Edmonton Notes for 7/12/2015

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Metro Line LRT
The Metro Line still isn’t open

Upcoming Events

Edmonton International Street Performers Festival
Edmonton International Street Performers Festival, photo by IQRemix

NorQuest’s downtown expansion rises

Two more cranes joined the downtown skyline recently as construction on NorQuest’s new Singhmar Centre for Learning heats up. The new facility will be located immediately north of the current NorQuest campus along 103 Avenue between 107 Street and 108 Street (Capital Boulevard). It’s the first major project for NorQuest in roughly 50 years, and when it opens in 2017 it will bring enrollment in the college to over 12,500 students with the goal of doubling the current student population to 20,000 by 2025.

NorQuest Construction

The Province is contributing $170 million to the project, with another $15 million coming through NorQuest’s Maximizing Opportunities campaign. That campaign received a major boost in November when Dr. Prem Singhmar and Dr. Saroj Singhmar contributed $2.5 million to the project, which is where the name came from.

NorQuest Construction

The details are subject to change of course, but current plans would see 24 classrooms, 24 labs, and 3 “flex” classrooms built in the new facility. It would become the college’s main academic building and will serve students studying in a variety of subjects, everything from health care to English as a second language. The Singhmar Centre will also feature a daycare, a new library, food services, and plenty of meeting and activity space. Underground you’ll find parking for about 100 vehicles and 75 bicycles.

NorQuest Singhmar Centre for Learning

The existing main building isn’t going anywhere but will be receiving significant renovations, slated to be complete in 2018. The smaller Health Education Centre building on the corner of 102 Avenue and 107 Street will be demolished at some point after the expansion opens. When the entire project is done, it’ll offer not only important new learning space for NorQuest students, but also plenty of publicly accessible green space too. It’s great to see another giant downtown parking lot disappear!

Expectations for a modern college

The existing downtown campus opened in 1971, when both educators and students had very different expectations than they do today. The new campus should help NorQuest to keep up-to-speed with the changing technology requirements (and knowledge) of its students and staff.

NorQuest Singhmar Centre for Learning

About 89% of students have a smartphone, 52% use a tablet, and 95% have access to high speed Internet, and those numbers are only going up. Lots of students choose NorQuest in order to prepare for their careers, which these days always involves technology. I’m looking forward to learning more about what technology features the building will have.

A diverse student population

Based on the 2013-2014 academic year, about 75% of NorQuest students are from the Edmonton region, but 60% were born outside of Canada, representing around 90 countries. There are nearly 70 languages spoken on the NorQuest campus!

NorQuest Singhmar Centre for Learning

Approximately 11% of NorQuest’s student population are Aboriginal (First Nations, Metis, or Inuit ancestry). That’s one of the reasons why the college is so excited about the Aboriginal ceremonial room that the new campus will feature. The centrally-located and inviting room will be overseen by one of NorQuest’s elders-in-residence.

As Edmonton’s Aboriginal population continues to grow, NorQuest is looking forward to contributing to the success of that community. They recently launched a two-year pilot project in conjunction with Bow Valley College to help more than 600 Aboriginal people train for careers in the construction industry.

Connected to the LRT

With the Valley Line LRT slated to run right up 107 Street beside the campus with a stop just south of 104 Avenue, NorQuest will become connected by train to MacEwan, NAIT, and the University of Alberta.

As mentioned, NorQuest’s student population is very diverse. With a large number of newcomers, who NorQuest says typically rely on transit, being so close to the LRT will be key for remaining competitive in the future. In fact, 69% of NorQuest students cited “location” as an important factor in their decision making, and having the LRT there will make the decision that much easier.

A window into the construction

I believe the Singhmar Centre for Learning is one of the first downtown construction projects to feature the “E” window that was unveiled back in May. As you walk around the construction site under the scaffolding, you’ll find a series of E-shaped windows that let you peek into the construction activity happening on-site.

