Alberta and Saskatchewan – how do they fit in Canada?

In 2016 I went to Calgary for a family visit. It was one of the last visits there, since I moved to the East Coast. And that time, as sensing that not that many more of these visits are ahead of me (but not knowing that as matter of fact), I gave myself permission to a lot more private, solitary time to walk through the city, in many ways city of my youth.  I have lived there, in earlier times, close to 15 years. The city has changed a lot since. Not much for the better – typical spreading with mostly ugly neighborhoods that were taking over grasslands, fields on the outskirts and close by rural communities. But the Downtown was reinvented and re-invigorated nicely. I stuck mostly to the old Calgary – familiar and full of memories. Some were bad – but, as is in life – bad memories fade with time, good ones – remain.

During one of my evening walks on the southern part of Downtown (close to 4th Street SW were I had my very first apartment in Calgary) I noticed very disturbing occurrence. It was a time of some sort of election, I think provincial. As in any other community, there were election signs of candidates, parties. Right on the edge of an old, small park with Calgary’s Cenotaph was a sign of NDP party. Not the most popular in Alberta – but an established and strong political force in the city and province for as long as I remember (much stronger then Liberal Party, traditionally very disliked there). A very young, in their twenties, couple walked by. It was obvious they were not poor or from shadowy element. They were loud, happy. An evening revellers. Suddenly, they stopped, he talked something to her. She stood aside and carefully looked around, than  gave him a nod and the guy just ripped the sign off, broke it into pieces and threw to the park bushes. They walked quickly off. I was a full intersection away. Should I run after him, yell? Pointless. The crime was done. Calling police was too late, as they quickly disappeared into next street. It angered me. And reminded of that nasty element of political intolerance that always existed in Alberta. The right wing feeling of entitlement. To what? I don’t know, nor understand it. But it was present there in the 80ies, when I settled there. To some point as the reaction to Pierre Trudeau’s plans for the abandoned National Energy Plan – an idea hated in the Prairies.  As a side note it is worth noting that just few weeks ago, in National Election 2019, no other but the Conservatives flaunted the idea of Trans Canada Energy Corridor … . Hmmm, funny how ,principal views’ are dependent on political expediency … . What was once (still is) viewed as an assault on provincial jurisdiction, now is being proposed as wise and beneficial to all.

But back to memories of political climate in Alberta. I think it got worst after the passing of political leadership of Peter Lougheed – a staunchly protective premier of Alberta, but even more staunchly Canadian. I think he was the last premier of that province, who truly and unwaveringly believed in the supremacy of Canadian unity over any separatist sentiment of ultra-right Albertans. During our just finished National Election, that spectre of Western alienation and separatism was mentioned as a warning many times.  And was stressed that the Liberal government of Pierre’s son, Justin Trudeau resurrected that feeling in the Prairies. That is a blatant lie. A lie repeated every time there is a Liberal government in Canada. That feeling always existed there and was always used to blackmail Ottawa. I remember very well times, when Alberta’s conservative governments did not shy to form close ties with Quebec separatist governments of non-other than staunchly separatist’s Quebec premier Levesque to plot against Ottawa. When it was convenient to force their hand against Ottawa. All of it came back to me as I listened to stories from this election of Albertans, who were afraid to post any sign on their property for either NDP or Liberal parties. They were actually afraid. Physically and psychologically. And it is disgusting. It never went that far in my memory. It would be probably a challenge to find a time, when both Alberta and Saskatchewan did not elect a single MP not from conservative party. It all changed after forming of Reform Party and destroying the old Progressive Conservative Party of  MacDonald. The new conservative party, formed by Stephen Harper, failed to see beyond the borders of the West, failed to notice ever more urban citizens of this country. But demand respect and special status instead. It’s fine that their base is in the West, especially in the oil-rich West. But Canada neither starts nor stops in Regina and Edmonton. Their inability to get above 32-35% popular vote speaks volume to the problem.   And one more think – when I settled there it was the beginning of the 80ties in the XX century. The end phase of many oil booms that the province had. There was plenty of money still around. Establishment (smart) of Heritage Fund in Edmonton from proceeds of that boom. After that were years of drier income and another booms. That’s forty years of history. What happened to diversification, to support and building of new industries, new sources of wealth? Every time there was a bust – there were promises that Alberta would diversify, would invest in more resilient future. And what? The same questions remain today. Saskatchewan was doing OK with rich farmlands and world leadership in production of potash. But the market for potash collapsed years ago, food markets are strong but increasingly competitive – where is the planning, the modernization of economic base? Is it all Ottawa’s fault, the Trudeaus and Chretiens, the Turners and Martins? Is it always perennial ‘them’, never ‘us’ philosophy?

