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Monday, August 21, 2006

A "Wonk Fest" In Quebec City

I have been on the road this past week, mostly in Quebec City for the Board Meeting of the National Theatre School. I am a new member so it was a lot of get acquainted and get oriented. Fascinating organization and I am looking forward to the experience.

I have not been to Quebec City in a long time and I have to say what a gorgeous city. The restoration and rejuvenation work they have done and are doing is absolutely spectacular. I am very interested in this stuff because my firm, Cambridge Strategies Inc. is part of a group working with the city on a revitalization strategy for certain Edmonton neighbourhoods, primarily the 118 Ave area. This all fits into Mayor Mandel’s vision of an arts cluster being formed there as well and Quebec City has done just that. I came home from Quebec City with lots of ideas, great contacts and proof that it can be done and it really works.

Just as much fun was the “wonk fest” I enjoyed while in Quebec City. The NTS Board is a very interesting collection of accomplished policy and political wonks. Included is Bernard Roy, former Mulroney Chief of Staff and recently the Commission Council to Judge Gomery, who some of you might have heard of. Jodi White Chairs the NTS Board and is currently the head of the Public Policy Forum think-tank and a former key operative in both the Joe Clark and Mulroney Prime Ministers offices. Don MacDonald – former Liberal Finance Minister who headed a Royal Commission on the Canadian economy was part of the group. He was once touted as a potential successor to Trudeau but demurred saying he “lacked the Royal Jelly,” a phrase which has become part of the political lexicon in Canada. Senator Carstairs was there, mostly because her husband is on the National Theatre School board as well.

I ran into Rona Ambrose, Minister of Environment in the new Harper government and had a brief chat. She was immersed in her French lessons and getting ready for the fall release of Green Plan II. Then there was the board’s dinner with Premier Charest in the Quebec Parliamentary Dining Room where virtually all the talk was politics and culture. Premier Charest is very knowledgeable about Alberta. We discussed his desire to be in attendance at federally lead international negotiations that impact Quebec, culture most obviously. I mentioned Alberta need to be at those negotiating tables as well and for much the same reasons, like topics of continental energy discussions around oil sands development. Maybe a revival of the Lougheed- Lévesque liaison can be realized if Charest survives if pending election and if we don’t select an isolationist leader or Firewall Premier in Alberta - like Dr. Morton.

I learned a lot, laughed a lot and met a lot if interesting, thoughtful and influential people who are very committed to Canada. Sure got a sense of what some of the central and eastern Canada thinking and reactions to Alberta’s growth and emerging power role in the confederation is too. Lots of challenges are ahead for the next Premier of this province that is for sure.