publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Bob Hawkesworth
September 24, 2013
First elected to Calgary city council as Ward 3 Alderman at the age of 29, he’s seen lots of change. He worked amicably on council with Ralph Klein and was later swept out of office as an MLA by a Klein PC landslide, then served two terms as Ward 4 Alderman – his metaphoric epithet, “Change happens!”
Character. Principles. Values. Politician. Pick one, sure, but all four in one person? Not often. Climate change, his bailiwick. Political change, a large part of his life. Personal changes and transitions, a substantial part of that too, but when I asked him to discuss his soon-to-be divorced status he simply said “we are still good friends”. OK, ‘nuff said, we moved on with the interview.
His Sociology Degree and post-grad work in Sustainable Development (U of A) led him into (CHMC) bureaucracy, and out again, then to work with urban aboriginal causes across Canada. “I got a conscience in my Baptist upbringing, independence, open minded with a Christian set of values.” He credits his upbringing for making him “politically aware and understanding the importance of public service”.
Once touted (in 2005) by Venture Magazine as one of Alberta’s 50 Most Influential People – the accomplishments of my school-days friend are well recorded, but what formed him? What made him be that way? Where is he headed next? These questions interest me and would, I thought, interest readers of FACILITYCalgary.
Bob Hawkesworth is freelancing these days – with a wide range of consulting ‘projects under development’, Hawkesworth Strategies is the current incarnation of that kid from the nerds table who has been far more progressive than he has been New Democrat (and he has worked for Liberals), far more conservative than many liberal causes he supports and more decent than most former MLA’s and civic politicians. I wanted to interview him in any case, but I thought it would be interesting to poke around in his opinion-section as our civic election season gets underway. Bob’s last elected service ended three years ago when he ceased being an Alderman, and threw his hat in the ring to run for Mayor of Calgary. As someone familiar with ‘running against Nenshi’, I thought I might be able to elicit some interesting quotes. Bob did not disappoint . . .
Born in Saskatoon, a few months later in 1951, his parents moved to Calgary. Subsequent moves to Nova Scotia (his parents home province), around Southern Alberta (Tilley, Vulcan), Boulder in Colorado, to Red Deer where we first crossed paths, and to Edmonton were mostly driven by his parents careers (both educators) – mostly his dad’s, he wore the double handicap of starting school with his mother as his teacher and being a PK (preacher’s kid). Influences in his household/his dad’s career were Baptist but his career has seen him work with Catholics, work for Lutheran organizations and stretch his head, and his heart, across a lot of causes, persuasions and philosophies.
A lot of political panjandrums don’t warrant our ink, or our time in or out of their offices – and deservedly so. But this one who has criss-crossed my path many times over the past 47 years is worth it. He and I are painted with very different political stripes yet we have a lot of things in common. It all began in high school, we sat together often at the nerd/geek table at Lindsay Thurber Composite High School in Red Deer – the community where we each spent some important growing up and coming of age years. It seemed fitting, for this interview with Bob Hawkesworth, that it be done over lunch. We met in the card room at the P-club and caught up over soup and sandwiches.
His reasons for entering municipal politics?
… citizens not feeling they had a voice at City Hall.
Why the NDP?
… in my early municipal campaigns I met a lot of NDP folks. We had a values fit. After two terms as an NDP MLA I returned to run again, successfully, at the municipal level where party affiliation is not a factor.
I asked Bob how he sees the landscape in Alberta politics over the next 90 day?
… municipal elections in Calgary and Edmonton – a new mayor in Edmonton for certain, likely status quo in Calgary, leadership review for Alison Redford. Danielle Smith – her riding is in the eye-of-the-storm, yet her stated position on doubting climate change . . . ?
Over the next 5 years?
…the conservatives (PC’s) have a remarkable history of remaking themselves. Pipelines will remain important. The east-west ones will likely happen, but Keystone XL and Gateway . . I wouldn’t bet on either one of them. Kudos to Ed Stelmach for instituting a charge for carbon emissions. History will regard him for that. Canada, our brand internationally, is harmed by our indifference to climate change.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… people with whom I already have a relationship of some kind, looking for outcomes WE want, shared values get affirmed, neutral. I respect honesty.
What distinguishes you that causes people choose you and what you are selling over your competitors, why did you get elected and re-elected?
… element of trust, what you see is what you get, trying to do my best, people felt I gave them a hearing.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… risks of climate change. So much is unprecedented. We don’t know what is going to happen. We’ve seen a pace of changes in a few decades that have previously taken millions of years. Our current level of CO2 in the atmosphere was last that high 3 million years ago. Our flood this summer felt apocalyptic! Add to that, this summer’s floods in Toronto, in Colorado – these are the fingerprints of climate change. The pathway to the future isn’t clear. We are an oil & gas economy. It’s hard to get our head around our own personal use.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… traveling in India in my 20’s, seeing poverty, needs of people – met people who gave me perspective on helping people; Gordon Hanson, a Lutheran pastor, who taught a caring community course.
Work life balance?
… 90/10 … 90 work, 10 play – I drove across Canada this summer, spent time in Nova Scotia with family, reading. In terms of work, I feel like I’ve never worked a day in my life – it has been a labour of love.
What are you reading?
… this summer I read 1356, and Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell, Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson, One Man and His Bike by Mick Carter. I’ve started Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk. On my winter reading list I have Start With Why? by Simon Sinek.
… 2010 Prius … I got my first one in 2000 when they first came out.
How is Mayor Nenshi doing?
… he is intelligent and has exceptional communications skills. An outsider, he’s proven himself worthy and his re-election is likely a foregone conclusion. He hasn’t had a mentor, he came into office with no experience. I’d call it on the job training. The only thing of significance he’s succeeded with, that was his initiative, is the $300 million tunnel under the new airport runway. When people ask why there isn’t a south-east leg of the LRT, I tell them to go look at that tunnel. The job of mayor is to be a leader of leaders. Members of council are leaders in their own-right. A mayor has to respect that.
… and Owen Tobert, City Manager?
He is a an extremely gifted public servant. He walks the talk. When there has been lack of leadership, he has stepped into the vacuum to give the leadership that is needed.
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