A $500 Dinner and a $15 Cab Ride

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.

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10 Responses to A $500 Dinner and a $15 Cab Ride

  1. Elaine Fleming says:

    Well, Susan, you know we Albertans tend to be enchanted by French accents! And, as far as cab drivers go, our politicians would do well to ride around with some of them and ask for their insights on political issues. Cabbies seem to have a unique perspective, maybe because they are all from somewhere else, because they see every corner of our cities, and maybe because they are exposed to people from all walks of life, and their intimate conversations. I always find them interesting to talk to.
    Wow! $500 for a dinner. I hope it was good. Just curious, any mention made of the fair city to the North? Maybe the Premier will have a dinner here? She’d have to drop the price, though.

  2. Elaine, what an excellent suggestion–having a politician ride along with a cabbie. The politicians would learn more by spending $15 on cab fare than by spending thousands on task forces and expert panels (the Major Report on MLA compensation springs to mind as another example of a complete waste of money).
    Yes the $500 price tag was steep, luckily many of us were able to attend due to the largess of our employers. We were there to learn what to expect in the next 4 years and as I indicated we didn’t learn much. .
    Redford did mention that a similar event is planned for Edmonton. I wonder whether she’ll tell Edmontonians that they too are the “heart” of the province and the home of innovation and resourcefulness. Sorry, all this political-speak is wearing me down!

  3. Elaine Fleming says:

    The Premier had better tell us (Edmonton) that we are the “heart” of the province, based on our geographical position!
    I am SO kidding!
    It is really important that there not be rivalries between cities, or between cities and rural areas, or between north and south, or east and west (in the national sense) for that matter. There is work to do, and we are all going to have to pull together to deal with all the challenges our “prosperous” society is facing for it’s future. The leadership we have in these next few years, provincially and federally, is going to set the course positively or negativley for the next generations.

  4. Excellent observation Elaine. The old “divide and conquer” mentality doesn’t help anyone but the politician who’s engineered the artificial battle lines. Let’s make sure it doesn’t happen in our province or our country. How’s that for an olive branch from a Calgarian to an Edmontonian, (not that you or I ever needed one, but we’re setting a good example for the others! 🙂 )

  5. Carlos Beca says:

    While reading your post, I could not stop thinking how much better the story would have been if the $500 went to the taxi driver and the $15 to the PCs. The thought that after 40 years of mismanagement and of allowing oil companies to basically take out of this province whatever they feel like, that there are still people that give that kind of money to the PCs is to me mind boggling.

    I read your post and wondered why is it that people have such a fascination for sado-masochism. We see it day in and day out and still people vote for their own owners. The political class is now discredited around the so called developed world and they continue facilitating banks and financial institutions to rob from their own people. Today a report from the United Nations on poverty in Canada was met with the same reaction as the owners of Syria and Libya when attacked by their own people. The Federal Government also came out with a solution to reduce unemployment. If you get unemployed and do not accept whatever it is they want to give you, you are out even if you paid 30 years into the unemployment Insurance. By the way, if you now come to work in Canada from China for example, your employers here can now legally pay you 15% less than what they pay a Canadian worker. I am sorry my friend but these are the rules, we Canadians now believe that exploitation is fine except we do it 85% less than where you come from.

    These and more are the new Order of the Neo-Conservative movement, that brilliant invention put in place on the so called PEOPLE by those like Harper that even believe that the market is a divine creation.

    We are not in an economic crisis, we are in an existencial one and the results of all of this are anyone’s guess but it has all the qualities of a major catastrophe. Greece could very well be the first fall of the whole castle.

    I certainly cannot afford a $500 dollar donation but if I could it would never be to a political party.

  6. Carlos, you’ve set out the critical issues very eloquently. The real discussion here is: what do we as Canadians and Albertans really value? Is it personal wealth and power or is it creating a better life for everyone? Clearly we can’t continue on the present path. But how do we switch to a new path? It would help if progressive voters had a viable choice instead of one which simply splits the vote and allows the PCs to remain in power. I know that at least one of the left of centre parties is working through that issue but they won’t be able to solve it without the cooperation of the other parties who (unfortunately) don’t seem to be in a big hurry to put down their party labels and work together for the greater public good. Which takes us right back to where we started…personal power vs the greater good. Thanks for your comments Carlos, very thought provoking.

  7. Carlos Beca says:

    For all of you who are interested in Proportional Representation, please take note
    http://us5.campaign-archive1.com/?u=90219ad2946b8b708ae9eea3a&id=195a2f3a2f&e=91b6160aa3

  8. Thanks for passing this along Carlos. We desperately need a similar forum in Calgary!

  9. Janet Keeping says:

    This is a great piece, Susan. All I hear from Redford is blah-blah-blah. She may have some good ideas — and friends of mine in the gay community believe she is committed to a genuine and deep sense of equality (well, not economic of course, but that’s another story) — but does not seem able to speak in a way that conveys such values. It all sounds like blah-blah-blah even when — perhaps, I’m trying to be charitable here — there is something deeper going on in her head and heart.

  10. Janet, thanks for your comments. Some of my friends are unshakable in their belief that Redford is authentic and that her mistakes to date were simply the result of Redford trying to deliver her vision but being blocked by the old guard. We’ll have a chance to test that theory now that she’s swept back into power and has been able to hand pick her cabinet beholden to no one. Frankly, given some of her cabinet and her appointment of Gene Zwozdesky as Speaker I’m not very hopeful!

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