During this time of uncertainly, I find myself reflecting and in a state of gratitude for the people that have been a source of hope and inspiration for Alberta for so many years. One of those people is JR Shaw.
I have a fond memory that involves JR. Back in 2006, we found ourselves seated at the same head table with the famous businessman during an event. What an honor for a kid from Sherwood Park. Determined to mine his many years of experience and entrepreneurship, I offered a glass of wine to get the conversation flowing. Mr. Shaw and I enjoyed the wine and conversation. He talked with me until only we and our patient wives remained in the room.
James Robert (JR) Shaw was born in 1934 and grew up on a farm in Ontario. He credits his parents, Francis and Lottie, for instilling in him an outstanding work ethic and an entrepreneurial drive. Although he started his career working for his father at the Shaw Pipe Protection plant in Hamilton, ON, his frequent trips to Alberta to oversee branch work made him fall in love with the province, so, JR moved his family to Sherwood Park, Alberta in the early 1960s.
JR passed in late March. He is remembered as the pioneer of Shaw Communications Inc., and as a philanthropist that changed the lives of many during his long and successful career. For his contributions to the province, JR was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2008.
JR loved Alberta and it’s not hard to see why. He never stopped recognizing or believing in the potential of our province and what it had to offer the world. He never stopped cheering for or supporting the hardworking men and women that made this province run.
Alberta would do well to adopt his personal mantra right now.
As the COVID-19 pandemic ravages the world, a number of flaws in Alberta’s already cracking systems have been exposed locally and globally. A stressed energy industry, a growing provincial debt, divided politicians and the ongoing debate about the lack of cohesive initiatives to protect the environment have come to the forefront. I have been very vocal about how I longed for every Albertan to pull in the same direction, to listen to each other and to work together for the good of the province.
Now, in the midst of unbearable sorrow, we find undeniable hope. We are talking, and we are listening.
Our leaders are pulling together, offering robust support to individuals and businesses. Money is flowing, being reallocated to help companies stay afloat and people pay for necessities. Despite the severity and the sad reality of the deaths and critical cases, Alberta’s case rate remains manageable so far (and low compared to many other similar regions around the world). Albertans, while staying apart, have truly come together.
The pandemic is dire and the assistance programs are not perfect, but for the first time in a long time, we are all getting on the same page and that gives us hope in this darkest of times. Alberta was built on the strength and vision of men and women like JR Shaw who always saw Alberta as the powerhouse it truly is. We need to remember that now. We built Alberta once and we can do it again. Let’s move forward to tomorrow – together.