Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Tribute to Senator Joyce Fairbairn



On August 23 we first learned via twitter.com/GaltMuseum that Lethbridge Senator Joyce Fairbairn was diagnosed with Alzheimer's dementia and would be taking a leave of absence from her duties.

Our subsequent message on facebook.com/GaltMuseum received 25 likes in very short order. Then came this tribute from former Lethbridge Mayor Bob Tarleck, who gave us permission to share it, in which he describes how Senator Fairbairn was instrumental in creating an expanded community gathering place for the Galt Museum & Archives:

"In the flood of tributes to my good friend, Senator Joyce Fairbairn, there is one important contribution to southern Alberta that might have been overlooked. I am referring to her pivotal role in securing funding for the major expansion of the Galt Museum in Lethbridge, which was officially opened on May 6, 2006.

While everyone in southern Alberta is aware of Senator Fairbairn’s commitment to literacy and culture, not everyone is aware that without her passionate persistence the funding for this project would probably not have been put in place. This is the unlikely story.

When Senator Fairbairn learned that federal funding had been allocated for the performing arts centre in Medicine Hat, she immediately began a campaign to secure a funding commitment for the Galt Museum and Archives addition and renovation project in her home town.

In fairness to the federal bureaucrats, there was a reasonable explanation for the Medicine Hat project receiving priority over the Galt. Whereas the Medicine Hat project had received a prior funding guarantee from the Government of Alberta, the Galt project had received no such assurance. In fact, Lethbridge was subsequently advised that its request for cultural funding from the Province of Alberta was denied.

But if any officials in Ottawa thought Senator Fairbairn would allow the fine print in a federal policy to get in the way of a project she thought important to her community, they were dead wrong. Just how she accomplished this is a secret hidden in some dark corner of Parliament, but she did secure the funding commitment. With the federal part of the funding agreement in place, then Lethbridge East MLA Clint Dunford renewed his efforts to secure the needed provincial funding. That he was ultimately successful was in large part because Senator Fairbairn had already secured the federal funding commitment.

Given Senator Fairbairn’s long and distinguished record of service to southern Alberta and to Canada, it is not surprising some people have suggested there should be some permanent recognition for her. In my mind we already have it. It is called the Galt Museum and Archives."

Robert (Bob) Tarleck, Immediate Past Mayor, City of Lethbridge
August 28, 2012

TOP: 100 Anniversary celebration of Galt Hospital building, 2010. Visible L-R: Senator Joyce Fairbairn, Galt Museum & Archives Board of Directors Chair Chris Epplett, Mayor Bob Tarleck

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