There’s nothing wrong with loving Alberta’s oil and gas industry. But Calgary photographer Ben Laird thinks there’s a lot of other things we should love, too.
Laird is behind a growing campaign for Albertans – and other Canadians – to show their appreciation for the arts, public education, Canadian film and TV and more. He’s launched an I Love sticker campaign that with his own designs where people can show their love for any of these areas.
“The last year or so there’s been this big movement, this big push for everybody – Canadians and Albertans – to embrace the oilsands,” Laird said, making specific mention of the I Love Oil and Gas campaign from advocacy group, Canada Action.
“That was fine for a while. But now all of a sudden, that we’ve got this government who is pushing so hard for the oilsands and so hard for the oil industry in general, that it’s ignoring everything else.”
When Laird once again saw the I Love Oil and Gas emblem emblazoned on the side of a large truck, he went straight home and began designing his own logos. Public education, LGBTQ, Alberta barley, Canada’s Indigenous people, even Alberta distilling are some of the designs Laird has created.
“I started with arts and culture, because I’ve got a theater background, and I love culture. And it’s something that, you know, perpetually gets ignored,” he said.
I Love sticker campaign gets positive feedback
So far, the feedback he’s received has been mostly positive. He admits he has a pretty progressive sphere of influence, with most friends being in the arts or education sectors. But he said some things, like the need for public education are universal. Laird’s worried that with the recent MacKinnon report that public education in Alberta could take a hit.
“I think anybody who’s got a kid in public school, or anybody who knows, a teacher, you know, everybody knows a friend who’s a teacher, or in their family,” Laird said.
“I think everybody in that position can understand why things like public education should matter to everybody. And public education should be something that’s available. And the funding for it should be unquestioned.”
Laird said he doesn’t want to minimize the efforts of the group behind I Love Oil and Gas. He said the industry has driven Alberta’s economy for years and likely will continue to do so for decades.
But, by paying attention to these other areas, Laird said that Alberta stands to benefit in the long term. That’s what he’s trying to highlight.
“We could have a major, major influx of cash. It doesn’t all have to come from oil, it can come from other places, too,” Laird said, noting the roughly 5:1 investment return in the arts industry.
The timing of his campaign, with an upcoming Alberta budget and a federal election, is coincidental, Laird said. He started the I love sticker designs before both were announced, though it was a given both were on the horizon. It was in response to some of the conversation that’s going on in Alberta.
Stickers are available
Fifty stickers in a handful of these areas are already available for those interested. Laird has launched a Kickstarter campaign called I Love…