Alberta: A new state of mind?

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Now that was a cool election. I don’t mean who won. Rather it was the dynamics of the process we went through – and the really quite dramatic shift that we are about to see in the body politic of this province. Who would have thought that a newly minted premier, without any rural MLA support, could have succeeded over an equally articulate political opponent who had the solid backing of the backroom brain trust that pushed Stephen Harper and Ralph Klein to the top of their political ladders?

A rejuvenated PC party and a potentially wily official opposition will bring a new dynamic to the legislature. It will be the newest since the emergence of Dinning and Betkowski nearly a quarter century ago when the baby boomers were peaking in their numbers on entrants to the work force. Many are now at the end of their careers.

The question now is what type of government are we going to see. Certainly there will be big issues to deal with – beginning perhaps with a bloated and constipated health-care bureaucracy. We will be restructuring our education system where teachers are involved more and more in supporting the mental wellbeing of their students, as well as the educational trust we have charged them with. The oil and gas patch will be coming under pressure as the U.S. becomes more self sufficient with new fossil fuel extraction technology and we have no other markets. Global warming will challenge our water supply, our forests and our arable land mass. And I haven’t even mentioned Twitter and robocalls.

I think (occasionally, yes I do) that there will be two primary competing forces driving the policies of our provincial government. And they haven’t anything to do with the substance of the above issues, but rather the philosophical underpinning of policies. The struggle will be based on the demographical divide that happens with mature and wealthy societies. By that, I mean the competing interests of those who are adventuresome and those who like it as it is and don’t want to risk losing the security that they have worked all their lives to achieve. It is a state of mind.

For those of us who have passed the peak of our working years, we can become content with things as they are today. We don’t want to lose what we have worked so long to achieve or acquire. We just want to enjoy things as they are. If we are still in the workforce, we are not particularly interested in taking a risk on a new job. A cut in income or an increase in taxes to support futuristic plans is just not on our agendas. We like Alberta just as it is. Sure, we rejoice when the sun comes up in the morning but are often the most content basking in the warmth of evening on the patio. Our growth potential is limited and we are unlikely to borrow money for expansion. We vote against change – even when little change means little growth.

For the young at heart or years, there is risk involved. Ready to try new things. Push the limits of the status quo. Change our lives to try new ideas. Work 18-hour days for the right opportunity. Search for a better or richer tomorrow. Restless and innovative. Of course, we can go broke or lose a job. But that goes along with progress. At the end of the day, it sure is great to sit on the patio and sip a scotch in the warmth of the evening breeze, but tomorrow’s sunrise can’t come soon enough.

Someone announced the other day that we wouldn’t see a new art gallery in St. Albert in her lifetime. I guess that is up to city council.

Alan Murdock is chair of the Arts and Heritage Foundation board of trustees.

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