Sunday, March 30, 2014

Alberta and Newfoundland Politics–Tearing the Rot Out

Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one. - Sam Rayburn

Every good carpenter knows that if rotten wood is found within a building, you need to tear out not only the piece that is rotten but keep tearing wood out until one has torn out all the rot and has finally reached strong, clean wood.

Only then can a building be properly repaired, knowing that no rot is left hidden within to eat the building out from the inside.

As allegations of obscene spending and elitism by former Premier Redford continue to make the press, the attention of many is solely on her.  However, we must be cognizant of the fact that many people participated in or condoned her behavior, either spending the money themselves, benefiting from the spending, signing off on it, knowing about it and turning a blind eye anyway, etc.

And it is those people who represent the real rot in a Party – those who benefit from participating, those who are not smart enough to realize it is wrong or those who don’t have the courage to speak up and question whether it is wrong.  None of these are desirable attributes in any official, elected or buried within a bureaucracy.

Premier Redford’s actions may have provided the indication that rot was present but the real rot was revealed once she stepped down.  Unless we keep tearing back the rot, we won’t get to the real extent of the problem nor to the nature of the solution.

Replacing the leader won’t help us repair the rot … it will only hide it.

Meanwhile in Newfoundland ……

Cathy Bennett is running for the Liberal Party in the district of Virginia Waters against her opponent Danny Breen who is representing the Progressive Conservatives.

It wouldn’t seem to be a big deal except that for years, Cathy Bennett has been a significant PC contributor and beneficiary of plum PC-centric appointments while Danny Breen last year signed a Liberal membership card for reasons that are weak at best (including indicating he did so because a friend asked him to).

Then you’ve got the likes of MHA Paul Lane who crossed the floor of the Newfoundland Assembly earlier this year, from PC to Liberal, and now loudly trumpets the ineffectiveness of the PCs for the last 10 years (somehow forgetting that he never voiced these concerns publicly in the past while supposedly participating in the creation of this alleged ineffectiveness).

Even interim Premier Tom Marshall, whom I understand to be a man of strong character, participated in the activities of the PC Party for years with great vigor but has suddenly “come to Jesus” and is espousing the importance of listening to the voter.  It is amazing how poor polling results can convert even the most ardent “atheist”.

The examples of political color blindness and “come to Jesus” moments in Newfoundland are many and demonstrate that candidates and incumbents care less about Party ideology and more about choosing whatever party color or message is convenient to get or remain elected.

Could the old merchant mentality in Newfoundland and Labrador be alive and well but be hidden in plain sight in their politicians?

I wonder.

And to make matters worse, try asking the average politician in Newfoundland and Labrador about the numbers I referenced in my blog post Newfoundland–Should We Just Shoot It And Put It Out Of Its Misery?.  For almost all incumbents and candidates, you will discover that they either don’t understand the question or don’t have an answer and yet they will still try to convince you that they have the solution to everything that ails the Province.

That’s when you realize that what is standing before you probably looks and sounds more like this:

Despair.Com - Propaganda

The Bottom Line

When a house is rotten and we cover up the rot with strong wood and fresh paint, it may look pretty but it is still destined to collapse.

When someone who is unaware of the rot buys the house and it collapses, then we must blame both the seller for misrepresentation and the buyer for not inspecting the house.

But when we know the house is rotting and we buy it anyway, then it is shame on the buyer alone.

The old adage “caveat emptor” (let the buyer beware) holds equally true in politics as in Life.

I wonder if “the buyer” actually cares anymore about the quality of politicians they elect.  On the flip side, sell them a phone that blows up once in a while or something as mundane as a loaf of mouldy bread and then the sparks will fly.

And it is curious that we will spend more time planning the purchase of a new house, a new car or a vacation then we will choosing the politicians who are influencing the quality of our future - the future of our children and in fact, the future of the world.

Oh sure, words of indignation, anger, surprise and the like flow easily and copiously when we routinely participate in an almost annual ritual of “skewer the politician”. 

But I don’t think that words alone can change the direction of many things nor will words alone get the rot out.

I also think that when we know what we are buying in a politician and we buy it anyway, then it is not the politician that needs to be gets skewered. 

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


PS I’m going to stop writing about politics soon and get back to musings on business, strategy, humanity and the like.  However, as politicians and the quality of our elected officials go, so goes the impact on our Life personally and professionally (to some degree) and recent events in our provincial political system speak loudly about how much we care (or don’t) about the future we are creating for our children.

It also speaks loudly to what our priorities are and it makes me wonder if we care more about today than about the future.

The future always arrives.  A future of high quality is, however, not guaranteed unless we wilfully create it.

On the upside, we can always take consolation in the fact that we can continue to complain on the radio, in coffee shops and in op eds, can’t we?  Whew – thank goodness.  I thought all was lost.

Related Posts:

Friday, March 28, 2014

Newfoundland–Should We Just Shoot It And Put It Out Of Its Misery?

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. - Albert Einstein

The economics profession advances by one confusing financial disaster at a time. - Adam Davidson

As a passionate Newfoundlander (is there such a thing as an indifferent Newfoundlander?), I have always kept half an eye on the events taking place in my home Province.  The place that we know as The Rock is part of our DNA and we consider it more of a living, breathing place than merely a rock planted in the tempest that is the North Atlantic.  My culture is a fundamental component of who I am and how my heart beats.

On the other hand, as a long-time strategy guy for Wall St. and Fortune 25 companies, facts and figures rule my world and even when my heart occasionally screams to be heard in certain situations, my head relies on what it knows to be irrefutable and predictable realities.

And it is this hybrid human being that I am, being a New Yorker in a Newfoundlander’s body, that causes me great angst as I examine the contents of the 2014 budget for the great Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

To analyze the budget line-by-line would put most people to sleep with the exception of those of us who live for the excitement of mathematics and complex problems.  That being said, consider these simple-to-understand numbers:

  1. Newfoundland unemployment rate: February 2014 – 13.1%.  1976 – 13.6% (Source: Newfoundland and Labrador Statistics Agency).  The numbers outside of St. John’s are far worse.
  2. Unfunded pension liability: $7.3 Billion (Source: Newfoundland and Labrador Budget 2014).  Think digging out of an unfunded pension liability is easy?  Here is the simple explanation of how this stuff works from Investopedia.  And yes – that is the simple explanation.
  3. Overall debt: $9.8 Billion (Source: Newfoundland and Labrador Budget 2014).
  4. Deficit for 2014: $537 million including borrowing of over $1 Billion (Source: Newfoundland and Labrador Budget 2014).
  5. Total revenues for 2014: $6.5 Billion (Source: Newfoundland and Labrador Budget Estimate).
  6. Total revenue from offshore royalties: $2.4 Billion - 36.9% of total revenue (Source: Newfoundland and Labrador Budget Estimate).

Now consider the fact that the Government is forecasting its offshore royalties based on a Brent Crude Oil Price of $105.64 / barrel (Source: Newfoundland and Labrador Economic Research and Analysis Division).

Meanwhile around the world …..

