Edmonton announces bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games

On Monday, the City of Edmonton announced it will bid to host the Commonwealth Games in 2022. Mayor Iveson had this to say about the news:

“Our city’s successful history as a great event host city started with the 1978 Commonwealth Games. Hosting the games in 2022 will demonstrate to the world how much Edmonton has evolved and reflect the Commonwealth Games Federation’s confidence in our city.”

As recently as a week ago, the Commonwealth Games Federation was concerned about a lack of interest in hosting future Games, potentially due to in-fighting and cost. No city had yet stepped forward, and cities that had previously expressed interest such as Singapore, Birmingham, and even London, all cancelled their plans. Then, at the last minute, Edmonton and Durban, South Africa, stepped forward.

Queen Elizabeth II 1978
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh attend the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton in 1978

When Edmonton hosted the Games in 1978, they were the biggest to date. Forty-six countries participated, sending 1,474 athletes to compete in 128 events across 10 sports. When the Games take place later this year in Glasgow, more than 70 countries are expected to participate, with more than 4,300 athletes competing in nearly 300 events across 17 sports.

Where did this come from?

The announcement seemed to come out of nowhere, but the possibility of Edmonton hosting the Games actually came up in February 2012, shortly after Commonwealth Games Canada decided to pursue another bid. Here’s what Mayor Mandel said at the time:

“I think 1978 (the last Edmonton Games) was a watershed moment for the city, and 2022, almost 45 years later, it would be a nice re-coming out party.”

“It’s a chance to showcase Edmonton. We have great facilities in the city, so I don’t think there would be a huge capital investment with these games other than some expansion. We would obviously have to do some upgrades.”

Big cities bid on major events to diversify their economies, attract tourists, build their reputations, and engage their citizens. Though many cling to a small-town mentality, Edmonton is a big city. Big cities bid on big events.

The 1978 Commonwealth Games were widely viewed as a coming out party for Edmonton, introducing us to the world stage. The City’s 2004 Annual Report reiterated this view:

“The Commonwealth Games [brought] unprecedented attention Edmonton, marking it as a city of international prestige and importance.”

It’s not like Edmonton has been standing still since 1978 either. We followed the Commonwealth Games up with the 1983 Universiade Games. We have hosted World Cup qualifying matches, World Figure Skating Championships, the 2005 World Masters Games, and much more. Perhaps biggest of all, we hosted the 2001 World Championships in Athletics.

The next few years will be especially busy. This year Edmonton is hosting seven games during the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada, and next year we’re hosting eleven games during the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada. Off the pitch, Edmonton is hosting the 2015 and 2016 Canadian Track and Field Championships, the latter of which will serve as the Canadian Olympic Track and Field Trials for athletes looking to compete in the Summer Olympics in Brazil. It’s going to be an exciting few years for sports in our city!

Would the federal government support the bid?

Edmonton’s bid to host EXPO 2017 was brought to a halt in 2010 after the Government of Canada withdrew its support, citing the unknown future costs of security. Mayor Mandel felt the real reason was a lack of support for our city, saying that “when it comes to Edmonton’s growth and ambition, our federal government simply isn’t interested.” He singled out MP Rona Ambrose for failing to build the necessary support in Ottawa for Edmonton’s bid.

Edmonton EXPO 2017 Launch

Do we need federal support for this bid? Financially, it seems unlikely a successful event could be staged without support from the Government of Canada, despite City Manager Simon Farbrother’s optimism that the City and Province could support it themselves. The reality is that hosting the Games is a $1 billion proposition, based on recent costs. Security concerns would also likely be a federal issue.

Would the federal government support this bid? Sport Canada guidelines outline that the federal government can only support two Canadian bids for major games in any decade. It is widely expected that Quebec City will bid to host the Winter Olympics, so Edmonton would be counting on being the second major event host.

Halifax was hoping to bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, but they were forced to withdraw their bid over concerns with the budget. It was the first time Canada had withdrawn a bid for a Commonwealth Games event. Edmonton’s bid would need to be rock solid.

What does this mean for LRT?

