Alberta pioneers had their deep socialist roots too


Dear Editor:

Re: “Layton was a hero”

I strongly disagree with George Jason’s letter in last week’s newspaper regarding the late Jack Layton, social democracy and Alberta.

Contrary to Mr. Jason’s assumption that social democratic concepts come from Toronto and the NDP, they are the very roots of Alberta, found in both the self-reliant pioneers like most of our parents and grandparents (of those born in Canada) whose over-riding interest and commitment was in their to community.

This thinking came from the prairie farm, not the late Mr. Layton’s city.

For instance, the UFA early on, was deeply involved in politics and “equality for all” in Alberta; the Famous Five women all had their roots in the prairies and played key roles in agrarian feminism (the kind of feminism where men and women are partners in family and a future — not competitors).

The farm movement was dedicated to bringing education and electricity to remote locations in Alberta; the farm movement was responsible for the innovation of spare parts for vehicles. (Yup, cheaper to buy a new flywheel than a whole new thingamajig wouldn’t you say?)

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank was borne of immigrants sharing their new wealth of harvest with starving people back home or elsewhere around the world — and prairie churches and farmers also carried forth those ideas of community. And still do today. Witness Klaglahachie Fine Arts. Witness the origin of the Ponoka Stampede. It was all about community; fund-raising so the ladies and children would have a comfortable restroom while the men did business in town.

Though I have many criticisms of some Alberta government decisions of late, overall I would say that the people of Alberta are well served in most respects and not taxed to death. You want to see that — go to B. C. (Bring Cash) a very NDP province. My experiences working within the Alberta government for a short time and as a sub-contractor for several years is that there are many dedicated, caring people working in departments — offering a constellation of services light years beyond Mr. Layton’s NDP party policies.

We have many heroes in Alberta — people who actually did things, made change and built a pretty good province to live in over the past 100 or so years. Mr. Layton is a tragic figure, having lost his life when he was about to win his prize, but he is no hero compared to the men and women who immigrated with nothing, scraped a living from the earth, survived the Dirty Thirties, invented new strains of crops (such as Red Fife wheat, developed by a relative of Ponoka’s own Elsie Nelson), gave women in Canada the vote (Famous Five), gave First Nations people full rights (John Diefenbaker, a prairie boy if from Saskatchewan), built roads and airports, invested $680 million research and development to make the oil sands viable (Premier Peter Lougheed), established the first provincial environment ministry in Canada, sent an astronaut to space.

We have many heroes in Alberta who really did things. Big things. We should honor them for their accomplishments, and not someone who did nothing here.

This is why we should learn history. So we can separate the wheat from the chaff.

Michelle Stirling

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