Granted, the quotation above hardly emanates from a learned academic or a work of high culture. Then again, I’m neither Socrates nor Shakespeare. I made a career and most of my living in mainstream mass media.
No slur intended on higher learning or the higher arts. But in the realm of public policy and public affairs, brilliant ideas are useless if you can’t communicate them to a mass audience in a way that catches – and holds – their attention.
I think I’ll be in trouble if I ever forget that.
In my last rant I wrote, “There are two or three big issues out there that our governments need to chew on, because they are generational in scope. That is to say, how – or whether – our governments deal with these issues will impact every one of us. And I gotta say, I’m not seeing a lot of evidence that many politicians even have them on their radar yet. If they do, they certainly have not learned how to articulate them.”
Hours after I posted that rant, Peter Lougheed died.
I think his death brought that point into sharper relief for a lot of people.
Thousands upon thousands of words of tribute to the man have already been written and spoken, and mostly they boil down to this: as well as being a true leader, a good listener, and a man of humility and integrity, Peter Lougheed was a man of vision.
He had Big Ideas and Big Dreams for Alberta and its people, and he worked determinedly to bring those Big Ideas and Big Dreams to reality.
He encouraged every Albertan to do the same. Because of his belief in this place and its people, a lot of Albertans did just that. When a guy like Peter Lougheed has your back, you feel as if you can fly.
Fast forward to today and ask yourself, where is the vision now?
Alison Redford often refers to Lougheed as her mentor, and her PCs claim to be the heirs and successors to the Lougheed vision. Indeed, Redford talks the language of Lougheed, and compared to Danielle Smith and the Wild Rose, what Redford says sounds progressive. But it’s what Redford does – or doesn’t do that she said she would do – that matters more than what she says. As a well-informed political observer put it to me last week, Alison Redford has succeeded in differentiating herself from Danielle Smith. What she hasn’t done yet is show us how she’s different from Ed Stelmach.
Look to the opposition parties for vision, and you won’t find much there, either. The Wild Rose Party has a smaller-government-low-tax-personal-responsibility sales pitch that has a certain appeal….or did have, until the voters discovered that it also comes with an Eternal Lake of Fire. But it’s hardly a vision. It’s small and unimaginative, and really rather dull.
The Liberals, New Democrats and Alberta Party all have some good ideas. Many times, they have the same idea. But vision? The Liberals talk about being centrists, the Albert Party talks about being pragmatic, and the New Democrats claim they’re the rightful heirs and successors to the Lougheed vision.
That’s a problem, because while Peter Lougheed’s Big Ideas were right for the time, that time was forty years ago. We need New Big Ideas that address the big, transformational issues of our time.
Here’s the first big issue: what is Alberta going to do for a living after oil and gas? We need a Plan A that safeguards our security over our resources and a Plan B that ensures there is life beyond the oil sands.
More on that in my next rant.