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Search for a Western Anthem: “Alberta Bound”

This is a song that celebrates the West’s spirit of independence and a life-long dedication to the land we love

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We continue in our quest to find an unofficial anthem for Alberta, or more broadly Western Canada or Buffalo. Thanks to your suggestions on social media, we have a lot of great options to explore.

Previously we examined the song “All Hell for a Basement,” aka “Heaven in Alberta,” by Big Sugar. That song captured the hope for a better life, but also the tragedy of economic despair, in a manner that is relatable to many Albertans. You can read our full analysis of that song here.

And now for something completely different. “Alberta Bound” by Paul Brandt was perhaps the most requested country song on our list. Not to be confused with the Gordon Lightfoot song of the same name from 1972, Brandt’s song was released in 2004. With twanging guitars and cowboy vocal inflections, Brandt’s tribute to Alberta is well known and loved throughout the province. There’s no doubt that it’s a feel-good hit and a crowd-pleaser at home-town concerts. But the question remains: is it anthem material?

In terms of lyrics, there is a lot in here that would make other anthems jealous. Right away in the chorus we get that familiar description of Alberta as heaven (we saw that in the previous song as well), “this piece of heaven that I found,” followed by descriptions of the natural landscape: “Rocky Mountains and black fertile ground / Everything I need beneath that big blue sky.”

Next, the chorus describes the lifelong commitment of the singer to the land he loves, which is really the point of the song:

“It doesn’t matter where I go
This place will always be my home
I have been Alberta bound for all my life
And I’ll be Alberta bound until I die”

Most readers will know exactly the feeling he is talking about. You have all felt the draw of the West. The land you love takes on its own gravitational pull, drawing you back here time and time again. Even when you are away, you feel like a piece of you is somewhere back West. If you have ever had to be away for long periods of time, or maybe you moved away at some point, you may have felt like you were always on your way back home. And you know somewhere deep inside that you will continue to feel this draw of the West for the rest of your life. It’s such a simple lyric, “I have been Alberta bound for all my life,” but it resonates because we all know exactly what that feels like. If you are a Westerner, you have likely experienced that connection. The West will always be part of you.

But Brandt takes it ones step further. The commitment is all the more rich because it is deeper than an individual choice. He did not choose the West, but rather the West chose him. Consider this stanza:

“It’s a pride that’s been passed down to me
Deep as coal mines, wide as farmer’s fields
I’ve got independence in my veins”

This stanza alone captures so much of what an anthem needs to be. It reminds the participants of their profound connection to something larger than themselves, and reinforces the magnitude and significance of that relationship. In this case, it is an intergenerational connection that is as intimate as the blood in one’s veins. Beyond individual choice, this commitment has been given to him by his parents, and in turn he will pass it on to his children. Come to think of it, isn’t that really what an anthem is all about? Celebrating and reinforcing that connection between the individual and their national community.

Now, let’s consider the music video itself for a moment. Sure, at times the video looks a bit like a truck commercial with the amount of screen time we get of Brandt driving a pickup along a series of Alberta highways. But eventually it starts to grow on you. The video features an array of beautiful local scenery, from the majestic Rockies to the classically picturesque small Western towns. Anyone who has spent some time in southern Alberta in particular will recognize some familiar sights from the Crowsnest Pass. And the close-up shots of ordinary Albertans waving or nodding is actually a nice touch. After all, at the end of the day, Alberta is more than a geographic unit on the map – it is the people who make it what it is.

The Crowsnest Pass near Coleman, Alberta (Source: WikiCommons, Georgialh)

So let’s see if this song checks the boxes of our three main criteria. First, does it inspire us? Yes, this song is unabashedly proud of Alberta and our people, and this pride is infectious. Second, does it speak to our unique culture, heritage, and experiences? Yes, if we are just speaking of Alberta and not the wider West. The lyrics are made for us, and they are accessible enough that children and seniors and everyone in between can appreciate the simple positive message, that we should be proud to be Albertans. Third, is it good for crowds to sing at public events? Yes, just ask any Paul Brandt fan what the audience reaction is when this song comes on at a live concert.

Some may hesitate due to the fact that the song is less than two decades old. Surely songs need more time to become a classic, let alone an anthem? But perhaps not. Maybe it is too specific to Alberta, when ideally we would find an anthem that appeals to people of all four Western provinces?

Let me know what you think in the comments and on social media.