One of the drivers behind Edmonton’s failed bid to host EXPO 2017 was infrastructure money expansion for LRT. Big events require big money, and it was hoped that part of staging a successful event would mean expanding the transit network. Many Edmontonians were quick to make the connection to LRT after Monday’s announcement too.

It’s true that Edmonton’s LRT first opened in 1978, just months before the Commonwealth Games. But that project is not what took the LRT from conception to reality, nor is it what funded the construction. From Ride of the Century:

“In truth, the visionary planning that laid the foundation for the LRT dated back to the decommissioning of the streetcars in 1951, but it took until the early 1960s for the rapid transit dream to take coherent shape in D.L. MacDonald’s Report on the Present Operating Conditions of the Edmonton Transit System With a View to Determining a Policy for The Future Operation of the System in 1961.”

When the LRT opened on April 22, 1978, at a cost of $64.9 million, it was 7.25 km long with five stations.

LRT

Edmonton hosted the 1978 Commonwealth Games from August 3 to 12. Edmonton Transit had been planning transportation for the Games for two years, even assembling a fleet of 724 buses from Edmonton, Calgary, and Red Deer rolling stock to help meet demand. Their planning paid off.

“Edmonton Transit conveyed almost two million spectators to events over the nine days of the Games, and on August 8, the LRT system set a ridership record of over 69,000 people.”

“The Games were a shining moment for the city, and Edmonton Transit had played its part well passing the gargantuan test with flying colours.”

Just as we needed to continue building LRT with or without EXPO 2017, we need to move forward with LRT expansion whether we host the Games or not. I’d hate to see us tie LRT expansion money to the bid. LRT is our top infrastructure priority, and this event should have no bearing on that.

What does this mean for other infrastructure?

Events like the Commonwealth Games typically leave a physical legacy of facilities in the cities that host them. New sports and recreation facilities built for the Games could serve Edmontonians for years to come.

It is expected that Commonwealth Stadium would once again serve as the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies. It has received numerous upgrades in recent years, and could still receive more. Other facilities that were built for the 1978 Games, like Kinsmen, would likely receive upgrades and could be used. Foote Field was recently upgraded, and a new velodrome adjacent to Peter Hemingway pool has already been in the works. Edmonton had bid to host the 2015 World University Games, and had included a list of facilities as part of that bid that never moved forward. Those plans would likely be dusted off if this bid is successful.

Who is the competition?

In 1978, Edmonton’s competition was Leeds in England, a city with a population of about 200,000 more at the time. Our competition for the 2022 Commonwealth Games is Durban, a South African city of nearly 600,000 in a much larger metro area home to more than 3.4 million people. South Africa has never hosted the Games before, so that likely gives them an edge.

Apparently Durban had previously considered a bid for the 2020 or 2024 Summer Olympics, which suggests to me they are hungry to host another major international event and will be stiff competition. Durban hosted matches in the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup and was of course one of the host cities for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Canada has hosted the Games four times: 1930 in Hamilton, 1954 in Vancouver, 1978 in Edmonton, and 1994 in Victoria. Edinburgh and Auckland are the only cities to have hosted the Games more than once.

Can Edmonton win? City Manager Simon Farbrother is certainly confident:

“We will, yes. We don’t go into these things to come second. Let’s put it that way.”

What’s next?

The cost of bidding had previously been estimated to range from $8 million to $10 million. Edmonton and Durban will work to finalize their bids by March 2015. After that, members of the Commonwealth Games Federation will meet a General Assembly in Auckland, New Zealand to choose a winner on September 2, 2015.

An Edmonton delegation will be travelling to Glasgow this year as official observers to learn best practices. The City has apparently talked with Glasgow officials about the bidding process too.

The City of Edmonton has said it will continue discussions with the Province and will be looking to engage other stakeholders throughout the country to win their support. Of course, Edmontonians will also be invited to get involved, so look forward to those opportunities in the near future.

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #106

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

Mayor's Symposium on Poverty
When I see the mayor these days, it is usually when he’s surrounded by microphones and cameras!

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 3/30/2014

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

TRC Walk of Reconciliation

Earth Hour 2014
CWB went dark for Earth Hour

Upcoming Events

March 29 -  Celebrity Showcase - Vicky Lau 03
Western Canada Fashion Week!

