Archive for May, 2015

Make a decision. Be proud of it.
May 12, 2015

When was the last time you made a decision of critical importance? How would you feel if the people whose own decision was not endorsed by the voting public used it as an opportunity to slam yours? Not great.

This is how I feel about the collective conservative response to the election of an NDP government in Alberta. Seriously fellows, me thinks doth protests too much.

To be transparent, in my life, I have voted it all. Progressive Conservatives (three times), Liberal (more than three times), NDP (at least three times) and Green (once too). And every single choice I made came from a deep commitment to democracy. As, I suspect, did those of every single Albertan who voted a week ago. And frankly, the hard right should be ashamed of their elitists, we know better, attitude.

I think back to my own childhood. My parents had blue signs, red signs and brown signs (which pre-dates the NDP orange) on our front lawn during various provincial and federal elections. We were engaged. We discussed it at the dinner table. I am grateful for their commitment as well as the risk they took to take a stand in the neighbourhood. They didn’t have to do it. But they did it because it mattered. And looking back, I’m proud of it.

Now, as a city councillor in a very small and still beautiful town on the shores of Shuswap Lake in British Columbia, the election result in Alberta has been somewhat of a rally cry for me. And I didn’t even to get to vote. But my friends did and I’m damn proud of them. Proud of the decision they made. Proud of the recognition that a single focus economy based on forty plus years of “same old same old” came to an end.

As I watched the election results last Tuesday, I was shocked, to say the least, thinking that, in typical Alberta fashion, they might flirt with the newcomer, but ultimately they’d vote with the party that brought them to the dance. How wrong was I? Plenty wrong.

As I listend to Rachel’s acceptance speech I heard words that  I had never ever heard from an elected official. She called business owners JOB CREATORS. Hallelujah! Governments don’t create jobs, businesses do. It’s high time someone pointed that out. Shocking, isn’t it, that those words would be uttered by a New Democratic government in waiting. Leaders who can connect to the risk that individuals make to feed their families, employ their team and improve their communities need to be recognized. And this recognition is not coming from the typical right of centre business community who, for lack of better words, have spent much of the last decade asking for what, more or less, amounts to corporate welfare, in my view.

We have to stop asking for permission to build great communities, healthy neighbourhoods and sustainable environments. It’s not about government. It’s about leadership. It’s about understanding that everyone is part of the solution. So often in “economics”, and I should know as a qualified graduate of an economics school, we talk about profit and shareholder return. In that, we lose the importance of balance, the importance of value, the importance of equilibrium and the importance of respect.

I’m tempted to say – hey Manning Institute – suck it. But that’s not respectful and it doesn’t build community. And it doesn’t make it better. It’s better that we want. Think better. Think compassion. Think respect. And come October, think about voting. Your voice matters. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be bashful. Don’t put up with the ordinary. Reach for the extraordinary. Whatever that might mean to you. And know that your family, your friends, your neighbours will respect you no matter what you decide. And the Manning Institute will bitch about it regardless. But they are not government. They are wannabes. You are not a wannabe. You are a voter and in your pencil is held the future of our country. Make your mark. Kiss your children. And go for it! We are better for you.

Art is at the Heart of the Shuswap this Summer
May 1, 2015

There’s nothing like some time away from your community to help you understand all that your community has to offer. This was much the case for me when I attended the Arts BC annual conference in Penticton as Salmon Arm Arts Centre’s Community Development Coordinator. It’s good to get away. Especially for me, as I’ve been hyper-focussed on learning all that I can as a new city councillor. 

The first take away for me was how big this province really is. It’s one thing to jump in a car and get to your destination, but when you take out a map, and give it some serious consideration, you might be surprised. BC is four times the size of the United Kingdom. It’s bigger than Japan and New Zealand combined. It’s all of Florida and then some. It’s big.

For all the benefits of big, it’s not without its challenges. How do we, as a province, made up of individual communities, plan and partake in a provincial cultural plan? Is it even a realistic option? These are questions I took home with me after the conference. We have big island communities, small island communities, northern communities, mountain communities, coastal communities, rural communities and urban communities. We’re a complex place. That’s a good thing. But it’s messy when it comes to provincial policy especially as it relates to culture.

But sometimes, big is just too big. We need to focus on specifics and learn from that. For example, did you know that more people earn their living in the arts in BC than any other province in the country? Maybe it’s the landscape, maybe it’s the sense of place. Whatever it is, it’s exciting. And come this summer, our region is in for some major excitement.

What might seem “normal” to us, is extraordinary in other regions. Both the Roots and Blues festival (23 years young) and Caravan Farm Theatre (now producing four shows per year) have been identified as national treasures in terms of cultural offerings. We’re very fortunate. Roots and Blues brings Grammy and Juno award winning artists to our community on an annual basis. Caravan Farm Theatre, over its long history, continues to have legendary influence and attract national talent in the theatre world.

When that level of talent is attracted to a region, other good things start to happen. Creatives like to cluster with other creatives. That’s how it works. In 2006, internationally renowned installation artists Cardiff and Miller, based in Alberta, moved their Canadian studio to the area. And here’s the small town benefit. The curator at the Salmon Arm Arts Centre, Tracey Kutschker, was a student of Janet Cardiff’s at the University of Lethbridge. When she learned her former professor had relocated her studio to the Shuswap, she began the process of securing a loan of a Cardiff and Miller piece. It took six years to secure as good things take time. This summer,  two Cardiff and Miller pieces, Experiment in F# Minor and The Muriel Lake Incident will show at the Salmon Arm Arts Centre.

So next time someone asks you “should I head to the Shuswap this summer?”, I’ve got an important answer for you to deliver. Say yes. There’s only one place in North America where you can see world renowned artists Cardiff and Miller, award winning performers at Roots and Blues and ground-breaking theatrical talent at Caravan Farm Theatre. It’s all right here.

So, much like me, you might not be an artist, or a musician or an actor. But you still have a role to play in your community’s cultural capacity and that starts with yes, come and visit. Art is at the heart of the Shuswap this summer. And we’re all the better for it. BC might be big, but the Shuswap is a small gem. Just as the milky way is big, ultimately, it’s the small star that sparkles. That’s us. Let’s enjoy it.