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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Now That We Can Do Anything, What Will We Do?

Just so you know that I am not all angst and anguish over the state of democracy in Alberta, I had a wonderful evening last night. I was at a good old fashioned pot luck supper with an eclectic collection of old and new friends. Sitting beneath the stars on a patio in the river valley on a beautiful evening with a cold beer, great conversations and the sounds of the fabulous Edmonton Folk Festival filling the air…thx to our hosts for a great time.

In my conversations last night I was struck by the commonality of concern and comments about the future of Alberta. We had a wide mix, from an architect to an economist, a social agency executive to an artist, a film festival producer to a media monitor and lots of people with different experiences in between.

It is pretty clear change is in the air. My sense is that people are focusing on the environment as an overarching concern and how it must be integrated into everything else we are doing in Alberta. These folks last night were creative, comfortable, competent and confident folks but they were not convinced our politicians are “getting it.” I am sensing there will be a singular ecological act or event, either symbolic or tangible, which will be a tipping point causing the environment to become the #1 concern public policy issue. I could be wrong but I would not be surprised if I wasn’t.

I remember an earlier tipping point in 1993 when Laurence Decore stood in the Legislature with his wallet held high above his head. He was making the point that the Alberta government had a serious spending problem and it was coming right out of the wallets of every Albertan. The public already knew this and the dramatic gesture resonated with Albertans. The other “dramatic” consequence was, given the public’s response, Premier Klein immediately dove headfirst into an election and campaigned on “slaying the debt and deficit dragon.” Some of you will remember the choices the voters were given – brutal cuts or massive cuts, take our pick.

So what is the next tipping point going to be in Alberta that captures our collective imagination and moves us forward? I got part of the answer today in some material sent to me from the Alberta College of Art and Design. In it was a quote from Bruce Mau, head of the Toronto based Institute Without Boundaries. He said, “Now that we can do anything, what will we do?” It is that sense of possibility and potential that we in Alberta must capture and use constructively. We have all the tools, timing and talent to do “anything” – the challenge is to define and deliver on what we mean by “anything.”

Some possibilities that appealed to me were in the ACAD material, including: to build our communities, create a new industry, invigorate our province, explore ideas, stir culture, celebrate, imagine and be prepared to be amazed. Nice places to start the thinking and design process for the next Alberta.

It is Sunday – a day of rest. I think I shall do just that for the “rest” of the day.