Monte is a former federal cabinet minister and MP for Medicine Hat. He is now a Senior Advisor with Fleishman-Hillard, based in Calgary.

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Sunday
08Nov2009

My Advice (as in a bit of a cranky rant) for Alberta Politicians

Now that the drama of the Alberta PC Party leadership review has played out it's time to address the issues that continue to concern Albertans.

My advice to both the PCs and the Wildrose Alliance is to:

1) Engage the public. Hold town hall meetings around the province and distill the publics concerns about deficits, healthcare, education, royalty reviews etc into several key points.

The public must be both informed and held to account by providing them with background papers on all of these subjects that indicate the percentage of the provincial budget already goes to these things.

I would provide comparisons between Alberta and other provinces and other North American jurisdictions both in terms of spending and performance. I would provide space in these documents for experts to state their positions on what should happen in these policy areas.

It's easy to say "spend more" when you don't have to be accountable for the consequences.

Actually being a citizen carries with it some responsibilities like getting informed before you tell others what to do.

Groups like the loopy "Friends of Medicare" will hate this because they'll actually have to acknowledge that the government doesn't have a money tree and they'll have to explain where they would cut to satisfy their apparently infinite demands.

Accountability for all please!!

2) Encourage a real debate about all of the issues including healthcare, climate change, deficits, royalties, transmission lines (full disclosure...one of my clients is Enmax), the optimal size of government, MLA, Cabinet, staff and public service salaries.

(This is Alberta damn it. We happen to think it's our God given right to get our say even if we don't get our way!)

I would love to see honest and fact based debates about the merits of:

• Modestly sized government, and why government should be restricted to a percentage of GDP.

• Local control of municipal services, hospitals, schools and police services. This already occurs partially but what about financing these services?

Property taxes are about as archaic, distorting and economically harmful a way of financing local government as you could possibly find. Is there a better way? What about a bigger role for user fees in healthcare use? Can we design a system that brings discipline to the use of healthcare, but that also guarantees free or very low cost access to healthcare services for those who can't afford to pay? Of course we can, but the debate must be fact based and it must rise above alarmist rhetoric and fear mongering.

The same applies to environmental issues. The same for royalty regimes. All of it must be addressed.

Frankly expert panels alone aren't good enough. The public must be deeply and sincerely engaged. This can't be a PR exercise or it will backfire in a massive way.

Anyway, this is what should be done in my opinion, but what do I know about politics?