Some of my favorite gadgets as of March 2014

It’s probably no surprise to you that I love gadgets. I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for a new shiny toy. Some of the gadgets I buy turn out to be underwhelming or less useful than I had hoped, but some quickly become indispensable. This is highly subjective of course, but it seems like more and more of the gadgets I have bought recently are good quality, very useful, and attractive. Am I getting better at picking them, or has the bar just generally been raised?

Here are a few of my current favorites!

Doxie One

I bought a Doxie One back in November 2012 when I decided I was going to get serious about going paperless. That quest is ongoing, but the Doxie has definitely made a difference! I use it to scan invoices, receipts, business cards, and even handouts from all the different media events I go to. Unlike old school scanners that need to be connected to your computer and have terrible software, the Doxie scans things to an SD card that you can then plug into the computer later. It’s amazing how much of a difference it makes when you can separate those two tasks – scanning feels like less of a chore with the Doxie. The app it comes with is great too, letting you save scans as PDF, images, and other formats straight into OneNote, Dropbox, or wherever you like. Love it!

Logitech Wireless Headset H800

I spend a lot of time on calls for work, via Lync or Skype. I have lost count of the number of USB headsets I’ve had over the years. After the cable on my last one eventually deteriorated, I decided to go wireless. I settled on the Logitech Wireless Headset H800 and could not be happier. It’s sleek and light, produces great quality sound, and supports both a tiny USB dongle and bluetooth, which means I can use it with both my desktop and my mobile devices. The headset charges using a micro USB cable which is handy (because pretty much every other device uses the same cable). Battery life is not amazing, but is more than adequate.

Jabra SPEAK 410

I first used a Jabra SPEAK when I was hosting some meetings at Startup Edmonton. I loved it so much, I decided to go and buy one! When I’m with colleagues or simply don’t want to wear my headset, I’ll use the Jabra. It is absolutely fantastic. It’s small and highly portable, produces great sound, and I love the controls. Answer, hangup, mute, volume – all seamlessly work with Lync and Skype. No software necessary either, just plug it in and away you go!

Bose SoundLink Mini

Sharon and I wanted a small speaker for our condo so after looking around at various options, I eventually decided on the Bose SoundLink Mini. It’s a bluetooth speaker and is meant to be portable (though we just leave it on the dock all the time). It produces fantastic sound, so good that I’m now looking to replace my crappy desktop speakers because they sound so bad in comparison. I can pair my Surface and Sharon has paired her phone with the speaker, so either one of us can play music easily. It’s perfect for when we’re cooking or have guests over or just want to have some background tunes.

Logitech Bluetooth Illuminated Wireless Keyboard K810

When I bought my Surface Pro, I decided to get the touch cover (the flat one without physical keys). It works great when I’m on the go, but at home I wanted a keyboard with actual keys to use. I decided on the Logitech Bluetooth Illuminated Keyboard K810. It’s pretty small and connects via bluetooth with the ability to switch between thee devices just by pressing one button. It’s also illuminated, and with a hand proximity sensor, it turns off the backlight to save power when your hands are not near it. Speaking of power, I don’t think I have ever had to charge it. Granted I don’t use it all the time, but still, the battery life is impressive.

Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop

Last but not least is the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop. I wasn’t sure if I’d like the ergonomic keyboard and mouse, but this is absolutely the best combo I have ever owned. The mouse is surprisingly comfortable and uses real batteries (I’ve given up on so many mice because the rechargeable batteries all suck). The keyboard is the star though. It’s striking design looks great on my desk and it’s incredibly comfortable. You can see where my hands have rubbed against the cushioned palm rest, but still, it has held up well. My favorite part are the keys – they are more like laptop keys than traditional desktop keyboard keys, with less “throw”. I also love that it comes with a separate number pad, which I never use, meaning it doesn’t clutter up my desk.

I use The Wirecutter quite a bit for reviews, so check it out if you haven’t come across it already. I’m always looking for new gadgets, so who knows what I’ll be using in a year or two. Things are changing so quickly and for the better!

