April 7th: Intervention Day

After four days in Quebec City, I’ve returned with a renewed sense of confidence about Alberta. Yes, I stepped in many puddles because I was riveted by the twitter feed surrounding the resignation of our Premier while walking the streets of Old Quebec. Yes, I was fascinated with how the soon-to-be wannabes started to position themselves for an upcoming leadership race. And yes, I watched as the opposition, media and self-proclaimed journalists licked their lips as fresh blood lingered in the air.

But when I step back and reflect on the tragedy of last week in Alberta, and compare it to the multi-generational calamity in Quebec, I remain conflicted with the fact that Alberta is repositioning for a prosperous future while Quebec is degenerating toward isolated antiquity.

The relentless quest for independence by the Parti Quebecois (PQ) continues to spread the idealism of blind hope and fiscal denial across a province that has such great potential for reinvention. But for 30+ years the province has held onto a strategy of rural tradition, political intimidation and backroom corruption that has led to a culture of dependency and economic decay.

The status quo can go on no more.

The youth in Quebec will soon rise up and demand a new world of openness, acceptance, tolerance, connectedness and transparency … a new world of opportunity. These will not be rallies for independence; rather, they will be upheavals of the old guard and generational mistrust. Today’s youth is activated: they will not be kept down; they will not be blindly led; and they will no longer be sacrificed for political gain. We witnessed it in the student rallies of 2012 and we are seeing it again in the resurgence of the Quebec Liberal Party.

As I walked through the narrow cobblestone streets of la Belle Province, I could feel the retrenchment of the PQ leadership in the air … its quest to campaign on fear … fear of population growth, multiculturalism, expressions of religion, inclusion of new voters, economic realities and the fear of discussion on the future for today’s youth.

The quest for independence will soon come to an end.

It is time for an intervention, and it will come on April 7th. Surrounded by an abundance of natural resources and beauty, it is time that for the youth to take control of the future of Quebec and start the new quest forward.

Back in Alberta, we will do our part to build a strong country through the building of strong provinces. Regardless of location, let’s ensure a culture of entitlement and dependency is never allowed to flourish across Canada.

Abundance vs. Necessity

Enroute back from Iceland, somewhere over the Atlantic. It’s a beautiful sight, the vastness of our Canadian Arctic, true north strong and free, when compared to a small, isolated island state like Iceland. The contrasts were noticeably obvious, but the unexpected insights were like gifts which I will freely share.

I come back a little embarrassed about our abundance. We are blessed with resources that are the envy of the world – oil, gas, fresh water, rich soil, rivers, streams, lakes, sun, wind, trees, animals, crops, mountains, medicine, education, democracy, rule of law, and stable government – the things of which most only dream.

Visiting the harbour town of Grindavik, we witnessed innovation at its finest. Blessed only with resources of the sea, an abundance of cod and shifting tectonic plates, we were treated to a proud culture of ingenuity and innovation out of necessity. This small town of 2,800 people shared an economic vision based on five areas of excellence:

1. Innovation in Cod Fishing: Higher quality fish through historical salting techniques; excellence in packaging and logistics such that fish can be on a plate in Edmonton within 36 hours of being caught; and a pursuit of innovation by developing 25 uses for cod sub products – from collagen to protein supplements – such that every part of the fish is developed to its highest value before it is exported.

2. Clean Energy Production: Harnessing the power of the volcanoes, earthquakes and shifting tectonic plates, geothermal production has risen to be the dominant source of energy production in the country, and is soon positioned to be sold in export markets. Clean electricity drive energy intensive industries like aluminum shelters, data centres, food processing and industrial greenhouses.

3. Greenhouse Food Production: Capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from clean energy production and using it as an input into industrial greenhouse food production has expanded the available production of food in what is otherwise a challenging landmass.

4. Barley Biotechnology: Understanding that barley represents one of the most biotech-friendly crops for genetic modification, medicinal experimentation and cosmetic engineering, industrial greenhouse operations, using CO2 and clean energy inputs, is expanding to diversify a product-based export economy.

5. Rejuvenation Ponds vs Tailings Ponds: Silica and clay based water runoff from the geothermal plants has created a series of rejuvenation ponds that are beautifully marketed as healing lagoons for those challenged with ailments and a quest for youth.

This level of closed-loop local innovation with limited resources has enriched the brand of Iceland to be associated with words like clean, beauty, nature, healthy, young, and sustainable. Absolutely Brilliant.

I ask you to take a minute and contemplate the depth of innovation and thoughtfulness we apply in an economy of abundance. And I challenge you to ask whether we are thinking hard enough? We complain that we need more labour and more labour in order to ship more raw commodities – oil, animals, lumber, barley, etc. – for others to process, refine, productize and realize significantly more value. We have much to learn … and so much more value to capture … if we get serious about rewarding innovation and eliminating the very policies and incentives that produce a Banana Republic mentality and the absolute wrong outcomes.

As the Minister of Industry & Innovation outlined the Icelandic economic vision, a gift to us, I can only offer the following wish in return: That as your offshore oil and gas production continues to develop and produces riches yet unknown, I wish that your country never gets complacent through abundance (fat, dumb and lazy) and always maintains your wonderful culture of innovation that has come through necessity.