While @ctdenergy, AKA Chris Tesarski isn’t the audience PCinYYC aims to reach, I will indulge him with ONE MORE blog in response to his piece, A View from the Tower….The Ivory One: A Battle for the Minds of Albertans. After this blog, I hope you stay tuned to PCinYYC, as @crontynen and I are very excited to move forward with our ‘real’ series, which will start ramping up significantly very soon!
Let me start by apologizing to Chris for my rudeness – I called him some nasty things when my real focus was on what I perceive as the real problems holding us back as a society – our collective attitude. So I’m sorry, @ctdenergy for calling you names and offending you personally.
Before I get into my thoughts about what I believe to be our collective attitude challenge in Canada, I want to talk a little bit about the names Chris gave @crontynen and me – Henry and Martha! I’m thrilled he called us this, because in many ways I truly do believe @crontynen and I do represent your modern day H&M. However, in light of the times, let’s just stick with calling Martha and Henry @crontynen and @ppilarski.
Who is @crontynen? At 23, she is one month away from defending her Masters in Communications Studies at the University of Calgary – her focus is on how social media can influence public policy and her case studies were the infamous Bill 44 and Bill 50. It’s fascinating and cutting edge research on a topic so many of us are trying to get a handle on. @crontynen holds the distinction of being one of the first ever recipients of the University of Calgary President’s Award for Excellence in Student Leadership. In addition to receiving top academic standing in her undergraduate class, she earned this award for her extracurricular involvement in student government. Google her if you want details – Its impressive!
@crontynen has a zest for life and a natural flair for leadership. She is feisty, witty, intelligent and quick. She has a real talent for journalism and communications and an amazing ability to read people. I’m definitely very biased, but if you spend some time looking Christina Rontynen up on Google, you will see that she is an absolute star! Oh, and this year, she was the PC Party Youth Volunteer of the Year – I’m so proud of all that she has accomplished in her short life!
Your Henry or @ppilarski is much less impressive. @crontynen likes to call me “standard man” and it’s a title I proudly do what I can to represent!
I am not an academically minded person. I have my Bachelor of Commerce Degree, with Distinction, from the University of Alberta. Outside of my family business (which has ALWAYS been a part of my life), I have worked for Liquor Depot, Alberta Motor Association, The Legislative Assembly of Alberta, Government of Alberta, Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, Retail Council of Canada and Merit Contractors Association. I have spent a lot of time in my life surrounded with a LOT of different people. I’m extremely practical and have a very active imagination – characteristic of my type 7 personality.
Like @crontynen, I started working at a very young age. I am the product of an immigrant family business environment where at 12, sweeping the garage floor of my dad’s mechanical shop was my weekly punishment for whatever it is I did that week to deserve it. By 14, I was changing oil, checking fluids, reinforcing the fence out back, visiting auctions with dad to buy new project cars, etc. By 16 to 18, I knew my way around a car engine, was installing command start systems and car stereos, booking appointments, estimating jobs, and running the shop when mom and dad were on holidays.
At 31, I think I have a pretty strong suite of investments with several properties and a couple business interests – there are many people who have much, much more than I have, but I’m not greedy – all I want is a decent quality of life and stability for my future children’s future. More importantly, I want to be truly happy and enjoy every day to the fullest. Luckily, every day with @crontynen is like that for me – I don’t know what I did to deserve it, but I’ll take it!
My point is that I believe @crontynen and I in many ways do represent @premierstelmach’s more modern version of Ralph’s Martha and Henry. The truth is that Premier Stelmach often talks about the need to transition to a knowledge-based economy. He does believe in the kind of transformational change you reference in your visions of renaissance. He understands the higher level goals of many Albertans and I truly believe that he is trying to take Alberta in that direction.
The constant media and opposition storm that surrounds him hasn’t significantly changed his course – he has made some adjustments where he made mistakes, but he has a vision for our province which I share, and I admire his dedication to getting there. Ed Stelmach is a principled leader – if it’s not apparent now, I can guarantee history will prove me right.