Consider that with concerns regarding the Chinese economy, the ongoing slow global economic recovery, events in places like the Ukraine / Crimea, significant additional production from shale oil and the like, Goldman Sachs is suggesting that Brent Crude Oil may fall to $90 / barrel with some outside high risk models suggesting a possibility of $80 / barrel (Source: Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research).

This creates the possibility of a decline in oil revenue for the Province in the range of 14% - 24% in a single year and for the foreseeable future.

And so if you thought that Budget 2014 was hard to swallow, if such a decline in revenue actually takes place, budgets in the future will be a staggering piece of voodoo to sort out.

But increased spending continues anyway …. why?

I think the answer to that question is best answered by Finance Minister Johnson.  When asked about spending in high cost areas (healthcare alone will cost $3 Billion in 2014), she replied that “people told her cuts wouldn’t go over well”.

And this is the crux of the matter.  When Government believes it is in the business of telling the people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear, problems are bound to arise.

Or as Chris Morris once said:

The pursuit of approval usually ends in disaster.

And there’s another problem.

Ask the MHAs who are voting for the budget to sit down and explain the intricacies of it and the risks associated with it and you will find that most of them cannot.  If I approached you with an investment where I was risking your money and I could not satisfactorily explain the risks and rewards, you would chase me away (or possibly call the police if it looked too shady).  And yet, the average voter allows this to happen on a much larger, much riskier scale with their money and how the Government manages it.

And then there is this little item that doesn’t help.

With no disrespect intended to the Finance Minister, a BSc in Forest Engineering and a Masters in Environmental Engineering prepares you little to understand the numbers and exposes you to being vulnerable to accepting any numbers that others tell you are strong and viable.

And finally ….

Many of the people (and organizations) who would tell you that everything is in fact wonderful and that people like me are doom-and-gloom people are in fact benefitting strongly from leaving things just the way they are.  Follow the breadcrumbs and use data to inform you … don’t allow emotion (or their intimidation) to tell you otherwise.

The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is “all-in” regarding oil revenue and uncontrolled spending to appease the populace and there is no Plan B if oil prices fall during a time of global uncertainty.

The Bottom Line

The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador needs a couple of things to happen in order to turn around a situation that is still salvageable:

  1. It needs leadership that is not afraid to call it the way it is – someone who can cast a vision of tremendous optimism and possibility while at the same time, not being afraid to explain the realities to the people.
  2. It needs voters who give a damn about their Province and who recognize that a short-sighted “Everything is grand - worry about tomorrow tomorrow” mentality as promoted by the Government is slowly but surely killing them.

Unless the Provincial Government takes a longer, more strategic, more intelligent, more transparent view of its situation and the voters do more than complain on radio programs and in coffee shops, you won’t need to shoot the Province to put it out of its misery.

Because there won’t be anyone left standing to pull the trigger.

To the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, I say this:

Demand better from those who lead you.  The place and the people are one, inseparable and bound together by 500 years of history that defines us.  Our storied, powerful history and culture and the unlimited potential of the Province are calling you to stand up for what is yours to take while it’s still available for the taking.

Are you willing to answer the call?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – The Challenge - March 31, 2014

I mused on CBC about the challenges Newfoundland is facing.  That musing can be found here.

One of the great dilemmas facing Newfoundland and Labrador is the collision of these factors:

  • A small population and thus a relatively small source of revenue from residents / corporations, creating reliance on revenue from the Federal Government, fluctuating oil prices and a fishery that was given away to the Federal government for its own use as a bargaining chip in international negotiation.
  • A very large distributed area over which that small population is scatted.
  • The complexities of that distributed area and the costs associated with getting “appropriate” levels of service to as many as possible, including remote areas where the costs of providing such services can never be recovered.
  • A population that demands equal access to services without care as to cost.
  • A resource-rich Labrador, a place that often feels that the Island merely uses them for its own needs.
  • A government that tries to be too much to too many at any cost in order to get elected.
  • A tangled knot of issues in the present that were created as a result of not addressing the aforementioned factors for years. Finding solutions for these issues would challenge even the most brilliant minds and are exacerbated by the notion that everyone wants a solution as long as they don’t have to give up anything themselves.  With this in mind, no one actually solves anything and the tangled knot grows in scale and complexity.
  • Unions that won’t give an inch in regards to pension reform and other benefits for their members (current and retired).
  • Political leadership without strategy, intelligence, courage, transparency or the realization that they exist to serve the people.  It is called public service for a reason.
  • Too many people complaining on radio programs, on social media and in coffee shops while not applying their talents, strengths, energy and passion towards solutions and measurable results.

Is it any wonder that the Province finds itself in such a situation?  The challenges require leadership that can make difficult decisions and say “no” once in a while as a well as a populace that understands that if it wishes to live in a remote place, the quality of Life obtained from such a lifestyle must be traded off against the level of services that can be expected.

Unfortunately, everybody wants everything.

And when everybody wants everything, the result that is common is that everyone ends up with nothing or much less than they believe they are entitled to or is realistic to provide.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

PC Parties in Alberta and Newfoundland: What Are You Baking?

If you're trying to create a company, it's like baking a cake. You have to have all the ingredients in the right proportion. - Elon Musk

As I watch the PC Parties in the Provinces of Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador prepare to choose new leaders while simultaneously trying to run a government AND prepare for an election where their grip on power is threatened, I can’t help but think of Gerald Weinberg’s Bread Recipe Rule:

If you use the same baker, the same ingredients and the same recipe, then you will always get the same bread.

The PC Party in each Province has learned in recent months that the populace has empathically expressed that they don’t like the “bread” that their respective governments have been churning out.

But as I watch the Party in each Province execute a critical course correction that will impact their respective Party and Province for years to come, I wonder if they are really ready to change or if they still haven’t gotten over the euphoria of having written a really strong rah-rah message to their supporters with the hope that that alone will carry the day.  With apologies to a lot of well-intentioned people, the messages “we always win” or “we know we are the best” don’t sit well with a data-focused guy.  Unfortunately, questions such as “why?” and “how do you know?” are inconvenient “hot potatoes” and so should be avoided at all cost.

Consider these components of the Bread Recipe Rule:

The Baker – from discussions shared with me, each of the respective Parties is looking for a leader with many of the same traits found in the two Premiers that were chased out.  There are also many hidden bakers that the electorate doesn’t see.  While these out-of-sight bakers need to be changed also, the likelihood of that happening is slim even though their role in choosing the last leader that failed and in not removing them before irreparable damage to the PC Party was done was significant.  This time it will be different, I suppose …. just because.

The Ingredients – while the PC Party ideology is something that resonates with many, there are so many variants of it within the Party that it is difficult for members to coalesce around a unified set of principles.  I recently asked some government members in each of the Provincial Governments why they felt Progressive Conservatism best served the people and they couldn’t answer the question.  If you don’t believe it (or understand it), you can’t sell it.  Period.  Maybe they are there not because they believe in PC principles but because a popular party served their own needs at the time.  Gasp … could people be so devious or opportunistic?  Surely not!

The Recipe – I have been assured that the people in the PC Party in each Province find comfort in the same strategy, communication mechanisms, optics management and execution that has worked so successfully in the past …. well, with the exception of getting their respective leaders turfed in the middle of disastrous approval ratings and the possibility of being out of power for years to come.  Other than that last little bit, it works pretty well.

