To my visual artist and my artisan friends, my apologies for the title, I was going for something cute, but "musicians" was the only "artist" term I could find that fit the alliteration.
I want to start with a thank you to the many artists, musicians, actors, dancers and patrons of the arts who came to celebrate Culture Days in High River this weekend. In High River we had 14 official venues (and likely a few more unofficial ones) for Culture Days this year. It was wonderful to see all those signs out and about!
I didn't have the pleasure of coming to visit you that day, I was holding a microphone at Site #1, the stage at the temporary library. The downfall to performing Master of Ceremonies duties is that you don't get to see all the individual activity happening elsewhere. I do, however, have no problems trusting the activities in the other locations were top-notch, as I took an unofficial Art Walk on Tuesday this week, and was able to get a glimpse of much of what you were all doing. Kudos to you, artists.
Now for a point of clarification. Mayor Craig Snodgrass came to speak at Site #1, and spoke a great deal about the efforts for the Economic Development Plan, and how Arts and Culture is not just a byline this time around. He said when input was needed on the report from Twist Marketing, the best feedback came from me. Later on, he also thanked me, Joyce Brown and the Arts and Culture Committee for the organization of Arts and Culture Days.
Craig, thank you for the recognition of the hard work I'm putting into Arts and Culture in High River. But when it comes to Culture Days, it wasn't me! I just brought my bands and blabbered into the microphone.
And I wish I could say it was the Arts and Culture Board, too. It wasn't, at least this time around. Certainly every member of the Board was involved individually, but not in an organizing capacity.
It was most definitely Joyce Brown's leadership that got Culture Days going not just this year, but many years previous as well. She is not a Culture Manager, Programmer, or any other such title with the town. She is the Library's Programming Director. She simply added Arts and Culture to her portfolio because it was lacking, and it was a passion of hers. I'm very pleased to be able to work with her on the Arts and Culture Board.
It was also the artists of the community of High River. Much like they came together after the flood to drive the community towards hope, they came back together again to show what art can do. "Art" is certainly aesthetic, and can be enjoyed in and of itself, but that is only "Art" as a noun. To "Art" as a verb is to take into context your surroundings, build it into your expression, and to share it with the community. To "Art" as a verb is also to do so with others, collaborating, finding inspiration from each other, and building community.
Artists collaborate and build community. Visual artists make beautiful pieces that can be kept for generations. Performance artists make beautiful pieces that can be enjoyed in the moment and talked about for generations. But more importantly, they build community. So High River becomes "our Art". This is what we celebrated on Saturday for Culture Days. And this is what every artist in town contributed to.
I wish I could say it is sustainable. The Arts community took a big hit last year, as did the rest of us. What if, such a big hit to our community meant we lost (as a community) a powerful arts advocate like Joyce Brown. Would the community pick up where she left off?
I would like to think so, but I can't know for sure. So Mr. Mayor, if you're really ready for Arts and Culture to take a main stage in High River, let's make it happen in such a way that come what may, the Arts and Culture will still be here, ready to rebuild High River's hope and future again.
I believe the Arts and Culture Board can be one piece of that future. As it stands right now, it mostly advises on policy and works to implement that policy. None of the people on the Board joined it to only advise on policy, they joined because they have a builder's spirit, and they want to "Art" (as a verb). I truly hope Town Council shares that belief.
I really had hoped Maureen Kubinec, our new Culture Minister would have come to say hello. I saw a photographer from the Alberta Government come around, but no dignitaries. Hopefully someone corrects me and tells me that because I was stuck in Site #1, I just missed them.
Ms. Kubinec, I hope you consider changing Culture Days in such a way that it is supported year-round. Select various sites to host celebrations every month. Three host sites each month would give artists and patrons of the arts to visit each site and experience the uniqueness each community offers. The funding need not change, just the timing. Suddenly Arts and Culture are no longer seen as valued only once per year, but rather throughout the year. This could easily be worked into the Culture Plan that was discussed in your mandate letter from Premier Jim Prentice.
Ms. Kubinec, you also have an opportunity here in High River. We need to you advocate for us. High River has a beautiful vision for the downtown and for its future. We're ready to work for it. A helping hand is all we ask for.
"High River Strong" was a phrase that was meant to rally residents together in the most difficult time in its history. Now it means something different. "High River" has become an adjective describing strength. You can be as strong as an ox, you can be Hulk Smash Strong, but neither speaks to the kind of strength we developed after the flood. Strong backs, strong hearts, strong minds, strong together, that's what it means to be "High River" Strong.
Even the strongest need a helping hand. A helping hand in getting some groundwork laid for the development of an affordable performing arts venue. A helping hand in getting what we need to develop a learning library that can actually serve a community of 12,000 now, and 24,000 soon. A helping hand in working with other departments to ensure that provincial buildings are integrated well into our area development plans.
We're not asking you to do it, but hopefully you have seen how the community of High River has inspired others in Alberta. I believe an investment in that inspiration is warranted.
I'm looking forward to when we meet!
I spoke to a former PC supporter recently who voted for the new Premier. I've also read a blog by a PC supporter as well. Both indicated that the new Premier has given them hope that the PC party can lead the province again. These responses, only two weeks into Jim Prentice's Premiership, lead me to ask the question;
Do you like fishing with knots and kinks in your line?
Me, I'd prefer to fish with a good straight line. I have a better chance of getting the job done without the line breaking ... again.
