Maureen Kubinec became Alberta's Minister of Culture and Tourism last September, and now faces the same daunting task as her cabinet colleagues: budgeting in times of deep restraint. Ms. Kubinec was born in Lacombe, raised in Three Hills (between Calgary and Red Deer and a bit east) and operates a family farm with her husband near Westlock, north of Edmonton. This week, she took time to speak with The Globe and Mail about (mostly) non-budget stuff – namely her own cultural life.
Was anything culturally formative in your life – a favourite book or movie or album, when you were growing up?
Well, I was always a reader and I still am; I love reading. But when I was in high school in Sylvan Lake, Alta., I had an art teacher who was amazing. And he got us doing sculpting and painting and all sorts of things that really did colour my life, so I'll be forever grateful to him for that.
You said you're a big reader. Is there a book you're reading right now?
I just finished Team of Rivals, the Abraham Lincoln story, and it's a very, very good book. One of the pieces that resonated for me was that when Abraham Lincoln was president during the Civil War and the awful, awful decisions that he had to make – like to send thousands and thousands of young men to battle – his source of comfort was to go to the theatre. And he went to the theatre on a very, very regular basis, sometimes nightly. And, actually, that's why everyone knew his movements to [Ford's] Theater, because he was such a frequent patron. But that's where he found solace and comfort, was going to theatre.
After a particularly tough day at the legislature, what would you do to decompress? Is there a piece of music you listen to? How would you cheer yourself up?
Music is definitely part of it, but reading is as well. I find that right now, I do a lot of work reading. But I always have a magazine beside my bed, and usually it's either National Geographic or Reader's Digest. Because particularly the Reader's Digest [has] short articles and I can do that. I enjoy that. [As for music], I like k.d. lang, and a lot of her work; her album [Hymns of] the 49th Parallel is one that I often go back to.
What was the last live performance you saw – not necessarily music, but anything?
It was The Magic Flute. We went to the opera and I took my 22-year-old niece; she'd never been before. And we both very much enjoyed it.
Alberta is dealing with some budgetary challenges, as you are well aware. What will that mean for the culture budget?
I think everybody in Alberta is going to feel the difference that takes place after the budget has been announced and implemented. But you know what? We have an amazingly resilient population of people who live in Alberta, and adversity is not necessarily always a bad thing.
I'm just going to give you a quick example: I'm a farmer; that's what I do for a living. And when we've had a tough year, it's not easy, but it's made us stronger.
And our children, I think, are better adults now because they've gone through periods of adversity.
So people who work in this industry are resilient and they are innovative and we'll all get through this and be stronger.
This interview has been edited and condensed.