Alberta’s Minister of Culture and Tourism says the rest of the province can learn from Jasper’s example of offering visitors culturally authentic experiences.
More specifically, Calgary MLA Ricardo Miranda said that Jasper is earning dividends for its efforts to create welcoming spaces via events such as the Jasper Pride Festival.
“It’s attracting tourism, building capacity on the ground and giving a cool example of Albertans and exactly who we are, because we have changed,” Miranda said.
The 40-year-old former flight attendant was sworn in to his position in February, 2016. When he did so, he became the first openly gay cabinet minister in the province’s history.
On December 7, Miranda visited Jasper to take questions from the Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce and to visit with local students. He brought his message of inclusiveness to Jasper’s francophone school, École Desrochers, and visited with members of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance. In October, the NDP government proposed a bill which would repeal legislation brought forward by the previous Conservative government. The changes would make it illegal for teachers at publicly funded schools to inform parents if their students joined GSAs. The issue has been a political flashpoint in Alberta.
Miranda told the Jasper students that as a youth, he experienced isolation and barriers as a result of his sexual orientation and his status as a refugee. He felt he and the students were on the same page when it came to GSAs in a learning environment.
“They felt it was important that students feel safe,” he said.
Miranda was also given a podium in front of local business owners. He heard concerns about Jasper’s labour force and the municipality’s ongoing quest for infrastructure support. He was quizzed on how the province could get culinary tourism cooking in Jasper; his answer: collaboration. He pointed to the the Alberta Small Brewers Association’s success in creating an Alberta brand alongside Alberta’s dining destinations.
“They go part and parcel,” he said. “It’s quite exciting and we’ve invested money in that.”
(Sidenote: The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge will host the first ever Jasper Beer and Barley Summit in February).
When Miranda makes visits to other, less-popular tourism destinations in the province, he uses Jasper as an example of a community which has taken ownership of its diversity and which is leveraging that strength to grow.
“When I go to other communities I’m always telling them how Jasper’s doing things, because I think it would be really cool to see that throughout the province.”