Make no mistake, anyone who believes in the PC party's ability to govern is fishing with knots in their line. And there are a lot of knots.
Prentice was silent in his first week as Premier. He spent that entire week loosening knots so that he could unravel them in public in his second week, as a way of saying "look, I'm fixing things!"
But a trust is broken. The line is kinked. That makes the line weak. And Alberta is a big fish.
Not only that, but he has ignored some fairly significant knots that remain, and have no glimmer of hope that they be untied.
The Disaster Recovery Program, or DRP (which in flood-affected communities is now a three-letter swear word) is not even on Prentice's radar. He mentioned nothing of it to Diana McQueen, who is now the fourth minister in 14 months to be in charge of the program. The program is in shambles, and hundreds of people still remain displaced from their homes.
It was one place former Premier Alison Redford tried to keep the line straight, by telling flood victims that they would be helped to full recovery. Then other ministers like Doug Griffiths, Ken Hughes, and lastly Greg Weadick tied it into the DRP knot. And this isn't just some shoe-tying knot, this is a Gordian knot, and Prentice is no Alexander the Great.
Another knot made bigger since the 2012 election was patronage appointments. Starting with Evan Berger, who was ousted in the last election but given a sweet management position in the Agriculture Ministry, this knot was made bigger by the appointments of Stephen Mandel in Health and Gordon Dirks in Education. Nothing suggests that Mandel and Dirks can't do a good job, it's just that no Albertan chose them. Prentice might be able to untie the patronage knot, but that kink will always be in the PC line, making voters wonder if they just can't see the trough for the pigs.
A kink sits where the government aircraft knot once sat. Just because government officials can't take advantage of planes anymore doesn't mean there aren't other ways. That kink can still knot up again, but it might not be airplanes doing it.
The entire Education portfolio is tied up in knot after knot. Former Education Minister Jeff Johnson started by bargaining in bad faith (knot 1), compromising teachers' private emails (knot 2), legislating instead of negotiating (knot 3), trumpeting an uninformed taskforce on teaching excellence (knot 4), usurping teacher conduct review unnecessarily (knot 5), and attempting to force Boards to provide information that had no chance of being compiled properly (knot 6).
Prentice had a chance to start loosening these knots back in August at a gathering of some of the most influential teachers in the province. He skipped it. Instead, he appointed someone nobody had the opportunity to speak to about Education. To teachers, that equates to appointing someone with no intention of listening. Teachers will say they hope that's not the case, but they have no proof. Not only that, but Jeff Johnson was given another portfolio, but rather than the defenceless youth, now he's in charge of the defenceless seniors.
Prentice also made an attempt at untying a knot when he announced the opening of four starter schools in Calgary. But have you ever tried to untie a knot using mittens? That is in effect what he's doing when he builds makeshift schools with no gyms, libraries, music rooms or other specialty spaces. Taxpayer dollars will be spent on sub-par temporary buildings that will direct resources away from the permanent facilities that are meant to replace them. That's like using 4-pound test line to fish for tuna ... after dark.
Am I taking the metaphor too far when I say schools of fish will never be caught with this tangled line?Albertans need a hook. Albertans need a straight line. And Albertans need a strong angler to reel us in.
The PCs have no hook. Their line is so kinked and knotted it looks like it's been braided by a four-year-old. And Prentice is no fisherman.
I learned my lesson.
In 2011, I was duped. I obtained (they were free) a membership in the Liberal Party of Alberta. I voted for who I thought would be a great leader.
But all the other free members voted for Raj.
It took me too long to figure out what I'd done wrong. I even purchased a membership in the PC party. I voted for who I thought would be a great leader, not once, but twice. It was at that point I finally figured it out.
51% of the PC members, including the temporary ones, voted for Alison on the third ballot.
This is why I refuse to get involved in this "elected Premier" campaign. I have no business voting for the leader of a party I don't believe in.
That would be like me voting for the Prime Minister of Australia. Tony Abbott would not be happy, and neither would the rest of his Liberal Party.
Yet the PCs seem quite happy to hand their entire future over to people who have no vested interest in their policies or beliefs, not once (as with Alison's election), but twice (with either Jim, Tom or Ric as their carrots for the disinterested masses).
Is it because they have no policies or beliefs, and therefore don't care who steps in?
They sell (unless you run into Jim) memberships with the promise that the new members get to pick the next Premier, and that it's their civic duty to do so. What a great lie! And it's an amazing fundraiser for the PCs - $10 times even 1000 new members equals a tour bus for the first week of a provincial election.
It is not your civic duty to vote for the leader of a party you don't believe in. It's your civic duty to vote in a general election for the person you want to represent you. That's what I did in 2012.
Granted, I still didn't get who I wanted, but the Alberta Party is making great strides to change that, and I believe they will even do it in the next by-election.
Certainly, I have no interest in funding even an air freshener in the next PC campaign bus. Febreeze won't be able to cover up their issues. They will not see a single red cent from me.
So if you don't hold a PC membership, don't worry about your civic duty. If you voted in the 2012 general election, you still retain your right to complain.
But if you happen to hold one of the PC memberships, think long and hard about the value of your vote, especially if you're a "soft" PC, or not even a PC supporter at all. Keep in mind that we do this all over again in as few as 16 months, but that time you actually get to vote for a party you believe in.
Then do what you believe in. It will tell me a lot about you.
Me, I believe in voting for someone who will represent me. The PCs stopped doing that a long time ago.