Now the popular cry and question is being thrown: since Liberals (or NDP or Greens for that matter) don’t have a seat in Alberta and Saskatchewan, who will represent the two western provinces in Ottawa? Perhaps a question that should have been asked by Albertans few weeks ago, before the Election stations were closed, may I ask?

Of course, my impatience with certain element of Western perennial dissatisfaction with Central Canada does not solve the true problem of new Liberal Government with that obvious dilemma. Although there is nothing in our Constitution or law that requires a Cabinet representation of all provinces or regions – a practical and political expediency does suggest that. And a long tradition. Trudeau already stated such desire himself. How he will accomplish it will be not an easy task and some political showmanship will be needed. I have no doubt he will master such.  He (Trudeau) has proved to us that he is not just an idealist living in a dreamland, ha ha ha. To the contrary at times – he could be rather cold and unforgiving politician. I just hope that he will not reward Mr. Sheer and Mr. Kenny with conservative appointment as an advisor to the Cabinet, or – that would be a capitulation and very wrong – as a member of the Cabinet.  There’s many Westerners, who are not staunchly right wing, who can fulfill that role. To the benefit of Canada and the two beautiful Provinces. And not former infamous premier of Alberta, Ms. Allison Redford, who just the other day offered her services in such a role. Last time she served Alberta, didn’t end very well for Albertans. Who knows – maybe a former member of former Progressive Conservative Party, who didn’t join the Harper’s new Conservative Party of Canada? I’m sure there is still quite a few of them around.

There will be a pipeline to BC, I am certain of it. There won’t be one going the Quebec, I am sure of it, too. The first one is needed politically and economically. The oil in Alberta will not stop being produced anytime soon – although I do hope for the sake of us and the sake of Albertans that it will be phase out as soon as it is economically possibly and not a day later. But we cannot continue being just a country of natural resources – specially raw and mined resources. That time is gone. It was gone with the end of XX century. We can’t just rape our own land and pretend that it is OK. It’s not. There was a time and an epoch when it was necessary evil, maybe – to a point – even a blessing. But now it is a curse. More and more expensive to maintain. And I am not touching the ethical side of it. Just economy. The harm it produces alongside the economic benefits becomes more and more visible every passing year. The harm not only to the climate of the country and entire planet – but to Canadian nature, to our environment, where we live. The poisonous by-product of mining, destroyed landscapes, forests, rivers, lakes, underground water – the list just go on and on. At the very end of each of its cycles, the private companies that produce it – pack their belongings and disappear into thin air and we, the taxpayer, are stuck with millions of millions of dollars to clean it up.

Our vast size, non-ending coastlines, huge rivers, still existing huge forests, sparsely populated territory (apart from the narrow strip along our southern border) in XXI century technology should not be a challenge but an opportunity to invest and build new industries, ecologically friendly and in high demand for our and international economies. What we need is a vision equal to that of XIX century of uniting the vast Canadian land from coast to coast. Base on modern scientific and eco-friendly knowledge. That requires courage and leadership – followed by smart and big investment. Not by cheap knock-offs. And modern forms of energy production should be almost unlimited in our country. Be it coastal/tidal waters, rivers, wind, solar – you name it and we have it. Give Canadians the chance to work in smart way instead of cheap way. Well paid with educated workers.

Alberta Rockies – land rich in natural energy and endless possibilities

There was a time, when green, un-ending grasslands of the prairies, it’s hills and long river valleys were roamed by thousands strong wild herds of buffalos. They were wiped out never to come back in its old glory. That was sad. But one way or another (probably not in such brutal and stupid way as it happened) it was inevitable given the migration of people. And that migration would have happened even without French or English colonialism. People do spread all over the globe all the time from time immemorial. The buffalos are gone, replaced by smaller but still important herds of domesticated cows and cattle. Now it is time to start saying goodbye to the oil pumps and the mammoth machinery of oil sands. Times have changed again. As they always do in the history of Earth and humankind. Get on it, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Let the dinosaurs stay in Drumheller and the Badlands.  