NorQuest Construction

You can follow along as construction of the Singhmar Centre for Learning progresses at the microsite. They’ve got a blog and are also on Twitter as @nqexpansion. As is the trend these days, NorQuest is working to create a timelapse of the construction so you can revisit the transformation once it is all done.

NorQuest is also celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015 “with a year-long series of events and activities.”

UPDATE: Corrected to clarify that the Health Education Centre building will not remain as originally stated and will in fact be demolished.
UPDATE2: NorQuest has updated their microsite to say that the Province is providing $170 million, not $154 million as originally stated. I have updated the post accordingly.

Frustration abounds and public support for future LRT projects in Edmonton is at risk

It has been made abundantly clear that LRT is a key priority for this Council. They reiterated that point again during Tuesday’s update on the delayed Metro Line LRT (the extension to NAIT) and they made it clear to Administration that they’re not happy about the delays, nor about being kept in the dark on progress. “This has been an embarrassment,” Councillor Esslinger complained. “It’s embarrassing to say the least,” added Councillor Sohi. Earlier this week, Councillor Nickel called it “a boondoggle” and Councillor Oshry described the project as “a s**t-show”.

Metro Line LRT

The Metro Line was supposed to open most recently on Sunday, July 5. That follows failed attempts to open on June 7, and May 31, both of which follow countless previous delays. “We are still not in a position to announce an opening date,” Transportation GM Dorian Wandzura told Council when pressed yesterday. The reason? According to the City, there are still issues with the signalling system and Thales is to blame.

Thales claims they’re not the hold up and feel that trains could be operating along the line. They’re still here working on the line, but say that further work consists only of “additional functionality that was not needed for initial revenue service.” We still don’t know why the City and Thales appear to be on such different wavelengths, but there’s speculation that this is all just posturing for a coming legal battle between the two.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, on Monday the Journal revealed that it had acquired a leaked report from 2013 that outlined a number of construction issues plaguing the Metro Line. The report prompted speculation that perhaps there was more to the delayed opening than the signalling system issues the City has consistently cited. Council hammered away at this report during Tuesday’s meeting, and it was clear they were caught off-guard and had not been kept apprised of the situation in previous private updates.

It turns out the leaked report is just one of 80 total reports commissioned by the City on the project. Of the dozen issues identified in that report, nine have been closed and four are live issues that are still outstanding. There’s no word on how many deficiencies were reported and are outstanding from the other 79 reports.

“There are always deficiencies,” Wandzura said. “It’s a normal process that some of those issues are not resolved on opening day, they are dealt with in the warranty period.” Trying to provide context, City Manager Simon Farbrother explained that “every single construction project going on in this city has deficiencies, and that’s normal.” Wandzura added, “if you had a construction project with zero deficiencies, I’d be very concerned.” He reiterated a couple of times that the issues identified in the leaked report “have been or are in the process of being resolved” and that they did not contribute to the delay in opening the line. The City still feels that Thales is to blame for that.

Despite all of this bad news, Brad Smid, project manager for the line, told the Journal that he thought “the project has gone very well.” Yes, he really said that.

Is the City really being made whole?

I get the point that there are always deficiencies. In my world, if you shipped a software product and didn’t find any bugs, that’d be a clear sign that your testing processes are broken. There are always bugs. Still, attempting to reassure Council and the public by explaining that every one of our multi-million dollar projects has problems may not have been the best strategy. It’s clear that not all deficiencies are created equal, but the ones identified in leaked report were discussed as if they were all critical.

“Our objective is to get what we pay for,” said Wandzura during Tuesday’s meeting, adding that the City takes actions “to make the City whole” when deficiencies are found. This could be accomplished by some sort of remediation, financial compensation, or in the worst case, litigation.

Councillor Caterina in particular hammered away at this, suggesting that the City has accepted lower quality work because of mistakes made by the contractors. Pipe that was a smaller gauge than originally specified may have been accepted in exchange for some form of financial compensation, for instance.

