U of A campus & Livestream • November 17–19, 2023
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Conference Archive

Explore past conferences from Parkland Institute.

A Well-Being Economy for Alberta

This summer conference explored how Albertans’ health and well-being are fundamentally shaped by the conditions in which we are born, grow, live, work, and age, and how fairly those conditions are distributed and experienced. This includes the quality and integrity of our natural environments. 

Our current economic system does not support healthy people and a healthy planet. Neoliberal capitalism prioritises relentless growth and private profit to benefit the few to the detriment of the many. It does so in large part by driving policies that justify cuts to public services such as high-quality education, health care, and transit; and subsidies for activities that destroy our ecosystems upon which all life depends.  Inequalities in wealth and power are a feature of this system, not a bug; unequal health outcomes are a byproduct that in turn reproduces political, social, and financial disparities. 

We need an alternative. A well-being economy re-imagines the purpose of our economy and society to place quality of life for everyone and the sustainability of our planet at the centre. It invites us to expand our imaginations of what is possible. It brings together different sectors, disciplines, and perspectives to offer a bold, coherent vision for the type of society we wish to have. 

This virtual conference provided a forum for mobilization and implementation (‘nuts and bolts’) of a well-being economy. While focusing on Alberta’s unique context, we generated enthusiasm and practical models for imagining an economy that works for everyone – everywhere.

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Doing Democracy Better

November 18-20, 2022

Alberta is facing an election in the coming months that will shape our economic and political future. It comes at a time when volatile right-wing populism and anti-science sentiment, feeding on the fear and anger of people, are on the rise in many countries, including Canada. At the same time, the politics of austerity continue to erode public services and social supports, leading to even greater inequality and social unrest.

It is more important than ever that we ensure our democratic institutions remain both vibrant and resilient. We need a better, reinvigorated form of democracy: one that is rooted more firmly in equity and equality. Doing democracy better will require looking at complex problems in new ways and expanding our vision of what democracy can be.

We need to challenge the populist forces threatening to undermine democracy, and we need to ensure the widest possible diversity of voices is heard. Only then will we be able to offer better alternatives and a compelling vision of the future–one that strengthens democracy for all citizens.

Parkland Institute’s 26th annual fall conference did a deep dive into how right-wing populism, austerity, and science denial are impacting how we do democracy. We heard from academics, activists, and experts who are doing the work to reclaim it.

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Implementing a Just Transition

February 22-23, 2022

Countries around the world are transitioning their economies to reduce carbon emissions and slow the impact of the climate crisis. In Canada, the federal government is consulting on what should be included in its promised Just Transition Act. The science is clear — and Canadians know the need to transition to a cleaner economy is urgent.

To be successful, the transition must involve workers and communities who will be impacted. All levels of government need to engage with their citizens to ensure that environmental, social, and economic policies will support a more equitable future for all. Canadians need to be well-positioned to benefit from the opportunities that will arise as the world builds a low-carbon economy.

This virtual conference provided an opportunity to learn how other countries are implementing their just transition strategies and hear from community leaders, researchers, and advocates from Alberta and across Canada about the challenges and opportunities for various sectors on the vanguard of this transition. We welcomed all concerned Canadians who want to become engaged in the implementation of a just transition.

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Building the Future We Need

Hope Transformation and Action

November 19-21, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed and exacerbated many of the world's problems. Even as the COVID-19 crisis evolves, we must return our attention to those issues. We also face the challenges of tackling the climate crisis, addressing growing inequality and racism, and impending government austerity. But there is an urgent desire for transformation and action to address systemic issues and the ongoing legacy of racism and colonialism that sparked Black Lives Matter and the decolonization movement. We must seize this opportunity to transform the social and economic structures of Alberta and our world to build a more just, more sustainable society. “Building back better” is not enough. We can and must begin to build the kind of future we need. Parkland Institute 2021 annual conference explored how to build that future.

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After the Contagions

November 16-21, 2020

After the Contagions explored the complex environmental, medical, racial, economic, political and other contagions that challenge this moment - and, more importantly, what must be done to construct a future world that is more just, democratic and sustainable than the one being left behind.

Parkland Institute's 24th annual conference was online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thanks to our wonderful sponsors, the conference was free for current Parkland Institute supporters. Full conference registration for non-members was $50, and $20 for students and people on low-income. Individual keynote sessions were $15.