Jak Skawińscy głosowali? Prawda i mity.

by B. Pacak-Gamalski

Znacie Skawińskich i dlaczego takie niby ważne, jak oni w głosowali? Otóż Skawińscy to taki szczep słowiański, który z borów nad Notecią, mokradeł wokół Narwi powędrował z różnych przyczyn (na ogół nie radosnych) w daleki świat. Opisał to niegdyś stary dziejopis Henio Sienkiewicz w świetle latarni morskiej, w czasie podróży po USA.


Jak świat światem wiemy, że to szczep nader patriotyczny, sentymentalny i wierny, jak pies spod rodzimej chałupy. Więc i fama w skłóconej starej ojczyźnie poszła, że Skawińscy murem za wiarą przodków, za patriotyzmem kamiennym, za rycerzami wyklętymi – a więc za prawem i sprawiedliwością (w domyśle: naturalnie bożą). Może dlatego, że Sienkiewicz w świetle latarni i w Ameryce Północnej ich był opisał, więc daleko i szeroko spojrzeć nie umiał. Tak powstał mit polskich czikagów od Północy ku Południu i od Wschodu do Zachodu. A tu nagle rzecz się dziwna stała – latarnie powygasały w większości, technika je zastąpiła urządzeniami widzącymi dalej i głębiej bez względu na porę dnia. Poszerzyły się o te, no jakże im tam – no, o te horyzonty. I Skawińscy – mimo że ród prastary – stali się nowocześni, dzisiejsi.

Trochę to szyki pomieszało możnowładcom ze starego kraju. Bo niby jeszcze kilka lat wcześniej dbali bardzo o frekwencję polonijną w wyborach będąc pewnymi, że prawomyślność (koniecznie ‘prawo’ a nie ‘lewo’ nie daj panie boże) i sprawiedliwość (bożą, naturalnie) Skawińskich zaowocuje ich poparciem. Co też wówczas się stało i nie bez zbiegu szczęśliwego odkopania w archeologicznych badaniach postumentu Anusi – córki bohatera narodowego Andersa. Z niemieckiego co prawda pochodzenia, ale związanego przed wojną wrześniową z obozem narodowym. O tych przodkach niemieckich nie mówiono nic. Po co? Wystarczy, jak się o nich mówiło (bez przerwy na oddech) wobec niejakiego Tuska. Zresztą w wypadku Anusi chodziło tylko o ojca. Matka nie była pochodzenia niemieckiego. Z krwi i kości Ukrainka. I jak na Ukrainkę (dawniej mówiło się: Rusinkę) była i krasawa i zapiewała pięknie. Wiem, co mówię, bo sam słuchałem nie raz i lubiłem – zwłaszcza, gdy śpiewała dumki kresowe memu sercu bliskie – i o wzgórzach wileńskich, i o tramwajach lwowskich. Anusi jednak – pannie wiekowej ale ciągle żwawej – nieco fornalski charakter kolegów i koleżanek z ław senatorskich nie bardzo do gustu przypadł. A już szczególnie bolesne były właśnie dąsy wielu z tych Skawińskich, których miała reprezentować. Generalska córka wolała już grać rolę szanownej i uwielbianej Damy na akademiach polonijnych niż polityka, gdzie jej szarży senatorskiej nie szanowano. Teraz ma iść ponoć w ambasadory. To będzie milsze. Zwłaszcza, że – też ponoć – w Italii słonecznej. Blisko dworu watykańskiego i blisko na grób Taty skąd widok piękny na starożytny klasztor benedyktyński. Mimo to tuzem w rękach polityków była, gdy o głosy polonijne chodziło. Tym razem takiego nie znaleźli. No, niby ten bezpartyjny, czyli z uczuć szczerych a nie kombinacji posadkowych, pan profesor Marek Rudnicki miał być nie do pokonania. Owszem, w USA, gdzie mieszka, wygrał. Ale USA to nie cały (?!) świat. I generalnie – przegrał.