My summary: on paper, this checks all the boxes. This is a song that celebrates the West’s spirit of independence and a life-long dedication to the land we love. In my opinion, it easily makes the list of top 10 contenders for our unofficial anthem.

Do you have your own idea for the unofficial anthem of Alberta? It’s not too late. Leave a comment below, on social media, or send us an e-mail, and we will consider featuring your anthem idea in another column. E-mail your submissions for an Alberta, Buffalo, or Western anthem to anthemsearch@westernstandardonline.com

James Forbes is the Western Heritage Columnist for the Western Standard

James Forbes is the Western Heritage Columnist for the Western Standard. He has a PhD in History and writes about the history of politics, culture, and religion in Canada.

Features

Timeline of Kenney’s seesaw COVID-19 protocols

Kenney announces Alberta returns to a state of emergency. After many promises from the premier that Alberta will not introduce a vaccine passport, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will now be mandatory for participating businesses and social events.

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On the heels of new lockdown measures in Alberta, The Western Standard reviews Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s seesaw approach to dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

March 20, 2020 – Four days after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, Alberta cities including Calgary declared local states of emergency and shut down most non-essential businesses and serviced. Alberta also declared a provincial public state of emergency and closed all schools.

May 13, 2020 – Alberta enters a Stage 1 re-opening plan allowing businesses, like restaurants and retailers, to reopen with social distancing restrictions.

June 12, 2020 – Stage 2 is introduced earlier than expected, allowing theatres, massage therapists and hair salons as well as libraries to open. Alberta’s state of emergency ends after nearly three months.

August 4, 2020 – The province mandates back-to-school mask use for students in grades four to 12.

October 26, 2020 – Alberta introduces a limit of no more than 15 people for social gatherings.

November 12, 2020 – Tighter restrictions are introduced in restaurants and bars, including an earlier last call for alcohol.

November 24, 2020 – The province announces new and even tighter restrictions banning social gatherings, limits attendance numbers in churches and funerals and closes Alberta high schools.

November 25, 2020 – A Facebook post from Kenney states “We decided not to proceed with a lockdown because of the profound damage it would cause to Albertans, thereby deepening the mental health crisis and leaving many to despair. We will not let political pressure or ideological approaches cause indiscriminate damage to people’s lives and livelihoods.”

December 8, 2020 – Despite Kenney’s announcement less than two weeks earlier, the province is plunged into another full lockdown. All indoor and outdoor social gatherings are banned and non-essential businesses are forced to close including restaurants.

January 14, 2021 – Restrictions on outdoor gatherings are eased and personal service businesses, including massage and hair salons, are allowed to reopen.

January 29, 2021 – Premier Jason Kenney announces “The Path Forward” framework, allowing for an incremental easing of restrictions over three stages. Benchmark metrics were set based on hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients and a minimum wait period of three weeks between each phase.

February 8, 2021 – “Step 1” of The Path Forward plan begins with Alberta easing some restrictions on restaurants, kids sports and indoor fitness.

March 1, 2021 – Kenney announces “Step 2” phasing in low-intensity fitness classes; however, earlier benchmarks were ignored and the remainder of Phase 2 was delayed until March 8 when libraries, retailers, banquets, etc. were permitted to resume at varied levels of capacity. Sports programs were also allowed to resume with limits on participants and social-distancing measures.

March 22, 2021 – Again ignoring previously-set benchmarks, the province announces, due to a surge in COVID cases brought on by variants of concern, “Step 3” would be paused until COVID patients are under 300 and declining.

April 6, 2021 – Premier Kenney rolls Alberta back to “Step 1” until further notice moving the goalposts yet again, stating restaurants in the province were only allowed to offer outdoor dining service.

April 29, 2021 – Kenney announces targeted heath measures specific to regions where there were higher numbers of COVID cases. Schools in those regions were to switch to online learning, indoor gyms were to close and all indoor sports activity were to be suspended. This would last for two weeks.

May 4, 2021 – New restrictions are announced again province-wide. All schools including post-secondary institutions were moved to online learning, indoor recreation activities were shut down and in-person dining was prohibited as of May 10. In those areas with high case counts, gatherings were limited to 5, retail stores went to 10% capacity, personal care services were closed and outdoor gatherings were limited to immediate family members only. 

May 25, 2021 – Students were permitted to return to in-person learning. The next day, Kenney announced he was replacing his “Plan Forward” strategy with the “Open for Summer” plan, based on vaccination progress and hospitalization numbers.