The Bottom Line

To the PC Parties of Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador, I offer this thought.

While traditions of history and success are powerfully intoxicating, if strategic and tactical execution doesn’t change with the times, it starts to look more like this:

Tradition -

Your respective fortunes didn’t die in the last two years (or in the last few months) suddenly and without warning.  Just as a large ocean freighter needs miles to make a course correction or a speeding train may need miles to stop, this seemingly sudden decline was years in the making – years of not recognizing or adjusting to the shift all around you.

And if you don’t embrace the magnitude of the shift that is occurring within your respective Parties and within the electorate and if you don’t see what is needed to adjust to, embrace and maximize the opportunities present in that shift, you may not like the smell that your recipe is producing.

In fact, it may not smell like bread at all.

In fact, it may smell like …. hang on a sec …..  <sniff> <sniff>.

Hmmmmmmm …. is that REALLY what you want to be baking?

I didn’t think so.

So you have two choices:

  1. Adjust to the shift and find a way to create a win that serves the people as you honor the title of Public Servant.
  2. Get used to losing.

Choose wisely.

In service and servanthood,


Related Posts:

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Politicians, Diapers and Why We Need To Change Both

I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live. - Socrates

Since a politician never believes what he says, he is quite surprised to be taken at his word. - Charles de Gaulle

Politcians and Diapers

As the dust settles from Premier Redford’s resignation this week, I wish people would stop acting surprised, stop blaming it on misguided misogyny (Danielle Smith and Donna Kennedy-Glans are still women the last time I checked) and not cry as Mayor Nenshi almost did when he talked about how allegedly good people were allegedly being cut down by the system.

Premier Redford, despite her sharp mental acuity and her articulate eloquence, enjoyed living a Life of luxury on the back of her taxpayers and saw nothing wrong with it.  Former Premier Dunderdale’s quick demise in Newfoundland should also have served as a warning about the dangers of indifference but sometimes ego gets in the way of learning opportunities and we miss them. When a Premier acts more like Marie Antoinette than a humble servant leader, there’s bound to be trouble.

Unless …….. your communications team knows how to paint you to the contrary!

Unfortunately, as the leader goes, so go their minions and the Premier’s communications team in their questionable competence chose to spend a fair chunk of their time taunting, insulting and arguing with people on platforms such as Twitter rather than focusing on demonstrating why the Premier was the right choice for Alberta. The Premier’s actions seemingly demonstrated qualities of indifference, apathy or elitism (whether accurate or not) and her communications team reinforced this message.

Watching interim Premier Hancock taunt the opposition on Thursday about how the PCs always win every election or Sandra Jansen (Associate Minister of Family & Community Safety) not know how to apologize for an insult she made against trades people tells me that the PC Party of Alberta still has much to learn about managing public optics.

And while bravado and machismo can be perceived as confidence, too much of it smells more like the contents of a diaper and if not changed quickly, will make people feel sick and need to leave the room.

A Different Type of Politician is Needed

I was listening to Bill Barry this week as he explained why he was running for the leadership of the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador and it struck me that this is the type of leader we need in the 21st century, specifically one who:

  • is smart
  • is passionate
  • is humble (but not a doormat)
  • is capable of making tough decisions when they need to be made
  • calls it the way he sees it
  • is not afraid of tackling the “political hot potatoes”
  • is capable of working with others, including those who are not an official part of “his team”
  • can speak to the people using a message that they can identify with.

People like former Premier Danny Williams have announced that they cannot support such a candidate and I can see why. It’s because people like Bill Barry represent the type of people we need to lead our world through challenging times and towards the potential that we are capable of producing.

In other words, someone who is atypical to what we are used to seeing in a politician and in fact, someone who represents a threat to the traditional political system.

The Bottom Line

Politics is a difficult and often thankless vocation and I am grateful for the many who make personal and professional sacrifices in order to serve others.  There are some great servant leaders out there in the political sphere and we must be careful not to dismiss all politicians as selfish, incompetent or in politics for their own gain.

However, like the Canadian Spa For the Elite (I mean the Canadian Senate), it seems that the higher some people get in the system, the more distance is placed between them and the voter and eventually the voter is lost somewhere beneath the clouds.

Elitism - Despair.Com

Service at the top is meant to be the ultimate servant leader role, guiding us through the challenges and opportunities before us.  It should not be perceived as a reward for someone who knew how to play “king of the mountain” the best (or a reward for the few who helped them up to the summit) while simultaneously forgetting that they exist to serve the masses.

As the PC Parties of Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador choose their next leaders respectively, they need to remember one thing.

While it may serve their short-term needs to put someone in power who creates benefits for themselves, putting someone in power who benefits the people and who resonates with the people will serve everyone’s long-term needs.

Otherwise, they might think they’ve pulled the wool over the eyes of the voter but in fact, it smells more like a diaper and no matter how awesome the brand of the diaper, it still smells the same.

And when that happens, a change is inevitable.

In service and servanthood,


PS If the voter is not smart enough to see through what the typical politician sells them, then maybe we’re filling our own diaper.  If that happens, it’s a lot harder to complain about the politician and be taken seriously.

Meanwhile, some PC supporters have asked me to take some of my recent posts down.  Maybe they are getting free consulting advice and they just don’t realize it.  Ahhhh ….. the disabling effect of the ego. Smile

Addendum – Insight from Marc Doll

I was amused by and in full agreement with this astute observation from Marc.

Key when changing a diaper is to  ensure that the replacement isn't already soiled - Marc Doll

Addendum – Clarification of My Intention

It has been suggested by some that my post was meant as a call to punish those who are successful or those who have made it to the top.  As a long time Fortune 25 and Wall St. strategy guy, far be it from me to even suggest that we should punish those who, through intelligence, hard work, determination and a little luck, have become successful.

People who are successful have every right to enjoy the harvest of their efforts.

However, if one strives to make their way to the top of the public service mountain, it is critical that they remember that they are at the top to serve and not merely to harvest for personal gain or through their actions, imply that they are there merely to harvest for themselves. 

It is, after all, called public service for a reason.

And therein lies a significant difference.

Related Posts:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Alberta PC Party–Indecisiveness, Mixed Messaging and Paralysis

The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision. – Maimonides

Indecision and delays are the parents of failure. - George Canning

After the big build-up to yesterday’s leadership tête-à-tête between the Premier and PC Party executives, it appears to me that the result has left the PC Party in a more precarious position than before the meeting.

