I left the $500 a ticket fundraising dinner for Premier Redford and stepped into the cab. I was crestfallen and concerned. The reason for my unease became crystal clear when my cabbie, a lanky young Frenchman, asked what all the fuss was about (people were streaming out of the Telus Convention Centre and he knew something “big” was going on).
His question kicked off a fascinating conversation as we raced through the city streets taking a “shortcut” to my home. (It really was a shortcut and not just an excuse to crank up the fare).
It’s the Premier’s Dinner I said. Oh, he said, did she say anything interesting or was it blah blah blah?
Hmmm. She started with a slick PR video—inspirational music, Alison with horses, Alison with campaign supporters, Alison with MLAs, Alison’s bus, comments from all 61 MLAs (which was a nice way to introduce her team), ending with more inspirational music and words about building a better future.
Then she took the podium and spoke about the PCs being written off only to emerge with an historic victory “stronger than ever”. She talked about building a new future based on the traditional PC values of Peter Lougheed. She promised to invest in public services, to build schools and hospitals and to fix public healthcare.
She said Calgary was an exceptional city with the right expertise to make Alberta and Canada a global energy leader. Energy was “paramount” to the PC party. She would defend the oil sands and push ahead with her Canadian Energy Strategy. She was committed to sustainable resource development, free enterprise and a beautiful Canada. She’d embrace change and lead the charge. Albertans had a special identity—true and proud.
So back to the question: Did she say something interesting or was it blah blah blah? Answer: It was blah blah blah.
To be fair, this was a fundraising dinner and not a Legislative debate so some level of blah blah blah was to be expected. Nevertheless the Premier said very little of substance and the audience became uneasy. They applauded politely at the appropriate moments but wondered—had she gone too far down the path of social spending? Could she (or any government for that matter) do anything to calm the stormy waters facing the Keystone and Northern Gateway pipelines? And, most important, could she keep the disgruntled PC voters who’d switched to the Wildrose and came back at the 11th hour in the fold?
My cabbie was not prepared to let the matter rest. Politicians promise to build roads, he said, they should stop. He fixed one eye on me, clearly expecting a response. Politicians should stop building roads…? Oh I get it, he’s talking about broken promises! Yes, I agreed, they shouldn’t promise something and then not deliver.
He changed gears (figuratively). Albertans are afraid of change he said. He’d voted Liberal because governments should not stay in power too long or they stop taking care of the public preferring to take care of themselves and their friends. Even here in Canada. Wow…who is this kid?
I agreed with him and he told me about politics in France. Soon we were sitting in front of my house. I paid the fare and he turned in his seat, introduced himself and shook my hand. We were united in the fight for a better Alberta. My spirits soared. This election was a miraculous thing. It stirred the population. Albertans are engaged and like a dog with a bone, we’re not about to let this one go without a fight.
A $500 dinner and a $15 cab ride. It was the best $15 I’d spent in a long long time.