Who is Jim Prentice really listening to?

It certainly isn’t Ralph Klein’s ‘severely normal Albertans’

Stephen Murgatroyd


Let’s ask a simple question. When the Wildrose Premier of Alberta says “he is listening to Albertans” who is he actually listening to?

We don’t really know, but we can guess. Given that he has ruled out all of the solid recommendations of all of the leading economists, including the very smart people associated with the Premier’s Council on Economic Strategy, we know he is not listening to those who have studied the problem.

We also know that he is not listening to those who have day-to-day direct contact with those Albertans most in need. That would be social workers, health workers, teachers, community development workers, foster care parents, mental health workers, First Nations outreach workers.

The fact that he says that many of these people are overpaid (he never says the same about bankers, oil and gas executives, engineers, and corporate executives) tells us he is not talking to them.

Nor is he listening to the growing number of poor people in Alberta, to single parent mothers, the growing number of working poor or those who struggle with three jobs to pay rent and put food on the table.

He is not listening to Public Interest Alberta or the Parkland Institute which champions the issues faced by these people.

So who is left? Well, his own caucus members feel “left out”, at least according to some. He is not sitting down with the NDP, whoever remains in the Liberal Party or the Alberta party and asking “what can we agree to do which will really transform our economic position and end our dependency on oil and gas revenue?”

So I am left with the working assumption that he is listening to a select group of oil and gas executives (and their bankers) who are telling him to keep their taxes low, to keep royalties crazy low, not to introduce any new taxes on sales and to argue that all of this is in the name of “competitiveness”. I also think he spends his evenings in an echo chamber listening to himself.

This is why we have the broken Ralph Klein message and really poor thinking. This is why we are going to see conflict between those with power and those without. This is why he will take on the public intellectuals who challenge him and the bloggers who will be key to laying out an alternative narrative, given that our political opposition seems “dead in the water”.

No doubt a response to this will be that Albertans are being “surveyed”. Really. Look at the questions NOT ASKED in that survey and, more significantly, read the last statement on the survey, which makes it a political statement. Also, ask what difference these surveys will make to the policies, which come out of the echo chamber.

As one of my respondents has suggested, we are past the time of trying to help the Wildrose Government and Premier hear us. We need to start using street politics to get them to understand in just how many ways they are misunderstanding Alberta.

Stephen Murgatroyd is a consultant in innovative business and education practices with a Ph.D. in psychology.

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