Consider these points:

  1. The Premier comes out of the meeting admitting that it was a frank, difficult meeting but seemed almost relieved that with a work plan in hand, everything will be fine.  She indicated that she has learned that things like “listening to others” is important.  Most of us learn this much earlier in Life.
  2. The suggestion of the existence of a work plan implies that the Premier is on probation.  Do you know of many corporations that go on to success when their board indicates that their leader is on probation?  Do you know how many investors will invest in such an organization?  Me neither.
  3. The details of the work plan will be ironed out over time.  A general election is looming – time is NOT the friend of the PC Party. Several MLAs have indicated to me that even if a work plan is created, she is not the type to follow the instructions of others and won’t honor it anyway.  Ouch.
  4. Some people texted me when they heard about the standing ovation that the Premier received yesterday and said that that felt like the entire Executive were “flicking the bird” at the people (their description, not mine).
  5. One participant in the meeting told me afterward “Do you know what it’s like to ask a question and to know she is lying to my face?”.  He also indicated that no such work plan was agreed upon in the meeting and that the existence of one as described to the press was the first he had heard of it.
  6. If the Premier is in fact on probation and 6 months down the road, fails the conditions of her probation, it will be too late to change the leader then and the PC Party will be condemned to its fate.
  7. Mixed messaging about whether the ED was fired or not, whether MLAs are onside or not, etc. tells the people that the ability to provide a simple, consistent, cohesive message remains elusive.
  8. Meanwhile, pockets of MLAs are having their own secret, covert meetings to understand what they will do next.  There is one taking place as I write this with attendance expected to contain as many as 25 PC MLAs.

Oh the irony ….

The PC Party has a leader who knows that she can’t easily be removed from power by the Executive while paradoxically she needs the support of the Executive to stay in power. 

On the flip side, we have an Executive who knows that they can’t easily remove her from power, to leave her in power is risky and that she must somehow transform herself in order to turn the PC Party fortunes around.

Couple a complex, difficult Party Constitution with the fact that PC Party communication, especially in the social media sphere, is severely lacking and the result is ….. paralysis (or at least as perceived by the public).

And perception is our reality.

But let’s not forget this either …..

A lot of good, passionate people who are focused on what is best for Alberta were faced with this yesterday and they deserve people’s respect.  The weight on their shoulders was heavy.  Be grateful you weren’t in the room.  As one person said to me: “Do you know what it’s like to watch someone be s__t on by 45 people for 4 hours?  It’s not easy to watch.”  It’s not and it’s times like these that people do not understand what people subject themselves to when they sign up for public office.

This is not just the fault of the Premier.

This is the failure of others in the PC Party in not seeing this coming despite warning signs for some time and for not knowing how to effectively deal with it once it arrived.  It should have been anticipated and avoided.

Maybe when you’ve been in power for over 40 years, you get complacent, soft, lazy or arrogant or maybe you just lose the skills to be strategic because you haven’t had to fight for your Life in the trenches in your living memory.

When promoting a message to the people, there are three points of leverage that must be applied:

  1. What do I want the voter to feel?
  2. What do I want the voter to think?
  3. What do I want the voter to do?

I illustrate this in this easy to follow diagram (click on the diagram for an easier to read version):

Engaging the Populace

Frankly, I have no idea what the voter should think or do at this point.

But I’ll bet I know how they’re feeling.

With the economy picking up steam, the PC Party had a gimme for another 40+ years of power.  But it seems to me that they are saying “No thank you, let’s let someone else have a try”.  In fact, the economy is going so well, it would probably continue to do well no matter who is steering the Provincial ship and with that, what becomes equally if not more important to voters are the optics of how the government behaves and not the results they are producing.

I play to win but I’m not sure if the PC Party does and because I hang out with people who will do what it takes to win, I am returning my membership card.

Here it is.

PC Membership Card

It’s too bad.  They have the best thing going for the people of Alberta.  They have some of the most brilliant, passionate, Alberta-centric people I have ever met.

They just don’t realize it and don’t know how to keep it going.

And that above all is what is most disappointing – that people can’t communicate what should be a great result and a great future.

Because both are there if we look for them.

In service and servanthood,


PS The other parties want the current Premier to stay in power until the election because they feel that their chances are maximized with her in place.  What does it say when the PC Party plays right into their hands?  Some say that this is the easiest way to transition in a new leader.  Maybe so … but they had better hurry up because as I noted previously, time is NOT their friend.

All of this being said, there is one other point I would like to add.

This is democracy at its best.  Let us all be grateful that we have the opportunity to express our opinions without fear of repercussions or reprisals as many people around the world do not have such luxury.  Things can only get better when opinions are expressed passionately with an eye towards making the world a better place for all.

Addendum – Waves of Support

My blog has been out for an hour and I rarely write addendums this quickly but I have to say this.

At last count, I have received about 2000 emails regarding this blog post.  In a quick skim, about 95% are applauding my courage to say what needed to be said about their party.  About 2% are critical and about 3% are solicitations to join other parties.

What does this say when so many PC Party members are applauding this post?

That I leave to people who like to analyze this stuff.

I was just merely sharing an opinion.

Addendum – The Continuing Saga (March 19, 2014)

I have received over 5,000 emails regarding this post, with the statistics pretty much the same as before (and yes, I did skim them all).  What I find intriguing is the poor strategic, tactical and communication execution that has taken place in recent days, including a press conference with the PCAA President yesterday where nothing new was offered, an intriguing letter sent to all PCAA members from the PCAA President and the curious event of Mr. Hancock stepping out of Question Period at almost the same moment that the non-eventful press conference was taking place in order to tweet support for the Premier’s run in 2016 .

Here are some excerpts from the letter and how this literalist interprets them:

Quote: I have specifically avoided using capitals because the plan isn’t meant to be a written document.

Analysis: No written document means a plan left to interpretation by provider and recipient of the plan (and the interpretation could be different).  It also means no public accountability as to how everyone is progressing with the plan.

Quote: It is about an improved way of working together to insure the members and [sic] your concerns are being heard directly by the Leader.

Analysis: I’m sure “the Leader” hears the concerns all the time.  Does her ego allow her to react appropriately is more the question at hand.  What some MLAs have told me in private suggests that the answer is no.

The rest of the short note is just a fluffy rah-rah. 

Some interesting items to note:

  1. All references to the Premier in the letter are as “The Leader” and not as “Premier Redford”, an interesting disassociation.
  2. When asked at his press conference if Premier Redford will be Premier in a month, he indicated that he couldn’t speak for her and then proceeded to dance around the question.  Ouch – this doesn’t require a lot of interpretation or analysis.
  3. New accusations of inappropriate spending, whether for travel, for private accommodation construction requested by the Premier (at a cost of $2 million) but scuttled by others, for inappropriate non-tendered contract awarding, etc., continue.
  4. When the Premier was asked in Question Period on Monday what she thought of her support from caucus, the loudest shouts of support came from the Official Opposition.  When does this happen in the parliamentary system outside of challenges that face an entire Province or Country?  It means the Opposition needs her right where she is – not a healthy sign for the PC Party.

These reflect poorly on the Party, seemingly unable to take control of the situation or at least project a message that they have it under control and that they are listening to the people.

Big changes are coming to the PC Party in the days ahead.  Denying current realities only damages the Party further and alienates them from the people even more.  Their actions-to-date are proving to be highly lacking in strategic and tactical value while still projecting an excess of ego and hubris ….. a very bad combination.

And meanwhile, the other parties desperately need Premier Redford to stay in office as they see her to be a vulnerable target in the 2016 election … the devil you know versus the devil you don’t.

Oh what complexities we weave.

Addendum – Premier Resigns (March 19, 2014)

After the rumor mill started churning out rumors that PC Party members were calling on the Premier to resign while other rumors started circulating that certain PC MLAs were ordering members not to sign anything that called for her resignation, the Premier has announced that she is stepping down as of this Sunday.