The problem with that is any financial amount rendered today is likely far less than what it’ll cost if any work needs to be done in the future. I can envision the news now at a future Council update. There will be some sort of project that a future Council wants to implement, maybe running new cable to take advantage of some future technology, and they’ll be shocked when the price tag comes in significantly higher than expected because this pipe needs to be replaced with the appropriate gauge.

DSC_0803
Photo by Bill Burris

On the signalling contract, the City is holding back some of the payment until the work is done. The contract with Thales states the City can hold back 40%, which is about $19.8 million. Currently 49% of the contract has been paid. Responding to comments from Council that the amount is small to a big company, Farbrother said that “perhaps it’s not seen as punitive, but they are in the press every day” taking heat for the delay.

What these approaches don’t take into account is the wider impact of deficiencies and delays. What about all of the students and staff at NAIT who still can’t take the train? What about the numerous pedestrian and vehicular closures and detours that have added time to commutes and caused endless frustrations? What about the shattered confidence of the public in a year where we’ve had delays with nearly every major public project?

There’s too much in-camera & too little communication

City Council was scheduled to get an in-private update on the Metro Line yesterday. Thankfully, Mayor Iveson requested that the item be discussed in public instead. He wrote:

“Frankly, hearing yet another discussion of yet another private report does nothing to give the public confidence that this city council is getting information and in turn the public is getting information that we all need to determine what is going on with this project.”

“Too much of the discussion around this has been in private so I would like a public report and an opportunity for members of council to ask questions of Administration at least pertaining to these latest issues of deficiencies on the line, so there may be an airing of what is going on. At least any issues that can be clearly communicated to the public there is an opportunity to do that.”

While we didn’t come away with any major revelations during the update (aside from perhaps the number of reports commissioned on the construction) I think it’s critical that the discussion took place in public. Council did have a private update with Administration later in the day, but there’s no reason that everything needs to be done behind closed doors.

For one thing, Council desperately needs to restore the public’s faith in this project and going in-camera is not going to accomplish that. “The trust is gone, let’s just be honest about it,” said Councillor Nickel. “We need to restore people’s confidence,” said Councillor Sohi.

Kingsway/Royal Alex Station
Photo by Kurt Bauschardt

Unfortunately, it seems as though Administration’s first instinct is to go in-camera. For instance, when discussing the report on deficiencies, they attempted a few times to delay the discussion to the private session. “I’m a little disappointed that everything keeps getting reverted back to, ‘this is the normal course of construction’,” said Councillor Caterina. “At what point do we do something different?” asked Councillor Oshry, to which Administration replied, “That’s a perfect thing to discuss in private.”

This desire to go in-camera is a symptom of a much larger communications problem facing the City. Council was caught off-guard by Monday’s leaked report and is eager to prevent that from happening again. “Going forward, we’re going to want to know everything about everything,” Councillor Caterina told Administration.

To bring the discussion yesterday to a close, Mayor Iveson put forward a motion to have Administration “develop and immediately implement a public communication plan” and to prepare a report that outlines “any significant deficiencies with this project.”

“I want to be able to tell the public with confidence” that these issues “have been fully digested,” the mayor said. “The instinct to stop giving dates – we have to move past that, and just report on a regular basis,” he added. “We need to be zealous in our transparency and communication on this project.”

There doesn’t appear to be enough accountability

One thing lacking from the discussion yesterday was any accountability on the part of the City. Councillor McKeen and his colleagues did suggest a few times that the City and Council are ultimately responsible for public projects like this, but Administration seemed content to blame contractors. The public is calling for heads to roll, at least on Twitter, but there’s no sign that that is going to happen.

I’m reminded of that overused cliche about the definition of insanity. The Metro Line has been delayed again and again since December 2013, and yet the same people are in charge using the same contractors. If the inputs don’t change, how can we expect the outcomes to?

Clearly building an LRT line is a major endeavour and integrating it with an existing one has proven to be even more challenging. But it’s hard to reconcile that with the fact that so many other cities have successfully (from an outsider’s point-of-view) built even more complicated transit projects. That may not be a popular perspective within the city because it’s like comparing apples and oranges, but that’s absolutely what the public is thinking.

