Chris LaBossiere

Alberta Innovates?

Alberta Innovates?

Yes, of course it does. But we need a new coordinated rallying cry.

Why would we be here if it wasn’t for the ability to innovate? We want to find a way to stay warm, trade, celebrate and worship together, all to build a stronger community. Our aboriginal ancestors call such a place “Pehonan”. A highly enlightened concept that has been the foundation of what makes Albertans great cooperators, and builders.

But, for some reason, the “Alberta Innovation Ecosystem” has been spinning its wheels. It has become a government funded set of institutions and competing interests which seem more interested in self-preservation than hitting the ball out of the park for a future diverse Alberta economy.

Today I was lucky to have been invited to a forum event, hosted by our new Premier and interim PC Party leader, Dave Hancock. The event, “Transforming Alberta’s Innovation System” was a very interesting opportunity to re-imagine this ecosystem. Sure many of the self-interested were represented, including President’s and CEO’s of schools, innovation organizations and of course bureaucrats; but also there were entrepreneurs and accomplished innovators. Which was a great start.

In one of the breakout sessions, we talked about what would make a successful new “Innovation Council”. I won’t get into what an “Innovation Council” is, because frankly I am still not 100% sure I know. But, I wanted to share with anyone who would listen what I think WOULD make a difference right away in a refreshed Alberta Innovation Ecosystem. My thoughts below:

  1. CORE PURPOSE. We need the Alberta Innovation Ecosystem, at least the one funded by government, to have an easily identifiable core purpose, which must be understood by all Albertans. Here is what I would suggest as an example of a solid core purpose:

    “Alberta’s Innovation must maximize its resources and resource economy, so we may use the benefit to help fund other sustainable economies… ones which will secure opportunity for an alternative economy, and our future generations.”

  2. BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). Perhaps as important, I think this Province needs to rally behind a goal that matters, and exemplifies the above. An example we can all understand, was by US President John F. Kennedy, who stated the American goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade (1960’s). His goal was clear, easy to understand and measure. It had a number of outcomes that justified it, but perhaps most importantly, it was simply stated,In that context, what could Alberta’s goal be?

    – Can we be a state that shoots to become a “net-zero” environmental jurisdiction? Setting a goal to produce ZERO WASTE in a generation? Asking our industry and citizens to find ways to reduce waste (physical and GHG), and innovate new ways to offset the waste we produce? Funding both innovations in existing economies and new waste reduction industries?

    – Can we set a goal to be the healthiest place to live on the planet? Measured by quality of life, health programs and boasting the greatest LIFE LONGEVITY, achieved in a generation?

I don’t know the goal…. but I am sure that if it was an inspiring one, we will suddenly have a framework for which to structure all of our Innovation work around. I do know that our BHAG needs to be bigger than one cycle of any particular government, but achievable within one generation. Something we can all get behind, and hope to see happen within a foreseeable future.

A common goal is the chance to focus our innovation. It also may give us the social license to continue our core business of mining resources for the World.

I believe that our core-economy can fit in a World that demands our valuable resources, but it must be done in a way that ensures future relevance for our citizens and the consumers of our oil, gas, trees and food. If we are to use resources to fund our growth, we should also come up with a meaning that is bigger than the immediate economic impact for doing so.

Then, we have served our community in the long run.

A disappointing day for Alberta

Everything that is wrong about Alberta Politics was on display today as the Premier fought off more internal party fighting and her Deputy Premier Dave Hancock, was left to be a spokesperson for.

In many ways I admire how hard-working and loyal Minister Hancock is to his party, constituency and leader. He is one hell of a listener. But his loyalty has stretched to a fault. In trying to defend his leader and his party, he turned his back on the principles most Albertans subscribe to. Fairness, humility and frankness.

Now, I don’t think for a second that Minister Hancock wants to be anything but fair. I also don’t think he strives to be anything but humble. But today, he seemed to avoid his opportunity to be frank, because he works for a leader who confuses such frankness with disloyalty. Of course this is my opinion and observation. Here is my argument.

This is borne from the problem with our Premier right now. Maybe intentionally, but I suspect more due to a personality flaw; she perceives anyone who speaks against her mistakes, as an attack born from disloyalty.  It’s HER character flaw that she can’t hear truth to power. As a lawyer, maybe she only hears fact-based arguments and is hard-wired to win all arguments as opposed to valuing nuance and differences. I personally think it’s what happens when someone succeeds again and again, and has never experienced failure or rejection to any large degree.

But, in Deputy Premier Hancock I was most disappointed. He had an opportunity to both defend his party, his leader and good governance, by being a bit more fair, humble and frank. Today he acted in a way I don’t think was consistent with his character.

I have fantasized what he should have said, when given the difficult task of speaking for a caucus that is obviously fractured. Here is what he could have said:

“Clearly Albertans and some of our caucus and members are frustrated with us. The Premier herself has apologized for violating certain trusts, and we just met and talked about how we need to rebuild that trust together; for Albertans.

It’s not time to blame those who have lost confidence in us. It’s time to reconnect with the people who lent us their vote. Rest assured we want it back. Not because we think we are entitled to it, but because we think we have the best plan for Alberta.”

This is what Minister Hancock said:

“This premier is a very strong premier. She has got strong leadership qualities and she has a strong caucus.”

Hancock said Webber’s remarks are tainted by the fact he is an ex-cabinet minister.

“He could not take the fact that in this business there are ups and there are downs,” said Hancock.

“He’s a very sad man.”

The amazing simplicity of things, is this. The Premier and her Deputy, would be significantly more popular and have avoided these problems, by simply being more humble and honest with themselves. More important, I think they both would be more effective, if the Premier was more open to frank challenges and the best ideas which surely must be available inside her own caucus, and even her from the opposition. She should admit her mistakes more rapidly; encourage and listen-to a wide range of criticism.  For practical and political reasons.

Great leaders want straight-talk from their subordinates. Great team players give it, respectfully. Both the Premier and Deputy Premier have failed us, respectively, in this regard.

Ironically, people will be hurt by my comments, thinking I am playing politics. But I am not a politician. I am an Albertan, who like many, has lost faith in our leadership. I simply see a Province losing its opportunity to be it’s best self. A Province where we have everything going for us, except good governance.

If you disagree, consider that today our Premier has created a leadership vacuum, where against all laws of physics, she finds herself putting out fires. Cancelling all meetings, speaking engagements and her role in question period in the legislature at a time where her leadership was most needed.

