By Drew Barnes, MLA Cypress-Medicine Hat, Shadow Minister of Health
The American writer, James Lane Allen, famously said that “Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.” Nowhere was this more evident than in Alberta over the past weeks.
As a vicious wildfire swept through large parts of Fort McMurray and the northeastern part of our province, the people of Alberta, without hesitation, responded with a swift and determined vigour that no disaster could possibly match. Hardship and devastation brought forth compassion, generosity, and great courage.
Thousands upon thousands of families and individuals have opened their hearts, homes, and wallets to evacuees and relief efforts. Companies operating in the region have contributed resources beyond measure – facilities for evacuation centres, airstrips, planes, and money. And, of course, the brave personnel working on the ground (or in the air) have pushed themselves well past the point of exhaustion to ensure the safety of residents and stop the destruction.
Through every trial that this province has faced, I am ever in awe of how well the nature of Albertans is demonstrated. Like the hard grinding wheel upon which brilliant gems are revealed from raw stones, adversity never fails to expose the good and noble character of this province. It is humbling beyond words to represent a people so proud of their land, dedicated to their communities, and eager to serve their fellow citizens.
As an elected official, people often ask me why I believe what I believe. Not what I believe, but why.
In the Legislature and in the news, we debate plenty of policy issues, most of which are well-known. We debate taxes and how high they should be. We debate debt and deficit. We debate how best to run the healthcare or education systems.
And while I have opinions and ideas on these important topics, everything is secondary to my guiding principle: I believe the things I do because I believe in Albertans.
In every single trial or struggle, in thick or thin, in lean years or times of abundance, I am always comforted that one thing remains constant – that the strength of Alberta is its people. In all circumstances and at all times, I know that the people of this province have the ability, the will, and the courage to accomplish great things. There is no force, of nature or otherwise, that can strip this away.
While the fundamentally good and steadfast character of Albertans is revealed most clearly in times of great distress, we also see it every day, in ways big and small. We see it in the local charity raising money to support the most vulnerable. We see it in neighbourly acts of kindness or civic pride. We see it in the strength of families and bonds of community.
The willingness of Albertans to work earnestly, give freely, and build diligently is more than evident. Albertans build wealth in order to build families and communities, and we do it for love of our province.
All the other policy issues out there pale in comparison to the central fact that believing in our people means empowering them at the personal and local level. The discussions around taxation, administration, regulation, and the rest ultimately come down to this.
It’s precisely because the strength of Alberta is its people that we should do everything we can to maximize opportunity and empower communities. The opportunity for communities to grow and thrive is opportunity for them to give and build for the good of all.
The overwhelmingly heartfelt response to the terrible fires in the north is commendable, but as any Albertan would tell you, it’s no less than we’d do for our own anywhere in the province. And that’s what makes us truly great.