By GRAHAM HICKS
We live in disturbing times.
Deep sociological rifts and fractures head out every which way in our city – differences over climate change, educational philosophy, equality, progressive versus pragmatic opinions, debt management.
At the same time, there’s growing intolerance of dissenting opinion, no matter how well-informed.
Forgiveness and redemption, fundamental moral principles of all the great world religions, have been forgotten.
Ten years ago, Don Cherry would have been reprimanded for his stupid remarks about immigrants not wearing poppies. But given the man’s life-long support of good causes and his reputation as a proud, well-meaning Canadian, he might have been conditionally forgiven, “go forth and sin no more”.
But not in today’s world. One strike and you’re out.
A University of Alberta VP was (in effect) fired for approving a billboard that stated an obvious outcome of climate change – that warmer summers on the prairie would mean better barley yields, less water use and feeding more cattle. Her firing was a shot across freedom’s bow.
The same university administration then justified its inaction over the views of Holodomor denier and sessional lecturer Dougal MacDonald, arguing his views were expressed outside the university classroom and his contract must be honoured.
Hmmm … painting a realistic upside of climate change for Alberta leads to a snap dismissal, but denying the cause of one of the 20th century’s greatest crimes – the deliberate starvation of some 10 million Ukrainians – is not enough to terminate an academic contract?
Alberta “progressives” seem to either ignore, or pooh pooh, the radical notion that Alberta’s forward-thinking oil and gas industry is a solution to, not a cause of, global warming.
That our natural gas, exported to Asia, can replace coal in thousands of power plants, dropping emissions by two-thirds. That Canadian oil and gas technology, already dramatically lowering domestic emissions, can reduce carbon emissions the world over.
Instead of being evangelists for the Alberta solution, Edmonton’s city council declares an environmental “emergency” and buys all-electric buses at $1.2 million a pop rather than natural gas-fueled buses for a fraction of the cost.
In the name of “sustainability”, city council is considering a vast industrial solar panel installation in the middle of our verdant, oxygen-emitting, CO2-absorbing river valley park. This is environmental stewardship?
In this disturbing world, leadership has become a dangerous game. She or he who speaks their minds, who are bold and willing to defend noble ideas that are not in fashion, are in great danger of losing their heads. One strike and you’re out.
Going back to academia, all four of our major educational institutions – the University of Alberta, MacEwan University, NAIT and Norquest College – are currently leaderless.
U of A President David Turpin is leaving the university after one term instead of the usual two. MacEwan President Deborah Saucier exited after just two years. Low-key Glenn Feltham has retired after eight years at NAIT.
The only one of this bunch showing visible pan-community leadership was Jodi Abbott at Norquest College, stepping down after 10 years.
Perhaps it’s just too difficult today to exercise effective leadership, for fear of crucifixion by the social media mob.
Whatever the reason, the current crop of outgoing educational leaders – with the notable exception of Abbott – do not hold a candle to dynamic school presidents of the past.
Sam Shaw (NAIT), Paul Byrne (MacEwan) and Wayne Shillington (Norquest) all took turns chairing the annual Edmonton United Way campaign. They were ambassadors for their institutions, made sure their schools whole-heartedly interfaced with the community. VP Martha Piper did the same thing many years ago at the U of A. She has never been replaced.
Until recently, I have accepted the “it was ever thus” argument: That every generation, especially the baby-boomers as we age, shakes its collective head at the antics of its offspring.
Today, I’m not so sure. Never before have I seen a younger generation, especially in Alberta, willingly sacrificing its future in the name of an extreme approach to climate change.
Never before have I seen such wanton disregard for the piling up of debt – and the ferocious blowback when a government takes baby steps towards living within our means.
Never before have I seen such arrogance of progressive belief coupled with the sledgehammer of social media commentary – we are right, you are wrong, and you are bad for not believing like us.
It’s a weird time. May it soon pass.