“The process of empowerment cannot be simplistic defined in accordance with our own particular class interest. We must learn to lift as we climb”.ANGELA DAVIES
Well for the sixth time in my life I have returned to Calgary and this time to stay. I have seen the rest of Canada so it is time to settle down. I have done Winnipeg (hardly counts since my family left there when I was 6 but I have visited relatives so often I slip it in), Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and Victoria so coast to coast. I believe I have seen enough of the other major cities to make an informed decision on where to finally plant some roots. CALGARY BE IT.
I took some time off from my writing however now that I am back and having redesigned my site it is time to #SpeakUp again. I opened my article today with an Angela Davis quote. She has long been a hero of mine so using one of her quotes was a good way to reenter the social media writing rodeo. As an activist myself politics is important to me so this particular quote was also very apropos for my topic today, #abpoli (Alberta politics).
When my family first arrived in Calgary the city population was 179,000. By todays standards it was a “small” city but in 1957 with heavy migration from both Canadian farming communities (the move from an agrarian society to urban life) as well as immigration from war torn countries recovering from WW2 cities were on the grow. Immigration played a big role in urban growth however the bulk of immigration back then was Eurocentric and blended in much quicker.
I left Calgary in the mid 60’s as a teenager dodging an outdated but very real dangerous piece of legislation, the Alberta Sexual Sterilization Act. After three years as a street-kid I returned in 1970 to attend Mount Royal College. After finishing I again left Calgary where I spend a brief stint in Montreal. Not being able to speak french made it impossible to stay there but I did have 9 months of fun. Next I found myself in Toronto where I spend three years. When I returned to Calgary in 1976 the population was approaching 600 thousand. Quite a jump in just 20 years.
In 1979 Calgary was well on its way from a sleepy cowtown to a major energy metropolitan centre. Of course with that growth came the need for more oversight. The 80’s became the generation of credentialism, professional associations, an emerging regulatory set of policies (both provincial and federal) and further changes in the structure of equalization payments.
Mr. Kenney has brought his Ottawa skills with him and we are now experiencing some of that. With the recent upswing and saber rattling of Mr. Kenney and the UCP, equalization appears to be a growing issue. It’s a very complicated issue but plays well to confusion and “fear-mongering”. In a future post I will cover the equalization process with deeper insights but for now it is fair to say how that works changed with the patriation of the Constitution in 1982.
In 1957 when the population was 179,000 the federal system of equalization payments was introduced. This was, in part, to assist the “have not” provinces absorb the cost of immigrants arriving from a war torn Europe. At the time Alberta was considered a “have not” province and received equalization payments. This was done under the then Progressive Conservative government of John G. Diefenbaker. However that basket of eggs I mentioned and energy considered provincial income the Alberta oil boom turned Alberta into a “have” province. Alberta has not received an equalization payment since 1965.
With changing demographics and a shift in the labour market the equalization formula was changed in 1967 under the newly elected Liberal Party of Lester Pearson. The same party that a year later choose Pierre Elliot Trudeau as their new leader and by default the Canadian Prime Minister. The redesigned system worked with every government revenue scheme with the exception of energy; this gave Canada by far the world’s most generous system of equalization payments.
This was also the driving factor behind the baby-boomer generation. They drove the growth of Alberta and, in particular, Calgary. Calgary had it all, easy access, room to grow, affordable living and minimal taxes making it attractable to the energy sector. It didn’t need oil wells, it needed sector headquarters and Calgary had all of the right check boxes.
Baby-boomers drove the growth of Calgary while striving to build a city that would meet their needs for their future retirement. They build and grew a city based on the social norms and technology of the time. The idea of things like climate change, renewable energy and technological advances never entered the thinking process. My first job involving technology was transcribing sonar charts onto a handwritten spreadsheet so the data entry clerk could use them to produce “punch data cards“. These were later used to transfer the information onto huge magnetic tapes. Today we have more technology in our smartphones than a room full of magnetic tapes had in those days. We have come a long way with technology but our social norms are still catching up.
With all of that said, the baby-boomers are also the ones who vote. They are the generation that will help maintain a system that may not be as applicable in todays world as it was in theirs. Stats Canada shows the largest voting block is baby-boomers and they vote based on what they have accomplished, not what their expectations are for future generations. All of them vote with the best of intentions.
They all want a better future for the children and grandchildren much like their parents did for them. However they attained their retirement position based on a system of government that doesn’t exist anymore. We no longer have the Diefenbaker Conservatives or the Pearson Liberals. We may still have the names but we no longer have the ideology. Most of this generation have no understanding of the new world of “social media”. When it comes to social media most baby-boomers share their parents belief process of our age of rock and roll. It’s a fad but a fad is being used against them. Social media is driving a wedge in the electorate further polarizing us.
I left again in 1990 to raise my family on Vancouver Island and when I returned in 2018 the city of 1.24 million with many major changes having taken place. The most noticeable to me was open acceptance that Calgary needed more eggs than just energy in its economic development plan. This is difficult for many baby-boomers to grasp due to the groupthink of the 80’s. This is a large demographic group who build their retirement plans around the “energy is king” mentality. Sadly they still vote that way.
I recognize that. I am a member of that generation however, as a budding social anthropologist, I pay attention to policy changes that are eroding the world baby-boomers build. I use social media everyday and recognize the power of it. I understand the need of “fact checking” and understand how “misinformation” is used to direct voters. These were concepts that one didn’t have to deal with in the 70’s and 80’s.
Most baby-boomers trusted their politicians and accepted on faith what they told you. Sadly those days are gone. Politicians today have become ideological demagogues and are weaponizing social media to spread fear and hate among the generations. Not a lot of my peers recognize that and I get a lot of reaction (often negative) when I point out facts or, in many cases, context. They want to trust, they want to be able to live the comfortable retirement life they worked so hard to achieve. I can’t blame them for that. They have achieved what they set out to do. It hurts to have your belief system challenged later in life. We become entrenched with a level of comfort and want to stay in that bubble. Now the question is what do you want to do about it?
Does your generation want to move backwards or start demanding change? We now live with a political system that is broken. We need the new generations to engage in the current political world and start pushing for change. If you choose to sit on your couch and grumble about how rotten those politicians are but fail to go to the polls, you are part of that backwards slide. We can’t expect change if all you do is talk but not act. Never in our history have we lived in a time where verifying information is so easy. You need to get off your couch and go vote. You need to do some fact checking so your vote is informed. You also need to get to know some baby-boomers beyond your grandparent and share some political insight. It’s time to hit the refresh button. More to come…
P.S. If you like what you are reading feel free to hit the “Donate” button on the sidebar. I have to pay for this somehow and although I do a lot of volunteer work, my job isn’t complete unless I at least attempt to make people aware that knowledge has value…