Alberta, April-May, 2010
I had the pleasure of visiting the great city of Lethbridge, Alberta a little while ago. Having lived in Calgary for a couple of years, I learned to love Alberta even more than I had before I’d moved there, and I welcome every chance to return. This time, my visit included participation in the AGM of the Liberal Party of Canada (Alberta). There are, of course, the regular jibes about "Liberals? In Alberta??" But yes there are, indeed, many Liberals in Alberta—a keen and hard-working bunch. And based on my time in Lethbridge, I can also say that there is real enthusiasm for Liberal opportunities in Alberta. There are many “capital L” Liberals, for sure. What I find so interesting—and challenging—is that there are so many more Albertans who are in fact small "l" liberal---economically pragmatic, fiscally prudent, promoters of social justice, environmentally conscious, and proud of Canada's place in the world. People who don’t like governments that waste taxpayer money, or which efuse accountability or transparency, or which govern based on strict, intolerant ideology. We know that many, many of us share those values and principles—our challenge (and opportunity) in Alberta is to get those good people to vote Liberal. We have much work to do, to persuade more Albertans to translate those small "l" liberal views into Liberal votes (we are NOT the NEP Party anymore, for goodness sake!) but we also know that we can accomplish a great deal when we pull together for a cause we believe in.
One of the sessions was with various leaders of different faith communities, led by my colleague John McKay. I was particularly pleased to see (1) a good crowd, and (ii) a good number of young Liberals participating. For context, let me explain… I am not religious. I am pro-choice, pro-same-sex marriage. For me, “moral” issues include, instead of religious tenets, things like hypocrisy and deceit. However, I completely respect that others ARE religious, and may have very different views than mine on certain issues. I have no problem with people believing in whatever they want, and indeed doing what they want, as long as they let others do and believe as they see fit—and as long as others don’t get hurt. But we too often dismiss people and their views in their entirety, simply because we disagree on some things. I find a great deal of commonality between Liberal views and many religious groups—concern for the poor, affordable housing, economic pragmatism, the environment, foreign aid. We should focus on those things we have in common, not those that divide us. I was pleased that the local media picked up on this in a nice way.
Other events in Lethbridge included an excellent meeting over dinner with Mayor Robert Tarleck, and an extraordinary tour from an extraordinary man, Van Christou. I had the privilege and the pleasure of having Mr. Christou give me a personal tour of a Canadian gem, the “Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden”. It is stunning. I was also struck by how wonderful it was that the Japanese Canadian community, whose members had been treated so badly during WWII, responded, not negatively, but by uniting to create this treasure as a Centennial gift to the city of Lethbridge, and Canada. Mr. Christou, an accomplished photographer, co-produced a beautiful coffee table book on the garden, a copy of which is now proudly displayed in my office.