City Council approves a new transportation goal and outcomes for The Way Ahead

It’s no secret that LRT is City Council’s top infrastructure priority. They have repeatedly stressed the importance of expanding our LRT network, and scored a win recently with the Valley Line. LRT is part of a bigger transformation that Council hopes to realize, which is a shift away from the car-dominated transportation network we have today to a network that offers realistic choice through a range of travel options. At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, they approved a new goal for The Way We Move that makes this transformation clearer.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

In November last year, Edmonton’s new City Council took part in a series of strategic planning sessions. In addition to serving as a crash course on the City’s strategy and approach to long-term planning, the sessions were also a way to ensure the new Councillors were on board with the corporate outcomes, measures, and targets for each of the six 10-year goals identified in The Way Ahead. Among the key outcomes of those meetings were a desire by Council to review the goal statement for The Way We Move, as well as a desire to emphasize public engagement within The Ways.

The public engagement action is being handled through a new Council Initiative, and I think we’ll hear much more about that in the weeks ahead. I’m looking forward to it.

The goal for The Way We Move was reviewed and discussed at a couple of subsequent Council meetings, notably January 28 and March 11. Council wanted to stress the use of public transit, but they wanted to make it clear that Edmontonians would have choice. The goal they ultimately settled on reflects both of those desires and has led to a new set of outcomes too.

Current Goal: Shift Edmonton’s Transportation Mode

The current goal statement for The Way We Move is focused on “mode shift”, which is meant to convey that while the majority of Edmontonians get around the city using vehicles today, that should not always be the case. The reasons for needing a shift included changing our urban form to be more sustainable, accessibility, supporting active and healthy lifestyles, reducing the impact on the environment, and attracting business and talent to Edmonton.

Here’s the goal statement that accompanies the goal:

“Modes of transportation shift to “fit” Edmonton’s urban form and enhanced density while supporting the City’s planning, financial and environmental sustainability goals.”

Each goal also has an ‘elaboration’ associated with it. The current one for transportation reads:

“In shifting Edmonton’s transportation modes the City recognizes the importance of mobility shifts to contribute to the achievement of other related goals. To do so suggests the need to transform the mix of transport modes, with emphasis on road use for goods movement and transiting people and transit use for moving people. This goal reflects the need for a more integrated transportation network comprising of heavy rail, light rail, air and ground transport, and recognizes the important contribution that transportation makes to environmental goals.”

While the current wording attempts to connect with the other goals in The Way Ahead, it doesn’t as forcefully make the case for offering alternatives to single-occupant vehicles. The other challenge is that “mode shift” doesn’t mean anything to most of us, and sounds bureaucratic.

Perhaps more importantly, this was the only goal that was presented as if was worth doing solely to achieve the other goals. Surely a shift in how we move around the city should have benefits of its own!

New Goal: Enhance use of public transit and active modes of transportation

The new goal statement reads:

“Enhancing public transit and other alternatives to single-occupant vehicles will provide Edmonton with a well-maintained and integrated transportation network. Increased use of these options will maximize overall transportation system efficiency and support the City’s urban planning, livability, financial, economic and environmental sustainability goals.”

And the new elaboration reads:

“Through this goal, the City recognizes that a transportation system that is designed to support a range of travel options will increase the number of people and the amount of goods that can move efficiently around the city, while supporting the City’s goals for livability, urban form, financial, economic and environmental sustainability. Creating this 21st century sustainable and globally competitive city means offering choice. It will allow Edmontonians of all ages and abilities to safely walk, bike, ride transit, ride-share or drive to the places they need to go. The trade-offs needed to achieve this vision will create an integrated transportation system with greater travel choices for Edmontonians.”

The connection to the other goals is still present in the new wording, but not at the expense of highlighting the desire for alternatives to the car. There’s also the suggestion that trade-offs will need to be made in order to create a system that offers choice – we can’t have it all without making some hard decisions. The new goal is much more approachable now that “mode shift” is gone.