I am less critic than I am constituent. Something the current PC leadership seem to have lost a sense of accountability to.

The Tale of Two Leaders

Today served me a reminder of what leadership should look like. I have an ideal for leaders. It revolves around three key standards I personally wish to be judged on, and frankly for which I hope our Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and our Premier Allison Redford to subscribe to.

Leaders should be: Humble. Authentic. Servant Leaders.

My Don Iveson Leadership Observation:

You can read an interesting post here, by Paula Simons of the Edmonton Journal, who describes how Don Iveson may have slightly let us down today at his “State of the Union” event.

I agree with Paula in how she “felt” at today’s luncheon, which was attended by a record 2200 business people. Hell, we all stood in ovation before he even spoke… his is a political victory and style which makes us all feel proud and excited for his potential (and ours as a city). A narrative everyone wants to be a part of. But also a narrative he and his whip-smart team of handlers have created for him. It was bound to let us down.

I must admit, I know Don Iveson enough to have not been surprised by his speech today. Don is possibly one of the most articulate, thoughtful and policy wonkish politicians I have had the chance to meet. Paula’s description of him as Clark Kent ,when we perhaps unfairly set him up to be our Superman, is a fantastic analogy of who he is and where he is right now in his new role. It is by no means a reason for him to be criticized; in fact if anything, it should serve as a criticism of ourselves. We want the perfect politician. Populist, great communicator, fiery style and impassioned service person. We want what we ourselves are usually not.

But, Mayor Iveson is also at an important inflection point of his career as our Mayor and hopefully something greater in the future. Don, has been successful in inspiring what Edmonton can be. He swings a big vision. For that exact reason I am hopeful and ready to give him a free pass.

Don works tirelessly to try and be the perfect politician, in a modern context. He communicates openly. He tweets personally to the average citizen; he is accessible and coined (and lives) the phrase, “politics in full sentences”. That said, I think he has created his own problem. He wants to know everything about every issue. He wants to apply his own solution to each of these.

Don has won at everything he has applied himself too. That can create a feeling of invincibility. I don’t think for a second he thinks of himself in this way. Not at all, and possibly quite the opposite. But, perhaps someone who has won on every front thinks the best way to engineer the solutions to problems is by working harder. I think Don works tirelessly this way… but I think he will also have to learn how to let others help him lead. Don may mistakenly think he can do it all… because honestly… to now, he has.

That said, because he is humble, authentic, and a servant leader… I have every faith he will adapt. I think Don will become on of our greatest mayors, and one of our city’s most successful leaders. What he may lack in instinct and charisma, will undoubtedly emerge.

My Alison Redford Leadership Observation:

I have tried to give our Premier the same benefit of the doubt. Like many Albertans, I was intrigued with her resume and her narrative; at the same time when I had given up on the Alberta PC Party. An internationally experienced human rights lawyer, our first women Premier, a young and socially progressive politician, who seemed to also be willing to be a fiscal hawk when needed. I was somewhat smitten. The timing of her narrative peaked around an election where we had a choice between something scary or something seemingly smart and safe.

What a disappointment she has been.

The Premier’s mistakes are more alarming. The reason I find them as such, are based on what Paula Simons was trying to say today about Mayor Iveson (I think), and that is one based on expectations. I think we all wanted her to be a beacon of something, and she has taken a turn for the opposite.

I have given her the benefit of the doubt. Hell, considering what’s at stake, I am tempted to still do.  By winning the PC leadership as the initial third choice, she won the leadership on an arguable technicality. After that, she won the election in the middle of a storm of political uncertainty. The Wildrose party was the favourite, until truths were revealed about cracks in their readiness to lead. Their “lake of fire” candidate and “conscience rights” stance were simply too radical for a Province which has evolved to something more complex.

But, this is all a past reality. What this Premier has done with her opportunity is more worrisome.

The Premier has betrayed this opportunity by thinking her personal narrative was bigger than the responsibility of leadership. She is the antithesis of a humble, authentic servant leader. She can’t seem to connect with those of us who have elected her. She is uncomfortable with the rural Albertan, the back-room style Edmonton establishment and a firebrand Calgary ethos. She is lacking a cohesive vision for the Province, or at least communicating one for us to latch onto. She is also clearly unable to make us see her as one of us.

Each of these things requires a commitment to mix it up with the local community leaders who embody them. The Premier, in her failure, has relied on her initial success and confused it with the real ingredients of leadership. Unlike the Edmonton Mayor, she has stopped trying. Worse, she may not know how.

She has lost the faith of her caucus, some inside her cabinet, and the trust of the public. Our Mayor, in spite of a lack of “Superman” qualities in style, has a complete council behind him and can draw an ovation from 2200 business people. Out of trust in a narrative and because he works his ass off to earn that trust.

They are quite different leaders. They both have had success fall onto their laps in a mix of serendipity and hard work. One of them, the Premier, has run out of free passes.

From here on forward, and in as little as a few days or weeks, the Premier will face a tidal wave of objectors. Even more controversies will emerge. It will seem unfair if you are only a PC loyalist and it will be schadenfreude if you are anything else.

Me personally, I will wonder how two smart, surely caring, public servants can end up on the opposite side of history.  I can only guess it comes down to this. A commitment to the principles of what I think makes a great leader.

Humble. Authentic. Servant Leader.

Create opportunity through growth and fair profit

For the 7th time in 8 years, our company Yardstick has been recognized as one of the 50 fastest growing companies in the Province by Alberta Venture Magazine. I admit that the excitement of something like this can be worn down by the years of stress, work and the constant pivoting required to maintain a rapid growth rate.

Don’t get me wrong; it is a nice feeling to be recognized, as it helps with our company’s narrative, which ironically helps us maintain even further growth. In simple marketing and storytelling terms, growing is often equated to a better product or a bigger more reliable service. I suppose in some ways that is even true. We certainly are more resilient as our company framework grows and our balance sheet becomes more formidable.

But these are not the reasons I find most appealing about constant and accelerated growth. The reasons for growth in my mind are found in the ability to share the bounty with others and create opportunity.

When we founded the company, at least in our very early years, our team created a set of values from which we found guidance for several years. The company’s values have changed modestly as we have grown, but one of our earlier ones came directly from me and my experience in a past career working for another growth oriented industry. This is what I valued then… and still continue to, even if it’s not still typewritten on our company walls.

“Create opportunity through growth and fair profit.”