We’re 18 months past the first delay, and we still don’t have an opening date. How much farther down the current path do we go? We’ve heard from the City that changing contractors now and starting over on the signalling would be too costly, but that is beginning to sound an awful lot like the sunk cost fallacy. Maybe it would make more sense in the long-run to cut our losses and start over. We may not be paying Thales anything more, but we’re also not getting any closer to the end of the project.

I don’t think its wise to fire someone just to have a scapegoat, but it would go a long way toward restoring the public’s confidence in the City if some accountability measures were taken.

What impact does all of this have on the Valley Line LRT?

Understandably, Council had some questions yesterday about the impact of all of this on the Valley Line LRT. Councillor Sohi asked what, if anything, has been learned that could be applied to that project. The response? The importance of communication. Administration cited the establishment of five Citizen Working Groups as proof that things are improving with each project.

At one point, Wandzura tried to explain to Council that different procurement models result in different outcomes. The suggestion was that because the Valley Line will be built using a P3 model, we should expect things to be different. Different, yes. Better? Not necessarily. There are big concerns with the P3 model and the only reason we’re even going down that route is because it was the only way to secure federal funding. The Valley Line could very well turn out to be worse.

On the other hand, maybe expectations have been lowered so much with the Metro Line that the City will be able to exceed them with construction of the Valley Line.

When will we have an opening date for the Metro Line LRT?

Mayor Iveson asked yesterday if there’s any chance the line would be open by the start of school in the fall, to which Wandzura said he believed it would. Farbrother added that they didn’t want to suggest a date which could cause communications and public opinion to deteriorate even further. So the fall is City’s best guess, but at this point there’s no reason to have any faith in that time frame.

MacEwan Station & Rogers Place

As Paula Simons wrote, the stations and line look finished, yet they “just sit there, ghostly and pristine.” Right next door construction on Rogers Place continues, apparently on-time and on-budget. “Like a desert mirage, the promise of the NAIT LRT is always just out of reach,” Paula wrote. It’s looking increasingly likely that the new area will open before the Metro Line does.

In a private follow-up late yesterday afternoon, Council voted to hold a special meeting on the Metro Line LRT on August 17. They also made a private motion that “will move things forward” but of course we don’t know what that is just yet. An auditor’s report on the project is expected to be discussed by Council on August 24. That’s the most appropriate time for a retrospective, Farbrother suggested.

So for now we wait, with more questions than answers, and still without an opening date.

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #162

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 - Edmonton
Interviewing the German women, photo by IQRemix

You can follow Edmonton media news on Twitter using the hashtag #yegmedia. For a great overview of the global media landscape, check out Mediagazer.

So, what have I missed? What’s new and interesting in the world of Edmonton media? Let me know!

You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here.

Edmonton Notes for 7/5/2015

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Connor McDavid
Connor McDavid, photo by Connor Mah

Upcoming Events

FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 - Edmonton
England won the bronze, photo by IQRemix

Coming up at City Council: July 6-10, 2015

Time for another Council update, this time for the week of July 6. There are a number of private reports slated for Tuesday’s meeting, including an update on the Metro Line LRT. Will it be delayed again, or will we finally get a date for the opening? Let’s hope it’s good news. Another private item is on the Communications Plan for LRT Funding.

Below you’ll find links to all the meetings and some highlighted items that I found interesting or otherwise wanted to make note of.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Meetings this week

You can always see the latest City Council meetings on ShareEdmonton.

Food Truck Alley on Whyte Avenue

Last summer, a so-called “food truck alley” was proposed for the lane beside Tutti Frutti on the north side of 82 Avenue just west of 104 Street. Well now it looks like it might actually happen.

Bylaws 17278, 17279, and 17280 will be considered at Monday’s public hearing. If approved, these bylaws would close the lane permanently, would amend the Strathcona ARP accordingly, and would rezone the area to allow for “public amenity and temporary commercial space that respects the heritage character of the surrounding buildings and area, while providing pedestrian connectivity between 82 Avenue NW and the rear, east-west lane.”