New Outcomes

Alongside this change, Council approved 12 new corporate outcomes, replacing the 20 that had previously been approved. Through their discussions, Council felt the outcomes should be specific and measurable, and provide a clarity of purpose. They wanted to simplify the approach. Here are the 12 outcomes they ended up with:

  1. Edmonton is attractive and compact
  2. The City of Edmonton has sustainable and accessible infrastructure
  3. Edmontonians use public transit and active modes of transportation
  4. Goods and services move efficiently
  5. Edmontonians are connected to the city in which they live, work, and play
  6. Edmontonians use facilities and services that promote healthy living
  7. Edmonton is a safe city
  8. The City of Edmonton’s operations are environmentally sustainable
  9. Edmonton is an environmentally sustainable and resilient city
  10. The City of Edmonton has a resilient financial position
  11. Edmonton has a globally competitive and entrepreneurial business climate
  12. Edmonton Region is a catalyst for industry and business growth

Gone are words like “minimized”, “supports”, or “strives”. The new language seems less open to interpretation, which is a good thing for determining progress. The next step is for Administration to prepare measures and targets based on these outcomes and to update The Way Ahead (there are currently 65 approved measures and 27 approved targets).

Results?

It’s great that Council wanted to strengthen the transportation goal and that they have simplified the outcomes. Most of this strategic planning was completed by previous Councils, so the exercise probably helped to ensure our current Councillors feel a sense of ownership. But the challenge remains: we need to implement the plans and see results. An annual report on progress will go to Council next year, based on the new outcomes, measures, and targets.

Coming up in April: Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts & Eat Alberta

I’m helping to organize a couple of events coming up in April that I wanted to tell you about. Tickets are going quickly for both events!

Eat Alberta

This is our fourth year for Eat Alberta, a one-day, workshop-style conference with a mix of hands on learning, food tastings, and demonstrations or presentations that focus on Alberta foods. The event takes place on April 26 in the kitchens at NAIT.

Here’s a video we did during last year’s event:

Tickets went on sale today for $150.00 each. Each ticket includes two plenary sessions, four workshops, breakfast, lunch, and a wine tasting. To ensure an equitable distribution of sessions (and to introduce you to something you might not have picked) we sell ten different tracks. I’m pretty excited about our lineup of sessions and presenters for this year.

Eat Alberta 2012

For more on Eat Alberta and what you can expect, check out Sharon’s post.

Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts

The 27th annual Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts is taking place on April 28 at the Winspear Centre. This year is of course the first event for Mayor Don Iveson. The event celebrates some of the best artistic talents our city has to offer with awards, and is packed full of amazing performances.

Mayor's Celebration of the Arts 2011

You can see the list of nominees for 2014 here. A total of 11 awards will be given out during the evening.

Tickets are on sale now with prices ranging from $15 to $80 depending on where you decide to sit. Each year the event supports a charitable organization in Edmonton, and this year we’re supporting the Music Enrichment Program. Stay tuned for details on the performances.

You can read my recap of last year’s event here. I joined the committee three years ago and I’m thrilled to still be playing a part in the event!

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #105

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

goodbye carrie

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 3/23/2014

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Last Troops Return from Aghanistan. March 18, 2014
The last troops returned home from Afghanistan on Tuesday.

Upcoming Events

Green Pyramids
Great shot of the Muttart Conservatory by Terry Lawson

Global’s Woman of Vision has now profiled more than 230 Edmonton-area women doing great things

The 19th annual Global’s Woman of Vision luncheon was held at the Shaw Conference Centre last Friday. The event “celebrates the outstanding accomplishments of Edmonton-area women” and has now recognized over 230 women. I was fortunate enough to attend on a complementary media ticket.

“The consistently sold-out annual awards luncheon is the highlight of the Woman of Vision program, as it pays tribute to the inspirational women featured over the last year. Gold Sponsors give female university students $1,000 bursaries to help them realize their visions and 50 young women receive sponsored tickets to inspire them to consider where their visions may lead them. This emotional, spirit-lifting event is enhanced by words of wisdom from the women of vision themselves.”

The Woman of Vision feature airs on the first Monday of every month on Global Edmonton, produced and hosted by Lesley MacDonald. It was launched on ITV News in 1995, and has won two national broadcasting awards. It’s impressive that the program is still going strong!