I worked for the same man most of my 16 years in the waste/environmental industry. He was to many, a hard-crusted autocrat who seemed to only value the bottom-line and the financial rewards that came from it. But as I spent time learning what he, the person, valued, I saw in him what many did not. He was most proud of his track record of growth and profit, when he could provide opportunity for those who worked with him, and promote people into constantly new and bigger roles. He bragged his greatest achievement was promoting over 30 staff into the desired role of District Manager in that industry.

This is the true meaning of growth to me.

I take great personal pride when given the opportunity to add members to our team. I like to hope that Yardstick is a desired employer, and it is especially rewarding to create roles for new team members on a regular basis. Beyond that, it is especially exciting when we can promote our people into more challenging and lucrative roles, when they can buy that new car they always wanted, or make that down-payment on their first home. Or bigger home as their family grows. It may not always be a monetary accomplishment, but simply the satisfaction that comes with greater responsibility or challenge.

These things are only sustainable in the updraft of a growing business. The saying that is often overused, “if your not growing, you’re dying”, holds a great deal of truth to me. A stagnating company will eventually run out of places to promote their best performers; and without that, you simply can not attract or keep the best and brightest in your company. In that way, growth fuels not only more growth, but also a culture of performance. If your team can see a place for them in the future of a bigger and stronger organization, most will be the best version of themselves, in pursuit of the personal achievement that comes with it.

So, for that reason, we grow for our employees and because of them. That’s why I love growth. It is also why this year will be like all the others; one of dramatic growth. Stay tuned as we create more opportunity for our existing staff and a few more this year.

Make Something Wildrose?

If you have read this blog anytime over the last 4 years, you know that I have been pretty tough on the Wildrose Party. Never have I been that critical of their Leader Danielle Smith, as she has been effective at staying on message about their fiscal conservative message. What has caused my concern stems largely from the supporters who have defined their social conservative culture. At one event hosted by the Alberta Party in 2010, I recall getting into an argument with a supporter about Gay Marriage. Believe it or not, his position was contrary to supporting it because in his words, the slippery slope of legalizing Gay Marriage could lead to allowing people to marry their pets. Crazy, and I am not making this up.

Of course this is no position of the party, and it’s a radicalism they are working to shed. But when you are measuring a movement, you have to make some assessment based on the types of people it attracts. We could criticise the party as being disingenuous to it’s roots, but perhaps that is no longer true? We should also be honest and give credit where credit’s due. The party is striving towards a mainstream message.

Tonight, in a room of 350 Edmonton supporters, Danielle Smith made humble strides, admitting to many mistakes connecting with Edmontonians. I am not going to rush out and support them. But let’s be honest, they have no where to go but up in Edmonton. Also in Smith’s presentation tonight, was a significant nod to the Make Something Edmonton movement for which I am a Co-Chair.

When I was asked by the Mayor, Stephen Mandel, to Co-Chair the City’s Image and Reputation campaign, now called Make Something Edmonton, I had to rely on many years of experience loving and serving this community; also as a knowledge economy business founder. Volunteering for the City is what we as Edmontonians do. We serve this place, to help others, to move the community forward together. I am unapologetically excited about our future and believe that with our current momentum things like Make Something Edmonton and Startup Edmonton (which I am also currently the Board Chair), are very really changing the confidence of this place. So… it goes without saying that the Wildrose and Smith’s speech, got my attention.

Ironically, as Smith was delivering her speech down the street at the Shaw Conference Centre, Startup Edmonton hosted our Fourth Annual Launch Party event at our amazing 104th street campus. 10 new companies were featured and hundreds of Edmontonians came out to celebrate them and our Startup Culture. Also, just this past  Monday, we held our annual luncheon to kickoff  Global Entrepreneurship Week, and again hundreds attended to celebrate the our Startup City initiative. Easily, our work has become the standard for Startup Ecosystems and communities across the country.

Startup Edmonton Campus - Launch Party 4 Event

Startup Edmonton Campus – Launch Party 4 Event

So. Back to Smith’s speech and Edmonton.

Clearly, her party missed the mark here during the last election. But, if her speech tonight was any indication, the Wildrose are ready to open a new front on the political war for Alberta’s next election. And frankly, I think Edmonton will play a large role in who wins the next election.

There’s no guessing how they will do, and I hope the Alberta Party and PC Party will also work to continue their building parties, showing respect for an energized Edmonton. But one thing is certain. Edmonton is an important political front of the 2016 provincial election.

Below is the entire text of Danielle Smith’s speech. Judge for yourself if she is making headway. I happen to think she made all the right points.

I’m going to start out tonight with a bit of a confession.

Well, it’s not so much a confession.

I don’t want anyone thinking there are videos of me floating around out there like a certain big city mayor. It’s more of an admission, really. I believe in admitting mistakes and learning from them. So here it goes:

So far Wildrose has not been viewed as the party of Edmonton.  I think there is a reason for that. We haven’t been on the same page as many Edmontonians about the issues that mattered most to them.  And because of that, most Edmontonians didn’t come out to support Wildrose in the last election.  And as leader, I regret that, because I genuinely believe that Wildrose is the party best positioned to support Edmonton and Edmonton’s causes in the Alberta Legislature.  However, I think Edmonton hasn’t been convinced yet that we will be their party and their champion on the provincial stage.

But that’s going to change. Edmonton is a city that is commanding attention these days. And it’s certainly got ours.

Let me tell you about the Edmonton I see.

I see an Edmonton on the front lines of so much of what drives the modern global economy.

I see an Edmonton bursting with possibility, possessing that rare and powerful combination of blue-collar work ethic, leading edge innovation and a true entrepreneurial spirit.

It has the finest symphony orchestra in the country – a tribute to a dynamic arts and culture scene that gives Edmonton an unmistakeable flair. World-renowned musicians come to Edmonton to record with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, and it stages brave and bold musical productions which other orchestras traditionally shy away from.

Its colleges and universities regularly break new ground on research and consistently perform among the best in Canada. The University of Alberta, our province’s largest and best renowned university, is an institution whose research is known globally.  It forms the basis of a dynamic research hub which is at the cutting-edge of biotechnology, engineering, software development, pharmaceuticals, and countless other fields.

Edmonton’s public education system has set an international standard in innovation, providing an example that has been emulated around the world.  The Edmonton model for public education is held up as the gold standard in many US States, the United Kingdom, and other developed economies who are as impressed as we are that the very best education can be offered in public schools.

