The Canadian Club.

For those not in "the know," the Canadian Club is a series of clubs from all over Canada that share in the mission to encourage and foster patriotism, Canadian unity and Canadian identity. Our particular club is a catalyst for conversations for Calgarians to talk about what it means for them to be Canadian, and where Calgary fits in this greater national discourse. For the last 110 years it has also been bringing speakers in to speak to its members and more recently we've hosted such luminaries as Premier Jim Prentice, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, and Hon. Jason Kenney.

Each spoke about different ideas and their involvement in the greater debates of our society. For Justin Trudeau, it was the interrelationship between our industry and our environment, and the nation building and leadership we need to engage in to further it. Minister Kenney spoke on multiculturalism, immigration and the way we integrate our newest citizens in Canada so that we may all flourish and live well. Premier Prentice spoke on the challenges of political leadership in Alberta and the cyclical nature of our natural resource industries.

It's the complex, it's the interesting, and it's Canadian. These are important topics and these recent speakers have been thoroughly excellent. It's the ideas that matter, and these ideas are shared for the betterment of a strong national vision. Spaces to talk about ideas like this are rare and they are fragile. Debate clubs and other Canadian Clubs have faltered throughout Canada -- just a few years ago the national organization of the Canadian Clubs dissolved -- and with an ever more fast-paced media the public debate have slowly been whittled to nothing. 

Every city -- from Vancouver to Cape Breton -- once had a Canadian Club in each of them. And with social media, our comments and our ideas have to be crammed into 140 characters or less, otherwise it will gain no traction. The President of the United States has carved his speeches into "tweetable" chirps rather than politics in full sentences. What we have now are self-appointed pundits online and raging politicos in the news, who focus on the emotion of the debate rather than the issues that we face as a society. Our debates are glib. Petty. And they're a shadow of their former selves. We're no longer talking about national visions or leadership. Fundamentally we have lost something. A half century ago speakers would go from city to city, invited by these clubs, and speak to these issues. People would sit down over lunch or a dinner and hear about issues that impacted things inside the greater discourse. They would listen. And then ask questions. To do that now is undeniably harder. 

Institutions that have guided our country and been the place for debates have eroded with time and with the haphazard passing of the torch from one generation to the next. We need to champion spaces to engage in these discussions and to make way for a place to engage in a greater discourse. Our challenges as a nation are real and legion. Our resource economy is facing a new era of a fast-paced, technology- and innovation-driven "idea economy." Our place as a middle power has withered. The world no longer looks to us for leadership, for a host of reasons that stretch beyond our political leadership. The world sees us as a leper with our mistreatment of the environment, denying us economic opportunity and vetoing the export of our resources. There is a massive question-mark beside the issue of privacy, the internet, and keeping Canadians safe. A whole generation is going to die earlier, live with less opportunity, take on more debt, and work in a society with little care for its future. As a member of that generation I feel there has been a whole-sale betrayal, and a social contract ripped up. 

We live in a more dangerous, more polarized world where terrorism comes to attack us from abroad as well as from our own backyard. And these are only some of the issues. One hundred and fifty years ago we decided on a massive project: to weave together a nation. A century ago the debate transformed to how to thread this great nation together with a railroad. Fifty years ago we rewrote of society's contract to create the patchwork of multiculturalism and the welfare state. The 1990s had the unity debate, where each part of Canada threatened to tear itself asunder from the greater cloth. Our world is changing and so are our debates.

It's up to us to take on the mantle left to us and be able to engage these issues. Clubs like the Canadian Club are more important than ever before as a space for these to take root. This is why I look at this club and see it as something important. It's worth supporting and taking leadership roles in. It's why I am proud to be the Canadian Club of Calgary Publicity Chair. If you're interested in learning more about the club please visit our website at www.CanadianClubCalgary.ca. If you're interested in your local chapter of the Canadian Club you can peruse the listing here.