This morning Mom and I went down to Camrose to meet my sister at Augustana (a UofA campus). They were having a "teach-in day" there called Alberta: Living the Boom and Bust.
The first speaker and the person we most wanted to hear was Melissa Blake, the mayor of Wood Buffalo, i.e. the mayor of Fort MacMurray. (Wiki for Wood Buffalo and Fort Mac) She just got elected for a second term (and indeed, had to run off before the panel to get back to Fort Mac as she’s being sworn in tonight), and managed 65% of the vote against 4 other candidates. They must like her. After hearing her speak, I can tell why.
She’s the rare politician who is there to do a job, and not to be a politician. First, about her chat. She basically gave a chat about "what’s happened during the last 10 years (since 1996)" chat, and a "what we’re trying to do for the next 20". While she didn’t respond to the topic of "boom and bust" strictly speaking, the fact that she didn’t talk about preparing for the "bust" speaks to the sheer level of investment and industry. It also strengthens her case for Wood Buffalo as a unique municipality. If anyone is unfamiliar with Fort Mac and the oil sands, they’ve seen the bulk of investment in Alberta Oil…something to the tune of 250 billion dollars.
Mayor Blake is intelligent, hardworking, very well spoken and diplomatic when she needs to be. Listening to her reminded me of the West Wing episode where Josh convinces Sam to come hear Bartlet speak for the first time. (Somewhere early in second season) She’s everything you want to hear out of a politician but never do: honesty, trust, intelligence, and a genuine desire to help not only her electorate, but the industry, the environment, and real people who never get heard in public consultation. She’s the type of person who I’d vote for no matter what party she ran for, and I’d work for in a heart beat. She gets stuff done.
We did skip out before the panel, but I had a chance to catch her and ask her if she’s got any concerns or hopes for the Royalty Review recomendations that’ll be decided on Wednesday. Her answer was basically: "I don’t have any hopes for it. Whatever they decide, the money won’t get back to our community. Some slowing of the industry would be good. Choking it off completely would leave us hanging with billions in infrastructure projects." As someone who is involved in real estate and very interested in the economy, she has a good feel for what’s going on, and how to make the best of a difficult time for the people of Wood Buffalo.
That’s a more honest answer than I was expecting, and was (like the rest of her answers) indicative of a better grasp of the situation and priorities than most civic politicians. There’s no political grandstanding, talking for the sake of talking, or the usual crap.
The woman has a job to do, and from what I can see, she’s doing it very, very well. I’d vote for, work for, or volunteer for her in a minute.