David McConkey - Columnist, Consultant, Citizen
Columnist. Consultant. Citizen.

Reflections on the City and on Calgary

Brandon Sun, June 25, 2006 - David McConkey

My wife and I recently spent a few days visiting friends in Calgary. Calgary is remarkable not only for the hustle and bustle, but also for the numbers of Westman youth there. I returned to Brandon thinking, “Have we just had a glimpse of the future?”

No visit from Westman to Calgary would be complete without a stop at Ikea. On the day we went, getting there was no problem. We zipped along the Deerfoot Trail at 100 km / hour. By the time we returned, however, it was rush hour. We crawled bumper to bumper for much of the way back at 20 to 40.

Isn’t Ikea great? Why can’t we have one in Manitoba? Thank you Sweden, for the neat designs. Thank you China, for actually making the stuff.

Calgary mocks much conventional wisdom. For one thing, there seem to be no “limits to growth” or “nonrenewable resources.” In fact, as the price of oil climbs, the reserves of the oilsands increase, as more can be feasibly recovered.

Calgary mocks the idea that there may not be enough employment opportunities for Generation X, Y, or even Z. When we first arrived, we noticed the many “Hiring” signs outside businesses.

Then we realized that just about every place was hiring. We read on the front page of the Calgary Herald that 1,000 jobs were listed in their classifieds.

Calgary mocks us parents who tell our kids to get an education. We heard stories of young people from Westman arriving in Calgary with just a high school education. In a couple of years they are the store’s manager.

The oil industry offers even more opportunity. We heard of young people, even without a high school diploma, making more money than the university-educated professionals in the Westman towns they had left behind.    

Of course, all is not rosy in Alberta. We saw news articles warning that a shortage of water will be a problem in the future. Returning, I noticed an item in the Brandon Sun about Calgary being the most spread out city in Canada. Calgary has the same geographical footprint as New York City, but only one-tenth the population. Pollution from traffic can be seen up to 40 kilometres away.

For youth just starting out, and for those of us staring at retirement, a visit to Calgary can raise many questions. What will be the future for different parts of the country? What can we do to make Westman more attractive to youth? Will the economy (along with jobs and retirement benefits) be sustainable for the long run?
Will there continue to be opportunities in Canada, when so many jobs are being moved to China? Interesting to see that the first workers from China are coming this fall to work in the oilsands. (Maple Leaf in Brandon, take note?)

If you are inclined, email me your thoughts. In any case, please stay tuned for more observations and questions in future columns.

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See also:  

Brandon Casino Plebiscite

Future Change May Be Dramatic

Proud History of Looking Forward

Who Could Be Brandon’s Most Famous?

Brandon:  What Kind of a City Do We Want?  (two-part series)

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David McConkey,
Brandon, Manitoba
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