Mniej humorystycznie teraz, praktyczniej. Druga Izba Parlamentu polskiego wypadła z rąk PiSu. Bardzo możliwe, że własnie tym jednym głosem. Głosem Polaków z Zagranicy. Polonii. Tego latarnika Skawińskiego ze słynnej noweli Henryka Sienkiewicza. I to różnicą procentową bardzo wysoką. Wynik PiS był poniżej 25 %. Tak, to prawda, że pisowskie twierdze w Ameryce Północnej udało się utrzymać. I chyba tylko tutaj. Ale nawet na tym kontynencie ten wynik był dużo słabszy niż wynik uzyskany w 2015 roku. W niektórych, zwłaszcza nowych, Okręgach Wyborczych – opozycja demokratyczna nawet w Stanach odniosła sukces. Podobnie, jak zwiększył się procentowo poważnie głos oddany na demokratów przez Polonię kanadyjską.

Senatorem ‘z Zagranicy’ został Kazimierz Ujazdowski z bardzo silną przewagą głosów nad kandydatem PiS. Ujazdowski reprezentuje PO. Jeden z ‘przebudzonych’, jak określam nielicznych byłych pisowców, którzy być może po rozum do głowy poszli. Nie bardzo lubię nagradzać byłych poddanych Najmiłościwiej Panującego Wielkiego Kurdupla – ale, jeśli po ten rozum poszedł i jeśli go znalazł, niechże mu tam bozia da zdrowie. Choć po cichu podejrzewam, że bardziej strawny dla demokratów kandydat Koalicji zdobyłby jeszcze więcej głosów. Trzecim, niezależnym kandydatem, był nie kto inny, jak Cezary Paweł Kasprzak – niesprzedajny i wszędzie widoczny aktywista starego, autentycznego KOD-u. Znienawidzony przez pana Ziobrę ale i też nielubiany w nowym, pro-POwskim KODzie. W wyborach z całego świata polonijnego uzyskał całkiem niezła liczbe ponad 15 procent.

Sparwdzając Protokoły komisji wyborczych z całego świata, skupiłem sie tylko na tych, gdzie przewaga Koalicji demokratycznej lub PiSu była minimum 40%. Tam, gdzie ilość głosów oddanych na jednego z kandydatów była poniżej tej liczby – nie brałem pod uwagę.

Na Komitet Koalicji Obywatelskiej minimum 40% głosów oddali Polacy zamieszkujący w 62 krajach świata. W tym w 26 krajach tych głosów padło powyżej 50% granicy.

Na popieranego przez PiS kandydata Marka Rudnickiego liczba krajów, gdzie padło minimum 40% głosów – aż 6 (sześć). Tak, z całego świata. Liczba krajów, gdzie otrzymał minimum 50% głosów – 5 (pięć). Dokładnie: USA, Kanada, Irak, Kosowo (to ciągle tylko quazi-państwo nie w pełni jeszcze uznane) i Angola.

Ogółem na nowego senatora K. Ujazdowskiego padło łącznie 38.95% głosów; na pana Rudnickiego 24.86%. W 2015 na panią Anders (popieraną przez PiS) padło aż 46.85% głosów. Na panią Borys-Damięcką z PO w 2015 padło 34.35% głosów. Czy zauważacie zmianę? Głosy na PiS spadły wśród Polonii światowej aż o 22%. Na centrowy, zdominowany przez PO, Komitet Koalicji procent wzrósł o 4.5 punktów. Stąd moje wcześniejsze uwagi o przeszłości politycznej senatora Ujazdowskiego – bardzo możliwe, że ten procent po stronie demokratycznej byłby dużo większy, gdyby kandydatem była inna osoba. Polacy z Zagranicy staja się nowocześniejsi, współcześniejsi od rodaków w Kraju. Już tylko sentymentalna łezka, akademia raz lub dwa razy do roku w jakimś Polish Hall nie wystarcza. Ani stare żale na wszystko i wszystkich wokół. Za wszystko. Za przegrane wojny, nieudane powstania, za złe mieszkania i zacofany przemysł, za przegrane własne życie. I za to, że teraz o wszystkim trzeba samodzielnie myśleć i ponosić koszta tego wysiłku mentalnego. A dawniej myśleli inni. Władza i Kościół: Król i Biskup; Car i Biskup; Prezydent (lub Naczelnik Państwa) i Biskup; Pierwszy Sekretarz i Biskup; a teraz jeden niewysoki Szary Poseł i Biskup. Jak widać z tej wyliczanki – jeden element był stale stały. Niezmienny. A w XXI wieku ten element już stracił swoje polityczne znaczenie w większości cywilizowanego świata. Więc podróże jednak kształcą. A cześć Północnej Ameryki (część, bo Polacy meksykańscy jednak wysokim procentem – 56 – poparli Koalicję demokratyczną) też dojrzewa. Dorośleje. Jak to w tej piosence szło? Jeszcze rok, jeszcze dwa, przekonacie się o tym sami, jak to jest, jak to jest z … Polakami? Przeboju legendy polskiej estrady długich lat PRL i wielu jeszcze lat po roku 1990, Jerzego Połomskiego. Bożyszcza kobiet i Amanta Nr 1 Polskiej Estrady – który przez całą zasłużoną i ciekawą, bardzo długa karierę nigdy na tej scenie nie mógł być sobą. Mity, legendy. Tak to z nimi jest – pomagają marzyć, wzdychać i ronić łezkę – nie powinny jednak nigdy przesłaniać rzeczywistości.

Halifax ‘last stand” in climate change action

by Bogumil Pacak-Gamalski

mature woman waiting to be arrested – last one from the entire group

In a previous post I have shown you a series of snapshots of the youthful climate action protest that spread through the entire country and indeed – the entire world. Millions of young people, supported by many allies from adult community, followers of symbolic leadership of young girl, a child almost, from Sweden – Great Thunberg.

By European Parliament from EU – Greta Thunberg at the Parliament, CC BY 2.0,

That was the large crowd of determined but polite protesters. Today’s protest showed the fringe, more angry and demanding groups. People, usually from poorer segments, who because of their economic status are much more vulnerable to negative impact of the rapid climate change. Who, in other words, have really nothing to loose since they have very little to begin with.

Across Canada (Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax – to name few large cities) they decided to block for few hours important urban bridges. Yes, they knew it would inconvenience many , who used these bridges to go to work, shop. And that was the point. Yes – to inconvenience people. To let them know that things are not normal. That we have passed the point of no return. That something needs to be done or the price will grow and grow to truly catastrophic size. There were many groups representing anarchists, communist (or claiming to be communist – I talked to some and really have big doubts of their knowledge of communist system – and I do, very personal). But that’s good, that’s important. We need ‘crazies’ like them, who make us sometime a bit uncomfortable. In democracy there is no greater danger than complacency. When we start looking more for the benefits just for ourselves, not willing to pay a fair share for the benefit of the entire society – bad things do happen. Just look to US, Poland and other populist regimes.

Pretending to be a bit stupid and uninformed onlooker, I asked a young and polite policewoman why the small group of sitting protesters are being detained and arrested since the bridge is closed anyway, they are not causing any visible harm to others or to the infrastructure (the bridge or the road leading to it) and seem to be exercising their democratic right to protest. She answered very nicely that they are being removed from a private property. Again, pretending to be shocked, I asked with bewilderment: but it is city, therefore public, road and so is the bridge, isn’t it? She politely answered – no, the Bridge Authority is a private company and the protesters have extended their time granted for the protest and have to be removed from the private property. I continued in my ignorance the query: O! I didn’t know that. Am I trespassing now myself on private property?! she replied with smile: no sir, you are not. So I pressed again: Officer, can you tell me if the Bridge Authority paid the City (citizens od the city) for the construction of the bridge and the road? She answered perplexed a bit and I think that she finally get my ‘acting’: I do not know that , sir. All we are doing is just following the law. You have to talk to the company or to the City Hall. I smiled and thank her for her assistance. There was no point of making her feel more uncomfortable. She truly was just doing her job.

But can we all, down, deep in our soul, always use that defence: I am just doing my job? Maybe half an hour later I went to a store near by. Waiting in line to the cashier, I overheard few women conversing about the protest. They exchanged their opinion and at the end the older one summarize it: ‘but they can’t do anything, they can’t change anything, just a waste of time and inconvenience for the rest of us. What can we do?’ I turned to them, apologizing for butting-in, and said: I’m not sure that they can’t do anything. After all, you nice ladies just talked about it. Sometimes talking about something makes us realizing that there is something to think and talk about. They look at me for a second and answered with nice smile: Hmmm, I think you are right sir. Thank you..

Below is just a viewpoint of the protest on the Dartmouth side of the bridge.