Friday, March 14, 2008

Know Your Cabinet Critters: The Honourable Lindsay Blackett, Minister of Culture and Community Spirit

Nation, every once in awhile, the Blogging community puts its collective heads together and takes on a project to serve the Greater Good. The "Centre-Right Dream Team" of Alberta's political bloggers has managed to put aside raging personal animosities to bring you a look at the 5 new faces in the provincial cabinet announced Wednesday.

What raging animosities, you ask? Well, Blake makes no secret of the fact that he considers Ken Chapman a radical lefty and out-of-the-closet Dion supporter, while I can't wrap my head around how a seemingly smart guy like Duncan can continue to cheer for a joke of a hockey team like the Calgary Shames, when he LIVES in the home of God's Favourite Hockey Team - the Edmonton Oilers.

All kidding aside, though, I've really enjoyed collaborating with some of my similarly-minded brethren in the blogosphere. To go out of character for a second, I've been truly humbled by the way that these bright and politically astute and connected people have so readily accepted me - a "Johnny-come-lately" of just over a year now - into their community. I'm honoured that they consider me one of their own, and flattered that I came to mind to help with this project.
Be sure to check out Duncan's fantastic profiles of both The Honourable Alison Redford, Justice Minister and Attorney General, and The Honourable Jack Hayden, Minister of Infrastructure. Also already out is AlbertaTory's in-depth look at The Honourable Mary Anne Jablonski, Minister of Seniors and Community Supports. Forthcoming will be Ken Chapman's look at The Honourable Heather Klimchuk, Minister Responsible for Service Alberta.

The Honourable Lindsay Blackett, Minister of Culture and Community Spirit

When you think of "Alberta's culture", even if you've lived here all your life, it's hard not to snicker a little. We certainly HAVE a culture of sorts, but too often we buy into the Eastern stereotype of Albertans as hard-drinking, tobacco-chewing, pickup-driving urban cowboys who want more than anything to be Americans. Northern Texans, goes the joke.

Lindsay Blackett has been given the chance to throw that stereotype back in the face of all of those, all over our country, who perpetuate it.

"As someone who was raised in Ontario, there's a perception among a lot of people that we're a bunch of cowboys and rednecks out here, but our province has a lot more to offer than that."
- Hon. Lindsay Blackett, Minister of Culture and Community Spirit

The son of Barbadian immigrants, Lindsay Blackett graduate from Carleton University in 1983. Coming from a southern Caribbean background and attending school in Ottawa, Blackett knows plenty about both culture and capital-c Culture.

A volunteer with the Big Brother organization in the 1980's, Blackett later moved to Seattle in the mid 1990's. Seattle in the 90's - nope, no culture to be found, there. Unless you count the revitalization of popular music and the intellectual Northwestern Renaissance that took place in Seattle and Vancouver at the time. The only question that needs to be asked is, does Blackett follow culture around? Or does culture follow him?

Blackett moved to Calgary in the year 2000, pursuing Calgary's quality of life for his young family. Given that he was employed in the high-tech industrial sector at the time, Calgary's surging high-tech environment was also an incentive.

In 2004, Blackett was elected a director of the Calgary West Conservative Association (Federal). He held this position until 2006, when he stepped down amid the Anders acclamation debacle. Blackett was one of the former board members who unsuccessfully went on to sue the Conservative Party of Canada to have Anders' acclamation overturned.

By now the father of 2 young children, Lindsay's volunteer focus turned to organized sports. He was a coach with the Tuscany Soccer Association from 2003 to 2007, and has been as assistant coach with the Bow River Hockey Association since 2006. Still in the sports vein (if you can call Henry Burris an "athlete" - just kidding Lindsay, but I'm an Esks fan - you know how it is), Blackett has served as Volunteer Coordinator for the Henry Burris All-Star Weekend since 2006 (a great event that supports Big Brothers and Big Sisters in Calgary).

Blackett most recently served as President of the Canadian Progress Club's Calgary Downtown chapter.

Of note in Lindsay's electoral victory is that he won his riding of Calgary North West by a margin of 3000 votes over his nearest rival, defeating Liberal Dale D'Silva, a VERY aggressive and well-funded WAP candidate in Chris Jukes, and the leader of the Alberta Greens, George Read.

Much has been made in the media of Lindsay's status as the first black cabinet minister in Alberta's history. Blackett dismisses the attention, however, noting that he's not a black cabinet minister, but rather "a cabinet minister who happens to be black".

As the Minister of Culture and Community Spirit, Blackett has an opportunity to blaze his own trail. This brand new ministry is responsible for culture, community development, the voluntary sector, museums and heritage sites. Now, let's not fool ourselves: Lindsay Blackett is not the former curator of the Glenbow Museum (whatever happened to that guy, anyhow?). However, Blackett will be the FIRST person to tell you that. The fact that he knows what he does NOT know is the surest sign that he's an enlightened man, and one who will go to great lengths to get caught up.

Lindsay will also be the go-to guy for the "Wrathful Right", as his ministry is also responsible for a laundry list of items that make the "living, breathing stereotypes" see red: The Human Rights and Citizenship Commission; Human Rights Citizenship and Multiculturalism Fund; Foundation for the Arts; Alberta Historical Resources Foundation; Wild Rose Foundation; and Government House Foundation. Presumably, he'll also be involved in the promised efforts to redevelop the Royal Alberta Museum and attract the National Portrait Gallery.

I won't pretend to know Lindsay Blackett. I met him once, we talked for about 5 minutes, and then we each went our separate ways. But what I gleaned from that conversation, and has since been confirmed by others who know him far better than I, is that this man is a very solid and hard-working member of the community, who will be a very solid and hard-working minister. By all accounts, he is flattered and honoured to be included in the cabinet, and he's certainly going to do his best not to betray the trust that the Premier has shown in him with this appointment.

Alberta has culture. Alberta has a Minister of Culture. His name is Lindsay Blackett.

Ask him if he's a redneck. I dare you.


Brian Dell said...

If it wasn't for the AHR&CC that Ezra Levant guy might have remained unchallenged. We've have dissidents popping up all over if our P"C" govt wasn't there to ride herd on em. Stay the course, Lindsay! Please heed the wisdom of Sgt Barnes: "... Elias was a crusader. Now I got no problem with any man does what he's told, but when he don't, the machine breaks down. And when the machine breaks down, WE break down. And I'm not gonna allow that, from any of you. Not one."

Anonymous said...

It's all about Carleton!!! I had no idea he was an alum. That is great. Carleton people are everywhere...

Anonymous said...


Congratulations to Alberta and
to CALGARY WEST. I have known
Lindsay since the 1980's and lost touch when he moved west to Seattle WA USA. Alberta and Calgary West have one great MPP working for them.
Way to go Lindsay all of us back here in Ottawa are very happy for you and very proud.