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.

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  1. Nicely done Harry. My feelings are similar.

  2. Applauding? Yes? Asking you for a coffee? Sure, why not?

    Will Munsey
    President, Alberta Party

  3. I have to admit that I have never heard of you until today when I picked up this blog on Twitter.. You have delivered a mixed message to me in this blog. On one hand, you appear to be an opportunist who is about to abandon ship on a doomed party. On the other hand, you appear to lament the PCs' imminent departure as "too bad because they have the best thing going for the province of Alberta." Are you kidding me? I was 16 when this party took the reins in this province and 43 years of the same party would never have been my prediction for this stale-dated party. The only "too bad" in this equation was the fact they stayed too long.

    1. Thanks for sharing your comments, "Anonymous".

      An opportunist is someone who stands to gain something by remaining with or leaving a group or organization. I receive no such benefit from the PC Party or any party for that matter and so staying or leaving provides no opportunity that I would benefit from.

      I shared your opinion because I welcome all opinions. You have read into this what you have - thanks for sharing your opinion. However, I would caution you about believing that you have formed a cognizant, coherent understanding of who I am based on reading one blog post.

      Much of my background is in predictive analytics and predicting human behavior and I have spent many years doing it. After all these years, I would never assume I understood someone well enough to praise or criticize them based on a single work. :-)

      Create a great day!