No permanent structures would be allowed, and the area would need to remain publicly accessible to pedestrians at all times, but allowable uses would include park space, carnivals, restaurants, and general retail stores.

I take that to mean that food trucks could be welcome!

District Energy in the Downtown

Interesting item on a so-called “district energy system” which is basically a more environmentally-friendly way to get hot water delivered to buildings within a specific area. The idea is to use biomass (like waste), solar, natural gas, or waste heat to provide hot water, which could be used as water or in the heating of spaces. Obviously this works better in denser areas.

Here’s the heart of the report:

“Administration has been working with EPCOR, ENMAX, FVB Energy and the Holmes Group since 2012 to develop a feasible scenario for a District Energy System in the Downtown. Initial scenarios for a District Energy System focused on The Quarters Downtown, and in 2012 construction began on a small scale District Energy System to serve the Boyle Renaissance Phases I and II. ENMAX is in the final stages of commissioning a cogeneration plant in the Boyle Renaissance Tower which will be ready to serve the 90 unit senior’s facility in 2015. This plant has the capability to generate heat and electricity for Renaissance Tower and heat for the YMCA Melcor Welcome Village. Electricity generated in excess of Renaissance Tower requirements goes back to the electrical grid for resale.”

The idea is that the City provides building connections, ENMAX owns and operates the thermal generation and would sell to customers directly, and EPCOR build, own, and maintain the distribution system. The proposed system is “estimated to result in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 17,080 tonnes per year in early phases and 63,000 tonnes per year at full build out.”

If Council gives the go-ahead, then Administration will prepare a business case for Executive Committee’s review in the fall. They’d also provide an update on the viability of a district energy system in Blatchford.

Valley Line LRT RFP Questions & Answers

I have found that Q&A documents are often the most enlightening of all City documents, so I was very interested to take a look at this one. There’s a total of 98 questions and answers in the document, so there’s a ton of useful information if you’re willing to read through it all.

There are a number of questions about public engagement, which the City often answers by saying that a number of Citizen Working Groups will be established. As of June 25, five Citizen Working Groups have been established based around different zones of the project. You can see the list of members here.

A few other highlights include:

  • The P3 contractor must accommodate special events, so festivals like the Edmonton Folk Music Festival will not be impacted. Access to both the Muttart Conservatory and Edmonton Ski Club will also be maintained.
  • “A relatively small amount of green space will be lost during construction,” but the City says “the vast majority” will be returned to parkland after construction is complete.
  • Apparently there are beavers living below the footbridge, and the City says that if they are still living there when construction begins, “the P3 contractor will be responsible for relocating them.”
  • There will be a wildlife underpass at Connors Road that will “help to maintain access for wildlife to and from Mill Creek Ravine.”

You can keep up-to-date on the Valley Line LRT here.

95 Avenue Bike Lane Removal

At the City Council meeting on June 23, 2015, Councillor Oshry moved that the bike lanes on 95 Avenue between 149 Street and 189 Street and on 189 Street between 87 Avenue and 95 Avenue, be removed. The motion on the floor was postponed to Tuesday’s meeting because Council ran out of time.

Since then, Councillor Walters has indicated he’d like to see the bike lanes on 40 Avenue and 106 Street removed also and he has a motion pending for Tuesday’s meeting. Commenting on the story, Councillor Oshry told the Journal that “Administration has a hard time admitting that (these bike lanes) are not working, that they’re a mistake.”

Mayor Iveson is against removing the bike lanes, suggesting that doing so would send the wrong signal to the public. Could be a close vote!

