Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner September 16, 2021
I would say that for most southern Ontarians, mention of Alberta evokes different reactions.
For the geographer, it is a mightily beautiful and spectacular land of mountain peaks and prairie. For the environmentalist, it is a stubborn outlier, bent on extracting oil and gas to sell, which pollutes our planet and raises our greenhouse gas emissions.
For the political watcher, it is ruled by the right-wing United Conservative Party (UCP) headed by the controversial, anti-Ottawa Premier Jason Kenney, so kin to Ontario’s own Doug Ford: both reactionary, anti-science, and unpredictable leaders.
So a foray into Alberta, even one which is family-oriented-after-pandemic in intent, is somewhat suspicious. But I, recently, after two years of family zoom calls, undertook it. No one analysis tells everything. Flying domestically was entirely businesslike. Every seat was filled for the three-hour flight; everyone masked, no friendly chatter, but food service and drinks as usual. At arrivals, I was told there are lots of deprived grandparents like me coming in to see family after two years.
Edmonton is a car-dependent city on both sides of the winding North Saskatchewan River. All roads seem to be under construction, as in Peterborough. It is the capital. One grandson lives downtown and plays Ultimate Frisbee on the lawn of the “Leg” (Legislature). Hence his teammates blame the provincial government for the uneven turf and sprained ankles.
Edmonton is in the midst of a municipal election (plus the federal contest). It's well-liked, outgoing mayor is Don Iveson.
Kenney and his Minister of Health Tyler Shandro have messed up the COVID-19 crisis. In Calgary, more conservative than Edmonton, surgeries are cancelled because ICU's are filled. Government has failed to issue mask mandates or other sensible measures.
One has to pause here and offer our own medical officer of health, Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, best wishes as she heads to Alberta to take on the job as Deputy Medical Officer of Health, assisting the embattled Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
One local wag wrote, “Hold on, Jann Arden, help is coming!”
Hinshaw has been criticized for not standing up to the premier. I sympathize that MOH's are not trained for this kind of political involvement. Salvaterra steps into a challenging position, righting that province and educating its leaders.
Ontario hasn’t been a star in this fight either. What is it about Conservative premiers? Do they let political pique against Liberal Ottawa guide their decisions?
Former premier Rachel Notley of the NDP is polling well. Edmonton is the progressive side of Alberta. The football team, the Eskimos, have renamed themselves the Elks. The city wards have new names, all Indigenous (Cree). For Settlers, that can be a tongue-twisting challenge.
There were many enjoyable experiences. Fort Edmonton Park is an expansive, well-set out Lang Village, with streets designed as they were in the decade they represent since 1840. You can stay there at the Selkirk Hotel.
A special feature was watching granddaughter Sarah, 15, hand-crank the kiddies carousel (half-hour at a time). All the riders were under three years of age.
Fort Edmonton Park this year boasts a marvelous Indigenous pavilion artistically designed. The walls are covered with native wisdom and poetry. Several ceremonies are recreated, and there is a gift shop with orange “Every Child Matters” masks.
In contrast, I was stung by Lululemon. How on earth do leggings cost $100? When I have promised two teenagers a $50 treat?
Family games night turned to be uproarious, with “Scattergories” and “Telestrations.”
The family has an ancient, three-legged dog they brought from Yellowknife, Charlie Brown. On Kijji, they got a dog stroller, which he balefully climbs into.
There is a Light Rail System. I was coached on how to use it. We ignored the West Edmonton Mall but enjoyed the huge University of Alberta with its famous yellow sports stadium, the Butterdome. Edmonton is a sporting centre - soccer has developed the amazing Alfonso Davies, and cycling has promoted Olympian Kelsey Mitchell. I’ll go back in a heartbeat, and I hope it gets better government.
"Gleanings" is Rosemary Ganley's new book. You can purchase directly from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or from >Amazon<