Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Great Canadian Migration

I just learned that a story I wrote last year for Alberta Venture magazine has just won a Showcase Award from the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association. Not being a resident Albertan, I feel guilty for scooping one of the three awards presented this year, but since I didn't even know I’d been nominated, I'll just enjoy the glow.

The story was called “Roughing It in the Patch,” and appeared as part of my monthly back-page column on the always testy East-West relationship in Canada, which ran from 2004 though 2007. The column began by making fun of Easterners (especially Ontarians) and their ignorance of Alberta, but morphed over those few short years as oil prices soared and Alberta’s role evolved from resource-supplier to economic kingpin.

I was proud of this particular column, although it didn't require much writing at all. I did some Google and blog searches to look for candid comments from people who had relocated recently from Eastern Canada to Alberta. Having made the move myself when I was 23, I had some idea how wrenching it could be. But I was surprised to see how emotional and difficult this transition still is, even in these days of WestJet, instant messaging and almost-free long distance calling.

So I let those writers (cloaked in anonymity, of course) tell their stories. And I concluded with a more-emotional-than-usual ending that sounds kind of corny, but represents my real response to the stories I had read. “Oh Alberta, the East sends you its children. Hug them close.

You can read the original story here. It may be the story of my children, or yours.

Thanks to editors Ruth Kelly and Michael McCullough for letting me rant in their pages for so long. Although my stay in Alberta lasted only about 18 months, the land calls me still, and Alberta's spirit has never left me.

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