By Frank Moher
The more Maclean’s changes, the more it stays the same. At a recent public discussion in Calgary, co-presented by Maclean’s and CPAC and titled “The West is in. Now What?”, the panel included Fort McMurray Mayor Melissa Blake, Alberta Minister of Culture Lindsay Blackett, Saskatchewan Environment Minister Nancy Heppner, University of Winnipeg president Lloyd Axworthy, and Rob Anderson of Alberta’s Wildrose Alliance. Sounds pretty Westy to me.
But who, besides CPAC moderator Peter Van Dusen, were the journalists on the dais? None other than Maclean’s columnists Andrew Coyne and Paul Wells, fresh from Toronto or Ottawa or wherever, parachutes still billowing behind them. This despite the fact that Maclean’s actually maintains bureau chiefs in Calgary and Vancouver. But they, of course, don’t speak English. Or something.
Perhaps the most embarrassing moment of the evening, besides Heppner’s mispronouncing “surreal,” was Wells’ assertion that Blackett must be Alberta’s first culture minister “ever,” or at least “in your lifetime,” and that this was a sign that Alberta was now wearing its big boy pants. That will be news to Horst Schmid, the debonair culture minister with whom many of us worked in Alberta’s fully-fledged arts scene in the 1970s (and I expect he had his own predecessors). Fearlessly, Wells continued to ventilate: “This wonderful theatre that we’re in [Calgary’s Theatre Junction Grand], that I saw an extraordinary Russian theatre troupe perform in on Saturday night . . . is a reflection of the reality that this whole region, led by its capital cities, has to admit that it’s becoming sophisticated, even if it doesn’t always feel comfortable.”
It’s true, Paul; it isn’t comfortable, having to dress up in them cummerbunds and all. But it seems to me I also remember international theatre troupes visiting Alberta in the 1970s, though that may just be some ridiculous phantasm of the memory. Why, we sometimes even put on plays of our own — though, of course, they were only ever about cows and gopher hunts.
The West is in. Just not at Maclean’s.