Committee recommendations

Here are some recommendations from Council’s committees that will be voted on this week worth highlighting:

  • That Administration prepare a policy for Council’s consideration to require vegetarian or vegan food for all catered City Council meetings “to support environmental sustainability.” This one comes from Youth Council, which has already adopted vegan-catered meals for its meetings, and says the meals have a significantly lower environmental impact than meals with meat. I’d rather see a requirement for local food, which I understand a working group convened by the City along with Northlands is investigating.
  • That Administration prepare a policy on traffic shortcutting that would include, among other things, “ways to address traffic shortcutting in a proactive manner.”
  • That $4.2 million in Cornerstones funding be approved for the construction of a seniors’ housing project called Sakaw Terrace and that the Sakaw surplus school site be sold for $100,000 for the project.

Other interesting items

Wrap-up

You can keep track of City Council on Twitter using the #yegcc hashtag, and you can listen to or watch any Council meeting live online. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.

UPDATE: Since I posted this a Special Executive Committee meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday. One of the key agenda items is an update on the Implementation Plan for The Way Ahead. Council will be discussing 23 “transformational initiatives” that are expected to help achieve a significant number of the strategic outcomes by the end of 2018.

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #161

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 - Edmonton
FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015, photo by IQRemix

You can follow Edmonton media news on Twitter using the hashtag #yegmedia. For a great overview of the global media landscape, check out Mediagazer.

So, what have I missed? What’s new and interesting in the world of Edmonton media? Let me know!

You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here.

Edmonton Notes for 6/28/2015

It was a hot weekend in Edmonton with temperatures above 30 degrees – how did you beat the heat? Or maybe you decided to make the most of it and spent it outdoors! We might have some rain to start the week but then we’re back to hot weather, so be sure to work and play safely, and never leave children or pets unattended in a vehicle. You can see the forecast here.

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Edmonton
Boating on the river

Upcoming Events

Canada Day Information

The fireworks are scheduled to start at 11pm in the river valley. You can’t watch them from Kinsmen Park, but some of the best locations include the Alberta Legislature grounds, Victoria Park, Ezio Faraone Park, and Government House Park. If you’re willing to pay, TELUS Field is offer $4 admission to the baseball game after the 8th inning.

Keep in mind there will be lots of road closures in place on Wednesday starting at around 9pm and continuing until at least 12:45am. There will be limited on-street parking with meter hooding and no stopping signs going into place early in the day. You can see the full list of road closures here. The City is encouraging everyone to walk, bike, or take transit.

Canada Day 2014

There are a few good viewing areas that will be accessible on foot only, including River Valley Road, Queen Elizabeth Park Road, and 109 Street between Saskatchewan Drive and the High Level Bridge. The High Level Bridge itself, as well as the Menzies LRT bridge, will both be closed.

As for transit, all regular bus routes will be operating on a Sunday schedule. The LRT will be running on a 10 minute frequency. For the fireworks though, certain routes will have increased service, including the 1, 5, 8, and 9.

If fireworks downtown aren’t your thing, you can see a full listing of Canada Day events here.

ETS Changes

Thanks to plenty of construction taking place downtown and preliminary work on the Valley Line LRT, permanent changes to 29 downtown bus routes took effect today:

“Most changes are minimal with bus stops only being moved a block or two. The biggest changes take place along 102 Avenue between 95 Street and 103 Street. No buses will be running along this corridor.”

This also affects drivers, as 102A Avenue has now been changed to accommodate two-way traffic. I often took the bus on 102 Avenue, so I’ll have to go see where all of my stops have moved to. Be sure to give yourself a bit of extra time.

Bus Stop Closed
Bus stops along 102 Avenue downtown are closed permanently

Downtown routes weren’t the only ones affected this weekend as ETS also made its summer service changes. These changes are in effect until the end of August and largely consist of the removal of school service and reducing the number of buses used for morning and afternoon peak times. Six routes – 46, 165, 167, 186, 187, and 188 – have been cancelled for the summer.

EndPoverty Edmonton recognizes volunteers and moves closer to finalizing its strategy

When I last wrote about EndPoverty Edmonton, the task force had formed a series of working groups tasked with generating recommendations that would form the basis of a strategy to end poverty in Edmonton. Now five months later, after countless hours of hard work from hundreds of volunteers, the strategy is inching toward completion.

