Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking Back, and Looking Ahead

Like many people, I find that as the year comes to an end, I look back at the previous year, noting various landmarks and events, and look ahead, hoping that, since change is inevitable, the changes in my life will be mostly positive.

While the year in review articles in the media tend to focus on events that affect a broad range of society, my year in review tends to be more personal. I think that most people's lives are like that - while we are aware of larger events, it's our own personal landmarks that are the most memorable for us.

Last year marked thirty years in Saskatchewan for Andrea and me. We arrived here in late September 1979, knowing only a couple of people in town (guys that Andrea had been in university with who worked for PAPCo), and certainly not planning to make any kind of permanent attachment to the community. Now, thirty years later, although we'll always be considered people from away by some residents of the city, I think that it's safe to say that we've each made positive contributions, both professionally and personally, to our adopted city and province. I'm amazed when I look at the changes to Prince Albert over the years. It hasn't grown much in size - while it is a few thousand larger than the 30,000 or so that it was then, it hasn't grown as dramatically as some communities in the same time - we came from Toronto, which has grown from 2 million to more than 3 million in the same time frame, and Saskatoon has added more than 100,000 people over this time as well. We need to recognize that Prince Albert will never be one of the mega-population centres of the province -that's okay, we just need to focus on services and infrastructure that are appropriate and affordable for a community this size.

The year also marked some departures of people from my life. On the personal side, the deaths of friends are always difficult, and leave a gap that will never be filled in quite the same way again. I will particularly miss my friends Alice and Bert, whose humour and common sense never failed to cheer me up. On the professional side, I will miss my former colleague Sharon Karr, who was acting director of the library for more than a year, until a job opportunity in Edmonton, closer to family, was too tempting for her to pass up. I regret that the library board was unable to act quickly enough to give her enough reasons to stay. I also miss Lyn Brown, in her capacity as CEO of the local Chamber of Commerce. She had common sense and the courage to speak up, pointing out where the city could do a better job for its business community - sadly, such courage was not always appreciated by those who see any criticism as being treason.

The civic election this year was my fourth (fifth, if I count the by-election in early 2000 that I lost by 50 votes). Being acclaimed was quite unexpected, and much appreciated. Highlights of council work last year, for me, would be the new provisions put in place by council for secondary suites, and the approval of middle income housing developments in the West Hill - these were both initiatives that helped council meet its objectives for improving housing opportunities in the city. I'm pleased that the new members of the housing committee are continuing to ask the same questions that I asked in my time as chair of that committee - hopefully, their persistence will result in continued improvement in this crucial area.

Looking ahead to the next year, I hope, most of all, for continued good health for my family and friends. As always, these are the anchors for everything that I do - in the end, these are the people who I can trust to give me good advice, support me in whatever decisions I make, and help to put things into perspective whenever I start to feel particularly sorry for myself. Public personas are one thing, but it's the way people treat you day in and day out that really counts.

Professionally, this new council will be facing its first major challenge with the development of the budget. I'm hoping that more common sense prevails, and that we take adequate time to discuss and debate the various options open to us, rather than trying to rush things through as though there were some sort of prize for finishing in the shortest amount of time. I hope that when members of council speak, we hear fewer sound bites and odd metaphors, and more easily understandable statements about what we intend to do. I will continue to hope for more respectful treatment of all members of council, and that some members will realize that treating a councillor with disrespect is, in effect, disrespecting the citizens of Prince Albert who have elected that councillor. And I hope that we start to demonstrate that we are what we claim to be - open and accountable, answering questions that are asked, when we say that we will. Let's keep items that should be open to the public on the public agenda, instead of trying to keep issues that might be contentious within our in camera sessions.

On a personal level, next year Andrea and I will celebrate our thirty-fifth anniversary, and our house will reach the century mark. We'll have to find a good way of celebrating both of these milestones.

For us, far from the rest of our extended family, Christmas and New Year's are always quiet celebrations, which suits us just fine. This year was quieter than usual, since Andrea decided to celebrate with a cold, which she then shared with Ingrid and me. But despite the sniffles and sneezes, it was a good family time, with a few gatherings with friends as well. I hope that your holiday featured similar times of quiet enjoyment and appreciation, and that the new year brings good times for all of us.

" There's nothing worth the wear of winning, but laughter and the love of friends." - Hilaire Belloc

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