Woman of Vision Luncheon

The twelve women recognized this year were:

You can read much more about each of them in the March 2014 issue of Avenue Edmonton magazine, and you can see some of the videos here.

I thought the format of the event was interesting. Each recipient was welcomed on stage to both receive her award, but also to answer a question posed by Lesley. The questions and answers were pre-prepared, but they still offered some additional information on each woman that I really appreciated. It was great to hear the recipients talk about their vision in their own words too.

I was extremely happy to see Kendall and Justine recognized as I think they are doing amazing things with Poppy Barley. The best is absolutely yet to come for their growing company! It was great to see a couple of representatives from our vibrant food community too, with Giselle and Amy. Duchess Bake Shop needs no introduction if you’re in Edmonton, and perhaps not even if you’re elsewhere in the country! I’m a big fan of Amy’s, not only because she still remembers my order at Chicken For Lunch, but because she truly does live her vision of “just be yourself”. She had everyone in the audience laughing!

Woman of Vision Luncheon

In addition to the women of vision, eight young women received bursaries.

“Sponsorships for the Global Woman of Vision Awards Luncheon include the creation of bursaries and awards to assist young women in furthering their education so they can pursue their own visions.”

Sponsors Global, Canadian Western Bank, Stantec, Enbridge, Afinity Life Sciences, Sterling Homes, Groot DermaSurgery, and MacEwan University all provided a bursary. The 2014 bursary recipients were:

  • Lindsay Rankin, Radio & Television Broadcasting, NAIT
  • Brishti Kayastha, Bachelor of Commerce, MacEwan University
  • Miranda Stahn, WISEST, University of Alberta
  • Angelica Prieto, Civil Engineering, University of Alberta
  • Ensaf Almomani, Physiology, University of Alberta
  • Sonic Budac, Architectural Technology, NAIT
  • Stephanie Lim, Medicine, University of Alberta
  • Rowan Sallstrom, Anthropology, MacEwan University

Watch for those women to continue doing interesting and impactful things in the years ahead!

If you’d like to nominate a Woman of Vision from the Edmonton area, you can do so online. Nominations are reviewed every two months by the Global Woman of Vision Advisory Board. You can see more photos from the event here, courtesy of That Just Happened.

Thanks again to Lesley and her team for the opportunity to attend!

Edmonton aspires to eliminate poverty within a generation

More than 100,000 Edmontonians live in poverty – that’s 1 out of every 8 residents. Nearly 30% of those who live in poverty are children. Thousands of Edmontonians are unable to fulfill their true potential in life due to poverty. Furthermore, the cost of poverty to Albertans is estimated to be between $7.1 and $9.5 billion each year. We cannot continue trying to simply manage poverty – we need to invest in ending and preventing it. Can we eliminate poverty in Edmonton within a generation? I think we can.

Poverty Elimination Steering Committee

Over the last year, I’ve been a member of the Poverty Elimination Steering Committee, led by Councillors Henderson and Sohi and the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region. Made up of 26 members, our committee was established in 2012 and initially aligned its work with the United Way’s “Pathways out of Poverty” initiative, as well as the Province’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. The committee’s summary report was presented to City Council on March 3:

“The cost of not responding to poverty now will have enduring intergenerational effects on individuals, families and society. Investing in eliminating poverty today is creating a better future for all Edmontonians. We can end poverty in Edmonton in a generation and build a truly inclusive and vibrant city where prosperity is shared by all. A new conversation along with dynamic and nimble partnerships will bring us successfully to this goal.”

Shifting our approach from charity to investment and transforming the public conversation accordingly were key motives behind our work. I was happy to be able to contribute in a number of ways, including building the website and making poverty a key issue for candidates to consider during last year’s municipal election. Most of all, I was grateful for the opportunity to learn so much about this complex issue from some of the local leaders I most respect and admire.

Over the last couple of months it became clear that a Mayor’s Task Force would be established, so the committee shifted its efforts to identify focus areas for action. Based on community engagement sessions, research conducted, and other input, we identified five areas for the new task force to consider.