EndPoverty Edmonton is a task force chaired by Mayor Don Iveson and Bishop Jane Alexander and is composed of 18 leaders and stakeholders representing a broad array of communities. The vision is to eliminate poverty in Edmonton within a generation (roughly 30 years according to the OECD definition) and the task force’s mandate is to develop a long-term plan to achieve that vision.

Volunteer Appreciation

Last week, Mayor Iveson and the City staff working on the project hosted a volunteer appreciation event. “It’s so encouraging to see how many people stepped forward to help,” Mayor Iveson said. “Thanks for caring and wanting to make a difference for your fellow citizens.”

Over 200 volunteers contributed to 7 working groups, 2 round tables, and a few other subcommittees of the task force. Most groups met at least once a month from September 2014 through March 2015, and sometimes they met much more frequently than that. Countless hours were put in to help develop the recommendations required to construct the strategy.

The mayor acknowledged that although the structure and timescale that was imposed was difficult, it was important to maintain momentum, and seemed happy that that had been more or less achieved. He admitted that he’s not sure what EndPoverty Edmonton will look like after the strategy is finalized, but said that multiple options and models are being considered.

The goal now is to build a movement and the challenge is to figure out how to sustain it for a generation. “We have mugs now so we’re an official thing!” he joked. Everyone got to take one home at the end of the night. They won’t make a movement, but they can help to spark the conversation, we were told.

EndPoverty Edmonton

Toward the end of his remarks, Mayor Iveson talked about the TRC recommendations and The Walrus Talks Aboriginal City event from a couple months ago. He shared some thoughts on treaties, on what the Cree word for poverty means (it doesn’t talk about money), and on Canada being “an unfinished country” before joking that he didn’t mean to deliver his nation building speech. I thought the question he posed was entirely appropriate though: “What would it look like if we set out to build a city that lives and breathes the treaty spirit?”

The parting message to volunteers was to stay involved, as ambassadors if nothing else.

Recommendations

The working groups and round tables generated approximately 80 recommendations with over 400 actions. These were presented to the task force in March, and over the last few months they narrowed the list to 59 recommendations by combining similar ones and reworking others. To give you a sense of what the recommendations look like, here are a few selected at random:

  • Establish an Aboriginal Culture and Wellness Center
  • The City of Edmonton should ensure the design of transportation modes and access for citizens from all walks of life to basic services within inclusive Edmonton neighbourhoods
  • Improve income security as a pivotal factor for achieving good health and wellness
  • Improve timely access to a range of preventative-oriented mental health and wellness services
  • Grow entrepreneurship initiatives to build sustainable livelihoods and assets
  • Spearhead a “Make Something Inclusive Edmonton” movement of public space that create opportunities to inspire caring relationships, mutual sharing and learning among community members

Earlier this month, the number of recommendations was further reduced at a two-day facilitated event for task force members. They established criteria, priorities, and categorizations for the recommendations to help narrow the list down to just the most critical ones. For criteria, they considered:

  • Upstream/prevention
  • Impact on vulnerable populations
  • Foundational/sustainable change
  • Ripple effect
  • Achievable

As for priorities, they decided upon two types: “must do” and “why not?” They further categorized these as recommendations that fall within the mandate of the City of Edmonton, recommendations that the City will lead along with other stakeholders, and recommendations that belong with the broader movement.

In the end, 26 priority recommendations were identified and they are expected to go into the strategy that Council will consider in the fall. Half of these are considered “must do” while the other half are “why nots”. The list could still change in the end, but it feels like the task force is very close to finalizing it.

At the volunteer appreciation event, Mayor Iveson made a point of reassuring everyone that “the detail is not lost” and that the broader list of recommendations and actions has simply been parked for now and will become critical again as we get into implementation. He noted the importance of ensuring the work would “resonate with and have an impact on some key audiences” like policy makers and politicians.