There is no need for in-depth analysis here.  While she waited longer than she should have and created some additional complexity as a result, she did the right thing by resigning.

She served her Province as Premier, a job that is extremely complex and often thankless.  She returns to being MLA Alison Redford.  We should thank her for her service to the people of Alberta and to the citizens of Canada.  Her decision was not easy to make and few of us would have the courage to serve publicly, to endure what she has endured and to step down as she did.

It is time for the Alberta Legislature, the PC Party and the people of Alberta to move on to what matters.

Related Posts:

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Coffee Shops, Premiers and Ticked Off Customers

Customer Care: If we really cared for the customer, we'd send them somewhere better. – Despair.Com

Apathy: If we don't take care of the customer, maybe they'll stop bugging us. – Despair.Com

For the last year or so, I have been struggling with a particular coffee shop whose teas were something I’ve really come to enjoy.

Unfortunately for that coffee shop, they’ve been struggling with serious quality issues.  While the corporate people I have been speaking to are very passionate about quality and are doing the best they can, I just had one too many incidents with dead flies (hundreds), dead fish, food that had gone off (are muffins really supposed to smell like rotten eggs) and staff that forget that a welcoming smile makes all the difference instead of appearing to be put out when a customer interrupts their newspaper reading.

In fairness to the fine corporate folks, the privately owned coffee shop skated just under the guidelines of what would have enabled them to take the coffee shop from the owner and so the situation remained for some time.  While it is likely that corporate could have taken action if they really wanted to, they played it safe and will now pay the price for it.

Now the owner is leaving but it doesn’t matter – the damage to the brand is complete and while the owner will move on to create success or destruction elsewhere, the brand will remain tarnished in the local area and will need some time and investment to repair.

In fact, when I see the logo, I see dead flies and fish on it.  Ahhhhh the persistence of memory when it comes to branding – Salvador Dali knew what he was doing when he painted this:

Persistence of Memory

Meanwhile in the Alberta Legislature

The ongoing distraction in the Alberta Legislature regarding personal use of government aircraft by the Premier, allegations that caucus meetings often turn into “my way or the highway” sessions, lousy communication execution and other concerns have me worried about the brand being promoted from Edmonton.

When I think of the Alberta Government these days, I have a thought that keeps coming to mind that is best described by this poster:


Now the truth is that I don’t believe that elitism is the prevailing thought or belief amongst the many elected officials who work tirelessly in the Alberta Legislature.

However, the message that is being sent out speaks to the complete opposite, whether in the stand that the Premier has taken regarding use of government resources or in the bullying, intimidating, “I’m untouchable” style adopted by some of her communications staff.

And speaking of persistence of memory, when I hear warnings from the Alberta Motor Association about wide loads travelling on Highway 63 between Edmonton and Fort McMurray, I can’t help but think that maybe the Premier’s ego is travelling up the highway but then I’m reminded that she prefers to fly.

The Bottom Line

As in any organization, the attitude projected from a government to its partners and customers (i.e. voters) is often a reflection of the attitude embraced and projected from a single person - its leader (in this case, the Premier).

And just like the coffee shop corporate folks, I wonder how long Alberta Progressive Conservative “corporate” is willing to wait until their brand is severely tarnished or destroyed by the actions of this one person. 

The coffee shop corporate folks waited until the rogue owner damaged the brand and moved on and now they are left to repair the damage.

The question for the PC Party of Alberta is this:

Is the PC Party of Alberta willing to wait too long also, creating a situation of “too little too late” before they take action or will they do what’s right for everyone they serve?

I guess it comes down to how much they care about their brand and their “customers”, doesn’t it?

In service and servanthood,


PS This scenario presents an interesting dilemma.  A weak or crippled leader is something that an organization would ordinarily seek to rid itself of.  However, being this close to a general election and with so little time having passed since the last PC Party leadership race, changing the leader creates a potential risk for the PC Party while retaining the leader also poses a risk.

Meanwhile, most opposition parties would want such a weak leader to remain, since they would be an easier opponent to face in a general election.

So one ends up with the intriguing irony of a PC Party unwilling to change its leader even though it may wish to and an Official Opposition that seeks to disparage its opponent but not too much for fear that they will force a leadership change and possibly create a stronger opponent in the process.

It is the ultimate game of chess.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure if the people of the Province of Alberta are winning as a result.

As for the PC Party, standing still and taking no action is as risky as taking action with the hope of future success.

I think that standing still is actually more risky and plays into the strategy of the Official Opposition.

What do you think?

Addendum – March 15, 2014 – Tensions Erupt

As reports of altercations between MLAs at an Edmonton bar are revealed (Calgary Herald: Political tensions erupt between MLAs at downtown Edmonton bar) and news of the sudden departure of interim PC Party ED Kelley Charlebois is announced (Calgary Herald: Redford faces showdown with party directors), we see the unfortunate tension that is created when leadership qualities are lacking and are not addressed.

When a leader is considered too heavy-handed, too confrontational or too non-collaborative, pressure cracks develop within what ordinarily should be a cohesive team.  If the leadership concerns are not addressed, the cracks threaten to tear a team apart, a philosophy that is not new and novel nor is it limited to politics.

It is true in Life.

What happens next is anybody’s guess but I wonder if we are witnessing a pivotal moment in Alberta politics that others will look back upon and point to as the moment when Alberta politics and the condition of the Province of Alberta got better …. or worse.

Time will tell.

“Beware the Ides of March” – the timing seems almost ironic, doesn’t it?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Classifieds: Wanted (Needed) Desperately - New Leaders

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. - Lao Tzu

Sharing a musing from the great servant leader, Jack King.  His website can be found here – Walnut Ridge Consulting.

The wise words that follow are his, unedited, and are shared with his permission.


Calling All Leaders

What do you get when you take an empty box, wrap it, and put a pretty bow on top? Why, an empty box, of course. Sadly, many so-called leaders are not unlike that empty box. What do I mean? It’s simple really. Do elections make us leaders? Does the march of time (e.g., 4-year terms, 20 years on the job) make us a leader? How about credentials and college degrees? Do they make us leaders? How about divinity school, excelling in a particular sport, starring in a block-buster movie, or capturing the essence of life in a magnificent work of art? Do these activities somehow make us leaders? Pretty packaging or not, the only thing that can make us a leader is the condition of our heart.

You see, leadership, of any sort, is not about leading. It's not even about wanting to lead; instead, it’s about being followed. If you are to lead, it is because the people want you to lead; it is because they want to follow you. If you are to lead, it is because you have something of great worth that will build up the hearts of the people. Those who will lead us must first earn the people’s respect, for it is the leader who is empowered, not the other way around. After all, you can only lead as long as the people will follow. So it is, good leaders will not fight to become your leader. They will not ask for your vote. They will not put others down or demand your allegiance. They will not throw shadows of fear over your path. But they will not hide from you, either. Want to find them? That's easy. They're the ones serving others without fame or fanfare.

Find them, and you've found a leader worthy to follow.


Sometimes the wise words we need to hear do not come in lengthy tomes or need to be accompanied with heavy analysis.

Their beauty and power lies in their simplicity.