Edmonton is also a healthcare hub not just for Alberta, but for Canada.  Edmonton has even pioneered some of the most innovative and effective treatment protocols for today’s most pressing illnesses.  The Edmonton Protocol for treating certain types of Type 1 diabetes is now a standard procedure world-wide and improving the lives of countless individuals afflicted with this disease.

Edmonton’s municipal leaders – starting with Mayor Stephen Mandel and now with new Mayor Don Iveson – have worked incredibly hard to re-orient Edmonton’s collective attention towards the bright horizon, towards the days ahead. In my opinion, they have redefined what it is to lead a city into the future – with poise, with confidence and with vision.

What I’m getting at is this: There is a new optimism in Edmonton. You can feel it.

It’s all around us.

It’s on campus, with the ongoing expansion of what is already world-class research and development.

It’s downtown, with construction cranes and new glass towers popping up in an ever-growing skyline.

It’s winding its way out of the city core and into the suburbs in the form of new light rail lines.

And it’s everywhere in between. It’s the bounce in Edmonton’s step and the swagger in its walk.

One of my favourite new Edmonton initiatives is Make Something Edmonton, a project spearheaded by Mayor Mandel and a committee of fiercely proud Edmontonians determined to tell the city’s story in a way that hadn’t been done before.

Together, they have asserted with tremendous conviction and style and fun that Edmonton is the best place to make something. To create something. To take what’s in your heart and mind and built it for the world to see and the city to support.

The stories are phenomenal. An Edmonton architect offering free Portugese language lessons for Edmontonians planning on attending the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. A local artist sketching personal portraits in exchange for donations to combat Cystic Fibrosis. Even a group of hearty folks who want to celebrate Edmonton’s abundance of parkades by occasionally transforming them into venues for rooftop parkade parties.

Make Something Edmonton says this:  The Edmonton question of the future is not “Why do we live here?” The Edmonton question of the future is “What are you making?”

In speaking with Edmontonians over the years, you once got the impression that perhaps the city’s best days were behind it – that when people spoke of Edmonton’s golden years, it was harkening back to a period now gone.

However – and I think everyone in this room will agree with me – you don’t hear that anymore when Edmontonians talk about their city.

They talk about how Edmonton’s best days are still to come.  They see a future in which Edmonton will be leading the way and shaking off the misconceptions of those who think it is anything other than a city which defines a modern Alberta and drives our province forward.

There is a new Edmonton, and this it. An Edmonton that is coming into its own. An Edmonton that will in no way consider itself anything but a first-rate, forward-thinking capital city. And an Edmonton that is out to prove it.

This Edmonton reflects Alberta’s desire to be excellent. And our desire to be excellent is what defines us as Albertans.

I’ve been Leader of the Official Opposition now for almost 19 months. And in that time I’ve become keenly aware of something that truly disturbs me – and affirms why I’m doing what I’m doing.

This desire to be excellent – this thing that makes us uniquely and distinctly Albertan – is not reflected in the government that we have.

I get to see these incredible things Albertans do for each other, like the folks who participate in Make Something Edmonton. I see the lengths we go to just to do the right thing for our families, friends and even strangers  — especially strangers — I’ll get back to that in a moment.

I get to meet the Albertans who do these incredible things. I am inspired, time and time again.  We are a province of heroes and leaders.

And then I get to the Legislature. I face down the government across the aisle. I see their faces and hear their words. And something doesn’t add up. There is just no comparison.

Albertans are thoughtful. This government is glib.

Albertans are diligent. This government is careless.

Albertans are humble. This government is arrogant.

Albertans are consistent. This government is erratic.

Every day, this disconnect between who we are and the leadership we receive becomes clearer and deeper.

Albertans are hopeful. This government is cynical.

Albertans are trustworthy. This government is misleading.

Albertans are forthright. This government is secretive.

Albertans are compassionate. This government is callous.

Make Something Edmonton. An invitation to the entire city to identify gaps, weaknesses, problems and opportunities in the community and come up with creative ways to address them, together. That’s the Alberta I love. The Alberta I fight for.

But the more time I spend trying to make sense of what this government is doing, the more frustrated I become. I’m frustrated because we can do so much better than this.

This isn’t a government that reinforces who are. Or a government that reflects the excellence of our people and proclaims it on a daily basis.

And really, isn’t that what a government should do? If we can’t look at the people who lead us and have confidence that they are taking us where we want to go, then we’ve got to do something about the people who lead us.

In many ways, Edmonton was ground zero for the cuts to the Persons With Developmental Disabilities programs that came out of the March budget.

For those unfamiliar, it was a $42 million cut to programs that help adults with disabilities function in today’s society.

For me, this raised a fundamental question about our province, and our government.  How is it  that in Alberta, the wealthiest province in Canada, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, how is it that we can’t afford to support the most vulnerable people in our society?

Why can’t a government in power for forty-two years manage our affairs  in such a way that those most in need aren’t falling through the cracks?

Those who rely on support from the government’s Persons with Developmental Disabilities program are those who face some of the most daunting challenges in life.  In many cases, they require a very high level of care, across a wide-range of fields.  Their families and friends also make sacrifices to ensure their loved ones can lead dignified lives in safe and supportive environments.  This spring’s budget demonstrated vividly the callousness of the government as they slashed support for PDD programs across the board.

For many individuals already facing tremendous challenges in their lives, this left both their families and their support workers completely in the dark about how care and support for their relatives and clients would be provided.

Instead of consulting with these groups, explaining the process for how these cuts would be implemented, and working with the families and caregivers of PDD clients to minimize the disruptions to care,  the government – claiming the need for budget secrecy -bulldozed ahead without a word to anyone.  Budget secrecy — it makes you shake your head in disbelief at the callousness.

The result of this approach was a disaster.  And after huge backlash from us, from other opposition parties, from families, from caregivers, from facilities and institutions, and from the public at large who were outraged at the callousness of this decision, the government put the brakes on implementing these cuts.

For many individuals, the damage was already done, and they are continuing to feel the uncertainty of the government’s short-sightedness.

Here’s the bottom line: Pulling the rug out from underneath the most vulnerable people in our society is not who we are. Failing to support them is unAlbertan.

Now, not every decision government makes will be easy, or popular, or simple.  Wildrose recognizes that sometimes tough choices need to be made by the government.  We anticipate that 2016 will see us making more than a few tough choices to fix some of this government’s messes.

