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CARLSON: Live Experience, The Lens of a Leader

Kieth Carlson

President of Alberta Party Livingstone Macleod Constituency Association

It's another gorgeous day in Southwestern Alberta. Driving for restaurant supplies is still somewhat sporadic because of supply chain issues, but mostly because it's food service during the Calgary Stampede. I could be angry. Well, heck, my freedom to stay and run my business has been interrupted yet again. I could be, but I'm not. So why, may you ask? I have a role that involves solving and adapting to many variables to ensure my life continues as smoothly as possible.

On my drive today, I had three hours to listen to the radio, compose my thoughts and center myself before sitting in front of my keyboard and typing words that aren't a complaint about what Alberta could be but maybe how we could help it become what it can be. Perhaps, even a little bit of what it was. I won't ever say I am a religious person, but a moral person is what I strive to be. "Love thy neighbour" is one thing that many quotes, then the same person talks of why someone else's thoughts are lesser.

The action of speaking of one's beliefs and then doing activities opposite of our words is standard. I want to ask whoever reads this to think about their secondary plans daily, and I think you will find that most of them will be about how we adjust to the human element in society. How do different people have different lived experiences? How do those experiences shape our perceptions, our tolerances, and our adaptability? So, what is your lived experience?

LIVED EXPERIENCE - the differences in the lens that creates division. When I was a young man, I heard of how Trudeau F@#$' ed up Alberta and held it hostage. We have all seen many political cartoons that say the same. I was of the impression that all things bad come from any Liberal, anywhere, always!! Why would I vote for anything that did not have the word "Conservative" in it? Western blasphemy!! Well, then things changed. So, I moved around the province, working with many people with unique backgrounds. Worked in restaurants where a young rural white man was the minority. Hindi and Bengali were the kitchen's primary languages. I learned from Iraqi refugees who had worked to become Canadian citizens what losing all your freedom means. How to start over from nothing and what it feels like to know what restriction on oneself genuinely is. I was a man in my early 20s learning that a white, suburban teen that says, "this is BS, I shouldn't have to close that party starts at 9:00," is not real oppression.

That lead me to 25 years later, with a restaurant shut down because of a health mandate. Sure, I was not too fond of it. I questioned the soundness of the message. I feared for my staff well being. I knew the hundreds of thousands of dollars it would cost my family to weather the storm—the money we would have to borrow, payback and work harder than ever to recover. I saw my kids, who are amazingly adaptable and have noticed that struggle mirrored with mom and dad. Fear and uncertainty bring issues with those genetically prone to anxiety into places that make everyday life hard.

Then I had someone protesting the lockdown; again, people on the street in front of open businesses opposed being "LOCKED DOWN." The main issue "kids' parents can't watch them play hockey" and "I can't even go to the United States and shop at Target if I want!" So many folks feared losing their livelihood, and the suppression issue was watching kids gather for a hockey game and cross border shopping at Target.

I will admit that I was not my best that day. I confronted the protesters, blamed their actions, and made assumptions in front of a shop with cards and posters on the window. The store owner, the GREAT lady, was intubated in Calgary, and we did not expect her to live. She wasn't worried about the loss of cross-border shopping, just her next breath. I spoke to a lovely man weeks later and admitted I was not my best that day. We just had different lived experiences.

Politicians have used these differences to create an “us against them” state in Alberta, Canada, and the world. People want to look through their lens and judge before asking an opposing view, "why do you think that of idea or region." Speak to many in Quebec outside Montreal; many will feel that Canada views them as lesser. Their premier addresses the country as the provinces AND Quebec. Ontarians often comment about Quebec being a complainer, Alberta being no better, and the whiny Western Province. Albertans blame Ontario and Quebec for treating them as the milk cow kept in the shed only to allow the east to drink the milk, bowing into stereotypes, serving that role and all responsibility for the division.

Self-serving at best, until you get into problems where we demand of each other. "YOU HAVE TO…!" is asked and responded to with "I must wake up, breath, eat and poop!!" It gets nothing accomplished. That's where I want to come in and ask – What is my role? What is my responsibility? How do we change the conversation?

Let's start asking questions of ourselves first. Let's know why someone disagrees before demanding someone to change their mind. What is the comfort level of mediation where everybody gets and gives a little too? I spoke to retired political leaders. They said of the days when they would sit in the house, ask questions, and get real answers. They spoke of disagreeing in the house and sitting in the cafeteria with many liberals, conservatives and NDP at the same table, finding out the effects in different parts of the country and why there was the need for giving and take. Solutions happen because of what we learn from others, not how we force ideology onto a population. When you take time to know your "enemy," you usually find they’re not, just asking for a similar thing with different lived experiences.

Now I see Danielle Smith doing the exact opposite, again. It's not a new script, not a new and improved way to govern. Smith hasn't shown anyone how to lead people into a better Alberta. Instead, there is a spread of hate, mistrust, defiance of authority, and walls verbally thrown up to the rest of Canada. All the easy rhetoric. Smith is breaking down good things for her benefit, Calgary School Board, Wild Rose, and now the UCP.

Smith then uses people's emotions as a tool to work with, but does it show leadership?

Politicians who want power and lack leadership use emotions to incite a population to give them power. Anger is a robust tool, easy to breed, and all you must do is find a small clip and twist it out of context. You'll indeed find more than a few in these pages tonight that you can turn to show a like-minded crowd I am against them. That's ok, I'm not, but I need someone who can listen to their issues and help solve them instead of blowing the bellows under them as Danielle has made a career.

The best test is to take a room of opinionated solid people and have a conversation. Listen and have them leave, thanking each other for the time spent. It takes a leader to do that, or you can haul a former hockey player that is discontent on stage and use him for his social media following to increase a divisive message.

You won't find me on the stage pumping your anger soon.

You will see my social media on Twitter, @KiethlovesAB_SW or @ABpartyMacleod, Facebook at Kieth Carlson. I will work towards a strong leader for Southwest Alberta, one that not only you can talk to but also your neighbour. My goal is to sit and have a beverage so all three can agree on some and agree to disagree on other things and be ok with it.

It's not hard; it's just different lived experiences.

PUBLISHER NOTE: The Cross Border Interviews with Chris Brown gets letters submitted to the show on a regular basis. Moving forward we will begin publishing them. To submit your own 'Letter to the Editor' email


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