Now more than ever, Canadians need to understand why Alberta marches to its own drummer. The Northumberland Learning Connection (NLC) opens its Spring series, Alberta: The Maverick Province, on April 2nd, with a presentation by Preston Manning, very much an Alberta Maverick. The founder and former leader of the Reform Party will delve into the growing populist movement and enlighten audiences about why Albertans feel misunderstood by the rest of Canada.
Manning seemed a natural choice to anchor the Alberta program.
“I think many people will be surprised by Preston Manning. His historical knowledge of the province is so vital to helping Canadians contextualize what’s happening there right now,” says Karin Wells, former NLC Programming Chair, who was instrumental in securing him as a speaker. The six-week long program also includes presentations by the former chair of Alberta’s Petroleum Marketing Commission, a fifth generation eco-rancher, and even a performance by a cowboy poet and singer/songwriter.
“We recognize that issues are multi-faceted and in order to truly understand something, we need a well-rounded, multi-disciplinary approach,” comments Wells.
“Our audiences are knowledgeable and diverse, and to engage them, our programming has to have multiple access points,” she says.
What Karin Wells describes echoes the vision of local resident, Joanne Bonebakker, who founded the NLC in 2006. Her goal was to create a forum for people who were passionate about life-long learning – a forum that allowed them to interact with subject matter experts and explore topics in ways that weren’t too abstract. And Joanne’s vision continues to this day.
“We respond to issues that are on people’s minds, not as a knee-jerk reaction to the headlines, but in a more organic way. We take a year to plan the series because audiences trust us to find those authentic voices that can provide more than a superficial pass at issues,” explains Dorothy Geale, incoming Chair of the NLC Programming Committee.
NLC’s approach seems to be resonating with audiences that have steadily grown to near capacity crowds for both the evening and morning sessions. Audience engagement has also allowed the Board to attract an international roster of guest speakers.
But Geale also stresses the importance of NLC’s connection with the community to determine future programming choices.
Next up, NLC will tackle the subject of borders, walls and boundaries.
Geale explains, “The U.S. President’s obsession with walls started our conversation, but through research, we discovered that since the Berlin Wall came down, we have actually erected 70 more walls globally. That has naturally led us to find out more.”
If in the meantime, you want to find out why Alberta is thinking of erecting their own political border wall, visit connectnlc.ca for full details. The program kicks off at 7:30pm on April 2 with Preston Manning. The series goes on to delve into the province’s oil industry, ranching, its national parks and its political history in ensuing weeks.