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Pat Cochrane's speech - Centre Together

Posted on November 19, 2016 by James Teterenko

CALGARY, AB - November 19, 2016

Good morning. We are certainly living in interesting times in regard to politics and democracy – and that may be an understatement. We see and hear so much suspicion, distrust, anger, divisions, and polarization. There seems to be an inability for people to listen, to hear each other, to recognize other people’s values and views. To see what we have in common and to move forward together. Politics right now seems to be about asking people to choose a side, right or left, those are the only options presented. The AP stands in the centre and I am here to say that we are a very fine option indeed.

Rejection of the status quo seems to be another common theme – there is a clear recognition that many of our systems are broken. In the election last week, we saw our American neighbours reject the concept of “the insiders”, the “political elites”, and elect someone who was positioned as a political “outsider”. We will all watch and hope as we see how that turns out.

The current version of the Alberta Party was created in 2008 and 2009, because there was a strong feeling that things were not working well in our Alberta. The conversation had started in a process called Reboot Alberta which was initiated by a group of Albertans from all political parties who believed there was a democratic deficit in Alberta. Some in Reboot chose to try and work within the current political parties, some chose to build a new Alberta Party on the framework of the previous iteration of the party. All were concerned that the political system was broken, that there was no clear plan for the future, no way for citizens to have their voices heard legitimately, there was a lack of discipline in government decision-making and spending. One political party had been in place for so long it had ceased to be effective and to act on behalf of its citizens.

I was a Calgary Board of Education trustee for 14 years, from 1999-2013, so I had a front row seat for this show. When oil and gas prices went up, our school board’s funding went up; when oil and gas prices went down, funding went down. We were expected by the provincial government to present long-term plans for our budgets, create multi-year Capital Plans for school construction and modernizations, present our 3-year Education Plans, all without a clear government commitment to a steady funding regime and an overall government plan. The government showed no capacity to save in good times for the inevitable not-so-good times.  Funding choices were based on the seemingly whimsical decisions of a government that had no long-term plan to direct its decision-making. And that was just in K-12 education!

Helen Keller said this: I am only one, but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. Despite being blind and deaf, Helen Keller was connected to her society and supported causes which reflected her values and principles. She believed she had a place in this world and that she could make a difference with her time and energy. I believe I have a place in this world and what I do with my time and energy can make a difference. I choose to be here, in the Alberta Party. And I believe you have a place in this world and what you do with your time and energy can make a difference. We are in this together, we belong together. As individuals we can do good in this world; together we can do great things. This is our province we are talking about; this is our future.

The Alberta Party welcomes all people who share our values, we are a big tent. We do not discriminate against people based on gender, ethnicity, religion, country of origin, not even on the basis of previous political party affiliation – yes, we are that open!

We are you. We are Albertans. Alberta Party people share your hopes and dreams and frustrations. Like you, we are sensible people. The structure of today’s event shows that – we have Todd Hirsch here this morning to share research and information and his views with us about provincial funding streams. This evening we will hear from four other informed individuals who will share their various perspectives on this issue in a panel discussion. We actively seek out diverse voices and views. The Alberta Party makes policy decisions based on information and data, not simply to confirm an already formed ideological position. We are the centre, the centre is what it best for Alberta.

Like you, we open our minds and our hearts to new ideas while holding to clear values and principles. Alberta Party people face the world with practical optimism. We recognize that not all needs can be met at the same time in the same budget; a balanced approach needs to be applied to government decision making. We know there is a time to exercise caution and a time to be bold. Like you, we know that it is good to set aside some money today for what needs to happen in the future and for what may happen.

Compassion drives our decisions and policies, but always guided by practical and responsible approaches to the money end of things. If our fiscal house is not in order, we cannot support people now or into the future.

The Alberta Party has no ideological allegiance and has in fact been accused in the past of being wishy-washy and not standing for much. Let me be clear that being a centrist party does not simply mean that we are not far-right or far-left. It means we stand in the sensible centre, where the vast majority of Albertans live. We think, we care, we act. Not directed by an ideological position. Not based on a federal mother ship. Not based on a list of rules. We act based on practical, responsible values.

Alberta is under strain right now. World events have created pressure on our economy that is being felt all over this province. People have lost their jobs, their homes, their sense of safety and stability. Our systems are under strain and Albertans are hurting. We are in a deep financial hole and the hole is getting deeper. There is no apparent plan to get us out of debt and deficit. Practical decisions need to be made – can we increase government revenue? Where should we cut government spending? What is the plan? Hoping that oil prices rise and that other countries cut their production is not a plan. We need tough-minded, practical decision-making in order to create an effective way forward. It will not be easy and hard choices will have to be made.

We need to be the adults in the room.

Today we are talking about Alberta and what is needed to brighten its future. Tomorrow we will be talking about how we, as a party, are going to mobilize and organize to make that brighter future a reality.

So join us. The stakes are high right now – the future is at stake. Make your voice heard, don’t be shy, invite Albertans to join the Alberta Party. We have a strong, active Board of Directors – there are 23 of us from across the province. We have many strong and active Constituency Associations and we have one Constituency Association which has already started its nomination process – that would be Calgary Buffalo, they are keeners! We have built a good framework but there is much work still to be done – please come and help us build the voice of the centre in Alberta.

Offer our fellow citizens this option – civil, respectful, compassionate decision-making. Sounds better than empty or angry rhetoric, doesn’t it? Those of us who believe in a balanced, practical approach need to speak up. Failure to speak up for balance is overt support for one of the radical options.

Be bold. Be vocal. Wear your love for this province on your sleeve. Join in on political conversations. Do it with respect and optimism and clarity – let’s show them what the centre is all about! Make your voice heard, join us today.

This is a movement of the majority and we need to get moving! It starts with each one of us. What can’t we do together?

Thank you.

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