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Populism and Its Discontents

November 15-17, 2019

Authoritarian right-wing governments in many countries – Hungary, India, Italy, Poland, and Turkey, not to mention Donald Trump’s America – have claimed the banner of populism. Canada has not been immune to this global populist wave, as evidenced by the election of Doug Ford in Ontario and Jason Kenney in Alberta. Once the hallmark of Canada’s progressive left, populism today is the domain of a resurgent right, appealing to fear and anger, and proclaiming their defense of the common person against assorted elites.

What explains the recent success of right-wing parties in seizing the populist mantle away from the progressive left? Is right-wing populism actually a mask for authoritarian rule? Parkland Institute’s 23rd Annual Conference tried to answer the riddle of right-wing populism: what it is, how it emerged, where it might be leading, and the possibilities for the return of a progressive form of populism.

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Alberta 2019: Forces of Change

November 16-18, 2018

Parkland Institute’s 22nd Annual Conference – Alberta 2019: Forces of Change – took a deep dive into our history, economy, and social conflicts to better understand Alberta’s past, present, and future within Canada, North America, and the world.

In 2015, Alberta elected a New Democratic government for the first time. It was a stunning moment in Albertan – and Canadian – history. For some, it was a wrenching experience; for others, a moment of exhilaration, the results of which have continued to reverberate ever since. Four years on, we examined the forces at work that will determine Alberta’s and Canada’s future – forces of change and forces that resist change – and the means by which progress and resistance are themselves changing for 2019 and beyond.

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Collapse: Neoliberalism in Crisis

November 17-19, 2017

Parkland Institute’s 2017 annual conference examined the current state of neoliberalism, which has been the dominant economic, governmental, and societal ideology of our time.

The conference explored neoliberalism’s profound impact on people and the planet, and symptomatic responses to its current crisis, including the rise of extreme right-wing movements.

Seventy years after the Mont Pelerin Society launched the global neoliberal movement, is neoliberalism dead or merely morphing into something even more perilous? What do events such as Brexit, the ascendancy of Donald Trump, and the global (re)emergence of nationalist populism tell us about neoliberalism’s collapse? What are the progressive alternatives? And what does it mean for Alberta, Canada, and the world?

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Shifting Gears: Transitioning to the Future Economy

November 18-20, 2016

Parkland Institute's 20th annual conference explored the many transitions in the public services, economy, environment and the nature of work in Alberta, Canada, and the world.

The way we perceive and understand government, the economy, and society has changed dramatically over the last two decades, and with that change comes the need for us to challenge ourselves to consider public policy alternatives.

New governments in Alberta and Ottawa provide an opportunity for progressives to propose and promote alternatives in ways we have not been able to for some time. The conference will provide a space to discuss and formulate what those alternatives might look like in future.

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What's Left? Alberta and the Future of Canada

November 20-22, 2015

Parkland Institute's 2015 Annual Fall Conference explored the potential for progressive change offered by Alberta's dramatic spring 2015 election. After over 40 years of neoliberal policy construction in the province, has our concept of what it means to be progressive shifted? To what extent can truly progressive policy be implemented in the province? And, as Alberta changes, could the province lead federal conversations on progressive public policy in the country?

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People Vs. Profiteers: Demanding Justice and Equity

November 21-23, 2014

Parkland Institute's 18th Annual Fall Conference addressed questions of why, at a time of remarkably wealth production, the money seems to be skewing in very particular directions and away from many groups (full-time, part-time, casual workers; women and minorities; the abjectly poor and disabled outside altogether of labour markets, etc.) and towards a small minority; and what can and should be done about it.

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Facts, Fictions, and the Politics of Truth

November 22-24, 2013

The control, suppression, and manipulation of information are playing an increasingly important role in all aspects of our society. Are we seeing the death of evidence-based decision-making? Are governments and the media spinning existing information to bring us on-side with their neoliberal project? Is our personal information being used to manipulate what we believe and what we buy?

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Petro, Power, and Politics

November 23-25, 2012

What does it mean to live and work in a province so dependent on oil and gas? The 2012 Parkland Institute Fall Conference explores not only the economic issues surrounding oil and gas development, but also the social, cultural, and political consequences -- ultimately, questions of power and the kind of society Albertans and Canadians desire.

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Class Dismissed! Capital's War on Workers and Democracy

November 18-20, 2011

The 2011 Parkland Institute Fall Conference explored the attack on workers and unions seen in places like the United States and Britain, and looked at the warning signs that this anti-public sector worker wave is already on its way to Alberta and Canada. The conference also explored the accompanying attack on democracy and how capital is working to hinder real action to protect our common environment and explored hopeful examples of resistance from places like Wisconsin and North Africa, and how we in Alberta can learn from those experiences.

