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What was this #CentreTogether thing?

Posted on February 10, 2017 by Aaron Blair

In November, the Alberta Party launched a bold new statement: we are the centrist party for all Albertans. As Greg Clark said in his speech, Albertans shouldn’t have to choose between two polarizing, bad options; an intolerant right or an irresponsible left. We believe that Alberta is not right wing or left wing. Albertans want leaders who speak their language. Leaders who understand their struggles. And leaders who share their optimism.

So that’s what this Centre Together thing was about. Declaring loud and proud that the Alberta Party is the home for centrists in our province. We’re responsible, we’re open, we’re pragmatic and we’re bold. If you haven’t read through Greg’s speech, I suggest you have a read. It’s a bit long in written form, but worth it especially when you get to the end.

The Centre Together event in Calgary brought together Alberta Party members and observers (you know, those people who are intrigued by the party but not yet willing to jump to the middle of the pool just yet). Sure we heard some inspiring words from Greg and party President Pat Cochrane (her speech is pretty good too), but most of the two day event was spent having open, informed, and respectful conversation about one important question:

How could a fiscally responsible government create alternative revenue streams for a financially secure Alberta?

We started by having a unique presentation from ATB Chief Economist Todd Hirsch, who took a couple of hours to inform participants about the fundamentals of how governments can raise money to fund public services. It was atypical because Todd’s presentations are usually full of bright colours and flashy pictures; this talk was more like a lecture, though, and provided an economist’s perspective and a ton of useful information for the group.

After learning about the issues, the group went through a World Cafe workshop, which included three rounds of conversation with different people on three different questions:

  • What are the qualities of a fiscally responsible government and a financially secure Alberta?
  • Based on your knowledge and experience, what different revenue streams are appropriate for Alberta and why?
  • What information do Albertans need to have a meaningful conversation about funding our future and how should that information be shared?

Later that night, we heard a panel of four smart guys talk about their answers to the big question: Professor Ron Kneebone, Energy Futures Lab Fellow Justin Smith, Professor Trevor Tombe, and Vice President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business Richard Truscott. They added some more perspective and a few really interesting ideas to the mix for the group to consider.

The next day, we saw the six bold ideas that were the result of all that hard work. The group confirmed that they had, in fact, heard those ideas said and repeated the previous day, and they added a few more (essentially completing phases 1 & 2 of the Bold Ideas engagement process).

The whole event was designed to show what can happen when a group of caring citizens comes together to learn, talk, listen, and build ideas for a common vision. It was a public engagement bootcamp for Alberta Party members and observers, and the energy that came out of the event as a result was inspiring.

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