June 18, 2021 – Kenney announces “Step 3” would be implemented July 1.

July 1, 2021 – Kenney announces Alberta is “Open for Summer” and nearly all remaining public heath orders are lifted including mask mandates, self-isolation requirements, scaled back testing and contact tracing.

July, 2021 – Kenney, while attending a Calgary Stampede pancake breakfast, is recorded saying he swears to God the province is “open for good.”

July 29, 2021 – The province announces major changes to the COVID-19 protocols on testing, self-isolation and contact tracing. Testing would now only be for the symptomatic; self-isolating is no longer mandatory and AHS would stop close-contact contact tracing.

Sept 4, 2021 – Alberta brings back mandatory masking for all indoor public spaces and work places. Restaurants are ordered to end alcohol service at 10 p.m.

Sept 15, 2021 – Kenney announces Alberta returns to a state of emergency. After many promises from the premier Alberta will not introduce a vaccine passport, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will now be mandatory for participating businesses and social events. As of September 20, restaurants will have to shut their dining rooms and only provide service on their patios or take-out meals until they have a vaccine passport system in place which will then offer them exemptions. The province will also continue a curfew of 10 p.m. for liquor sales. Forced social distancing returns and it will be illegal for unvaccinated people to attend social functions in homes. Vaccinated families can have friends come over from one other vaccinated house to a total of 10 people. Along with other restrictions, mandatory work from home orders are also back in place.

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Features

MAKICHUK: TOP SECRET – Meet the real-life James Bonds

“We haven’t had a female Bond in the films, but there are already lots in real life.”

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Like James Bond, they cross borders with fake identities and passports.

They operate in small isolated teams and have access to the full array of 007 gadgets designed by the spies’ Q section.

Its members are famed for not always looking like soldiers. Some speak different languages and can pass as foreign nationals.

The standing joke is that they could fit in at an embassy party or a whorehouse in Istanbul.

And just like Bond, they are all highly trained in firearms and hand-to-hand combat.

In fact, their training is considered “amazing even by SAS standards.”

But unlike the fictional 007 character, these assets don’t work for MI6, the famed British Secret Intelligence Service.

They are an elite section of the SAS, known as “The Increment.”

According to a report in the UK’s The Sun, the existence of the secret unit, “E Squadron,” was inadvertently confirmed this week when bungling Army top brass leaked the personal details of more than 70 Special Forces troops.

Buried deep in a spreadsheet of 1,200 soldiers’ names, trades and military units was a single reference to “22 SAS E SQN.”

It was the first written proof that the unit exists.

E Squadron is the fifth and newest limb of 22 SAS, the world’s most famous Special Forces regiment, whose motto is Who Dares Wins.

But its work is so secret that its troops are kept apart from the other four Sabre Squadrons, A, B, D and G, at their headquarters in Hereford, the Sun report said.

The squadron’s main task is to work with MI6 on top missions all over the globe.

SAS legend Andy McNab spent three years with the unit from 1991 to 1993, after his patrol in the first Gulf War which he wrote about in his book Bravo Two Zero.

He said the unit — which was hand-picked from the SAS — was “the closest to what James Bond does” of any British secret service.

But almost 30 years after he left, he said his work was still too secret to reveal, the Sun report said.

Another former member, who asked not to be named, said: “We were moving in and out of countries on different passports. Always in civvies, overseas all the time. It was busy.

“It was the James Bond stuff — use your imagination.”

The ex-member added: “You had to be able to blend in. People were picked for their ability to do undercover work.”

While some MI6 officers are firearms trained, it is never to the same level as their counterparts in E Squadron.

The former soldier said: “MI6 and MI5 are always distancing themselves from James Bond, saying they aren’t really like that. It’s true — spies aren’t like James Bond, they’re eggheads. Give them a gun, they wouldn’t know what to do with it.

“E Squadron solves that problem but they do a lot more as well.”

The places where they often have to work, using civilian cover identities, make it impossible to be armed, so they are all trained in deadly hand-to-hand combat, the Sun report said.

SAS author Chris Ryan served with Andy McNab on the 1991 Bravo Two Zero mission, in which a SAS patrol was deployed into Iraq during the first Gulf War to destabilize Saddam Hussein’s war strategy.

Says Ryan: “To be in the Increment is to be the best of the best.”

According to SOFREP.com, The Increment are strictly black ops — deniable missions that would be disavowed by the British government if compromised.

