Avi Lewis delivered the opening keynote at the 9th annual Advocacy Conference of Public Interest Alberta, entitled “A Just and Fair Alberta: Making It Happen,” on April 9 in Edmonton. PIA “exists to foster an understanding of the importance of public spaces, services and institutions in Albertans’ lives, and to build a network of people and organizations committed to advancing the public interest.” Here’s the (lightly condensed) text of Avi’s rousing, wide-ranging speech.
I want to start by acknowledging the Treaty 6 First Nations, on whose land we gather tonight. In this historic period of resurgent and inspiring indigenous activism, I think it’s all the more important that we settlers remind ourselves constantly that we are guests here.
The utility of this humility is that it helps us remember that in fact, all humans are guests on this earth—and taking better care of the place is not just the polite thing to do: it’s a matter of our collective survival.
“Had we gotten serious about shifting away from a fossil-fuelled economy in the early 90s, we probably could have achieved it all through incremental change. We didn’t. And so now, only radical change will give us a chance of avoiding a dystopian future.”
Let me also say how delighted I am to be back in Alberta, and at what a time! To be here, at the epicenter of the country’s politics and economy, with a group of unapologetic progressives and public sector champions, in the first news cycle of an historic election campaign….it is nothing short of exhilarating.
I mean it when I say that Alberta is the epicenter of Canadian public life today. Since the ascent of Stephen Harper (a former denizen of the Imperial Oil mailroom) to the highest office in the land, the province has become the very heart of the New Conservative Canada. You are the richest province, that is well known. You still have no sales tax, and you still have the lowest personal and corporate taxes in the country. And some of the lowest royalty rates of any petro-state on earth. Not coincidentally—in fact, as you all know, precisely because of these business-pandering braggables—you have a whole slew of other Alberta superlatives. Shameful ones.