On a day tour in Mexico recently, our guide Susanna spoke very candidly and proudly about the changes taking place in Mexico. She said that President Felipe Calderon had told the people of Mexico that “we are gonna change how the world sees the Mexican”. She was quite frank about some of the perceptions and stereotypes that exist regarding Mexicans: shiftless, lawless, careless, violent (though my husband and I have never personally seen these attributes in the wonderful Mexican people). She said that the President had told the people that, through new laws, programs and supports, Mexicans would improve themselves, their standard of living and, as a result, their global reputation. It’s been five years, and although the process is certainly not without its pain and price, things are definitely changing in Mexico.
The thing that struck me most was the intense pride in Susanna’s words, tone and posture. She is proud of the improvements being made, the initiative that Mexicans are taking to improve their lot, and she wants to make sure that she tells everyone from everywhere the tale.
I got thinking about Alberta, of course, like always. You’d have to live under a rock not to know that the energy sector drives the economy in this province. That’s been 40ish years in the making, and is not likely to change any time soon, not that it should. But most of us are also acutely aware that the view of our environmental track record across the rest of Canada and around the world is less than stellar, to say the least. Debate rages on about whether or not we’ve earned our bad reputation; the subject is often emotional and polarizing. But how can we, like the Mexicans, change our stripes? Can leaders and citizens work together to continue to build and strengthen our energy sector while implementing the necessary changes to protect the environment? Can we Albertans become proud of ourselves instead of either defiant or silent?
Today, the Alberta party released our Energy and Environment policy – yes, one policy on what many consider to be competing interests. I think this policy represents a clear shift in thinking: find innovative ways to build and to green the oil and gas industries, while implementing strong protective measures, incenting new consumer behaviour and supporting a shift in power generation.
We do not have to trade off environmental stewardship and energy development – by bringing both subjects into the same conversation, focusing on long-term strategic planning instead of short-term profit, we can ensure continued economic strength while effectively addressing environmental impact and safeguarding our land, water and air.
I don’t want my grandchildren to travel the world one day and have to steel themselves for the type of criticism we currently deal with because of the perceptions of the oil sands and the wide-spread belief that we are prepared to pillage our own land for profit. I want them to hold their heads high, like Susanna, and say they are proud to be Albertans, because we’ve all done the hard work, together, to deal with our issues, change what needed to be changed, and established ourselves as world leaders in energy, environmental responsibility and innovation.
I believe the Alberta Party has the model to take us there. I believe the Alberta Party maintains fundamental structures that shift policy focus away from competition toward integrated, collaborative solutions. Have a read of the policy and tell me what you think.