FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Alan Hallman
April 8, 2014
Behind the scenes, never a candidate himself – low profile, spending his efforts to support others who need/want that profile, behind the scenes for clients navigating complexities of government-speak and bureaucracy, but who is Alan Hallman?
Political animal. Lobbyist. Smart. Funny. Friend. Husband (wife Anne), three children (two teenagers and baby Zoe who died [Costello syndrome] at 14mths). Not so bad a resume for a kid from the cottage at SylvanLake.
How did it all start? Born in Calgary (dad was in sales, later a developer; mom stayed at home), they lived in Edmonton, then at Sylvan Lake on family cabin property (grades 7-12 at Sylvan), SAIT (studied Bus. Admin), got elected President of Student Association – and met Jim Horseman (Minister of Advanced Education).
His political resume … or should I say his post-graduate work, has been 100% politics and government: worked for Horseman (3 yrs) as liaison with post-secondary institutions, worked for Don Getty (in PC youth wing organization) and after his election, went to work as exec-assistant to Rick Orman, Minister of Career Dev. & Employment. When Orman moved to Labour, he followed. And again, when Orman moved to Energy, he followed. In 1990 – a 2 yr. job in Ottawa involving business immigration - then back to Alberta, 2 yrs. working at Career Dev. & Employment. Then, another leadership contest. Working for Rick Orman, organizing getting out the vote. Did some things to get out ethnic voters to an advance poll; when asked by a reporter – he dodged responsibility, and got fired the next morning by Jim Prentice who was Orman’s campaign manager. He apologized to Ralph Klein's campaign manager Rod Love and to Ralph Klein. Klein won the leadership – and then offered Alan a job in community liaison as Director of Community Relations. He also looked after politics in Ralph’s riding – and in 4 successive elections he was campaign manager for Ralph in Calgary Elbow. Alan left the Office of the Premier in 1997. In 2006 he was campaign manager for Jim Dinning’s bid to become Premier.
He left government and employ of Ralph Klein 17 years ago – started his own consulting firm, took on his first client (Alliance pipeline – government relations), added many more to his roster and now admits that ‘general business’ rather than issue-specific lobbying constitutes most of his business. His business comes by referral and word of mouth. “I’ve never had a website”. Low profile indeed! And not …
Most people I meet, especially political types, have no shortage of presence online and in social media. Alan Hallman doesn’t have a website, doesn’t post on a blog – and yet maintains a reputation for being a quiet, and sometimes not so quiet, invisible hand behind the scenes in much that goes on in Alberta politics, most particularly PC party politics.
Given recent turmoil in the Alberta government around the resignation of Alison Redford – I thought it was time to re-connect with Alan. He graciously agreed, welcomed me into his home-office/den for some afternoon chat. He gave me his nearly-full attention, even turned off his very busy phone but kept one eye on the screen showing stock market activity (he admits to being heavily involved/invested in the market).
What followed was a pleasant walk down memory lane from his Klein-era days but when it came to current events, he became both very serious and careful in his remarks. His observations about Alison Redford’s recent follies, when bad news hit the proverbial fan? “Death by a thousand cuts, promises she didn’t keep, too much bad advice.”, and “Nobody defended her. No MLA, no cabinet minister stood up for her. They all distanced themselves.” … and his comment on Ms. Redford’s fall from grace? “Poor judgment, tin ear, bad advice”.
Lessons learned from Ralph Klein? “He was smart enough to know what he didn’t know. He really cared about people. His ability to work with his caucus (more than with cabinet) to find people of quality who would work with him”.
Alan is easy to reach – and regularly holds court at his favourite watering hole (Friday at 3PM at The Garage in Eau Claire Market), he otherwise seems to keep a low profile these days. As he always has. Yet, when you go to a PC Party event, there he is.
Who are you?
... a dad, try to be a good friend – helping somebody with a problem, loyal, try to help people. I try to make the world better.
I asked Alan how he sees the political lobbying business … over the next quarter?
… booming. Gas is up. Oil is strong. Now, more than ever, there is a need for help getting projects through the process of government bureaucracy, to overcome the encroachment of government.
And over the next 5 years?
… I don’t see it changing. Increased transparency – ‘who you are representing’ – but perhaps the pendulum has swung too far …
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… trust. And loyalty. Price is not much of a factor. Service counts. Quality … and service comes later.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Alan Hallman, why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… I tell people exactly what I think – being honest to the point that it hurts.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… If I can’t change something, why worry about it? I worry about the economy, the stock market ...
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my wife Anne. I watched how she handled things with our disabled child with such grace.
… Ralph Klein. Ralph was so good to me and we had so much fun.
Work life balance?
… I’ve never had it. 17 yrs ago, when we bought this house, I established a home office. I work – that IS my fun. Time at our cabin at MaraLake. Water skiing.
What do you read?
… political books. Right now I’m reading ‘CrazyTown – the Rob Ford Story’ by Robyn Doolittle
… an old blue Saturn. Can’t remember what year it is.
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