The Alberta Party’s Big Listen

It’s hard to believe that nearly two months have passed since my Big Listen experience, but such is life. I meant to write something about it a long time ago, but that obviously didn’t happen! Given that the Alberta Party’s policy convention took place this past weekend, I thought now was as good a time as any to finally write something.

At the end of September, I took part in a Big Listen event. I was invited by Elaine Hyshka, VP of Communications for the Alberta Party. I’m interested in politics, obviously, and as a result I had some knowledge about the Alberta Party, but I didn’t know anything about the Big Listen process. I was told the evening would be “simply a gathering of friends to talk about their experiences, concerns and hopes related to living in Alberta.” Thankfully, that’s what it was.

The session was moderated by Michael Walters, the Alberta Party’s Provincial Organizer, and I can say with certainty that he made the evening for me. Michael is a gifted “people person”, and I thought he did a great job of facilitating our discussions. He got the Big Listen process started in March, and guided the team toward holding 100 Big Listen events reaching more than 1000 Albertans by the end of September, something they achieved.

The first activity was to break off into pairs to talk about our Alberta story. I was born here in Edmonton, but actually grew up elsewhere, primarily in Inuvik, NT. I came back for high school and university and have been here ever since. I think it’s interesting to consider why we’re here. Before I was old enough to decide for myself, I lived in Alberta because my family lived here. Now that I have the ability to go elsewhere, why do I stay? It was an intriguing way to start the event.

Next we got to the heart of the evening. We had three main discussion points. The first was to share some of the pressures we’re feeling here in Alberta. The next was to share our hopes and dreams for Alberta. And finally, we were asked to share what about Alberta we’re thankful for. All three were really enlightening and generated some great discussion. A really common pressure seemed to be the inability to share opinions about potentially controversial topics here in Alberta. Economic diversification was a common hope for the province. And most people agreed that Alberta’s future looks positive, so long  as we stay focused and take advantage of the opportunity before us.

That, in a nutshell, was the event. It was a small part of a much bigger process. Here’s how it works:

The event I attended was on the left side of that picture, and this past weekend’s policy convention was on the right side. All of the Big Listen events contributed toward draft policy that was ratified at the convention. The specific policy resolutions will be posted to the website this week, but here are some of the highlights. I thought Dave Cournoyer’s quote summed up the whole process quite nicely:

“This weekend demonstrated how Albertans with different political backgrounds, or no political experience at all, can work together to develop meaningful and positive goals,” said new Alberta Party member, David Cournoyer. “It’s not about leaning left or right, it’s about moving forward and ensuring the province achieves it’s full potential.”

You can read Dave’s closing remarks from the convention here, and he’s got some great photos from the weekend here.

It is my understanding that this process will continue, and that there will be additional Big Listen events in the future. As party President Chris LaBossiere said, “The listening isn’t done – in fact, it won’t ever be done.”

Adam Rozenhart, who was also at the Big Listen event I attended, recorded some of it for The Unknown Studio. You can listen to that here.

You can keep up with the Alberta Party on Twitter, Facebook, or their blog.