We’re back…


WHAT A DIFFERENCE four months makes.

Fair Deal Panel in Red Deer

And with the Fair Deal report due to land with a thump on Easter weekend, Donna’s work on the panel is done.

There’s a good chance the final report might be set aside given the clear & present danger. Regardless, it’s our view Albertans will have much more to say in the months and years ahead, given the triple whammy of the pandemic, the collapse of oil prices, and a nagging doubt about Alberta’s place in confederation.

Donna listens extremely well (says Don, who talks incessantly). And it’s our view the conversation that began with the Fair Deal Panel must continue given the extraordinary circumstances — economic, social, community health, security, contracts — unprecedented challenges for our province with little history to rely upon as a guide to the immediate future.

Donna was impressed by the forthright counsel offered by Albertans during the Fair Deal Panel’s road trip.  It doesn’t have to end with the report.


With most of us in self-isolation, being open to good ideas remains essential but the approach to listening & learning has to be tweaked.  Instead of hosting a town hall at a community centre, we invite you and your neighbours to post here — a BEYOND POLARITY virtual town hall — open 24/7 and as long as long needs to be.

If you have something on your mind — don’t be shy — give readers of this blog an opportunity to say know to your good idea. We’ll lightly edit your contribution and share it.


Here’s what we’ve been thinking: 

How do we care for seniors right now? Donna’s mother-in-law, Elise, lives in a Calgary facility where a case of COVID-19 has been reported. How do we stay connected to seniors living alone in their homes? In a lock-down care centre? And while there are great ideas circulating to ward off anxiety and depression, how do you keep in touch with seniors who aren’t digitally savvy or comfortable with a computer?

John Short, Edmonton

Radio is a big deal for many seniors. And Don, an experienced broadcaster, recommends as a mental health remedy, unique radio programming for the mature listener. Not blaring public service announcements telling them to stay inside, wash your hands and the rest of it, but a trusted ‘talk-radio’ host like Alberta broadcast legend John Short (known to just about every community sport association in the province) to speak to shut-in seniors on issues they care about and get their questions answered. We’re working on a plan to make this possible. Let us know if you are interested in helping.

How do we support front-line workers? Every action we take should leave front-line workers (healthcare providers, truck drivers, bus drivers, airline employees, grocery store workers, delivery drivers, and so forth) feeling like we have their backs; knowing that we’ll do whatever it takes to keep them safe. It’s not a time to fight with public service unions. And any distractions from a laser-focus on the pandemic should be knocked to the side—that includes ‘tone deaf’ attempts by Alberta’s Minister of Health  Tyler Shandro to negotiate salaries with the province’s doctors in the midst of a crisis.

What people want to hear is a forthright, honest, pragmatic message. Check out this short video from Calin Rovinescu, the President & CEO of Air Canada, no ambiguity here. The tourism & travel industry was virtually shut down overnight. Airline personnel have been at the front-lines in this pandemic. There’s no more ‘business as usual’, says Rovinescu, we’re creating a ‘new normal’ in real time.

These decisions are tough and people aren’t afraid of honesty. They just want to know what’s real and what’s fair.  There’s a smart way to announce layoffs, furloughs, unpaid ‘Declared Emergency Leave’, lower pay for everyone across the board. And there’s stupid.


In a pandemic, decisions must be made. And they won’t all be correct. To wait for absolute certainty — to hesitate — carries substantively more risk. This is not the time for plodding administration, it’s a call for decision-making on the fly. And when mistakes are made — there surely will be errors of judgement — the need to course-correct without acrimony is the smartest way to go.

It’s been two weeks since the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra felt it had little option than to idle its musicians and staff. But since then, the CPO walked back the layoff and decided to let everyone work 70% of regular hours until the symphony can start performing again. Harmony, in the longer term, matters. That’s leadership.

Meantime: Alberta’s Education Minister Adrana LaGrange on a Saturday afternoon made labour history. Over 20,000 temporary teachers, bus drivers, custodial staff and education assistants were cut from the education payroll setting off sparks across the province. Couldn’t some of these front-line workers in the K-12 education system been re-deployed, for instance, to support parents who must now home-school their children (and not as a matter of choice, we might add)? Minister LaGrange, surely you can do better. And if you can’t then who can?


The smartest leaders always pay attention to what’s on the periphery. The best leaders are also quick to shift gears and avert calamity when they’re wrong.

Our leaders need your help — your unvarnished solutions — how to score from behind the net. How to win when you’re behind on the scoreboard. We know they’re watching this space.

No reasonable idea should be off the table. We’ll see to it that they’re not. Please comment or click on this link to write into our virtual town hall.

This column is the consensus opinion of the writers Donna Kennedy-Glans & Don Hill. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to BEYOND POLARITY — scroll down on your phone or tablet (or look to the right in the panel beside this post). Enter your email to FOLLOW, a wheel spins, hamsters get fed.




2 thoughts on “We’re back…

  1. I really like the idea of using radio to reach out to Alberta’s seniors! CKUA Radio broadcasts throughout the province and offers a variety of programming. It might be worth exploring with them the idea of a special daily broadcast aimed at seniors featuring music and information targeting these folks. Ken Regan (recently retired) might be a great host.

  2. Thanks for this. These are challenging and even frightening days for any government, let alone one so dependent on oil royalties.

    However, some of the actions of the government, including those that you have highlighted, are beyond concerning as a citizen of this province. You used the phrase ‘tone-deaf’, but the government actions are more than that. The budget that was passed without real debate was totally unrealistic, and it was known at the time. The UCP are eroding the foundations of our health system, our education system, and our very democracy (Bill 10?). My communications to my MLA are not responded to except by the office constituency manager; arranged phone calls don’t happen. (I know they are busy; I was pleased that the manager got back to me). Tensions have risen on all fronts, as initial attempts to present logical arguments were met with non-responses, which in turn resulted in more heated rhetoric, more non-responses or deprecating/denigrating comments, and relationships spiraled out of control. At least one MLA hung up on a constituent. A minister of the government confronted a citizen on the citizen’s driveway! The premier is promoting business interests of friends and former colleagues. Flagrant conflicts of interest are seemingly brushed aside.

    I’m not seeing a government interested at all in the solutions that citizens propose to ‘score from behind the net’ unless they fit with the party ideology. Kenney’s comment from the lifetime of several weeks ago sums it up, “Well we DO have a majority”.

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