Public Support

When Mayor Iveson first talked of elevating poverty elimination to a task force with the weight of the mayor’s office behind it, he wasn’t sure how the idea would be received. “It’s a bold goal, but we are not afraid to take it on,” he said publicly, but privately he was uncertain about announcing the task force in front of 2200 business and community leaders.

State of the City Address 2015

Of course he charged ahead, and the room expressed its strong support for the initiative. And in April, further support was identified through a benchmark survey on Edmontonians’ awareness and attitudes towards poverty. That survey found that “Edmontonians consider poverty as a significant problem in Edmonton” and that most “would like to know more about how they can contribute towards eliminating poverty.”

Though the feeling that poverty is inevitable lingers, the survey found that the majority of Edmontonians believe that poverty can be eliminated or drastically reduced. There’s also strong recognition that there’s more to poverty than just money.

Count yourself in

The biggest challenge will be turning the work of EndPoverty Edmonton into a movement that can last for a generation. In recent weeks the City along with its partners has developed some marketing material to help build toward this goal.

“Fighting poverty and social exclusion is a collective responsibility. Everyone can play a role. We encourage you to raise your voice. Join the dialogue. Show your support. Rally for change.”

A big element of this was the launch of the new website and the increase in activity on social media. Both are continuing to develop and will gain new improvements in the months ahead, but already I’ve found the Twitter account a great source of information and resources related to poverty elimination.

EndPoverty Edmonton

You can share your ideas on the website, and stay tuned for additional opportunities coming up such as a series of community conversations over the winter.

What’s next?

A two-phase approach has been adopted to take this work forward. The first phase is the approval of the strategy, which is slated to go to City Council’s Community Services Committee on September 14, followed by a full City Council meeting on September 22. The second phase would be the adopt of the implementation plan, which is expected to be complete around April 2016. In between, a series of community conversations are being planned to give Edmontonians an opportunity to learn about the plan and about what they can do to help implement it.

endpoverty edmonton

You can follow @EndPovertyYEG on Twitter, on Facebook, and you can check out the new website at endpovertyedmonton.ca.

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #160

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:


* Here’s a Philadelphia-based journalist on Edmonton: “I had been reasonably convinced by my friends north of the parallel that Edmonton was boring,” referring to the Canadian journalists he follows on Twitter. So what did he think after actually visiting? “I would glady argue that Edmonton is not boring.”
* There are lots of American journalists in town at the moment because of the US game against Columbia which took place this evening. Apparently there’s a lot more interest in the team south of the border this time around.
* Karen’s latest roundup of local blog posts was filed from New York City, where she is learning how to be an entrepreneurial journalist.
* As Karen noted, Sunil Agnihotri of The SuperFan is joining The Copper and Blue. He’ll be posting there semi-regularly, while still maintaining his current efforts at The SuperFan.
* Congratulations to Erin Isfeld on ten years with CTV Edmonton!
* The latest edition of Postscript talks about covering the FIFA Women’s World Cup here in Edmonton.
* Here’s a pretty interesting feature on Shaun Donnelly, a Sherwood Park-based TV producer who might also be Edmonton’s elusive porn producer.
* I linked to Zoe Todd’s manifesto for the Edmonton arts scene a couple weeks ago. I’ve only causally followed the response, but I did sense that some of it was pretty intense. Turns out it was pretty bad, and so she is leaving Edmonton sooner than planned. Always disappointing to lose valuable voices like Zoe’s.
* Former Global Edmonton anchor Lynda Steele is making another career move, this time from CTV Vancouver to the radio at CKNW. She makes the jump in September.
* Linda is back with another roundup of social media notes! She notes that YouTube has launched something called Newswire to verify eyewitness footage of breaking news.
* Google made another news-related announcement today: a new initiative called News Lab aims to provide resources for journalists. You can learn more in their blog post here.

You can follow Edmonton media news on Twitter using the hashtag #yegmedia. For a great overview of the global media landscape, check out Mediagazer.

So, what have I missed? What’s new and interesting in the world of Edmonton media? Let me know!

You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here.