Last weekend I was invited to attend the Alberta NDP convention in Edmonton as a panelist, speaking alongside former federal leadership candidates Brian Topp and Niki Ashton. The mood was upbeat and energized, with the party celebrating its 50th anniversary in the province, and coming off a provincial election where their seat count and percentage of the popular vote increased.
On Saturday night, I arrived just in time to hear federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair deliver a strong message about the importance of including all costs when evaluating economic strategies. Mr Mulcair and I also had a moment to discuss the crucial issue of beards in politics. Afterwards I joined the fun-loving New Democratic Youth of Alberta for informal conversation at the Bohemia Club.
The following day I joined former federal leadership candidates Niki Ashton and Brian Topp for the "building our future" panel discussion. Brian reflected on his experiences working with Jack Layton and the breakthrough in the last election, as well as his "nutcracker" approach to defeating right-wing governments: exposing their fiscal failures on one side and their social failures on the other.
Niki then described her experience taking back her Churchill, Manitoba riding for the NDP, her point of view as one of the few prairie MPs, and the importance of the Lethbridge Declaration
movement, which seeks to create a grassroots breakthrough in the prairie provinces in the next federal election. I then spoke about the importance of using the social determinants of health to frame political discussions in a way that reaches beyond partisan lines to galvanize action based on shared values. We then fielded questions from the members on the convention floor. It was a particular honour to share the stage with such articulate and experienced leaders in the social democratic movement.
On Monday, I spoke to faculty and students at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Alberta at Global Health Rounds about the ideas in my book, "A Healthy Society" and how they relate to medical education, followed by a meeting with the department on Community Engagement to discuss how we've organized our work in Social Accountability at the College of Medicine at the U of S.
That evening, the Council of Canadians, Friends of Medicare, Public Interest Alberta, United Nurses of Alberta and Public Interest Alberta sponsored the Edmonton launch of A Healthy Society
. The launch was structured as an interview between me and Dr Stan Houston, infectious disease specialist and son of Saskatoon's C Stuart Houston (author of Tommy's Team, Steps on the Road to Medicare,
and more). We discussed the ideas in the book and their relevance to Alberta, and the role of physicians in advocacy, touching on Dr Houston's recent involvement in resisting Harper's cuts to refugee health coverage. About 100 people, including newly elected NDP MLA David Eggen
and Alberta Liberal leader Dr Raj Sherman, came out for the event; the discussion was lively and challenging.
The next day I continued my Alberta tour with an early morning bus ride to Calgary. I met that afternoon with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who was kind enough to share his insights on the practice of "politics in full sentences
" and discuss winning strategies for engaging citizens online and in person. In the evening we held a book launch, again using the interview format, this time with former Friends-of-Medicare chair Dr Avalon Roberts
. Liberal MLA Dr David Swann
, and Ralph Klein's former opponent Dr Harold Swanson
were among the diverse crowd of Calgarians, young and old, who carried on a lively debate about the importance of democratic engagement as a means of achieving greater equality.
It was a fun and informative trip west, but it's good to be back in Saskatchewan and concentrating again on the provincial race, refreshed by having connected with our western neighbours and companions in the struggle for a healthy society.