Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Like a Good Neighbour, Edmonton is There

Yesterday evening I had the opportunity to do one of my very favourite things - talk about Fort McMurray. It's a conversation I engage in often, and with a wide variety of people - but last night I had the pleasure of meeting Don Iveson, recently elected mayor of that city to our south, Edmonton.

I am incredibly pleased and impressed that Mayor Iveson chose Fort McMurray as his first official visit as Edmonton's primary ambassador. I think it speaks a great deal to the recognition that our communities are inextricably linked, and that what affects one will eventually affect the other. And I think it speaks to the understanding that the relationship we have with our neighbouring communities is one we need to continue to build and strengthen, with tremendous benefits to all. I think it is a strong beginning, and it holds a great deal of promise.

Last night when I was speaking with Mayor Iveson and some of the other attendees at our dinner meeting I realized how much I view things through the lens of a writer. I see this community as a resident, of course, and as a woman and a mother. For me, though, it is all about the stories of what happens here - our creativity, our innovation, our energy, our spirit, our dedication. I am always looking for ways to tell the story, and stories to share, because I believe it is through these stories that we create understanding and spark dialogue.

When I introduced myself last night I realized that I was one of the longest term residents at the table, here for twelve years and already having seen such tremendous growth and change. It is so fascinating to see all the different perspectives we bring, those who have come here from other places, whether it was a week ago, a month ago, a year ago, or much longer. We bring with us our experiences from other places and we come here to build a community together.

When I introduced myself I also explained what I say when I am asked where I am from when I am travelling. My standard reply to that question is: "Fort McMurray is my chosen home". It just occurred to me one day that it was important to make that clear, that people who live here have chosen to come here, chosen to stay, and chosen to build this community and develop relationships both within it and with those in other communities.

The conversation last night was broad and wide ranging, but most of it hinged on ways to build a stronger and better collaborative process between Edmonton and Fort McMurray. The benefits to this would be just as wide ranging as our discussion, with impacts in every sector from industry to small business to social profit to education. I was intrigued to see the genuine desire on all sides to forge a stronger and better relationship, and to develop an understanding of each other so that we can work together to achieve common goals and aims.

Yesterday morning when Mayor Iveson tweeted about coming to Fort McMurray I tweeted back and thanked him - and today I would like to publicly thank him and his staff, and Edmonton Councillor Ed Gibbons, who also made the trek north - for coming to Fort McMurray and for committing to build this stronger relationship between our communities.  I am one of those "all in or all out" types. and for this initiative I am solidly "all in", and ready to do whatever it takes to create a new era of understanding and collaboration between Edmonton and Fort McMurray. In fact I welcome the opportunity, because good neighbours build good communities, and between our good neighbour in Edmonton and ourselves I think we can build two amazing, strong, and mutually supportive communities. And I think right now is the perfect time to do it.

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