Where we differ from this government is in how these decisions are approached.

We believe that what was missing from the government’s approach to PDD cuts was a pretty basic concept which most Albertans innately understand and display throughout their day-to-day lives.  This government just didn’t seem to care about the people who would be impacted by these cuts.  And this lack of caring made a difficult situation much, much worse.

But fortunately, while this government may not understand the importance of caring, this is not the case for everyday Albertans across our province.

In fact, I would respectfully suggest that Albertans hold caring at the very heart of who we are as a people. And this summer provided a tremendous example of just how caring Albertans truly are.

As many of you know, my riding of High River was impacted deeply by this summer’s terrible flooding.

More than two-thirds of our town was underwater, and many people are still wondering if they will be able to rebuild and restore their homes, or if they will have to relocate.  Thousands of Calgarians also faced similar challenges with water and mud-filled basements, ruined personal belongings, and prolonged dislocation from their homes.  Many were on the verge of despair, and were worried that might never recover from this disaster.  However, during this time of darkness, the character of Alberta shone through.  Despair turned to hope, and fear gave way to optimism.

Tens of thousands of volunteers mobilized to help their friends, neighbours, and strangers, especially strangers, recover.  They mucked out basements, donated supplies, offered up free meals, hot showers, and warm beds to those unable to return home, and they gave generously to the Red Cross and other organizations who worked tirelessly to help flood victims.  As someone from a town devastated by flooding, I can honestly say that without the help, support, and love from this army of Good Samaritan Albertans, my town of High River would have faced a truly bleak outlook.

And during this crisis, Calgary and Southern Alberta had no better friend than Edmonton.

As a Calgarian, I like to tease my Edmonton friends over things like football and hockey (although neither of us has much to be boasting about right now when it comes to either of Canada’s favourite sports), because that’s what friends do.

However, when the chips were down, and we really needed you, Edmonton was there in a heartbeat, because that’s what Albertans do.  Hundreds of everyday Edmontonians came South to help strangers with the clean up.  They donated water, cleaning materials, and other badly-needed supplies.  Your police and firefighters joined with our local authorities to keep people safe and protect our homes.   Edmonton’s utility workers joined in to help restore power to the tens of thousands of homes knocked off the grid by the flood.  Shoulder to shoulder, Edmontonians worked with Calgarians and others in Southern Alberta to help manage the biggest disaster our province has seen in its history.

And on behalf of my constituents in High River, and the people of Calgary and Southern Alberta who were impacted by the flood, I would like say thank you to Edmonton for your friendship, help, and support.  We couldn’t have made it through without you.

What we saw during this flood was an outpouring of support from everyday Albertans who, when they saw people in need, dropped everything to help.  And I think this speaks to the character of Albertans.  We are honest, hard-working, and fair.

We are generous in spirit, and compassionate towards those in need.

And we value things like integrity in our leaders.

These are the things that bind us together, and what makes us a magnet for people across Canada, and indeed around the world, looking to build a better life for themselves and their families.

There is a sense of optimism across Alberta.  You see it everyday in Edmonton – a new frontier spirit of neighbourliness, community and friendship which you can feel in our cities, towns, and villages.  We aren’t mired in the problems of the past like other provinces.  We approach each day with the belief that we can and will create a better and brighter world for our families and children.  In every sense of the word, we are a province of hope.  And it is that province that I want to lead.

Let me end by thanking you for the opportunity to speak to you this evening, and for coming out tonightto learn more about Wildrose.

We commit to you that if you put your trust in us, we will be a government for each and every Albertan, from every walk of life and from every corner of the province.

We will always strive to be a government that reflects the very best of our province, and its people.

A government worthy of Alberta and Albertans. The kind of government we can all be proud of again.

 

Could the Alberta PC’s complete a much-needed Extreme Makeover?

Widely Popular Mayors Iveson & Nenshi

Young Progressives – Mayors Don Iveson & Naheed Nenshi

I have been puzzled lately by a widening dissonance in Alberta politics. In our non-partisan municipal elections, we have seen the undeniable trend of electing leaders who inspire our communities to think forward, to be our better selves, and who seem to have a skill for gathering massive followings of cheerleaders and proud evangelists.

Also, it seems, municipal elections last month were an indictment against unhinged rhetoric, as we saw candidate after candidate fall on their own sharp words. This noise, which can be found easily on both ends of the political spectrum, seems to have slayed many a candidate.  Those who chose to act with confidence in their policy and position, doing so with a humble smile on their face and chose positive even playful language, swung a near-perfect weapon against the stodgy establishment or simple angry candidate.

Large margin victories in most mid-sized and large urban centres, went to thoughtful, young, policy heavy candidates who pledged to ”politics in full sentences”. With balanced ideological style; forward-looking, aspirational and inclusive platforms. Modern ideas like open-government, responsible urban development, knowledge economy entrepreneurship, social-enterprise innovation and valuing diversity – seemingly table stakes for most political parties at a provincial level – were the key platform fodder for the next generation of successful municipal politicians.

Beyond this trend, we have also seen an emergence of a new successful personality trait for non-partisan politicians. They are fun, playful and prone to be more honest and human in front of their constituents. We get to know these folks as people like us. They are good citizens of their community, but have also learned something about the 24/7 social media communities they must learn to navigate. Be nice. Be honest. Be real and communicate, don’t just broadcast. Certainly don’t fight for a position if it’s only defensible by an ideology and can’t be reinforced with a good idea.

In Provincial and Federal politics, when we add a layer of partisanship, this model seems to implode. Frankly, it makes sense on one level. A meaningful conversation about ideas, attempt at progress-oriented discussion and eventual good government, suffer from many enemies:

  •     Attacks from ideological foes who will always be there, trying to drag you across to their end of the political spectrum
  •     The seemingly irresistible allure of criticizing any position held by a competing party
  •     A party/caucus/cabinet machine that fights against it’s own parts, to control messaging, consolidate power and manufacture outcomes

 

Traditional “party strategists” seem to want to argue that these things can never change. In fact, the “establishment” strategy suggests perfecting all three of these things, as opposed to transcend them, and victory is a cinch. But, this is shortsighted thinking. As parties focus on attacking others with constant, often mandated feigned outrage, or tie their own hands behind their back with command and control cultures, they are acting in the exact opposite way that the successful non-partisan municipal politicians, have acted, to win with impressive margins.

