Left wing, right wing, chicken wings: St. Albert meetup marks 5 years of pubs and politics

A popular St. Albert meetup is celebrating five years of spicy discussions with a side of chicken wings. 

After months of heated Twitter debates, a group of passionate political fans created the St. Albert Poliwings on July 22, 2014, in hopes of more civil, in-person debates.    

"It's really easy when you're behind a keyboard and a screen to jump to conclusions about the person that you're engaging with," said John Carle, who attended the first event five years ago and is now a regular.

"But when you're sitting across the table from each other, having a conversation, looking each other in the eye, there's an acceptance that people are allowed to have a different opinion that maybe isn't present when you do that on social media."

St. Albert Poliwings is an event series that is held roughly every month, but not a formal group with members. They were inspired by a similar group in Calgary.

On average, 10 to 15 people of all political stripes show up to the St. Albert Poliwings events where anything political is on the table.

Kevin Malinowski, founder of St. Albert Poliwings, said despite all of the varying opinions, there's only been one "real, heated debate" in the last five years where someone stormed off.

"It's really easy when you're behind a keyboard and a screen to jump to conclusions about the person that you're engaging with - John Carle, St. Albert Poliwings attendee

Most people, he said, reflect positively  on the debates that happen at Poliwings. 

"There are not a lot of complete change of minds but it does give people time to leave and think about it. People will go home and say 'OK, that makes sense,'" Malinowski told Edmonton AM on Monday.

The event series has grown to attract the attention of politicians. It is now a campaign stop for many municipal, provincial and federal politicians.  

Politicians such as MP for St. Albert-Edmonton Michael Cooper, MLA Marie Renaud and St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron have all attended a Poliwings event, said Malinowski.

"It's more politically active people who are coming to this so it's a good sounding board for [politicians] to get a feel of what's happening in the city and get their message out," he said.

Facebook/ St. Albert Poliwings

With an upcoming federal election, Poliwings regulars are planning a handful of special events full of healthy debates and of course, more chicken wings. 

Malinowski said he's proud of how popular the St. Albert Poliwings group has become and the healthy debates at the events.

"We listen to each other argue and we disagree but we can still sit down and have that beer. Had we just done this over Facebook and Twitter, I'm not too sure that would have happened."