Not business as usual

If you think governments or political parties don’t listen to their critics, you need to pay attention to what came out of the two provincial party meetings held in Alberta over the weekend.

If you think governments or political parties don’t listen to their critics, you need to pay attention to what came out of the two provincial party meetings held in Alberta over the weekend.

That, plus our federal government’s behaviour at the meeting this weekend of the leaders of the G20 group in Australia.

If you haven’t been paying attention to them, here’s some assurance that they are paying at least some attention to you.

I’m heartened by the confluence of these events. I think democracy in Canada might just have gotten a bit stronger over the weekend. So let’s pay attention and see how things work out.

Traditionally, the annual general meetings of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party have been pretty happy affairs. Not so much in the past couple of years, perhaps, but this weekend’s party meeting in Banff reminded me of meetings past.

A premier and party leader in full control of the agenda. A nice standing O for former leader Dave Hancock (and no mention of Alison Redford). Confidence, all round, but the reports I saw contained less swagger than in the past.

Other than Prentice’s comment that Albertans sleep better with the province in Tory hands, those of us still awake want to see government working a little harder. And Prentice seems to be getting that.

He promised in a CBC interview that he’s not going to be the kind of premier who hangs around for a couple questions in the legislature and then leaves. He says he’s seen that we want him to be available and answerable, even in the noise and swordplay of question period.

He’s not going to “snap back” at cheap shots, he says, and he expects his cabinet colleagues to follow suit. Watch and see.

In the Red Deer meeting of the opposition Wildrose Party, we got the promise that there will be less negativity from them in the coming months, and a greater elaboration of policy alternatives.

At a meeting that might not have gone well at all for leader Danielle Smith, we got a tone of second chances, rather than ultimatums. Even though Smith gave the party a sort of ultimatum of her own as the meeting began.

Two hard-fought election battles into their history, and two decisive defeats later, Wildrose could easily have collapsed on itself. But it didn’t, at least publicly. There was far less internal strife reported than could have been the case. Far less recrimination and finger-pointing, and more forward thinking.

Smith promised that a third defeat would be her last; she either emerges from the next general election as premier or as a footnote of history. That assures that the long knives stay hidden, for now.

Again, we’ll see.

But with Prentice’s promise of more decorum from the ruling party, and the opposition’s promise of more debate on policy alternatives, the next session of the legislature might actually produce a working government.

Isn’t that what we’ve been saying we wanted for the past few years?

And speaking of leaders who give us what we want, I’ll take it as a positive that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was able to talk about the need for action on climate change at the G20 summit without looking positively ill.

OK, Canada has no policy regarding climate change. But now there will be funding from Canada for action on the issue for developing nations. When you’re starting from zero, even a one is a step forward.

At previous summits, Harper wouldn’t have even been in the room if climate change was likely to be mentioned. I say the change came because the federal party has been paying attention, even while they pretended not to, while pretending to pay attention. Catch my drift?

Harper knows we appreciate him being a tough guy, confronting Vladimir Putin over Russian activities in Ukraine.

But what we really want is some assurance that he understands Canadians are as worried about climate change as everyone else in the world. Call me a rose-coloured optimist here, but this could be evidence of a thawing process. Let’s watch and see.

And that’s the whole point today. If you pay attention, I think you’ll find that government pays attention, too.

How bad do things have to get in government before people start paying attention?

In Alberta, we found that out about two years ago.

Lobby groups and self-appointed watchdogs can bark all they want, but you won’t see a change in government attitude until they notice that you’re noticing.

You may want honest, civil government, but it won’t come until governors truly believe they’re being widely watched — and widely judged.

On a variety of levels, we seem to have their attention now. So pay attention back. See what the next months bring — and expect that it’s not business as usual.

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

Just Posted

Photos: Red Deer barn dance entertains children, adults Tuesday

Hundreds of Central Albertans started their Westerner Days celebrations early with an… Continue reading

Manslaughter charge laid against Red Deer man more than a year after homicide

A manslaughter charge has been laid against a Red Deer man, more… Continue reading

Woman facing charges after pedestrian critically injured in hit and run

A woman is in custody in connection with an alleged hit and… Continue reading

Friday hail storm came at a bad time for farmers

Amount of damage a hail storm does often depends on how far along crops are

Record 10 homers as AL wins All-Star Game 8-6 in 10 innings

American League 8 National League 6 (1o innings) WASHINGTON — A record… Continue reading

Photos: Red Deer barn dance entertains children, adults Tuesday

Hundreds of Central Albertans started their Westerner Days celebrations early with an… Continue reading

Man suffers critical injuries, Red Deer police arrest woman in pedestrian crash

A man is in hospital with critical injuries and Mounties have arrested… Continue reading

Cull hasn’t been able to solve bunny burden in Alberta mountain town of Canmore

CANMORE, Alta. — Problems persist in an Alberta mountain town overrun with… Continue reading

Canada should help Holocaust denier on trial in Germany: civil liberties group

OTTAWA — A civil liberties group is urging the Canadian government to… Continue reading

Westerner Days: Send us your photos

Your reader photo may just make the pages of the Adovcate.

Adam Henrique signs $29.1M, 5-year extension with Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Centre Adam Henrique has signed a $29.1 million, five-year… Continue reading

Fashion firms upend design routine to focus on speed, trends

NEW YORK — Prototypes? Passe. Fashion company Betabrand saw that knitwear was… 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