We are 149 years strong. We remain in the Top 10 Countries in the World in regard to “best quality of life”. We hold a long-standing peaceful relationship with our American friends with whom we share the largest unprotected border in the world. In fact, an estimated 75 percent of Canadians live within 161 kilometers (100 miles) of the U.S. border.

I have driven this country from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and I have lived in New Brunswick, Ontario and Alberta. I have spent multiple nights in every province across Canada. We are surrounded by beauty and prosperity.

I was inspired to see the outpouring of support for Fort McMurray residents, just as Calgarians experienced during the June 2013 flood.

The highly organized evacuation and the fact that there were no fatalities resulting from the wildfires was no accident. It is a testament to first responders and to the health and safety training and capability of the many people employed in safety sensitive jobs and ancillary industries in Alberta.

Over the past several years, countless engineers who have worked across the globe have told me unabashedly that Canada’s oil sands operations have some of the very best safety practices in the world.

It saddens me when I hear Canadians suggesting that it “is about time that Alberta be knocked down a peg” and that the energy downturn is somehow a day of reckoning. The fire in Fort McMurray and the economic downturn in Alberta will affect every Canadian. Our forecasted GDP has declined to 0 for 2016.

Every Canadian wants to preserve the beauty of our forests, the pristine blue of our glacial fed lakes and the wildlife they support. Each of us has the power to protect our planet. It will not result from us arguing about replacing coal with nuclear, exchanging pipelines for rail cars or erecting wind towers. It certainly will not result from communities with their hands extended seeking their “cut” of the “deal”.

It will result from each of us reducing our consumption and changing our habits. Canada generates more garbage per capita than any other country on this planet. Our population is approximately 1/10 that of the United States, but our garbage output is higher. 70 to 80% of greenhouse gas emissions result from consumption – not from production.

Arm yourself with knowledge so that you understand the implications of the stance you are taking. If you do not support oil sands production, that is fair but before you cast your vote for wind power, understand the impact on birds. Before you say no to Canadian oil, research the safety and labour practices in the countries from whom you will receive the fuel that warms your home and powers your vehicle. I am not standing here as a proponent of the oil sands or as an Albertan, I am a proponent of knowledgeable choices, personal accountability and a united Canada.

We can leave our children, grandchildren and great-great grandchildren a legacy – a glorious landscape, a unified country and a model of thoughtful consumption – but only when we retract our pointed fingers and seek solutions together.

Let’s stand shoulder to shoulder and remain the “True North, strong and free!” Happy Canada Day.

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