Thank you, Jack, for sharing your powerful words.  You are a true servant leader.

Where are the leaders we need today?

We need them now, while we still have something worth leading.

Are you one of those leaders?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


Malaysian Airlines–When Will We Get Serious About Intelligence?

The human spy, in terms of the American espionage effort, had never been terribly pertinent. - Aldrich Ames

As the world awaits an update on the status of the Malaysian Airlines flight that has gone missing, much of the media has become gripped by the news that two of the passengers on the flight were using passports that were stolen at different times – one from an Austrian citizen and one from an Italian.

The news, whether related to the disappearance of the flight or not, is complicated by the statistical improbability that the two stolen passports would be on the same flight.

Add to this the seemingly unusual event that the airline tickets for the two passengers were purchased together implies that the two travelers were known to each other and therefore the statistical improbability of the two stolen passports traveling together transforms into a statistic probability.

And finally, Interpol revealed today that both passports were noted in their database as stolen but since airlines rarely check passenger passports against this database prior to boarding (according to Interpol and other aviation sources), the success rate of using a stolen passport to get on an aircraft anywhere in the world seems fairly high. <<On a side note, I am reminded of the Air Canada flight a couple of years ago where a senior citizen was denied the right to board an aircraft because her passport had expired while she was on vacation.  She was clearly a threat, wasn’t she?>>

All that being said, we must acknowledge that whether the passport incident is related to the loss of the Malaysian Airlines flight or not remains unclear and is pure conjecture by a sensationalist-focused media.

And meanwhile in the Ukraine

Despite having tapped almost every land line, email, cell phone, public conversation, social media platform and McDonald’s Happy Meal box, events in the Ukraine have allegedly caught the world by surprise.  While the events have calmed down somewhat, there was a 24-48 hour window where we may have come closer to a larger “international event” than people realize despite the gigantic intel engine that can proudly predict what each of us will have for breakfast tomorrow.

All of this makes me wonder how serious we really are about security and how effective the billions we are spending really are.

Assessing the ROI of Intel Collection

We now know that in the days and weeks leading up to 9/11, we had the intel to predict and possibly prevent the event but we had a collision of too many people holding onto too many disconnected bits of information, either wilfully not sharing it because of “specific agency ego” or sharing it but needing the right people to connect the dots.

The Christmas Bomber attempted to blow up a flight headed into Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009, by igniting plastic explosives hidden in his underwear and was foiled when his sweat-laden underwear would not ignite.  Then Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano claimed that it was the work of the intel agencies that had prevented the attack when in fact, the passengers owe their Life to the likelihood that the only difference between a controlled landing and an explosive one was that the nervous bomber had sweated himself into failure.

Don’t forget that the Shoe Bomber also flubbed his mission, easily circumventing our security procedures at the time.

And we haven’t figured out yet how to deal with explosives surgically implanted inside terrorists.

In the case of the stolen passports on the Malaysian Airlines flight today, we know that Al Qaeda routinely uses stolen passports to hide their identity and yet we don’t screen passports to determine whether they are authentic or not, even though the technology to do so is relatively simple to implement.  It’s such a mundane, simple thing to check that it seems almost pathetic that our great counter-terrorism engine could be circumvented by such a simple act as offering a stolen passport.  Meanwhile, it took us a long time to be allowed to bring nail clippers, the notorious WMDs that they are, on board an aircraft again.

The Bottom Line

We spend billions on intel and counter terrorism and while we have many claims from the intel industry that the money is well spent and has prevented many incidents, we still have too many significant events happening while the probability of future events is a lot higher than people realize.

It makes me wonder:

  1. Despite the billions that we spend, why do we always seem to be a step behind many of these people who have almost no budget?
  2. Are we so focused on the potential for complex problems that we fail to see the relatively simple approaches that some of these terrorists use?
  3. Do our laws complicate the work of law enforcement, forcing them to tiptoe around our rights so much that it creates loopholes that terrorists can exploit?
  4. Is our ego so great that we assume that lots of money and technology can always beat someone who is insanely (and I use that word literally) passionate about achieving some goal in as simple a form as possible while at the same time being relatively uneducated (at least as we perceive them to be)?

And finally there is this question:

How can we do better before something really catastrophic undermines all of us?  Think of the Ukraine situation rapidly developing into something else by accident.

Security agencies are forced to run the gauntlet between honoring our rights and freedoms and protecting us against terror attack.  Their efforts are complicated by a select few who use the power they have to their advantage (think of J. Edgar Hoover’s abuse of power).

I wonder if this gauntlet (almost a no-win for the intel industry), coupled with ego, some scattered instances of corruption and black budgets that have lost sight of their real goals, have created a scenario where money that could be spent on other things will be wasted while events that threaten us personally or internationally will happen anyway.

If that’s the case, what’s the point? 

Maybe all of this “stuff” about security and counter-terrorism is just a charade and serves a different purpose, serving a different intention and a different master that we are not aware of.

But that’s all conspiracy stuff, isn’t it?

Or is it?

I’m not a conspiracy person but as a strategy person, what I see does not add up.  The dots are not connecting predictably or intelligently, with a missing element clearly present that prevents those dots from connecting cohesively.

Understanding that missing element and the person or persons who own it or influence it matters … if we have the courage, the ability and the will to seek the answer.

Meanwhile, for the record, I will be having corn flakes tomorrow morning, but somebody already knew that, didn’t they?

And yet we can’t do better where it matters.

It makes me wonder why.

How about you?

In service and servanthood,


PS On a related but unrelated note, the widow of a pilot lost on 9/11 has recently revealed that the cockpit of a commercial aircraft can still be compromised in less than 5 seconds and aviation sources have revealed that they believe that potential terrorists appear to be rehearsing on US commercial flights for some type of event.

Given that, here is an important call to action for you.

When the next event happens (and it will), you must act surprised and outraged because oftentimes it seems that that’s what we do best despite data to the contrary.

We can and should do better.

It provides interesting insight into the human experience as to why we do not.

As for today, let us keep the families of those lost in our thoughts and prayers, that they may find strength during this time of difficulty.

And toss in an extra prayer for the rest of us, that we may find the strength and courage to create a world that honors our potential.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Kindness–The Ultimate Antagonist

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. - Mark Twain

Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again. - Og Mandino

Those who know me well know that I often end conversations, whether it be in person, on social media or in emails, with one of several phrases:

Create a great day (or weekend).

Create a great day (or weekend) for yourself and others.

Create a great day, because merely having a great day is too passive an experience.

Create a great day for yourself and others, because merely having a great day is too passive an experience.

The phrases often draw interesting responses from people.  As my friend Sara K. noted today on LinkedIn:

I like it when you say that. Makes me feel powerful.

My friend Steve B. had this to say about the phrase:

I like the invitation to create something meaningful. You are giving credit to me for having talent and capability.

My friend Mark C. suggested in fun that perhaps I should offer a different, less intimidating variant such as:

Today is a gift. Don’t screw it up.

However, some people exhibit a different response to the phrases.  As an example, I am inviting a guest writer to share his thoughts on the phrase.  This person, a resident of Calgary, shared his musings on Twitter in crisp, poignant form today in response to my request to create a great day.

