Former Progressive Conservative MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans says she’s “bewildered” after being removed by the province from the board of the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.
“I feel like, for a place that espouses the values of diversity of thinking and openness and creativity and testing new ideas, that this is the last place where something like this should happen,” Kennedy-Glans said. “It’s still incredulous that this is going on.”
Kennedy-Glans was appointed to the board in August 2019 and was asked in June 2020 to be the vice-chair and the chair of the governance and recruitment committee, a position she held until she was terminated last week.
The news of her removal was first reported by the Globe and Mail.
In a statement, a spokesperson with the Banff Centre said Kennedy-Glans’s appointment was rescinded by the provincial government at the request of senior leadership of the institution, who cited her “continuing and varied failures to adhere to Banff Centre’s code of ethics.”
Kennedy-Glans said the trouble at the institution started after she participated in an interview with the CBC Eyeopener in May, shortly after Alberta MLAs Todd Loewen and Drew Barnes were booted from the UCP caucus.
“I ripped up my UCP membership a long time ago, but I hope this party steps up. This is their responsibility to speak right now,” she said on the program.
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Kennedy-Glans said that interview generated a “incredible outburst” from the CEO of the Banff Centre and the board chair.
“I was admonished and really browbeaten for a conversation that had nothing to do with the Banff Centre, had nothing to do with post-secondary education, it had nothing to do with the arts,” she said.
“Frankly, it wasn’t that critical. So, I was bewildered.”
The next day, Kennedy-Glans said the chair called an executive committee meeting, though Kennedy-Glans said she did not receive an invitation. Afterward, she said she received a call asking her to step down from the board, but she refused.
After a summer of back-and-forth, Kennedy-Glans said a full board meeting was held at the end of July at which nothing “terribly out of the ordinary” occurred.
One morning in early August, Kennedy-Glans said she opened her laptop to see an email from the institution’s board chair, Adam Waterous.
In the email, Waterous said he was writing on behalf of the leadership of the Banff Centre to request her resignation due to Kennedy-Glans’s “continued failure to adhere to Banff Centre’s code of ethics and your inappropriate conduct in your interactions with Banff Centre’s senior management.”
Waterous went on to say that should she choose not to resign, the leadership would request that the provincial government rescind the appointment.
“I was just gobsmacked by it. It came right out of the blue. I had no idea what he was talking about,” Kennedy-Glans said. “Honestly, I know the code of ethics, and I know what my legal rights are. And I even went and asked some other lawyers for their opinion, because I wanted certainty.
“There is nothing I have done that is wrong. I have violated nothing.”
Kennedy-Glans refused Waterous’s request. That same week, the province sent an email informing Kennedy-Glans she had been removed.
Kennedy-Glans said she thought the CBC interview was a “perfect excuse” to remove her from her position.
“I think it’s easy to throw it to politics and say, ‘oh well, she spoke out against the government and she’s a liability,'” she said. “But what I think is really the issue is, I lobbied hard for us to hear from artists and Indigenous people and communities that this centre serves.”
Kennedy-Glans also claimed there was a tendency for decisions to be made “expeditiously” by the institution’s chair and CEO, adding she had questions about whether the centre was losing focus by shifting to a strategy of commercialization.
A spokesperson for the Banff Centre said that in light of the legal requirement for board confidentiality, it did not intend to share further details.
“It is regrettable that she has expressed her personal opinions in this way,” the spokesperson said. “These opinions were only raised after Donna had been told that she had violated the code of ethics.”
During her time as MLA, Kennedy-Glans served in cabinet under former Alberta premier Alison Redford. She resigned her post in 2014 after citing a culture of entitlement within the party.
CBC News has reached out to Waterous to request additional comment.