These could include:

  • Secret military assistance to foreign powers
  • Clandestine insertion and extraction of intelligence agents
  • Covert reconnaissance/intelligence gathering

Today E Squadron’s members are drawn from the three Tier One Special Forces units — the SAS, the SBS and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, the Sun report said.

The SBS provides specialist frogmen and mini-submersibles which can be used to insert teams undetected on foreign shores.

The SRR, whose soldiers specialize in plain-clothes surveillance operations around the world, provides a large number of women.

The unit was formed out of 14 Intelligence Company, which was known as the Det, and operated undercover in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles.

A source said: “Women are often the best at this sort of work. If a group of blokes turns up, it always looks suspicious.

“We haven’t had a female Bond in the films, but there are already lots in real life.”

The Increment’s troops were among the first British soldiers in Afghanistan, ahead of the US invasion in 2001.

They were also involved in the 2011 uprising in Libya which toppled Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Sun said.

A former E Squadron soldier said the unit was heavily involved in Iraq in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.

He said: “E Squadron are military people. They have rules of engagement.

“Is it a licence to kill? It is certainly not carte blanche. But the nature of soldiering means it’s sometimes necessary to take life. Everyone is trained in deadly force.”

Dave Makichuk is a Western Standard contributor
He has worked in the media for decades, including as an editor for the Calgary Herald. He is also the military editor for the Asia Times.
makichukd@gmail.com

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Features

Why does this BC area have the rudest postal code in Canada?

The area of Canada that easily takes the title for most unfortunate postcode has to be a street in Delta East Central: V4G1N4 (VAGINA). 

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A U.K. online business — apparently with buckets of time on its hands — has researched and unveiled what it calls “Canada’s rudest” postal codes.

Research by Money.co.uk shows the most unusual and awkward postal codes (the wacky Brits called it a “postcode”) in Canada and the UK and looked at the potential it can have on house prices.

As every maple-syrup blooded Canuck knows, Canadian postal codes contain a six-digit string of numbers and letters to create the final outcome, if one ignores the hyphen that splits the codes 

Using numeronyms —words where a number is used to form an abbreviation — the Brits discovered some odd pairings.

For example, in Timmins, Ont. you’ll find the postcode P4N-1C5. Nothing too eye-popping there until you dissolve the hyphen and are left with P4N1C5 (PANICS).

M4X1M5  (MAXIM) is more associated with a mens’ mag, not a vibrant area of downtown Toronto.

In another example, one area of Winnipeg sports the R3L1C5 (RELICS) code. 

However, the area of Canada that easily takes the title for most unfortunate postcode has to be a street in Delta East Central: V4G1N4 (VAGINA). 

The Brit release noted with the average Canadian house price currently around $716,828, living in a postcode such as V4G1N4 may actually effect your house price. However, no proof of the claim was offered.

Here are the top 21 most unusual/amusing postcodes in Canada:
• B3G1N5 (begins) Eastern Passage, NS;

• B4N4N4 (banana) Kentville, NS;

• L1V1N6 (living) Pickering Southwest, ON:

• L3C3L5 (levels) Orilla, ON:

• L4G3R5 (lagers) Aurora, ON;

• M4G1C5 (magics) East York (Leaside), ON;

• M4L1C3 (malice) East Toronto (India Bazaar / The Beaches West), ON;

• M4R1N3 (marine) Central Toronto (North Toronto West), ON;

• P3N1L3 (penile) Greater Sudbury (Val Caron), ON;

• P4N1C5 (panics) Timmins Southeast, ON;

• R3J3C7 (reject) Winnipeg (St. James-Assiniboia SE), MB;

• R3L1C5 (relics) Winnipeg (River Heights East), MB;

• R3M0V3 (remove) Winnipeg (River Heights Central), MB;

• R3T1R3 (retire) Winnipeg (Fort Garry NE / University of Manitoba), MB;

• S3N1L3 (senile) Yorkton, SK;

• S7R0K3 (stroke) Saskatoon Northwest, SK;

• T1R1N6 (tiring) Brooks, AB;

• V1C4R5 (vicars) Cranbrook, BC;

• V1K1N6 (Viking) Merritt, BC;

• V1X3N5 (vixens) Kelowna East Central, BC;

V4G1N4 (vagina) Delta East Central, BC.

Mike D’Amour is the British Columbia Bureau Chief for the Western Standard.
mdamour@westernstandardonline.com

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