If you want to be a politician with some palatable success these days, there’s a word you need to learn: Change.
It’s not in every vocabulary and for good reason. For example, you wouldn’t hear Stephen Harper using the word change very much in the May election campaign because he didn’t want that word to ring true with voters. He wanted very much the status quo: Tories on the government side, everyone else on the other.
Alison Redford used it every time she could. And she’s the latest in a semi-long (becoming longer) line of politicians who rode the change mantra to victory.
Only time will tell if things will truly change. Redford can learn from both sides in this debate – politicians that have been able to really bring about change and those who have floundered on that front. First, President Obama. The leader of the change revolution and the man who would turn politics on its head in the United States has probably had the least luck of anyone who’s made change critical to a campaign. Granted, Obama has had the pesky issue of the economy to deal with, an issue that finds very little or no common ground between Democrats and Republicans. But at the same time, Obama promised harder work in finding consensus than any president before him. He’s failed in his first term. It’s impossible to argue that the U.S. is any more politically peaceful under Obama than under Bush. And so, it’s hard to find change.
Secondly, the federal NDP. The late Jack Layton hammered away at his party as the engine of change, promising more help for the disadvantaged in society, the “infrastructure deficit,” and healthcare – promises that resonated loudly with Canadians (or at least Quebecers). Layton was able to secure enough support to marginalize the Liberals and scoop up the Official Opposition status for his party. However, without Layton, the fate of this “change” may never fully be realized.
Thirdly, the winner. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. Like Redford, Nenshi had no business winning his race, being a newcomer to politics and relatively unknown. But Nenshi claimed the change banner, and convinced Calgarians that he was the only one that honestly meant it. And, Nenshi has brought about change to city hall. He’s engaged both citizens of the city and employees at city hall to become involved in city business. He’s been more open with Calgarians. He hasn’t held back in his criticism when it was needed (think ENMAX). It’s a wholly different approach to the previous administration and Nenshi gets the gold medal for that reason.
Redford can’t move to slowly in doing what she wants to do. She has to distinguish herself not only from Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith but also from Ed Stelmach, a political lightning rod. Education cuts have to be restored, a poorly planned land use framework has to be changed and Albertans need to once again feel confidence in the healthcare system. She has to learn from Obama and find more consensus. She has to learn from the NDP and implement the ideas she ran on quickly. And she has to learn from Nenshi that talking the talk is not the same as walking the walk – something Nenshi has become very good at.
Good Luck Madam Premier.