Probably, more simply stated, we want to elect people who behave like us. Get mad, sure, be passionate, of course… but live by a set of rules first that are respectful and aspirational and you have less chance of trapping yourself in a corner of ideology, ego or pride. It makes sense. In every workplace, home, church group or sports team, we will gravitate to people we like and trust first. They will almost always be hopeful, helpful and humble.

The Alberta Party

The Alberta Party

Many of you know that I was involved in the early days of the Alberta Party and it’s attempt at creating a new model for partisan political success. It succeeded, if only in shilling idealism and acting accordingly. Yet, it can only be considered a failure in electing an MLA. No matter how much it’s candidates exemplified the theories I am making around a new style of politics. I have asked myself why, many, many times…. Why didn’t it succeed?

I blame the Queen. Or perhaps more honestly, the Westminster Style of Parliamentary politics, with it’s plurality voting (first-past-the-post), and an emphasis on PARTY > LEADER > CANDIDATE in most voting situations. Add to that in the last election, a frenzy of last-minute fear around vote-splitting and Alberta possibly electing some radical minded social conservatives… and there you have it. Even I would have voted for my PC MLA if I honestly thought he had been at risk of losing to the Wildrose candidate.

Luckily(?) neither the Alberta Party or Wildrose candidate in my constituency was within striking distance of our popular MLA. So I could vote for the Alberta Party candidate with a clear conscious.  I am not so sure that same luxury will be given me, or the PC candidates next go around.

But, and there is a point to all of this, I think we are in a new and interesting time. The Wildrose have made significant progress in cleaning up their policy position and now shun their loose-end ideologues.  This may be window-dressing in an attempt to gain power, and should be easy to expose as disingenuous; but here is the problem… the PC Party is losing its ability to compete using traditional establishment politics. They are losing financial support; they are losing the war for new members, and influential past supporters are fading away. The establishment party, is losing it’s own establishment.

In Calgary, with its independence ethos, being anti-government can be fashionable and recent fights with the government between the Mayor’s office and the Province have replaced a very short-lived truce over the flood response. In Edmonton, where appeasement is a bit more widely held strategy, mostly because of our proximity to government as an employer and vendor, dissidents have simply gone into hiding. Fights over arena funding, university cuts and political meddling into board governance at AHS and other institutions have many questioning this government for the first time.

Premier Alison Redford

Premier Alison Redford

Going into this weekend’s PC AGM and a mandatory review of Premier Alison Redford’s leadership, I would argue that the PC party is at an unprecedented inflection point. From every party insider I have talked with, I have heard of concern for the performance of the Premier and the Party; yet consistently have also heard the rational for supporting her. The party lacks the resources and an heir-apparent to make such a significant change with only two years to rebuild yet again. Up until just recently, I would have vehemently disagreed. In my experience, a fire-fast mentality always made for better outcomes. Now, I am not so sure.

It may be a last-gasp, but the Party with a 42-year monopoly has the single best opportunity to govern for another term over any party. Let’s face it; they have a majority power, and the pulpit from which to sell a vision. But it must be an abrupt change in style, and only that, which will save it. By and large I think the government has made the bigger policy decisions consistent with how most Albertans would like to see. Namely, don’t go into extreme austerity mode to balance a budget when we are at least for now debt-free, and experiencing massive growth and economic prosperity.  Sure, some of the cuts to services have been too harsh, especially in post-secondary funding, but to me this government has lost support as much on style. Or lack of it.

By that I mean, the Government has stopped creating a hopeful vision for Albertans, based on well-defined vision for the future and backed by smart policy. They seem possessed with arguing against the only political pressure it feels, from their right. Somewhere around the period where the Premier’s communication office lost 5 staffers in a month, and responded by promoting an attack-style Ontario transplant to Chief of Communications, things have taken a turn towards a nasty narrative. Not just the communications pro’s, but the Premier and her Deputy, have been particularly negative.

But, style can be fixed. Perhaps, it’s just a matter of an Extreme Makeover. This government might want to take some tips from the political success-stories, popping up all around them. Of course, a makeover usually requires throwing out some old things from the “wardrobe” that simply will never fit a new image. Leaning on the analogy, it’s time for the Premier to throw-out some of the worst offenders of a positive and forward-thinking style. At least, publicly and seriously rebuking the attack-antics politics and gamesmanship, at best learning all new habits and bring up some fresh faces into the mix. To avoid any ambiguity whatsoever about the communications department, let me be even more clear. AFTER you have made a humble commitment to act with a different style, hire yourself any of the amazing and thought-leading professional communicators who understand Albertans. They are out there, but in my experience, this line of business attracts idealists and inspired types, so you had better mean a new change in habit.

Obviously the PC’s more than any party, could impact the Province the most in the next two years, if they made a transformation in style and standing.  No matter their failures, the Party is also filled with people like you and me. People who voted for the inspiring forward-looking municipal candidates of the last election, and some MLA’s who want to embrace a new style of politics, to help Alberta be it’s best self. If they could be reinvented to a better version, we all would benefit. Immediately.

BUT and this is a BIG but; are they willing? On paper, this Premier was a ray of hope for many moderate forward-thinking Albertans. Yet many ill-deployed decisions and thoughtless political hijinks have undermined her success on every front. The list is endless if you value either responsible fiscal decision making or stable social programs. But, I am going to give this government the benefit of the doubt, for a moment, and suggest that based on the theory I have presented to you, they are killing themselves with a bad and outdated political model. Namely, shifting and swinging power at problems, instead of building an image of the future Province we all want, and then compelling us all together to build towards it.

If this government could double-down on ideas before ideologies, humility over hubris, acting real vs. contrived, then it’s possible they would find a tidal wave of new support. There can be no mistaking the fact that the political mindset of Albertans has shifted, as it has done again and again over the evolution of this place.

5 years ago, at the 2008 PC AGM, I saw a party that was broken and lacking vision. I left the party a month later, following many who chose the Reboot Alberta movement. I will return to the AGM this weekend a proud member of the Alberta Party, and a tentative renewed member of the PC Party. I am not going because I have already seen the change this Party needs to persist; I am going because I want to see if it’s even possible.  I am going to see if there is any indication of renewal, any spark of optimism, and any place for idealism. But to do so in good faith, I must also go with an open mind and willingness to help it, if I see it.

To many this might seem like a betrayal of one party over the other. In my perspective it’s the rejection of the very problem that has led us here. Partisanship. I am looking for the best ideas and the fastest way to achieve the best Province.