Musings of The Mench

Musings of The Mench

Musings of The Mench

As a long time Wall St’er, I’ve never been accused of being a hippie before. Other than that, name calling on Wall St. is quite common although he missed some of our favorite phrases. Smile

As background, I had responded to a remark by Danielle Smith, head of the Wildrose Party and the Official Opposition in the Alberta Legislature, when she claimed that she never blocks anyone on Twitter unless they are disrespectful.  When I remarked that people like myself had been blocked by her for asking for data to support assertions made by her, I was blessed to have an interaction with this gentleman.  After a few exchanges with him, I expressed my usual signoff and the afore mentioned tweets were his response.

Explaining “Create a Great Day”

When I ask people to “Create a great day”, I am sincere about it.  My greatest desire for those around me is that they have the opportunity to create the greatest experience possible for themselves and for others.  Merely “having a great day” implies that one will wait for a good day to arrive (hopefully) whereas creating one increases the odds of experiencing a great day or if a great day is already being experienced, then perhaps there is an opportunity to make it even better. Smile

So my use of the phrase could be considered to be equivalent to Namaste (the divine in me honors the divine in you), God be with you, have fun, have a blast, good luck, best wishes, aloha, serve others, love Life, grab a pizza with friends and whatever else you wish to embrace …. all rolled into one.

Friends of mine observing this interaction today had some interesting things to say about it.  My friend Doug P. had this observation when people were discussing the possibility of an underlying, hidden issue within some people (my emphasis added):

Yes, there are probably some hidden issues. I think those same issues would come into play with "have a good day" if it were not a ubiquitous, empty platitude. Your formulation is uncommon. People have to think a little about it. When angry people think, their anger goes on display.

Some people don’t like kindness or don’t know how to deal with it.

There are, sadly, people who don’t know how to respond to respect, civility and kindness.  Many such people miss some of the greatest joys in Life because they are too busy being unhappy and they are content to bring others down to share in their darkness.  While it is unfortunate that they should be so unhappy, it is unfair and inappropriate that they choose to impose their lack of joy, respect and civility onto others.

They go through Life steamrolling over others until they run into people like me.  Unfortunately for them, while I don’t seek trouble, I do not step aside when trouble is before me, since I know that if I step aside, the trouble that stands before me will continue their agenda of steamrolling and destroying others.  In such situations, some soften their approach when their attempts to intimidate and bully are met with respect and an interest in exchange. Others exhibit behavior like my guest writer above.

Sometimes you find such people in clusters

I find it intriguing that oftentimes when I ask for clarity from the Wildrose Party or I challenge an assertion made by them (requesting data to back up their assertion) I am often beset upon by someone like the person noted above.  Curiously enough, when I challenge other parties for clarity, I am not beset upon in the same way.  It was my experience with such angry people in the past that inspired me to write Anger: Setting Yourself Up For Manipulation.

Now in fairness, I have had some GREAT interactions with passionate supporters of the Wildrose Party, including people like Vitor M., Rick N. and Dave W. (you know who you are) and others.  They are passionate, intelligent people who, while possessing different political beliefs than I do, can listen, share, object, agree and give and take respectfully and intelligently.  They are as passionate about creating a better future for themselves, their families and their province as I am and this, above all, means that we agree and disagree our way towards a common goal – the creation of a greater tomorrow!

But there remains many people out there who are on simmer all the time and when respectful people like me come along with no agenda other than to learn, to share, to verify information (mine and others) and to collaboratively create a better world, they assume there MUST be an agenda and so they go on the offensive.

And sadly, the Wildrose Party, often referred to as the “angry party”, still has a number of such people circulating within and around the Party.  And while there is something to be said about the company that one keeps, the difficulty of being surrounded by such people and not discouraging their attacks on others is this:

Attacking reveals your weaknesses as well as your strengths.
Choose your battles carefully.

The Bottom Line

We must always strive to meet obstinance, intimidation, bullying and the like with as much kindness, civility and respect as we can muster. That being said, for some bullies, turning the other cheek or ignoring their presence will not solve the situation at-hand and may inadvertently condone or strengthen their forceful nature.  Force must sometimes be met with equal force or be gently redirected – always respectfully and kindly.

Eventually the bullies will see a better way and will change.

Or they will pick up their toys (and their negative intentions) and go home.

Or someone else (maybe you) will take their toys (and their power) away from them and send them home.

In all cases, kindness, civility and respect will still carry the day. 

Anger, when redirected, refocused and retasked into energy intent on making positive change can produce great results.  Anger when uncontrolled or misdirected merely hurts randomly or creates confusion.

It’s like splitting an atom.  Doing it well can produce relatively clean energy for a Lifetime. Doing it poorly can kill thousands or millions in a single flash.

It all comes down to personal choice of intention and execution.  Being separated by the distance and perceived anonymity that social media affords should not be a licence or excuse for people to treat each other with less respect than if they were standing face to face nor should one strive to be the twit in Twitter.

In a world of ever-increasing complexity and beauty simultaneously where technology often trumps humanity, I think there is still a strong need for some basic human values.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood.  Create a great day for yourself and others, because merely having a great day is too passive an experience.


PS For those who struggle with others merely because they resent or envy them in some way, I offer this amusing poster from the great folks at

Despair - Maturity

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Trojan Horse of the 21st Century

The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words. - Philip K. Dick

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. - Edward Bernays

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …….


A small group of well-dressed men and women sat around a boardroom table, all studying the information being displayed on the projector screen at the end of the room.  Of particular interest to them were the heated interactions between a number of people on Twitter.

“As you can see”, noted the presenter, “The communications team of the other party is clearly presenting a message that is difficult to interpret and is oftentimes bullying, intimidating or insulting in nature.  Many times their messages defy common sense, common courtesy and common competence levels and are often at odds with the people and even the political party they represent. How do you explain such behavior from so-called communication experts?”

One of the attendees cleared their throat and replied. “It is intriguing that in an organization with an unlimited budget, such wilful or accidental incompetence and disrespect could exist.  In this day and age, the mastery of communication and interaction with the public is practically a no-brainer and so this doesn’t make any sense at all.  But since you asked the question, I’m sure you already have the answer.”

The presenter smiled and paused in theatrical fashion before answering.

“What would you say if I told you that in fact, this communication team works for us, with a mission of relaying sensitive information back to us when needed while at the same time, intentionally spreading a confusing or disrespectful message to the public on behalf of the other party?”, he asked.

There was a pregnant pause in the room before another attendee broke the silence.  “While that is quite entertaining”, he mused, “the fact is that anyone perceived to be wilfully leaking information or intentionally subverting the public message would be easily and quickly ferreted out and dismissed.  So such an assertion on your part would be fantasy at worst and successful for only a short duration at best.  In business, such individuals are fired, sued or both and in very short order.”

“Perhaps”, countered the presenter, “But what if I told you that our greatest achievement was not in placing rogue elements within their communication team to subvert the message to the public but in fact, was the placement of someone who would ensure that they couldn’t be fired?”

“You’re trying to tell us that we’ve infiltrated the other party at such a level?”, asked one of the attendees incredulously.

