The news is dire. Predictions grim.
Oil prices are in a slump. The economy is struggling and everyday people are feeling the pinch. Job lay-offs. Hiring freezes. Postponed projects.
It all has an impact.
Yesterday, I felt hopeful.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of sitting in the Alberta Legislature as Finance Minister Joe Ceci tabled his new government’s first budget.
And yes, this budget contains an ‘unprecedented for Alberta’ deficit. And yes, it is based on the hope that oil will recover some of its losses in the next year. And yes, the boost in economic activity is predicated on job creation through capital projects.
The forestry industry should be happy. Looking at the reams of paper this budget consumed, their sales must be up.
Regardless of how thick the stack of paper underpinning the budget, this government believes we can weather this storm. We can pull through, together.
Regardless of how I voted, this is my government, elected because Albertans voted them into the majority of seats in our Legislative Assembly.
Regardless of the party in power, this is still my Alberta too.
Whether I like the budget, or not, whether I voted NDP, or not, this is the framework within which we must operate. This is the government in power.
In listening to the political pundits, in reading the reviews and criticisms, the biggest ‘losers’ as one Calgary Herald report calls it, are smokers and drinkers. This budget means it will cost 5% more for every package of cigarettes and bottle of alcohol we buy.
I can live with that. I can adjust. I don’t smoke — I do drink wine. I have a choice. Cut back or pay up. If I give into my cynical, sarcastic frame of mind, I figure I can drown my sorrows by growing the government coffers. It’s a win/win.
Joking aside, being in the House yesterday was exciting. Fascinating. Entertaining. Illuminating.
The history. The beauty of the Legislative Building. The pageantry. The tradition.
As one new Member of the Legislative Assembly said to me as we chatted in the Rotunda after the budget was tabled, “Sometimes, it’s hard to believe I’m here. I pinch myself every time I walk in.” For them, governing is a sacred trust. A privilege. A humbling experience.
Sitting across from the governing party from where I sat in the Gallery, I too felt humbled. I was impressed with their passion, enthusiasm, and, I must admit, the youth of the those sitting in the seats of power. Sure, we can laugh about the fact some were in a classroom teaching the day before they won their seat in the Legislative Assembly. Or were a barrista or driving a taxi, or in a University classroom as a student, not a professor.
But that isn’t the point.
The point is, they cared enough to run for office. And now, they are our government. They want to do a good job. They want to give their best in the service of all Albertans.
Their job is to take the information and knowledge being shared with them both from the public and their advisors in the public service and put it to work for the benefit of their constituents, all of them. Not just those who voted NDP.
It was a fascinating day yesterday. I sat in question period before the Budget presentation and listened to both sides jockey back and forth as the Opposition members queried the whys and what-for’s and what’s happening next of the majority party members. I listened to the members hammer on their tabletops (a long tradition of the Assembly), call out across the floor and rib each other over what was said, not said, heard but not understood, heard and not agreed with and I felt humbled.
This is our government.
If we want it to work for all Albertans, we need to let go of leaping first to criticize, condemn and complain and step instead into our own power to contribute our best to make a difference for all Albertans.
This government, like all governments, may not do everything right, but from what I experienced yesterday, they are listening to all Albertans, and from what they heard, crafted a plan to move forward while creating change and opportunity and a path towards the future they believe will be for the betterment of all.
Regardless of whether I like the path, it is the path. My job is to figure out how I walk it so that together, we truly can make progress that makes a difference in all our lives.