I’ll let you know what I find.

“Why I am supporting Don Iveson for Mayor. Don is an idea people.”

In this city, it’s common to see uncommon success stories. Frankly, that’s why I love it here. I love big thinkers, risk takers and people who suffer from delusions of optimism, ideals, progress, and prosperity.

In this City, people can challenge the odds of convention, and still build great things. This is true of business, arts, sports & culture and social enterprise.

Bill Comrie was an awe-inspiring 19-years of age when he inherited a struggling family furniture business. With the aptly named idea for a “Midnight Madness” sale, Comrie transformed an industry and created a billion dollar business legacy, here in Edmonton.

Dr. Maurice Lewis Van Vliet A lifelong academic, with no business experience, became the visionary, President and CEO of the Commonwealth Games of 1978. Driving this idea to reality because of his passion for sport and the city. Without doubt, a defining moment in our city’s coming of age as volunteers and major event hosts.

Brian Paisley a small-time theatre director with $50,000 in public funding created the Fringe Festival, the first, and still largest of it’s kind in North America. With dozens of cities copying the model. Edmonton has seen an unbelievable return on that $50,000 investment and it was a small amount of money behind someone with a creative vision and idea.

These people did not necessarily succeed because of their experience. They succeeded with their vision and an idea, and importantly because they could tap the energy of Edmonton itself. Be it Economic or Ideal. Creative or Compassionate.

In today’s Edmonton, more than I have ever seen in my life here, we are filled with potential. Not because of one generation vs. another, but because of a confidence blessed on it from an extraordinary economy, a diversifying economy and global thinking idea people.

But the City is also poised to capitalize on that potential, not from overflowing wells of age or experience, but from the endless energy and visions of an emerging new class of leaders. We know many of these people. New immigrants, university graduates, geeky policy wonks and crazily ambitious entrepreneurs. Most of them are much younger than me.  All of them are IDEA people.

Don Iveson - Idea People

Don Iveson – Idea People

This is why I am supporting Don Iveson for Mayor. Don is an idea people

I have no concerns that his business experience is limited to smaller companies; we are not hiring a business manager, we have a City Manager. Don has proven his ability to work with council and he knows that this is the lead role of a team of governors. Don will build consensus around the best idea, even if it’s not his own.

I have zero interest in play-it-safe politicians and I am ecstatic Don has the guts to chase the bigger challenge of Mayor, even at 34. People have really missed the important narrative here. In my opinion, Don had a guaranteed six-figure career as a councilor and many thought he should have served another term. But Don had the guts to take his shot and knowingly risk job security (with a young family), for the chance at making a bigger difference, based on a bigger vision for the City.

There’s no cloth from which you can simply cut out the perfect community servant. These people can be from all walks of life, ideology and experience. The good ones are action oriented and practical, yet idealistically rooted in public service. The best ones are thoughtful, personable, humble and big visionaries. Idea people.

Don is the best combination of these things, and unwilling to let anyone underestimate the City, it’s people and potential.

I’m quite cool with that; because neither am I*.

* I am proudly the current Chair of Startup Edmonton, Co-Chair of Make Something Edmonton, investor in three Edmonton startups, and Co-Founder / Co-CEO of Yardstick Software, one of Edmonton’s fastest growing knowledge-economy companies.

“…what Alison Redford taketh away….. Alison Redford giveth back?”

Well… you might say… here we go again.

Since the 2012 election, I have been somewhat of a political agnostic. My experience helping build the Alberta Party into a new moderate option for Albertans was an experience I would never give back, yet one that opened my eyes to the difficulties and challenges of partisan politics.

Let’s not go into the story on why it didn’t find greater success, as it would take a book to do it justice; but I can summarize pretty much where I feel the movement Peaked: Just prior to The selection of Alison Redford as PC Party leader. It made sense really. On paper, the Premier was the perfect blend of potential. Our first woman Premier, young, a human rights lawyer with international experience, and yet a reputation for sternness when needed.

But perhaps what Alison Redford taketh away….. Alison Redford giveth back?

After a couple years of an Alison Redford PC Government, it’s possible the conditions are emerging for the Alberta Party to be considered again as an option in the provincial political landscape? What are some of those things?

  1.  The likelihood of a Wildrose government. Danielle Smith is leading the only real organized opposition to the government, and on many issues, is looking more like a Premier than the Premier. They are beating the PC’s at their own game, raising piles of money from a very broad base of support, and they have very much softened their policy positions. The Wildrose will not make the same mistakes the next election, they did the last one.
  2.  The Alberta Liberals seem to be struggling with sustainability. Under the highly polarizing and some might say damaging ego leader Raj Sherman, it seems almost all large donors have left and so too much of the new blood needed to backfill this vacuum.
  3.  The PC Government under Alison Redford has acted erratically on many huge issues, and less than ever, we really don’t know their vision. They have tried to be everything along the political spectrum, and seemingly are beating themselves in the process. Even some bright lights in the party (yes they are there), have been dulled by the overbearing control from a Madame Premier who calls all the shots. These are the last couple years:

 

But… back to my point. The Alberta Party. What to do with this table scrap of the past election?

Firstly, I am happily surprised the experiment from 2009, 2010 and 2011 has somehow persisted. The retail support of the party has virtually disappeared, but as I revisited it over the last month, what I saw surprised me. Several new faces among their support and a fresh commitment to stay the course; build it responsibly, and maintain commitment for a fresh political palate. A new home for moderately minded political Albertans.

** Special shout-out to current Alberta Party President Will Munsey, who seems to personally embody almost every example of the Province. A rural farmer, who also works as a unionized train engineer; an entrepreneur who fits perfectly selling his fresh foods and plants to Urban local-food enthusiasts. Will holds a masters degree and has lived for two-decades abroad. He speaks fluent Japanese and knows a thing or two about the colourful language of hardworking Albertans as well. This man has been instrumental in holding the party up, even if just above the waterline, saving it from possibly drowning.

Candidate Greg Clark, Party President Will Munsey, Candidate Troy Millington

Candidate Greg Clark, Party President Will Munsey, Candidate Troy Millington

That said, the Alberta Party will not form the next government of Alberta and it would be a twice in a century story for them to form government in even two elections. But when I spent some time talking to each of the candidates currently running for leader of this boutique movement, I found a whole new extreme practicality. The two Calgary based candidates are similar in professional background, as computer and technology service consultants, yet they are also unique in their own approach. Yet again, as they are diverse, they also seem to typify the party in several ways. Fresh, young, new to the scene and VERY gosh-shucks idealistic.

