WHERE ARE WE & HOW DID WE GET HERE?
I have been writing and ranting for years about Alberta’s broken political culture and the corrosion and erosion of our democracy. We have, as citizens, made consistently bad choices, sometimes individually but for sure collectively.
We have enabled greed and accepted waste and poor productivity as normal. That has concentrated wealth in the top few and created devastating economic inequity, unnerving uncertainty, and confidence crumbling vulnerability for most of the rest.
We have kicked the obligations for oil and gas reclamation and clean-up down the road for decades. Now the accumulated financial, social debts and the unattended environmental stewardship obligations on future generations are enormous and overwhelming.
We have used nonrenewable resource revenues to pay for current public services and keep taxes low instead of growing the Heritage Savings and Trust Fund for the benefit of future generations and absolving the current generations from actually paying their way.
This was all predicated on the so-called Alberta Advantage. That was based on a presumption that lower taxes and less regulation meant a better investment attraction. It promised a guarantee of constant improvement in living standards and ongoing sustainable economic growth based on petro-culture principles. None of which has proven to be true. And now the old model of attracting investment is obsolete as Ethical Investment Principles are taking over.
CAN WE RETURN TO “NORMAL?”
The seeds of a society’s failure are often planted during times of “success.” The fault lines in Alberta’s political, social, and economic culture have been visible, but ignored, for decades. Covid has stripped off the wallpaper we put over the cracks in our delusional protective walls. It has exposed the fragility and the brittleness of our institutions, and social and economic systems. It has also forced us to be clear-eyed about our individual frailty, physically, mentally, and even morally in some cases.
We are seeing the consequences of the societal weakness that comes from ignorance-induced error or indifference born from what is becoming learned helplessness. Have Moderate Alberta voters traded away our core values of accountability, transparency, openness, honesty, integrity, and personal responsibility?
Have we instead, opted for feel-good political promises we know can’t be delivered, and uttered by a succession of quasi-charismatic White Knight Conservative leaders? We have persisted in electing such “leaders,” and have always granted them the absolute power of majority governments. We have forsaken the pursuit of ideas and settled for the false comforts of familiar but out-moded ideologies?
Have we falsely believed that “strong leaders” would provide economic, social, and political stability? We have relied on them to deliver us from the evils of market forces, let us off the hook for ecological stewardship, and allow us to perpetuate the myth of Alberta Exceptionalism? It’s not working, and actually never did.
WHAT MIGHT THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE?
The ruling classes within Alberta’s capitalist, political, and intellectual elites have been pretending that everything is OK. We seem intent on accepting that at face value. Is that so we can continue to avoid facing the serious and deepening trouble Alberta is in?
Under the “rule” of the Kenney UCP government, we are seeing the rise of his authoritarianism and fascistic tendencies. That has been fast-tracked and reflected in the UCP government agenda since elected, using many Trumpist political tactics.
As fearful and vulnerable people’s lives fall apart, the first thing we seem to do is take it out on each other in an attempt to preserve their own status quo. This scapegoating of the “Other” gets fed by rage, despair, and anxiety due to uncertainty and eroding social trust, and declines in personal, business, and institutional confidence.
Look at the secretive Kenney Controlled War Room, the abuse of political power by the Anti-Albertan Public Inquiry, our half-hearted and ill-advised ideologically driven, instead of science-based, Covid policy responses, as startling examples. And now we see a UCP push for what could easily become a politically-controlled provincial police force. If that happens, can an Authoritarian police state be far behind?
WHAT’S TO BE DONE?
The time for Despairing is over. Now is the time for Repairing. Citizens need to fix things. We need to rethink Alberta and what it means to be Albertan. We need to Wake Up, Fix Up, Clean Up, and yes Act Up if we are going to Reboot Alberta. Aware and well-informed citizens must take back Control of our Province. We need to design new Alternative paths to the future. We must challenge and Delete destructive policies of past governments and establish more constructive, inclusive pro-social initiatives.
We need to Reset our course and Recommit to a Radical Renewal as Moderate Albertans based on a Rebalancing and Integration of People, Planet, and the creation of Genuine Equitable Prosperity. We need to become Better Citizens. We must take on that challenge as concerned individuals who are intent on becoming more effectively engaged in bringing about positive change in those areas of life that concern us.
Of course, this is not a one-size-fits-all challenge of applied Citizenship. It will be carried out by each of us according to the limits of our capacity, skills, time, and personal circumstances. But everyone has some gifts and some ability to contribute to the greater good as they see and feel fit to do so.