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Rewriting a Country: Toward a Just and Peaceful Canada

November 19-21, 2010

The 2010 Parkland Institute Fall Conference brought together a wide range voices from across the country -- including Margaret Atwood, Linda McQuaig, George Elliot Clarke, and Marci McDonald -- to explore Canada’s current direction as a country by assessing how conservative forces are moving us away from the values of justice, peace and democracy that we embraced as recently as 20 years ago, and envision how we can move toward the country Canadians want.

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Crisis and Opportunity: It's Time for a Progressive Economy

November 20-21, 2009

The 2009 Parkland Institute Fall Conference brought together academics, activists, and journalists who have been thinking and writing about what went wrong in the 2008 economic crash, and what kind of economy would be good for our society, our environment, and our world. Our world can't afford to keep going in the direction it has been, and these speakers talk about the world we want. The conference featured keynote speakers Jim Stanford and Judy Rebick.

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The Moral of the Story: Art, Culture, Media, and Politics

November 14-16, 2008

The 2008 Parkland Institute Fall Conference looked at the power of stories, myths, and metaphors in changing the way we think and asked why we talk about what we talk about in media, language, activist art, and politics.

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From Crisis to Hope: Building Just and Sustainable Communities

November 16-18, 2007

A conference about consuming less and valuing people more, covering: a post-carbon economy, transportation and interconnectedness, governance, spending our time differently, where we live, and what we eat.

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Power for the People: Determining Our Energy Future

November 17-19, 2006

Parkland Institute's 10th Annual Fall Conference focused on Alberta's oil industry, the boom, and our democracy. The conference, which featured keynote speaker John Ralston Saul, covered topics including global oil demand, energy regulation, political power, energy security, royalties, trade, the post-carbon economy, and investing in our future.

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The Alberta We Want In Canada and the World

November 18-20, 2005

A conference covering the path we are on with respect to water and natural resources, agriculture, and public services; and charting of new directions in sustainability, inclusive citizenship, and universal access to public services.

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Uncommon Dreams: Visions of the Public Good

November 18-21, 2004

Parkland Institute's 8th Annual Fall Conference focused on the public good and the concept of the commons. Speakers discussed how to restore and expand the idea of the commons and how to retrieve the great promise of democracy.

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Challenging Empire: Citizenship, Sovereignties, and Self-Determination

November 14-16, 2003

The 2003 conference was about a reasserted US Empire and its effects on popular sovereignties in Canada and around the world. Sovereignties, rather than sovereignty, was stressed because Canada is a a pluri-nation state, to borrow the term used in Ecuador. And there are questions of popular sovereignty for Indigenous people and Quebeckers as well as for Canada as a whole vis-à-vis the United States. The conference discussed a diversity of perspectives about the reasserted US Empire, its implications for many sectors in Canada and abroad and the best responses Canadians should make.

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Trading in Violence, Building for Peace: Challenging the Corporate State

November 15-17, 2002

George Bush's war on terrorism is not going to solve any of the world's problems, nor prevent further terrorist attacks. Democratic expression in the form of protest is facing an increasingly violent police force around the world and here at home. The US Empire's military policy is driven by global corporate interests, and these same interests are driving the pillage of the world for profit. This conference is about the future - not a future of violence, war and exploitation but a future of peace and global justice.

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Bringing it Home: Reclaiming Democracy

November 15-18, 2001

Held just two months after the events of September 11 in the United States, Parkland Institute's 5th Annual Fall Conference focused on questions of democracy. Democracy always suffers in conditions of war, or in periods in which governments declare there is a war and that you are either for us or against us. War talk spreads from the perceived enemy abroad to the "enemy from within." And the opponents of corporate globalization and proponents of greater citizens democracy may well be tarred with the same brush and the same blunt instruments, as terrorists. During atmospheres of crisis, that defenders of democracy must work doubly hard to defeat its enemies. And to extend the principles of democracy – equality and community decision making - to all aspects of our lives, economic, social and environmental.

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Building a Post-Corporate Society: A How-to Guide for Citizens

November 17-19, 2000

Held on the anniversary of the Canadian vote against the US-Canada Free Trade Agreement, and the weekend before the 2000 federal election, Parkland Institute's 4th Annual Fall Conference brought together academics and community activists to discuss how citizens can stem the tide of corporate globalization. 

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