So where am I going with this? Well I am asking myself once again, is it time to give the next chapter of this young book, another look? As I said, can the Alberta Party form the next Government, of course not. The real questions, which I WILL be asking at the only Edmonton leadership forum event, will be around how each of these men will lead the party over the next couple years to continue it’s growth?

How will they make it more sustainable, perhaps more applicable to all Albertans? When will Albertans understand the policy of the party in practical terms? How will that be developed? Finally, how will they afford to keep the lights on, or better said, how will the Party get better at the Business of Politics. Something it has prided itself on shunning… clearly a mistake if it wants to bridge itself to the mainstream.

So… I invite you to join me as I ask those tough questions of each candidate.   On Wednesday September 4th, (The Facebook event link for more information) – Edmonton will have it’s only opportunity to meet the candidates, ask them some tough questions, before you decide if you want to buy a membership, which is required to vote in this race.

A race that by many will be considered irrelevant… unless you love the challenge and risk of building something new… and some of us Albertans certainly do.

My thoughts on Heritage Days and the Diversity Ideal

Well…. sometimes more than 140 characters is required.

Twitter erupted today regarding the “whiteness” that was our Heritage Day’s Festival Judges. Four people whom I know, in their own way, to be involved in a fight for a better city, a better province and who each frankly would reject without fail any concept of inequity amongst our wonderfully diverse citizenry. These people are outspoken warriors for the Canadian ideal… either as politicians, traditional journalists or web-personality.

In the very original set of posts on the subject, someone raised the question of an all-white panel of judges for this year’s festival. Something I had noticed, but firstly dismissed, as an (IMO) attempt to find the best possible influencers to help gain even more exposure for one of our most popular festivals. I didn’t ignore for long, and chimed in with what I thought was a pretty innocuous tweet… then all hell broke loose.

Never, ever, did I (Or I think anyone else who initially raised the issue) think the issue was about the volunteers on the panel, or frankly even a nefarious intent of the festival organizers. It was simply, in my opinion, the strategy of organizers to find the most influential voices (in their opinion) to be the “celebrity judges”. I think it is THIS strategy (if it was one) that was flawed.

If we can all just park the idea that we are criticizing intent, I really believe that there is room to review the thought process.

By making diversity a priority, we open up the possibilities to different perspectives. Visible minorities have different experiences and life perspectives. Assuming that THESE four judges speak as influencers to all communities, is potentially a fallacy. Each community has influencers, they just may not be uber-tweeters, as we seemed to end up with.

By hoping for more diversity, I WAS NOT belittling any one culture or ethnicity, the judges, or the other thousands of volunteers who make this event an amazing Edmonton success story.

I just think we can  simply raising the bar even higher, in an already very tolerant and diverse city. One I really hope can have this discussion, without thinking we are attacking each other personally, but working together towards as stronger ideal.

A Father’s Letter to His Daughter

This Father’s day, I humbly share with you a letter I wrote for my oldest daughter as she graduated High School and embarked towards University, two years ago. I have said this before, and I mean it: Being a dad is the greatest reward I could ask for. Being a father, to daughters, is heavenly. I hope you enjoy these words. I feel they are applicable to both dads and daughters/sons. I love being a father.
____________________________________________________________

“It’s an understatement to say that you have been the single greatest influence on my life.

18 years ago, I was preparing for the transition from unsettled and unfocused young man, to provider, father and responsible family man. Although your mom and I did all the work to bring you into this World, you have never failed to impress us with what you will do with the opportunity; and along the way you have taught me some very valuable lessons.

However, bear with me now, as I want to now share some thoughts and advice with you.

On things, purpose and hard-cover books

Who you are in this World will have less to do with what you gather through it, than what you leave behind. Don’t ever be ashamed of pursuing those things that make you happy, but trust me when I tell you that it’s very rewarding to do nice things, more than having nice things. (My secret tip: The more nice things you do, somehow the more nice things you gather. Especially friends, but also opportunities.)

This does not mean that you shouldn’t always treat yourself to rewards that are meaningful to you, and I would never skimp on travel, entertainment with great friends, fine pens, hard-cover books, rare cars or life adventures.

On presence, confidence and making an ass of yourself

Be a leader. The World is screaming out for leaders, and you have the two key ingredients necessary to be a great leader; intelligence and compassion rooted in fairness.

Look for opportunities to formulate your own opinions and enjoy the opportunity which comes in University, to challenge those opinions and debate them with others. But remember: There is nothing in an opinion that can’t be trumped by an idea. And there is no value in an idea that hasn’t be freed by an action.

The ratio of opinions to ideas then action is a lop-sided one indeed. Be the person who uses the first two, and instigates the third. Surprisingly, if you are true to the values of fairness and intelligence, people will admire and thank you for leading them.

Sometimes this will result in failure, embarrassment, financial ruin, and/or heckling from the uninformed. Don’t give a shit about that.

On love, life and family

Falling in love and being in love are completely different things. The first one can happen with a simple random glance. The second one is only confirmed after years of hard work, sacrifice and mutual respect for your partner. This is a tricky, bloody business and frankly I have no advice for you on this matter except this: if you think you’re in love, then you have to go through all the hard work to try and prove it, there is no other way to know.

I have never shared this with you directly, but you represent the break in a chain of my personal family experience. Every important decision I have made in my life, including on career, love and family, has been made with the stubborn understanding that in parenting you and your sister, I could break a chain of unhealthy parent/child relationships and role modeling in my family.

As you become the first in my childhood family and now our immediate family to enter University, I am proud of some modest success in breaking that chain. But it’s not that you are heading to university that confirms it for me, as much as the fact that we share a friendship and mutual respect with each other; and somehow surprisingly we are family as well.

As they say, you can pick your friends, but not your family; however when you are sincere friends with your family, life can be immeasurably easier.  So thank you for making the second half of my life significantly easier, and happier than the first.

So finally, congratulations on stepping from one phase of your life, to the next. Embrace university with wonder and curiosity, and please never stop taking the time to share with me what it’s like. You are living a part of my dream for me, and as much as I would have liked to be you when I was your age, I am more than happy and proud that it is you who is the first.

Now’s your chance to create your own legacy, break any chains that you would like to break, and be your own woman.

With infinite love,

Dad”