Tag Archives: Politics

Update: Alderson up in smoke

An update on Alderson, the past remains of which appear to have gone up in smoke. It appears a prairie fire swept through the area around August 14-15, leveling what little was left of the former village.

Following up on his comment in an earlier post, Forgotten Alberta reader, Greg, has forwarded a number of pictures depicting what he found when he visited the former village a few days ago.

As he mentioned in his comment, much of what is left resembles a moonscape; although I am struck by the site of green grass in late September, a rarity itself in southeastern Alberta. The state of Alderson today also stands in stark contrast with what I found there in late July, when abundant overgrowth had overtaken and obscured the entire townsite.

With the bones of this bygone village now exposed, I sincerely hope it will not be besieged by pickers and plunderers, rooting for souvenirs within the newly scorched earth. In my opinion, the value of this site extends far beyond being a place to be plundered for period trinkets and souvenirs.

Scrolling through the images below, I can’t help but wonder how the former village of Alderson is any less significant than any number of the 12,500 historic places listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places? Curiously, the site of Canadian Pacific Langevin Number 1 and 2 Gas Wells, listed as the site of the discovery of natural gas in Alberta (and possibly Canada), was recognized in 1981, and the cairn commemorating this event is literally across the road from the Carlstadt / Alderson townsite.

It seems a glaring and obvious oversight that the subsequent settlement was not included, especially considering the circumstances of its decline, and the historic value of this community as an illustration of the collective history of southeastern Alberta’s homestead period. Of course, this designation preceded the publication of Empire of Dust, without which we might have already forgotten about this forsaken village long ago.

To me, there are many reasons for seeking some sort of protection and recognition for this site, and the recent prairie fire underscores the need even further.

The experiences of the people here helped shape our province. As a descendant of southeastern Alberta pioneers, this place is sacred to me.

It deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

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It took more than money to save the south from drought

Photos courtesy of the Esplanade Archives.

PrairiePostLogoAlbertans have a turbulent relationship with Mother Nature. We live in wonder of her ability to shape our majestic landscape and wide open spaces. Sometimes we wonder why we live here at all, when extreme weather events, like last month’s floods, turn lives upside down.

Over the last century, southeastern Albertans have endured the worst Mother Nature could muster. A fact mostly forgotten, it took decades of trial, many errors, and some tough decisions to transform the southeast into a place to call home.

While June’s floods were fierce and dramatic, the drought that afflicted southeastern Alberta between 1917 and 1939 was a catastrophe in slow-motion. As dust and debt slowly smothered farming communities across the south, the neophyte United Farmers of Alberta party was swept into power to prevent a looming economic, environmental and social crisis. Inheriting a massive debt burden from its predecessors, and without access to oilsands billions, the U.F.A. faced some hard choices to solve its so-called “southern problem”.

Continue reading It took more than money to save the south from drought

Harry Strom left a legacy of integrity

A clipping from the August 28, 1971 edition of the Calgary Herald, featuring then-Premier, Harry Strom. The article begs the question: "Is he shy?"

With Albertans going to the polls on Monday, it’s a good time to look back on the legacy of Alberta’s 9th Premier, Harry Strom.

Although usually associated with the end of the Social Credit dynasty in 1971, this son of the southeast’s greatest legacy was that of being a man of uncommon personal integrity:

Who is the next Harry Strom?

Variations of this question, an obscure political reference for most Albertans, have become popular in recent years as opponents of the provincial government invoke Strom’s name as a metaphor for regime change in Alberta.

Harry Strom, for the uninitiated, has the unfortunate distinction of being the third, and last, Social Credit Premier in the province’s history.

Having succeeded the long-serving Premier Ernest Manning in 1968, Strom inherited a government mired in a rut after more than three decades in power.

Reluctant to overhaul a party suspicious of change, Premier Strom was also in tough against the dynamic Peter Lougheed, whose Progressive Conservative Party eventually defeated the Socreds in the 1971 election.

Strom may have presided over the end of a dynasty, but in his defense, he was hardly a political animal

Continue reading Harry Strom left a legacy of integrity

Getting it right – Alberta’s American Fact must not be forgotten

“Settlers and farmers founded this province and their values run deep.

Albertans are proud, resilient, generous and independent-minded. We believe in family and freedom, and are passionately devoted to the land on which we live.”

– Premier Alison Redford, speech to AAMDC Fall Convention, 24 November 2011

I started this blog two years ago to ensure the memories of an exceptional generation of individuals, the first homesteaders of southeastern Alberta, who endured unimaginable hardship to build the region into what is today, were not forgotten.

As most of my learning on this subject took place outside of school (post secondary included), I was keen to learn that the province intended to review the proposed Education Act, Bill 18, and was opening the discussion up to the public.

“Education legislation is not reviewed very often and I am committed to getting it right,” stated Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, in a government media release dated 15 November 2011.

Seeing an opportunity to add some constructive comments to the discussion, I reviewed Alberta’s Social Studies Program of Study to see what our students were learning about their own history.

Continue reading Getting it right – Alberta’s American Fact must not be forgotten

The “Mayor of Enchant” steps aside

The Calgary Herald reports that Alberta’s longest serving municipal politician has called it quits. Cecil Wiest of Enchant, a councillor for Division 6 in the M.D. of Taber, is stepping aside after 46 years of service. Before he goes, the “Mayor of Enchant” offers some sage advice for those who follow him:

Indeed, the axiom that all politics is local couldn’t be more true than in this agricultural hub in the heart of southern Alberta.

Councillors can’t hide from a bad decision in hamlets of a couple hundred people.

“Just remember who put you in,” lectures Wiest, speaking the next day at the kitchen table of his Enchant home.

“It wasn’t yourself, your wife or your family,” Wiest said. “It was really the people that put you in there. You need to remember, you listen to them. They come first. I was put in there by the people, for the people.”

Today’s politicians would do well to remember this.