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It was also mentioned that this lack of investment may also be attributable to the “problem” of unionization. Companies were generally against ideas of establishment or permanence, “they simply wanted to profit and move on”. Companies also notably rejected the formalization of towns because it would strengthen the sense of “community” in the town — residents and workers, they feared, would demand more services, higher corporate taxes, better rights, all eating into profits and corporate flexibility.

Freedom features prominently in these stories of lower taxes and deregulation of the economy, the freedom of strong entrepreneurial individuals who transformed the wilderness into vibrant communities. Bringing back those individuals, now under the yoke of collective goals, for instance, would solve our problems. Similar to the previous paragraphs, we argue here that indeed, in some cases, after analysis, it might become apparent that the existing regulatory burden is a legacy of a different past, that incentives for private initiative are insufficient, and that deregulation this is the key to unlock development. Again, we would argue that this cannot be concluded before analysis, and that ideology should never replace analysis. Interestingly, the proponents of deregulation rely on a radical version of self-organization to make things work: if there are needs and possibilities, people will organize themselves, use opportunities, do it frugally, with minimal paperwork. However, complex societial structures do tend to quickly assert themselves in new frontiers, and the complex patterns of rules and roles, of evolving governance, which we described, also show up there. The need for structure is felt, to connect to the rest of society, and to turn resources into prosperous communities. Complete selforganization, and the idea of the state as a hostile outsider parasitic on that ideal, are therefore mythologies. However, we know that mythologies, especially those connected to ideology, can be powerful driving forces of action, and are therefore not to be dismissed. • In the mythology of Alberta, frontier figures like Peter Pond and Anthony Henday are still revered as rugged community builders. If they would live now, they would more likely be labeled as a murderer (Pond) and a smuggler (Henday). In the history of Fort MacMurray, Alberta, the myth of the self-organizing frontier is strong. It is easy to forget -and this speaks to the blinding power of the frontier myths- what actually happened in the early days and easy to forget that provincial and federal governments, as well as the expertise of the University of Alberta, played an outsized role in its development. Fort MacMurray has been a focus of national (and international) attention and networks since the late 19th century. These things are rarely mentioned now. •

Part V: Development approaches for inspiration and guidance

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Profile for University of Alberta Extension

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Boom and Bust: A Guide is the result of a collective effort at the University of Alberta to better understand the dramatic ups and downs whi...

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