COVID Signpost 100 Days: Spotlight on Alberta

Hosted by Robert Plitt, Executive Lead, Evergreen, CUI Regional Lead, Calgary, AB. Featuring Erin Chrusch, Senior Strategist, Office of the Mayor, City of Calgary, William Ghali, Vice-President, Research, University of Calgary, Nneka Otogbolu, Director of Communications and Equity Strategy, Edmonton Community Foundation, and Jason Ribeiro, Director of Strategy, Calgary Economic Development.

5 Key
Takeaways

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation

1. Intentional overreaction

Calgary was the first municipality in Canada to declare a state of emergency in response to COVID-19, days after the WHO declared the virus a pandemic. Its quick response and action were described by one panelist as an “intentional overreaction… we would rather have had people say ‘you did too much,’ than ‘you didn’t do enough.’” With hindsight, that response was correct and allowed for the city to swiftly start to implement changes.

2. Build Back Better

Alberta was already facing significant economic challenges when the pandemic was declared on March 11th. But there are also important local solutions to look to as we develop local recovery plans. For example, Calgary has been investing in becoming an innovation hub that serves as “a destination for the world’s best entrepreneurs who want to solve really heady global challenges, including cleaner energy, safe and secure food, the efficient movement of goods and people and better health solutions.” Local context, and local solutions, are paramount.

3. Connective Tissue

Across Canada, COVID has highlighted visible gaps within the social safety net. The panelists discussed the need to address these issues with a coordinated effort between government, businesses, and NGOs. For example, the Edmonton Community Foundation been working across sectors to connect vulnerable populations with funding and services. Different forms of connective tissue are critical, and will continue to be critical as we move through and beyond COVID.

4. The Issue of Compounding Problems

Calgary was recently hit by an unexpected hailstorm and flooding whilst continuing to combat COVID. The reality is that municipalities will need to continue to respond to other urban emergencies even as they continue to address the first wave of the pandemic and prepare for the likelihood for a second.

5. Importance of People Focused Leadership

One panelist stated, “This has really been a time that reveals the importance of committed leadership—human-centric leadership” and went on to recognize British Columbia’s Dr. Bonnie Henry as an example. The panel discussed how COVID can act as a “Great Reset” and opportunity to rewrite the social contract between government and residents.