But like me, @premierstelmach is an very practical man – in many ways, he too is standard man! He knows that the transformation needs to happen through an evolution, not a revolution. He, like I looks forward and sees stark realities on the horizon. I can’t speak for @premierstelmach, but I don’t think we can move forward as a collective if we don’t seriously challenge some of the institutions, norms and attitudes that continue to hold us back.
Let me explain what I mean when I talk about “elitist academics in their ivory towers”. When I write that I refer less to an occupation and more to an attitude. Let me be clear – I know many, many academics who are amazing people. I know some amazing bureaucrats too. I have many friends who have their PHD in various subjects. I have been lucky enough to spend many great hours debating political philosophy, learning about neural science, and engineering through discussions with incredibly bright people who are at the very top of their fields.
But I also grew up in the taxi industry and have spoken to countless highly trained and highly intelligent immigrants who drive a taxi because they can’t get work in their profession. I knew many families with parents who were trained engineers and architects but factory and restaurant workers by Canadian standards. In many cases, very bright people who do not have the opportunity to fully contribute their talents toward the betterment of our society and the attainment of a modern-day renaissance. Individuals and families who don’t have the opportunity to participate in the revolution or transformation because they have to bust their asses just to put food on the table!
To me the “elitist academics in their ivory towers” represent an attitude, which I really feel that some in the new party to the left share. It’s an attitude that permeates our society and exists in our academic institutions, professional associations, unions, bureaucracies and in some cases, even boardrooms and executive offices. It’s an attitude that standard man doesn’t know what’s best for him – I know what’s best for him. It’s an attitude that keeps trained professionals out of their professions – I constantly hear that Alberta has some of the highest training standards which are important to maintain. But is this why we don’t have ANY flexibility when it comes to getting new Canadians into their chosen professions as quickly as possible?
We are, in many ways, an intolerant society of snobs that hides behind our professional standards and accreditations to keep our professions in high demand. We are extremely reluctant to let newcomers in, and our bureaucracies stifle innovation and imagination. We are our own worst enemies when it comes to achieving the type of society many of us want to live in.
In these ways, I see similarities between Canada and Europe. European countries have been forced to change their fiscal policies in the face of economic collapse, but many haven’t changed their attitudes with respect to immigrants and visiting workers. France is a case in point for what can happen when a society collectively believes it is OR SHOULD BE better than the immigrants it lets in. This is the elitist, academic, ivory tower view I refer to, no matter what you do for a living.
Look at my friend, Chris Tesarski, who when explaining the story of Don Quixote to me in his blog provided such a beautiful example of what I mean when I describe someone with his attitude as coming across as an “elitist academic in his ivory tower”. He wrote “…just like Don Quixote. I’m sure back when great literature was part of the Curriculum in Alberta, Martha and Henry just might remember reading Don Quixote.” I’m sorry Chris – I was busy taking English as a Second Language (ESL); while @crontynen was in IB classes studying “great literature” that didn’t include Don Quixote.
@cdtenergy is “sick and tired of being dumbed down … fed up with the “Palinization” of Alberta, where apparently people like [him] are branded as aloof, elitists while it’s the PCAA that speaks for Martha and Henry.”
Well Chris, @crontynen and I are @premierstelmach’s modern day Martha and Henry and we are tired of you looking down on us, thinking you somehow know what is better for us.
We look at the future realistically and know there is no renaissance and no good fortune unless we bring Ravinder and Anila, Kay She and Ben Chan, Boris and Natalia, Hugo and Max – and Piotr and Christina along. We have nothing if we don’t change our attitude towards the reality we face as we compete with the world for talent. We need to break down the institutions and attitudes that hold us back.
So while what happens in Alberta bores or disappoints you my friend, I suggest we need a balance between moving forward progressively and conservatively. I don’t think we should “dismantle the whole thing and build it back up again…”
I am not interested in your condescending blogs or unrealistic lofty ideas, I am interested in the evolution of our society and not leaving anyone behind. I’m a Progressive Conservative and a damn proud Albertan – standard man – so stop looking down on me and telling me what I want!