Centre Together 2.0 Pat Cochrane's speech
Posted on May 13, 2017 by Pat Cochrane
Do you remember the first time you voted? I remember walking over to the local elementary school with my mom and dad, so excited that I would vote. They were teasing each other about cancelling out each other’s vote – my Mom always voted Liberal and my Dad always voted Conservative so I guess in practical terms they did cancel each other’s votes but they always voted. They did it because they felt they had a responsibility as citizens to vote. And it felt good. I remember feeling like I was really part of things – part of our democracy. And I have never missed an election since then.
Fast forward to 2017 and we see established democracies around the world struggling. The world is changing, people are dissatisfied with the status quo. We see politicians offering overly-simplistic answers to complex issues – we just need to find some person or group to blame. If THOSE people weren’t here or behaved differently, we would all be okay. There is a deep streak of intolerance in both the far right and far left. People and systems are being damaged.
I started my speech at the Alberta Party’s November 19th Centre together event with these words: “We are certainly living in interesting times regarding 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.”
Those words still seem relevant 6 months later.
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 processes called Reboot Alberta and Renew Alberta which were initiated by Albertans from all political parties who believed there was a “democratic deficit” in Alberta. Some in Reboot and Renew 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, 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.
This version of the Alberta Party began and continues with conversations about the “common good”. How should government make decisions for today and for the future? How does government balance the reality of our economic conditions and the needs of citizens?
Around the world and here in Canada we see politicians and parties taking extreme positions to win elections. Labels are worn proudly. Criticisms are flung wildly. Creating division is seen as a great strategy. Damage is being done along the way and there seems to be no plan to fix it. The Alberta Party believes we need to come together for solutions.
I was a school board trustee for 14 years in Calgary and what I learned was that I had a whole lot to learn – and to be honest I learned more from the folks who disagreed with me than those who shared common positions. What I learned by listening is that people can legitimately and with good will take different positions on issues and neither person is BAD. I had one constituent who used to take me out for breakfast and tell me all the things I needed to do better. He voted for me, supported my campaigns and faithfully informed me when he thought I had missed the mark or could do better. That was so valuable to me – if I had not listened I would have missed a lot.
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 based on previous political party affiliation – yes, we are that open!
We actively seek out diverse voices and views – it’s how you get to a better solution. We listen and consider positions different from our own. Genuine listening to others opinions does not make you weak – it makes you smart. The Alberta Party makes policy decisions based on information and data, not simply to confirm an already formed ideological position. We are the centre and 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 pragmatic 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 that we don’t yet know about.
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 traditional 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 clear 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 pragmatic, 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 are needs and what are wants? What is the plan? Hoping that oil prices rise and that other countries cut their production is not a plan. We need tough-minded, pragmatic decision-making 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.
In the past few months we have grown our membership numbers and people across the province are paying attention to our party. We are the clear choice for centrists in Alberta.
Today at Centre Together 2.0 we are talking about Alberta and what is needed to support jobs and economic development. How to welcome all Albertans into the job market. Tomorrow we will be talking about how we, as a party, are going to mobilize and organize to make that brighter future a reality. Albertans like you are paying attention to the Alberta party. Albertans like you are joining the Alberta Party. Albertans like you are offering their skills and talents to build this party. This is our time.
So, join us. The stakes are high right now – our future is at stake. Make your voice heard, don’t be shy, invite Albertans to join the Alberta Party. 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, pragmatic approach to government need to speak up. Failure to speak up for balance is overt support for one of the radical options.
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. This is one of my dearly held values. 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.
If you like what you hear and see please join us. Become an Alberta Party member, volunteer, donate. We need your time, energy and money to build this party.
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?