“How else could you explain the lengthy duration of such incompetent, inconsiderate, inconsequential communication to the public or access to information that is known only by a few ministers, their assistants and of course, their communications staff?”, replied the presenter.

“Who is this ultimate mole you claim to have established?”, asked another attendee.

“It is this person”, replied the presenter as the projected image changed from the Twitter feed to a photograph.

One of the attendees jumped up from the table and yelled “That is impossible!”

“Maybe”, said the presenter as he smiled, “But perhaps this email will change your mind”.  As he spoke, the projector image changed again.

The room fell silent as the impact of what they were reading sank in.

The ultimate mole had been inserted but hidden in plain sight.

Very plain sight.

To be continued.


© 2014 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved


All characters and political parties implied in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, or political organizations is purely coincidental.  Suggestions that this is in reference to Alberta politics is purely speculation or conjecture.

A Confession – April 26, 2014

I wrote this blog post on March 5, 2014 as I watched the PC Party melt down from the inside over the activities of then Premier Redford and the PC Party’s inability to control the message and optics of the meltdown.

It seemed to me at the time that the inability to control the message seemed due to excessive ego, incompetence or ….. an intention on someone’s part to destroy the Party.

As I watch the latest debacle (Missing Redford spotted having dinner in Palm Springs) develop, I am still left wondering which of the three is closest to the truth.

Series Origin:

This series, a departure from my usual musings,  is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks.

While this musing is just “fiction” and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)

This “fictional” musing is a continuation of the #1206 series noted here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Why Alberta Political Parties Remind Me Of My Old Girlfriend

If you ever injected truth into politics you have no politics. - Will Rogers

There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you. - Will Rogers

I once had a girlfriend with whom many conversations often went like this:

What would you like for dinner?
Anything is fine.
Eat in or eat out?
It’s all good.
Ok. Let’s go out. What would you like?
Whatever you want.
Not in the mood.
Not really.
Fast food?
Too greasy.
So what would YOU like to eat?
Anything is fine – whatever you want.

I could never tell if she didn’t know what she wanted or just didn’t know how to communicate what she wanted and as a result, I eventually clearly articulated what I didn’t want.

Being Unable Or Unwilling To Offer Solutions

Watching the Wildrose Party this week reminds me of that old girlfriend as the Alberta Legislature once again resumed sitting.  After the Speech from the Throne was delivered, the Wildrose Party tweeted this message:

Wildrose Tweet

Intrigued, I followed the link to this press release (click to see a larger image):

Wildrose Party

It says absolutely nothing about what they like or how to make things better – just what they don’t like.  If you ask them about the strategy behind this approach, they will tell you that they don’t want to give solutions to “the other side”. Yeah – right.  They were elected to serve their constituents first and maybe then their party, not the other way around.

Along a similar vein, when Wildrose MLA Heather Forsyth outlined her concerns about Premier Redford’s family care clinic model, she noted the following (click to see a larger image):

Wildrose Party

This quote stands out:

“Once again this government is pushing ahead on health care decisions with no consultation from communities or health care professionals,” Forsyth said. “Now that it’s clear that something is broken, it’s up to Redford to fix it. When half of the doctors abruptly quit, it should send a message to the government. Things just aren’t working.”

Again, it says nothing about producing a solution and merely complains that things aren’t working without offering anyone any insight into what would work better.

Sadly this is the role of an opposition party.

Opposition parties in democracies have become less of something that offers a better solution than what a government has and more of something that merely complains, gripes and nit-picks about what they don’t like.  It doesn’t exist to solve the problems of the people but rather to establish a message that carries the opposition party into power.  You, the voter, and your needs don’t matter.

Sadly, the average voter falls for such ploys and dutifully elects opposition parties into the role of government based entirely on the opposition party’s ability to say what is wrong without offering any iota of what is right.

Is it any wonder that with each successive government in the world, debts and deficits grow larger, world peace becomes more elusive and solutions to poverty, climate change, health care and other areas of concern continue to wait for someone with the courage to solve them?

The Bottom Line

When Will Rogers noted that “A fool and his money are soon elected.”, I wonder who the bigger fool is - the person who plays on the feelings of others without offering any kind of measurable solution or the person who elects them anyway.

I think our history books have an answer to this question.  But then again, there don’t appear to be many informed historians circulating through the electorate these days.

In fairness, it’s not all on the opposition ….

Sometimes the fool may not be the political wannabe who misleads with vague promises or emotion-laden rhetoric but in fact may be the incumbent (or incompetent strategy and/or communication “experts” advising the incumbent) who don’t know how to communicate success or whose ego is a run-away train.

Most of the communication experts I see who are active within the Alberta political scene across all of the parties should be fired or retired for being unable to communicate anything effectively, whether it’s spreading good news or countering bad news. 

It is up to those “experts” to manage public perception of optics as generated by their “client”, no matter how intelligent or stupid, ego-filled or humble, their clients are.  If these experts are not smart enough to get it done, then the incumbent (or their party) have to be smart enough to correct the issue.

It doesn’t matter how intelligent you are,
how pretty you are or
what results you think you have created.

Optics and voter perception are about
how you touched the heart of the voters
in order to influence their mind …
and their ballot.

As with the case with my old girlfriend, if you want a relationship that lasts (whether it’s a new one or a long-standing one), you need to tell me more of what you like, be clear, forthright and articulate about it and moan less about what you don’t like.

Otherwise, just like my old girlfriend, I won’t take you seriously either.

Fortunately for the politicians, most voters don’t think this deeply about who they are voting for.

I wish they did.

How about you?

In service and servanthood,


PS A little fun from the good people at

Despair - Government

Addendum – March 5, 2014

While I was referring to politicians in my blog post, the same holds true for the supporters, followers and minions of those politicians.  As an example, this apparent Wildrose Party supporter tweeted the following in voicing his intent to prove my post wrong:

Scott Chapman tweet

In response to my wish for him to create a great day in the service of others, he concluded our dialog with this final tweet:

Scott Chapman tweet

Four claims that I am lying with nothing else offered of substance or value outside of a personal attack on my character is disappointing.

My blog post suggests that a significant issue in politics is that people rely on vagueness, misdirection and avoidance of specifics in order to counter the problem that clarity, data and facts introduce.  Many people in such situations have nothing to fall back upon outside of taunting, bullying, name calling and the like in order to drive their agenda.

When one wishes to refute the assertion that specific solutions are intentionally avoided, the best way to successfully accomplish this is to bring facts and data to the table.  Weak responses such as “stop lying” (without backing up the request with data) merely reinforce my assertion instead of accomplishing the desired intention of disproving it.

How can we expect specifics from our elected representatives when we are unable or unwilling to provide the same (and vice versa)? 

As for the person above who shared his views, the inability to differentiate between an opinion post and a statement of fact and the inability to discuss or debate appropriately is a reflection of where societal dialog is not functioning at levels necessary for societal improvement – a useful fact for politicians who have few facts themselves.

Addendum – Closing Thoughts - March 5, 2014

I offered the person noted previously an opportunity to counter my assertions with evidence or facts and if I received them, I would amend this blog post appropriately.  My request was rejected with the notion that he should not have to prove I was a liar.

The defense rests. :-)