Firstly, I want to wish you a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 2020 was a
rough ride for all of us, and I have never been so happy to see a year come to a close. I am
looking forward to a “Do Over” in 2021, getting through the worst of COVID, getting the
economy rolling again, making up for the downturn in business / job losses we had in 2020, and returning to normal. The time off at Christmas did however give me some time to reflect on previous years, and previous Christmas breaks, or lack thereof.
In my life prior to politics I was leading major project teams, predominantly pipelines, for the last decade. In that industry, we always paid attention to the morale of the team, the hours the folks were working, and their attention to detail so they wouldn’t be distracted in an effort to mitigate safety incidents. We all wanted to make sure the people we worked with made it home safe to be with their families, and that they were able to enjoy their well-deserved down time.
In my prior life I also found myself hoping for cold weather so that we could have a good chance of driving frost into the right-of -way, so that when the crews returned refreshed from the Christmas Break, they had the best conditions possible to be able to maintain safety and schedule. On the pipeline projects we were always racing the elements, specifically breakup in the spring, and if we missed that, the in-service date could be
delayed until the next construction season in some cases.
There were only two instances in the 19 years I’ve been married that I didn’t have a chance to have a Christmas Break at home. In both cases, it was because of project requirements, the commitments people who were part of my team had made to me, or I had made to them, to be able to make the construction schedule.
Early in my marriage my wife gave me a very dirty look when I got up from our Christmas supper with her family to take a phone call, and then a follow up tongue lashing about why I took the call. I explained to her that there was a crew of 15 people up in the “Bush” that didn’t have the luxury of being home with their families because they were putting up the camp that was needed for the 200 people who would need beds when they returned from their Christmas break.
So, as the Project Manager, if those folks on site needed my help, the least I could do was be there to take that call. I felt they needed to know that they were not alone, and that they had my thanks and respect for the work they were doing for the team. She understood completely.
The second time was on a small looping project down in Drayton Valley, where at the
kickoff meeting in September the horizontal directional drilling contractor provided a
schedule that was very tight. In fact, so tight that if they had any hiccups they may not be
able to recover, and would have to work through Christmas.
I brought this to their attention, and they assured me they would make it, and if needed would skip Christmas to complete. As chance would have it, the rig they were mobilizing to the site was delayed a week, it was a challenging hole, and they indeed were going to miss the schedule. Their superintendent came to me and said it was their intent to work through Christmas to not let me down, and to keep his word that he made back in September. I, in turn, went back to my team of inspectors, and asked who would be willing to work with me through the break.
I wouldn’t expect anyone else to work through Christmas if I wouldn’t do that myself, leading by example, the way I was mentored. I advised the landowners who would be impacted, including one straight shooting farm lady where our exit pit was located in her barn yard. She was a take no guff kind of person, and was none too happy about us working through Christmas. I assured her we would do our best not to disturb their day, and apologized again for the inconvenience.
She asked if I was going to be there too, how many people were working, and if we were at least going to shut down at the lunch hour. I let her know that I’d be there, and wouldn’t ask my guys to miss Christmas if I wasn’t willing to do so, that we would take an hour-long break for lunch and the number of folks we had working. Christmas day, that farm lady brought out a turkey to the drilling rig, complete with most of the fixings, saying no one would go without a Christmas dinner if she had anything to do with it. It takes a team to build a project, it is not without effort, or giving up the things that we hold important at times to make it happen. Those efforts can be recognized by folks that we would least expect sometimes.
When I campaigned, I let folks know that if they hired me for the job as their MLA, I would treat this job like a project. I’d be willing to give them 6 days a week, but I get Sundays off to myself to spend time with my family. A typical 6 & 1 shift, and for most of the time it works out.
What does not stop is the phone calls, social media and e-mails. The promise I made to my family is that Christmas, I spend with them. The vast majority of the people who hired me for this job respect that, and I was fortunate enough this year to take off the 24th of December until the 4th of January.
This year I didn’t have to worry about the safety of the crews in the field, nor the warm weather messing up the frost packing of muskeg, or logging that needed to take place. As such, I went into “Dark Mode” stepped away from the computer, and turned off the phones. I spent time with my family at home, worked on getting an old pickup running for my son, calling friends and relatives on the phone, enjoying a few fire pits, went on a flight to the mountains, and even a little axe throwing with my son and youngest daughter.
For those that have been asking for me to respond to the personal choices that some of my colleagues made in regards to how and where they spent the time they had over Christmas, I can only say that I made different choices than they did. They are responsible for their own decisions, accountable to their constituents, to their team members as a whole, and to the Premier.
The short-term consequences for their choices have now come to pass.
I would be a hypocrite if I said that I have not made decisions in my life that I did not regret. Nor would I be naïve enough to say that in the future I will not make a decision that I could come to regret. I do however, through experience and leaning on others for counsel from time to time, take the time to weigh the options to minimize the potential impact of less than desirable decisions.
I can only speak for myself, but am highly confident that as a team we will double our efforts to get us through COVID. We will focus on creating an environment where our economy will grow, and foster an environment where the many jobs that have been lost will be regained.
I fully recognize that the recent events have eroded some of the confidence and trust of my constituents, not only with the people involved directly, but with the team as a whole.
All I can do is my best to keep the commitments I made, and through my actions regain
what has been lost by continuing to keep my word, and showing results for the work effort that is being made.
I need to make sure that the voters who put me here continue to feel that they made the right decision in the last election by choosing me to represent their interests. In short, as a team we need be humble enough to learn from the mistakes made and to ensure they never happen again, dust ourselves off, get back to work on fixing the problems at hand.
Albertans deserve no less, 2021 is the turnaround year for our province.
MLA Shane Getson