And now for something completely different.
Yesterday, I spent the day escorting six significant Edmonton citizens around Exercise Maple Flag at 4 Wing Cold Lake for the day. We attended briefings on the fighter pilot training programs; crawled around CF-18s and Hawks; flew the Hawk simulator; watched the CF-18 flight demonstration pilot perform; attended the Maple Flag mass briefing; watched the exercise live on the big screen; had a great burger with a bunch of multi-national air and groundcrew; and watched the launch of Canadian CF18s, Israeli / Dutch / Belgian / American F-16s, French Mirage 4000s and Mirage 1s, British Tornados, Israeli tankers, AWACS, and C-130 and C-160 trash haulers, from about a hundred feet away right beside the runway. The ears split; the ground shook; the air reeked of burnt jet fuel; the grins spread; and the testosterone spiked.
What made it really great was the pride and professionalism that we saw everywhere. Participants from seven countries and observers from several more worked together to get the mission accomplished. It's this kind of training and cooperation that leads to success in combat. And it's the Canadian role in bringing it all together that made us most proud of what we saw. Young and not-so-young men and women are still giving it everything they've got, despite all of the shortfalls that they are forced to deal with.
It's too bad that more Canadians can't see first hand the quality and dedication of our men and women in uniform. Maybe they'd understand what a great resource we have and how important it is to nurture it back to full health.
Tonight, I attended the annual dinner of Merit Contractors Association, an organization committed to supporting the right of employers and employees to promote free enterprise. They have many programs in branches across Canada, all intended to promote best practices in the trades, effective training and apprenticeship programs, and labour harmony in the contracting business. They are very successful and, in the past year alone, excused $1.28 million in apprenticeship fees and put 1,850 people through apprenticeship programs. That's just in Alberta. The awards and speeches by apprentices and their companies showed that business and industry can thrive in the open shop environment. It is the Alberta Advantage at work for Albertans.
One of the participants in the evening was from Alberta's Promise, an organization whose mission is to inspire and encourage businesses, agencies, communities and individuals to adopt the Alberta's Promise commitment to children. They celebrate successes and recognize accomplishments to motivate all Albertans to participate in making Alberta a better place for children to live, learn and grow. Their promise is to be partners with their neighbors, heroes to their children and champions of their childrens' futures.
They have many partners, like Merit Contractors, and the more time that I spend at many different such events, the more I realize that everyone is partnering with everyone else. Life is one big partnership and, if we could spread that attitude to more areas, like, um, say, politics, the better off we'd all be.
The last two days have reminded me why I'm still proud to be a Canadian and an Albertan. Sometimes, ya just gotta do that.