I was recently challenged by a few folks on an online discussion about my apocalyptic assessment of the current situation in Alberta. My adversaries, quite legitimately described what I was saying as “gloom and doom.”
This was my response to him.
Before I share it, I want to clarify that though I speak specifically to the plight of Albertans, my support, allegiance, and loyalty goes out to the patriots throughout Western Canada who share the dream of a new great nation, spanning from B.C. through to Manitoba.
I believe Alberta’s separation from Canada is the first step towards fulfilling that dream, which is why I speak about it the way that I do.
As I love my province, I encourage you to love your own.
Moreover, though I am an Alberta Patriot, I do NOT take the stance that my province is superior to yours. Alberta is my home, just as B.C., Saskatchewan, or Manitoba may be yours.
I have the utmost respect to all of you who love your home as much as I love mine and I wish to encourage you to keep loving your home and to take every opportunity you can to let it be known where you stand.
Love and loyalty for our home and our communities, be it in Victoria, Edmonton, Regina, or Winnipeg will be the solid foundation of a new, Western Canadian nation.
Maybe I am being a bit ominous, although I am just telling the truth about what I see.
Personally, I am busier than I have ever been and I am doing very well for myself.
I am confident I can carve a niche for myself that will see myself and my immediate family through this downturn and maybe see us come out more successful and prosperous than before.
As for my fellow Albertans, I am not so sure they are ready or will be so fortunate and it pains me to see how many are suffering.
It has taken my wife and I years to prepare for this.
While I know the character of people in Alberta is that we pride ourselves for being strong and rugged, I can sense the cracks and see so many Albertans who are not as prepared starting to hit their breaking points.
I suppose this may be what it was like in the 1980’s and 1990’s here in Alberta, but I was too young to understand what was happening.
That said I believe I am justified in saying this time, it may well be much worse for much longer.
My Dad (whose life’s work was instrumental in building up the Alberta oil sands) told me when the most recent oil route started that: “It’s nothing new, I’ve seen it happen over and over again over the past 30 years. Things will be fine.”
But he is retired. He got out right at the peak. He has nothing to lose by being wrong.
In the meantime, my brother has just been eaten away by what he has gone through the past year in the oil patch. Laid off last year, out of work for 4 months, bills to pay, kids to feed.
He will never admit it, but I can sense the fear and desperation in him and it worries me. Especially for my young nieces, whose childhoods will undoubtedly be adversely impacted by the crash and whose futures as Albertans themselves may be irrecoverably damaged by the events unfolding today.
My brother invested the past 12 years of his life solely to the oil industry. Being a Petroleum Engineer is deeply ingrained in his identity. He loves it and is proud of it.
If the industry disappears, it will be very traumatic for him to retool and re-purpose.
He loves Calgary and Alberta as much as I do but the only choice for him to provide for his family should Alberta’s (and with it, Saskatchewan’s) oil industry gets wiped out is to move to the US to join the shale boom.
That will not be an easy decision for him. His wife is just as tied to Calgary (if not more so) than he is and he has gone to some extreme measures already to keep it from coming to that.
The challenge I see is that the severity of the crisis we face in Alberta has not sunk in with most Real Albertans. The people for whom Alberta was, is, and always will be home. People like my brother and I and our families.
All of the transient Albertans who came here by chance, circumstance, and to cash in on the boom are just uprooting and going where the easy money and best welfare is.
For the Real Albertans, that is not an option.
Such is the reality of Alberta. A reality which I only recently fully appreciated and which fills me with a swelling sense of patriotism to call myself an Albertan.
Every 10 – 20 years or so, there is a natural culling in our province that violently forces out the weak and the foolish among us. That I am still here (and determined to not just stay, but prosper) goes to show that I am not one of them, and that I am blessed to still be among some of the toughest, most sensible people on the planet.
When I look at the history of my province, I see from it’s very founding that has been the case. When I study the fundamentals of my province, I see that will ALWAYS be the case.
That said, to move past the crisis, we Albertans must work through all the stages of grief. Through denial, anger, bargaining, depression to finally get to a state of acceptance of our new reality.
Personally, I am well into the acceptance phase. The best of times for us are behind us, and I accept that as a fact.
Not many of us have gotten to that point yet. In time, we will. We have to.
For us to start rebuilding and move on we need to get to the state of acceptance where we have the clearest heads and the best ability to leverage our greatest asset and what makes us Albertans unique among everyone in Canada, and I daresay the world:
Our personal fortitude and our ability to persevere through extreme adversity.
For us in Alberta, one way or another, or future is dimmer, darker, and smaller than our recent past. That does not mean it is not worth living and living to the limit.
In my lucid moments, battling the temptation to succumb to the collective state of despair most Albertans have fallen victim to, I am both more hopeful and inspired than ever to press on, to work harder, and to dream bigger.
The Boom is over. In our lifetimes, we will probably never experience another one like it.
The Bust we are going to experience will be even bigger in magnitude than the boom. As a Real Albertan, I say bring it on.
It is not our victories and accomplishments that make us who we are. It is the failures and the challenges we have survived and overcame that truly define us.
In Alberta, our provincial motto is “Fortis et Liber.”
Through the adversity ahead on our horizon, we Albertans will persevere and we will make it known that we truly are “Strong and Free.”