The question was asked in different ways, and from different perspectives. Some were searching to see if they should move their families here, and some were searching to see what there is to do if they should move here. I recognized that this is both an opportunity and a challenge, because the disconnect between who we are and what is often reported about is so profound that I am often at a loss as to how to share what Fort McMurray really is to those who call it home, and love it here. And so today, with my official 601 blog post, I decided to detail a top ten list. I stole a page from fellow blogger Russell Thomas, who recently blogged the ten reasons you should vote for him as municipal councillor in our upcoming elections. Instead of giving you ten reasons to vote for an individual, though, I am going to give you ten reasons to vote for Fort McMurray - to mark your "x" here, and make this your home. I could probably provide far more than ten - but these ten are the first ones to pop into my head. I am sure every single person who lives here, and loves it, can add many more, but these are mine. So, for all those who searched for this blog wondering if they should move to Fort McMurray - this is for you. These are the top ten reasons to cast your vote for Fort McMurray - and to elect us as your future home.
The Top Ten Reasons to Vote for Fort McMurray
10) Cultural Diversity: I spent most of my twenties living in Toronto, one of the largest and most culturally diverse cities in our country - and Fort McMurray is rapidly becoming a hub of cultural diversity, too. We have citizens who hail from almost every corner of this world, bringing with them their traditions, food, and culture, and we are richer for it every single day. This place is becoming a microcosm of the macrocosm, a place of stunning vibrancy and diversity.
9) Natural Beauty: When someone refers to Fort McMurray as Mordor or a wasteland one can comfortably assume they have either never been here or have been blinded to the true beauty of northern Alberta. This is a place of some of the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises I have ever seen, and there is absolutely nothing like the northern lights dancing in the winter night. People from all over the world yearn for the kind of nature and wildlife we find right here - just steps from our front doors.
8) Education: I would stack our educational system against any in the province or country. We have students in our Catholic and public divisions who have done remarkable things, from winning national science fairs and going on to participate in things like the renowned Google science fair to drama teams that have been invited to participate in the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. Our schools teach everything from arts to sciences, sports to academics - and create not just learners but citizens. And it doesn't end there, as our children can go on to Keyano College to pursue their post-secondary dreams, too.
7) Arts and culture: What an incredible vibrancy we have in this regard, with local artists from every culture and discipline sharing their talents with the community as we seek to strengthen our arts and culture community. And if art isn't your thing then we have things like dance and even cultural cooking classes to explore.
6) Sport and recreation: From teams like the Oil Barons and Keyano Huskies to school athletics we have a breadth of sport opportunities for athletes of all ages. And if you prefer solo sports we have the beautiful Vista Ridge for skiing and snowboarding, trails for cross country skiing or hiking, walking, running, or biking. We have world class facilities like MacDonald Island Park and the Syncrude Sport and Wellness Centre, and we take advantage of every single season to get outdoors and enjoy life in the north.
5) Growth: Want to live somewhere exciting, and where things are constantly changing and happening? Then this is the place for you, because there is rarely a dull moment in Fort McMurray. This is a place constantly on the cusp of change, and the best part is that those who are here for the ride get to be a part of directing that change and growth.
4) Opportunity: This is often called a place of opportunity and potential, and I agree - but I don't just mean in a career. Every single person who lives here has an opportunity to change this place forever. I put that in italics because it is true. This place welcomes innovation and new ideas, and every single person has a chance to make a mark here by finding their niche or creating one. I have seen people start everything from flag football leagues to arts groups, exploring their passions and changing this place forever along the way. Fort McMurray, who we are and who we are becoming, is not set in stone - every person has a chance to pick up a chisel and carve out the face of who we will become, because we are continuing to develop every day.
3) Generousity: Whether it is philanthropy of the wallet or the heart this is the most giving community I have ever lived in. People open their bank accounts, their homes, and their hearts to those in need, giving freely in order that others may lead better lives. I have never witnessed anything like it, and I find myself still astonished at how generous and kind people are here. And why are they so kind? Well, because they are...
2) Family: Maybe you come to Fort McMurray not knowing a soul, but here is where tremendous opportunity truly lies. In my eleven years here I have found a family - not related to me by blood but rather by the bonds of friendship and community. I have found a family I have chosen and who has chosen me, people I would do anything for and stand beside in a hurricane or tornado. This is a place where you have the chance to forge those bonds, and find strength in those who share with you their experiences, their friendship, and their hearts.
And the number one reason to elect Fort McMurray as your home?
1) Challenge: Huh. You might think this would be a negative, but I have always believed our true strength is found when we face challenges. "Challenge" is really just another name for opportunity, because behind every challenge is a chance - a chance to effect change, to make a difference, to innovate, to create, to inspire, to grow, and to find your place in the universe. Fort McMurray is a place of challenges, but those who call it home find a way to not only meet those challenges but to embrace them and find the opportunity in them. This isn't what we are "forced" to do - it is simply what we do, and along the way we create a community. And while challenge is my number one what that challenge does in Fort McMurray is develop a community, and that is the real reason to elect Fort McMurray. Hidden behind our challenges is our community, a place of resilience that gives to those who give to it, and that offers tremendous rewards for meeting those challenges - and embracing them.
So, there you have it. If you searched for reasons to come to Fort McMurray and found this blog I have just given you ten, and I hope in other posts in this blog you will find dozens, if not hundreds, more. There is one catch, though. If you are going to elect Fort McMurray, mark your ballot and choose this as your home, I ask you to do one thing: come here with an open heart and mind, leaving behind your ideas of who and what we are. Come to us as a blank slate, and allow us to write on your heart. Let us show you in word and deed who we are, and share with us your experience, your thoughts, and your heart. And if you come with that open mind and heart I can guarantee one thing: you will not be disappointed. You will find not just a place but a home, and a community that will embrace you just as it embraces challenges. You will find a place that may well find a special place in your heart, just as it has in mine. You will have cast your ballot and chosen your future - and you will know you have chosen well.