Mishandling A Pandemic, The Economy & Politics: The Alberta Government's Culture Problem

Our GRW Project analyzes group culture data to determine the gaps between current and optimal group dynamics. We started doing some research on government response over the past year and the results ended up being a great case study in leadership, culture, and why taking decisive risks is extremely important.


DISCLAIMER: This article is not intended to show support, or oppose, any political party/individual. Only present an opinion on actions and reactions, using real world data.

On March 9th 2020, Dr.Deena Hinshaw said, "At this point it is likely we will be dealing with this virus worldwide for many months to come".


Now it is January 2021, and in the time since then there are some key aspects of leadership and culture that hurt health, politics, and the economy all at the same time.



Health

This isn't a health blog, and I'm not a doctor, but the health impacts of indecision are real. Initially, Alberta was demonstrating some solid numbers. Through April-May-June, as there was a temporary lockdown, and even a reopening that appeared to be successful.


Then July came, and on July 27th Dr.Hinshaw said the words, "The curve is no longer flat". From that day forward, decisions seemed to track against each other.

  • Mask mandates came out in Calgary to start August, but students went back to school to start September.

  • October 21st saw Alberta reach 400 daily cases for the first time, the 27th saw Dr.Hinshaw state that contact tracers couldn't keep up, and November saw restrictions that didn't seem to change anything.

  • Through December cases climbed fast, Jason Kenney disappeared for awhile, government officials ignored their own guidelines, ICU's reached capacity, and yet there was a lot of celebrating a vaccine.


Now, it's January, and a lot of people have gotten sick, died, and there's a good chance that more decisiveness at an earlier date would have changed that. BUT, hindsight is 20/20.



Politics

Through this pandemic we have seen leaders worldwide be extremely decisive, and aggressive in order to curb the virus. Leaders such as Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand (while assisted by island life) were aggressive with shutting down travel, implementing masks, and other guidelines. This has led to them, at the time of writing this, having ZERO cases of the virus in their country.


Donald Trump, on the other hand, really focused on keeping his base satisfied while allowing cases to spiral out of control and many unnecessary deaths to occur. He didn't do anything to stop the pandemic from affecting but, as we saw recently, his base is more supportive than ever. They came out and voted like never before, they are passionate, and they believe in the person leading them with a lot of vigor.


When we look at the province of Alberta, we see what happens when leadership tries to play both sides. Cases increase, the healthcare system is strained, the economy is hurt by extended (and multiple) closures, all while the base of the party in power is decreasing their support for the party.




Economy

The perceived rebound that occurred in the Summer is now drastically slowed. Oil is starting to rebound somewhat, but the overall investment in other businesses in the region has slowed and the economic contraction in Alberta is predicted to cause a real GDP average growth of about 3.7% per year. This, in comparison to the IMF's projected growth of 5.2% is likely a result of the same indecisiveness discussed previously.


In addition, Alberta's unemployment rate sits at 11.4% (7% in 2019, +4.4%) at the time of writing.



Some of this data could have changed depending on the time of reporting. However, it is clear that both the US approach (let people get sick and keep your base happy) and the Kiwi approach (stop the illness at all costs) produce better economic results than sitting on the fence.


What Does This Mean?

This article is meant to highlight the fact that there is a value to decisiveness and risk taking in leadership. Those that took decisive action, regardless of how "correct" it was perceived, performed better in at least two out of three of these categories.


Of the regions/politicians highlighted in this article, the only one that lost in terms of all three areas was Alberta:


Health: High cases, overwhelmed ICU's, etc.

Politics: Debased party with low loyalty and and opposition with better poll numbers.

Economy: Growth rates below the world average, and unemployment increases beyond every region compared with here.


THE MAIN LESSON: People say take risks and be decisive, but what we have seen here are the real world implications of not fostering that within a culture. The fact that officials either chose, or felt it was more safe, not to take risks is a serious culture and leadership problem that will impact lives (and probably their re-election chances) for years.


-KK

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