Wednesday, September 29, 2010

James Cameron - David Swann & the Plight of Fort Chip People

I had dinner with Liberal Opposition Leader David Swann last night at Rigoletto's, my favourite restaurant in downtown Edmonton.  We were talking about the Reboot3.0 and the next steps for the progressive citizen's movement known as Reboot Alberta.  I, and others, are working hard at changing the political culture in Alberta.  Progressives from all political stripes and walks of life know that we must move Alberta away from the shift to the Libertarian right in our political culture caused by the recent rise of the Wildrose Alliance Party.

David mentioned in passing that he was having breakfast this morning with James Cameron and others from the First Nations people from Fort Chipewyan.   David's chat with James Cameron is happening before Premier meets. An interesting prelude and a great opportunity for James Cameron to see another side of Alberta...for sure.

I expect both Swann and Stelmach will be hospitable and curious about Mr. Cameron's observations and reaction to what he has seen and heard in the past couple of days. I hope there is a realization of the enormous good that can happen from responsible development of the oil sands.  That responsible potential has to integrate the health and social concerns of the people of Ft Chip as well as the environmental, habitat protection and reclamation responsibilities inherent in development.

The dinner conversation last night reminded me of the first time I met David Swann.  Ironically it was two years ago in Ft. Chip at a Keepers of the Water Conference he and I attended with many others.  It was while I was working with the Canadian Boreal Initiative trying to figure out a system to compensate for the loss of wildlife habitat from oil sands development with the use of conservation offsets.

I remember a warm summer evening where David and I whiled away the evening lying on a rock high above a field watching the sun set over Lake Athabasca and gazing at the starlit clarity of the night sky. We talked way into the night on that rock that night and mostly about the future of Alberta.  We talked about the need to take an integrated, balanced holistic approach to the development of the oil sands that was respectful to the needs and rights of First Nations people.  David and I shared some thoughts, hopes, aspirations and even a few fears for the future progress of our province that night - and we have continued to do so ever since.

The wisdom of Albertans today is that the proper development of the oil sands should be the goal.  That includes assuring Albertans, as owners, that the government and development corporations are not being indolent in their duties.  Some of those duties is a guarantee that no harm is being done to human health and the well being of wildlife and the quality of air, land and water in the course of oil sands resource exploitation.

I hope when James Cameron and David Swann meet today that they get to share that  same kind of great conversation David and I did that night.  I hope they get to share thoughts about what kind of energy and commitment it will take for Albertans before we can realize the potential for the province.  I hope they get to compare notes and impart to each other a shared sense of common cause.  I hope they both agree to commit to help co-create that progressive prosperous and preferred future for Alberta that benefits everyone, not just a few.  I hope they connect with the same great intensity and share that same sense of inspiration, hope and obligation David and I felt as we discussed the blessing and burden of being Albertan with the birthright of the oil sands.

If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at