right to the end, Klein was always popular with Alberta voters.

The truth is, Albertans don’t like change.

Up to today, perhaps.

One Central Canadian columnist remarked a while back that whoever wins this leadership race, that person had better be able to walk on water (like Lougheed and Klein) or he will drown.

Perhaps Prentice is trying to change the water’s depth.

All the candidates wishing to be Alberta’s next premier are working hard to put new product into the Alberta Progressive Conservative package. Just enough change to satisfy Alberta’s small historical appetite for it.

But anyone looking for a new broom to sweep the dust out of the Alberta legislature will first need to convince voters that it’s worthwhile for them to keep one hand on the keys to the building.

I’m not sure Prentice can force that through legislated term limits.

This is a responsibility Alberta voters need to take on themselves. If they want it.

Greg Neiman is a retired Advocate editor. Follow his blog at readersadvocate.blogspot.ca or email greg.neiman.blog@gmail.com.

Just Posted

WATCH: Red Deer’s noxious weeds are a goat’s dietary delight

Piper Creek Community Garden gets chemical-free weed control

Get your guilty pleasures: Westerner Days food

Traditional sugary treats were served up by the plate, bowl and bucket… Continue reading

Count shows slight decrease in Red Deer’s homeless

In two years, the number of homeless in Red Deer has decreased… Continue reading

Redoing hip surgeries are costly, says new study

Redoing hip and knee replacements costs Canada’s health system $130 million a… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer gets a taste of unique, fun chilis at cook off

From deer meat to Grand Marnier to raspberry jam everyone at the… Continue reading

WATCH: Cirque ZUMA ZUMA puts on a show at Westerner Days

ZUMA ZUMA performs three times a day during Westerner Days

Trump ready to hit all Chinese imports with tariffs

President Donald Trump has indicated that he’s willing to hit every product… Continue reading

Scathing suicide inquiry finds gaps, shortcomings at Royal Military College

OTTAWA — Members of a board of inquiry into three suicides at… Continue reading

From hot to not? The Baloney Meter weighs in on Scheer’s economy claims

OTTAWA — “Justin Trudeau inherited a booming economy, but he’s squandering it.… Continue reading

Premiers strike deal to allow increased flow of beer, alcohol across borders

ST. ANDREWS, N.B. — Canada’s premiers are set to wrap up their… Continue reading

Canada’s annual inflation rises 2.5% thanks to boost from higher energy prices

OTTAWA — The country’s annual inflation rate rose 2.5 per cent in… Continue reading

Divers hunt for 4 after Missouri duck boat sinks, killing 13

BRANSON, Mo. — Divers are searching Friday for four people still missing… Continue reading

Trump tweets after boat sinks: ‘Such a tragedy’

BRANSON, Mo. — The Latest on a deadly tourist boat accident in… Continue reading

Jones’ punt return TD rallies Riders to road victory over Ticats

Roughriders 31 Tiger-Cats 20 HAMILTON — Brandon Bridge kept Dave Watford on… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month