“These five Focus Areas for Action are all critical and strategic opportunity areas to advance real change and progress as Edmonton shifts the conversation from one of band aid solutions to comprehensive long-term change towards ending poverty. It is important to note that each focus area is related to, and dependent on, the other. None can be tackled in isolation, and it is essential to avoid creating new silos.”

focus areas for action

All of these areas are important, but I’m particularly interested in transportation. It was eye-opening to see how significant a barrier it can be during the poverty simulation I participated in. I was also surprised to learn throughout my time on the committee that for an increasing number of Albertans, transportation accounts for the greatest portion of monthly expenses, even more than housing. City Council is already very focused on transit and transportation in the city, and I hope they’ll seriously consider the impact of their decisions on poverty as they progress that work.

Our last committee meeting took place a few weeks ago, to finalize the report and prepare to pass the baton to the new task force.

Task Force for the Elimination of Poverty in Edmonton

City Council passed Bylaw 16765 establishing the “Task Force for the Elimination of Poverty in Edmonton” at its March 12 meeting. In his comments about the initiative, Mayor Iveson said:

“I think we are unafraid to dream of a more inclusive Edmonton and though it will take time and a shift in our thinking I really think Edmonton is perhaps one of the best places to show leadership on this, because we are the kind of city that can bring together business, academic experts, people in civil society and leadership, non-governmental organizations, faith communities; that is the Make Something Edmonton piece of this. We can rally the whole community around this the way we have around other complex challenges.”

If you get a chance, listen to the comments Council made about the initiative. Councillor Walters shared a personal story about poverty and talked about how important it is to help all Edmontonians reach their potential. Councillor Henderson and others also spoke passionately about the importance of the work.

The task force’s mandate is to prepare and present to City Council a report on poverty in Edmonton which includes:

  • information on the nature, extent, and causes of poverty within the Edmonton region;
  • a concrete plan for eliminating poverty in Edmonton within a generation;
  • recommendations to Council on how to implement the plan.

The volunteer members of the task force are:

  • Bishop Jane Alexander
  • Justin Archer
  • Jeffrey Bisanz
  • Kate Chisholm
  • Yvonne Chiu
  • Joseph Doucet
  • Sarah Eadie
  • Dr. Louis Francescutti
  • Mark Holmgren
  • Sandra Huculak
  • Eugene Ip
  • Tiffany Linke-Boyko
  • Maria Mayan
  • Carman McNary
  • Janice Melnychuk
  • Zahra Somani

There is also one spot reserved for an aboriginal member (to be selected by Aboriginal Round Table), one spot for a provincial government representative, and one spot for a federal government representative. Councillors Henderson and Sohi will still be involved, and of course Mayor Iveson will co-chair along with Jane Alexander. Additionally, the task force will have the ability to engage others via working groups.

By September, the task force will bring a report back to Council “providing possible amendments to include in the bylaw regarding definitions for ‘poverty’ and ‘generation’.” The bylaw states that the task force will fulfill its mandate by providing its report to Council on or before December 31, 2015.

What’s next?

Just three of the task force members (Yvonne, Mark, and Janice) were also on our Poverty Elimination Steering Committee. I point that out only to express a hope that the task force doesn’t end up repeating work that we’ve already done (in many ways, the committee was repeating work done by other organizations over the years). What’s needed is ownership and action, not more research and report writing. The bylaw does explicity state that “the task force will continue the work of the Edmonton Poverty Elimination Steering Committee” so I’m hopeful that will be the case.

On Thursday, March 20, dozens of Edmontonians will come together at the Shaw Conference Centre for the Mayor’s Symposium on Poverty. It’s an opportunity to review previous work and discuss next steps. I’m looking forward to meeting the members of the new task force and contributing to the direction it will go.

The work to eliminate poverty in Edmonton will not be easy nor will it be quick, but it is important. I want to end with this passage from our committee’s final report:

“We need to shift our focus from charity to investment, from poverty alleviation to poverty elimination, recognizing that social infrastructure is as important as physical infrastructure. We have to be people centred and place-based, seeking made in Edmonton solutions involving Edmontonians.”

Our goal is to end poverty in Edmonton within a generation. How can you help?