There is a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia that boasts a population of 5 humans, 340 species of birds, 50 000 grey seals and over 400 feral horses. A plethora of shipwrecks in recent history has earned Sable Island the title of “graveyard of the Atlantic”. The area’s geography puts it at the mercy of extreme weather– though one would never know it to look at present-day photographs of the crescent-shaped, 34 km2 land mass that became Canada’s 43rd National Park on June 19th, 2013. An urban legend recounts that long ago, the ancestors of the horses inhabiting the island today swam to shore as the ships on which they travelled sank to the bottom of the ocean. Tragic as this scene surely must have been, there is an odd poetic justice to the rejuvenation of life in the wake of disaster. Today, the feral horses of Sable Island are both a point of inquiry for scientists and a point of national pride for Canadians. The story of their arrival is thus, as much a testament to the wrath of nature as it is a reminder of the adaptability of its equilibrium. Both of these themes have featured in the first month of my experience as a Jaimie Anderson Intern working in the office of Michelle Rempel.
From Sable to Stampede: Michelle Rempel is the Member of Parliament for Calgary Centre-North, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of the Environment. That means that in addition to representing her constituency in the House of Commons, she is charged with the responsibility of developing and evaluating environmental policy initiatives. The environment dossier, by virtue of its content, requires a substantial amount of collaboration with all stakeholders involved in whatever is proposed. A national park, for example, cannot be implemented without considering the long-term wellbeing of affected communities. Legislation is built with the aim of reaching a pareto optimum, something that requires consideration of multiple viewpoints. Bill S-15, which bestowed upon Sable Island the title of “national park reserve”, is just one example of incredible multi-party collaboration in the House of Commons. Debate and discussion in the House turned on questions of interpretive nuances in specific clauses and how ambiguities in phrasing might be perceived on the ground. In the end, the vast majority of the House voted in favour of the bill – a testament to weeks of dialogue on both sides of the floor. It was a privilege to have indirectly assisted with and borne witness to the creation of this law because the means truly reflected an end that sought to preserve and protect the island in the most effective way possible.
Finding the boundary where benevolence meets effectiveness is perhaps doubly important in times of crisis. Even in the midst of disaster, I have come to appreciate the coordination of relief efforts between municipal, provincial and federal levels of government. Last week, the Province of Alberta sustained one of the worst floods in its history. The storm’s wrath has claimed four lives and as evacuations peaked record highs, hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes. Many would return to find their possessions badly damaged upon their return; thus far, billions of dollars of worth of property have been destroyed and the final numbers have yet to be tallied. The heart-wrenching reality of the situation is that recovery cannot take place without a substantial rebuilding effort and the 101st Calgary Stampede is next week! Daunting as this task may seem, as I have learned, Albertans truly live by their slogan: “freedom to create; spirit to achieve”. The Stampede promises to go on as scheduled and judging from the throngs of volunteers that have come forward, there is no shortage of creative spirit to deliver on this promise.
In light of recent events, Stampede celebrations now deeply reflect the triumph of ingenuity over adversity. Many events have been turned into fundraisers for victims of the floods and in the weeks that follow, much of my work shall be focused on reaching out to the constituency and gauging their needs at this critical time. My current project involves facilitating communication between events benefiting victims of the floods and volunteers wanting to take part in these efforts. Even in the wake of disaster, I believe that Stampede 101 will continue to be the “greatest outdoor show on earth.” Giddy up.