Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Calgary Varsity MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans speaks to reporters outside her constituency office in Calgary following her decision to leave the Conservative caucus on Monday, March 17, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Graveland

Bill Graveland/The Canadian Press

A former Alberta MLA has been removed from the board of the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity by the provincial government.

Donna Kennedy-Glans was appointed by the United Conservative Party government in 2019, and last year was named vice-chair and chair of the governance and nominating committee. The Minister of Advanced Education rescinded her appointment last week at the request of Banff Centre’s leadership.

The Banff Centre is an internationally renowned arts incubator that also runs management training and Indigenous programs and hosts conferences. Founded in 1933 by the University of Alberta, it was designated a non-degree-granting educational institution in 1978 by the government of Alberta, its primary public-sector funder. The hospitality business helps fund the centre’s activities.

Story continues below advertisement

Ms. Kennedy-Glans, a lawyer and former Progressive Conservative MLA and associate minister who became an Independent, was officially asked to resign on Aug. 5 in an e-mail from board chair Adam Waterous. He cited a failure to adhere to the Banff Centre’s code of ethics and inappropriate conduct in Ms. Kennedy-Glans’s interactions with Banff Centre’s senior management. The e-mail did not give further details.

Ms. Kennedy-Glans declined, telling Mr. Waterous in a reply e-mail that she was “gobsmacked” by the “audacity” of the request. She also said there were internal issues the board needed to pay attention to, including problems with Banff Centre’s workplace culture.

She said the next e-mail she received, on Aug. 10, was from Demetrios Nicolaides, the advanced education minister, notifying her that her appointment had been rescinded. The Alberta government appointed Mike Mendelman, chief executive officer of Banff Hospitality Collective, which represents restaurants in the area, to replace her.

The seed for Ms. Kennedy-Glans’s removal goes back to a CBC Radio interview in May, in which she commented on the way Premier Jason Kenney had handled discord within the UCP caucus, in particular the expulsion of two MLAs.

(Ms. Kennedy-Glans ran for the leadership of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party before withdrawing her application prior to the creation of the UCP; Mr. Kenney was chosen leader.)

The day the interview aired, Ms. Kennedy-Glans said, Mr. Waterous telephoned her and told her she had violated Banff Centre’s code of ethics. That weekend, the executive committee met without her, according to Ms. Kennedy-Glans, and Mr. Waterous asked her to step down, and said if she did not want to do that, she could defend herself to the executive committee over Zoom, which she did. She did not resign.

She was asked again in the August e-mail.

Story continues below advertisement

She points out that her on-air comments had nothing to do with the Banff Centre, the arts or post-secondary education.

“If you’re going to ban freedom of speech so that anybody who ever sits on a board can never speak about anything, that kind of censorship is unfathomable,” she told The Globe.

She said she believes she actually was removed because she regularly stood up to Mr. Waterous and chief executive officer Janice Price during board discussions on a variety of issues. These included who was responsible for decisions in the governance structure – Ms. Kennedy-Glans said she advocated for more involvement from the full board – and how much feedback to request from the communities Banff Centre serves, including artists and Indigenous people.

“These opinions were only raised after Donna had been told that she had violated the code of ethics,” Mr. Waterous told The Globe in an e-mail when asked about this.

Ms. Kennedy-Glans is now calling for the CEO and the entire board to resign.

When asked for an interview, Mr. Nicolaides’ office referred The Globe to the Banff Centre.

Story continues below advertisement

In written responses attributed to a spokesperson, Banff Centre said Ms. Kennedy-Glans was asked to leave because of her continuing failure to adhere to Banff Centre’s code of ethics and that further details would not be offered.

Ms. Kennedy-Glans’s removal comes in the wake of another challenge faced by Banff Centre’s board and management: concerns within the arts community about the institution’s direction. More than 900 people signed an open letter issued last year that said the institution was drifting from its arts focus and devoting more resources to lucrative conferences and leadership development programs.

Now some former employees, patrons, artists and others are discussing with Ms. Kennedy-Glans the possibility of forming a grassroots group that would advocate for the centre and its arts mandate, says one of the people involved, JS Ryu.

“We have seen how an institution that solely focuses on the creative needs of artists can make a resounding impact,” says Mr. Ryu. He left his position as director of external and community relations at Banff Centre in 2017 and is now president and chief executive officer of the National accessArts Centre in Calgary.

Other people contacted by The Globe were reluctant to speak on the record, some because they signed a non-disclosure agreement when they were laid off after programs were cancelled because of the pandemic.

Mr. Ryu said he believes Ms. Kennedy-Glans’s removal and the fact that she is willing to speak publicly about it could encourage others to talk about their experiences. “I think the expulsion of Donna from the board opens up a whole new layer in this ongoing struggle in the arts community watching the Banff Centre from afar.”

Story continues below advertisement

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Donna Kennedy-Glans ran for UCP leadership.

Sign up for The Globe’s arts and lifestyle newsletters for more news, columns and advice in your inbox.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies