Media Monday Edmonton: Update #153

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

abvote results

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 5/3/2015

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:


Neon Sign Museum
There are placards up now at the Neon Sign Museum!

Upcoming Events

MacEwan Station & Rogers Place
MacEwan Station & Rogers Place

Edmonton is ground zero in the PC campaign of fear

What an interesting week in the Alberta Election, especially here in Edmonton. It started with Mayor Don Iveson’s confident State of the City address, in which he declared that “Edmonton is too important to Alberta’s future to be ignored.” He said he’s confident that Edmontonians “will not stand for any provincial government ever forgetting about Edmonton again.” The mayor contrasted a strong, vibrant Edmonton with an uncertain, shaky Alberta, and said that Edmonton could play a significant role in a provincial turnaround. Edmonton is not just the capital.

With every passing day the NDP have looked stronger and stronger. The polls, whether you trust them or not, have consistently had the NDP either in the lead or close to it, with today’s predicting a minimum victory of 25 seats. Everywhere you look there are signs of the “orange crush” sweeping across the province, but especially here in Edmonton where NDP support is strongest. The prospect of an NDP win has become so realistic in fact, that the PCs have had to take the unusual position of fighting back. And it’s here in Edmonton that they have focused their efforts.

Last week Edmonton-Rutherford PC candidate Chris Labossiere wrote a widely-criticized blog post that said the NDP “have not demonstrated any real passion or partnership with Edmonton as a dynamic and changing global city.” He wrote, “I do not trust that they share or appreciate Edmonton’s story, our energy or our ambition.”

Edmonton-Spruce Grove MP Rona Ambrose said today that an NDP government here in Alberta would be a “risky experiment.” She said that although she understands the anger being directed at the PCs, Albertans “need to think twice about electing an NDP government.”

edmonton business leaders
Photo by Dave Cournoyer

And in a press conference late this morning, five Edmonton businessmen called the NDP’s policies “amateur” and urged Albertans to make sure they’re “thinking straight” when they go to vote on Tuesday (you can read their opinion letter here). The Journal reports that together, the five have given nearly $95,000 to the PCs since 2010. There have been incredible things said every day during this election, but a couple of comments today were just on another level. Here’s what Tim Melton, executive chairman of Melcor Developments said:

“I don’t understand the unhappiness and disenchantment that appears to be out there. We don’t need amateurs running this province through these difficult times … we’ve got to stay with the government that has got us to where we are today.”

Is it really so hard to understand why Albertans are unhappy with a government that has faced scandal after scandal? With a government that has failed, again and again, to get us off the resource revenue roller coaster?

As if that wasn’t enough, NPO Zero CEO Ashif Mawji had this to say at the same news conference:

“If there’s no bottom line, then there’s no money that goes to charities. We won’t make donations to charities,” Mawji said, using the Stollery Children’s Hospital and the University of Alberta as examples of where the losses will be felt.

There’s no question that leaders like Doug Goss have done great things for Edmonton, and I’m sure they will continue to, but to threaten the charities that support Albertans when the government won’t? Disgusting.

Rachel Notley
Photo by Dave Cournoyer

Here’s what NDP leader Rachel Notley said in response today:

“Frankly, if I were them, I’d be more focused on talking with Albertans about what it is they can do to make the lives of regular families better. They’ve chosen to fearmonger about the NDP instead. I guess we’ll see … which approach is more appealing and more convincing to Alberta voters.”

Indeed we will, in just a few days.

“Changing our government is not something Albertans should be afraid of,” is what Dave wrote today. “It is something we should probably do on a regular basis.”

Recap: TEC VenturePrize 2015

TEC Edmonton held its 13th annual VenturePrize Awards this evening at the Shaw Conference Centre. A total of $150,000 in prizes was handed out to three deserving companies. TEC Edmonton says the competition is a win for all of the participating companies, as they receive mentorship, publicity, possibly new investors, but it’s also a win for Alberta:

“Nine new technology-based companies, creating new wealth. Companies on the leading-edge of their sector, companies hiring highly educated individuals, companies using the knowledge of our post-secondary institutions and their graduates, companies paying corporate taxes, companies fulfilling Alberta’s desire to be less dependent on the energy sector alone.”

There are three different competitions that make up VenturePrize now. The Fast Growth category is for general high-growth businesses, the TELUS ICT category is for technology-focused enteprises, and the Student category is for businesses started by post-secondary students from throughout the province. In each category, there are three finalists but only one winner.

VenturePrize 2015

Here were the finalists for 2015:

Fast Growth

  • Alieo Games is an educational technology company that recently launched COW, a writing app for students and teachers from kindergarten to Gr. 12. COW provides a safe and fun space for students to practice writing (building writing fluency and vocabulary) and to share their work with classmates. For teachers, COW uses text analysis to provide useful feedback that they can use to customize their lesson plans to meet the specific needs of their students.
  • Pogo CarShare is Edmonton’s first car sharing service. Founded and managed locally, Pogo provides members 24/7 access to a pool of vehicles located within a central zone in our city on a simple pay-as-you-go basis. Cars can be located, reserved and opened using the Pogo app.
  • Sensassure is a wearable technology sensor solution for the incontinent – alerting nursing staff in extended care homes to the need to change incontinence underwear. Sensassure helps restore dignity to those who suffer from incontinence by automating existing manual care processes, leading to timely changes that prevent secondary conditions from developing.

VenturePrize 2015


  • OMx is accelerating the development of advanced molecular diagnostics with technologies to analyze and combine data about the chemicals, proteins and DNA in the body. Their first product helps improve and optimize diet and lifestyle with a urine test that measures indicators for diet and wellness.
  • MasV is a software company within the oil and gas sector, MASV has a new way to benefit both rental companies and renters of oil and gas equipment. By connecting renters to the rental companies that have the relevant items, they reduce downtime stress while increasing profit for both parties.
  • Advancing Edge Technologies addresses technology deficiencies with diagnosis reporting in anatomical pathology (providing patients with the final diagnosis from tissue biopsies and body fluids). Their state-of-the-art touchscreen-based examination software delivers a more streamlined, accurate, and consistent pathology diagnostic report while also saving money and time.

VenturePrize 2015


  • Alberta Craft Malting – Olds College: Alberta Craft Malting uses Alberta barley to develop specialty made-in-Alberta malts – a crucial ingredient in the making of beer. The use of local grains means brewers can now access specialty malts made from local barley considered among the world’s best, rather than depending on out-of-province suppliers.
  • Scout – University of Alberta: Scout is a marketing platform for small and medium businesses that incorporates a smartphone based loyalty program. The Scout app replaces traditional punch cards and allows merchants to create a loyalty program tailored specifically to them, allowing them to truly interact with their customers.
  • NoLemon Automotive Inc. – University of Alberta: By offering an online classified platform providing third-party vehicle inspections, NoLemon helps buyers and sellers more effectively navigate the vehicle transaction process. NoLemon provides the comfort and confidence individuals seek in making their vehicle purchasing decisions.

VenturePrize 2015

Some of these companies were familiar to me and it’s great to see them continuing to grow and evolve. Alieo Games was of course the winner of last year’s student category and they presented at Launch Party 5 back in October along with fellow Fast Growth competitor Pogo CarShare and MASV and OMx from the TELUS ICT category (and OMx was at DemoCamp earlier this month) And in the Student category, I have seen Scout at a previous VMS event and around town at various retail locations such as Earth’s General Store and Remedy Cafe. It’s an encouraging sign that companies are moving through the pipeline, from hackathon to business plan and beyond.

VenturePrize 2015

Here are your 2015 winners:

Screeners Award of Merit

Edmonton Journal People’s Choice Award
Alieo Games

Student VenturePrize Competition
Alberta Craft Malting

TELUS ICT Competition

Fast Growth Competition


Our host for the evening was Ryan Jespersen and while he always brings an energetic approach to his emcee duties, I think he deserves a special shoutout tonight for dealing with a challenging room.

VenturePrize 2015

This year TEC Edmonton wanted to change the format to see if they could encourage more networking. That meant using more of Hall D and getting rid of the round tables in favor of cocktail tables and theatre-style seating. The program started on the west stage and then moved to the east stage. In terms of networking, it was a big success! But I suspect the format will be changed for next year as no one was paying attention to the speakers and presentations for the first half of the show.

There were a couple of other awards handed out this evening too. The inaugural Ross & Verna Tate Science Entrepreneurship Award was awarded to Alieo Games. The other award was the Peace Country Regional Science Fair Award, which went to Michael Fyfe from Glenmary School in Peace River. Science fairs sound like they’re becoming more interesting – the PCRSF now includes an entrepreneurial event called Bear Cave (inspired by Dragons Den). Michael was the 2015 Bear Cave Grand Prize winner.

Congratulations to all of the participants in this year’s competition and especially to this year’s winners. Thanks to TEC Edmonton for providing me with a seat tonight to capture the action. You can see a few more photos here.

Recap: Mayor Iveson’s 2015 State of the City Address

Nobody fills a room like our mayor, Don Iveson. He delivered his second State of the City Address on Monday in front of an absolutely packed house at the Shaw Conference Centre. Roughly 2,200 people attended the annual event hosted by the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. We’re in the middle of a provincial election of course, so there were plenty of candidates in attendance yesterday and more than a few people wondering what, if anything, Mayor Iveson might say. On the topic of the provincial government, he did not tread lightly.

State of the City Address 2015

“Edmonton is too important to Alberta’s future to be ignored,” he said near the end of his remarks. “That’s why I’m confident that no matter what Albertans decide on May 5, together, you along with our City Council, will not stand for any provincial government ever forgetting about Edmonton again.”

Mayor Iveson spoke for nearly 30 minutes before getting to that point. He spelled out why Edmonton matters, he talked about the opportunities that are before us, and he consistently pointed out that we could do more if only the Province would come to the table as a partner. “I want to be clear about what partnership means to me,” he said. “It means that both parties recognize their mutual interest in achieving something great together.”

Saying that there have been “some important steps” in the city charter talks thus far, Mayor Iveson made it clear that he expects the new government to continue that work. “To abandon or shortchange the charter would be to miss the chance for Edmonton to be a true partner in building this province,” he said. On homelessness, social services, early childhood education, climate change, and infrastructure, Mayor Iveson said that “Edmonton has shown we do deliver results” and challenged the Province to “give us the responsibility and resources necessary to get to the finish line.”

If there was a theme to the mayor’s remarks, it was resiliency. He opened with a compelling story about the great flood of 1915 that left an estimated 2,000 people homeless and which devastated businesses and entire industries. “Other places in similar circumstances might have let all their hope and promise be swept away,” he said. “But not Edmonton.” His message was clear. Just as our 1915 counterparts made smart decisions for the long-term, so must we.

Though the price of oil is down and there are layoffs in Alberta, Edmonton’s economic picture is much rosier he told us. “Edmonton is weathering this downturn,” he said. Citing the “unprecedented” number of cranes in the downtown, Mayor Iveson talked about the continuing confidence here in Edmonton. Last year Edmonton became the fifth largest region in Canada, “a quiet but important milestone.”

If you’re here in Edmonton, you know these things. But others around the country and around the world do not. “It’s never been more important for us to tell a clear and consistent story about Edmonton,” he said. Yes, he mentioned Make Something Edmonton, but I think Mayor Iveson really intended for his remarks on storytelling to be one of those smart decisions for the long-term. He suggested we start talking about “Edmonton Metro” which at 1.3 million people, “will be a force to be reckoned with.” This is an evolution of the “Edmonton Region” term he started using as soon as he was sworn in as mayor. Unlike “region”, the term “metro” is distinctly urban, is cohesive, and highlights the confidence of Edmonton at its core.

State of the City Address 2015

We need more than a great story for Edmonton to continue to prosper, however. “Mass transit has the potential to transform a city in a way that few other infrastructure investments can,” Mayor Iveson said. He highlighted the federal government’s new transit building fund and said it could be great for Edmonton, “but only if our Province steps up and matches this ongoing commitment.”

He also talked about the task force to end poverty and the importance of sharing Edmonton’s prosperity with all Edmontonians. While work is well underway here, the mayor called out the Province for not taking action since unveiling the Social Policy Framework back in 2013. He talked about the Year of Reconciliation and said “we can show the way for a new vision of Canadian city that lives and breathes the treaty spirit.” He spoke about climate change and said our cities “are not prepared to deal with it.” And he said that “Edmonton can play a role in changing a conversation that has, for too long, hurt the way the world sees us.”

Mayor Iveson also had some interesting things to say about cities. “We’re the agents of change in Canada and, today, we matter more than ever,” he said. “Cities are increasingly the places where the work is getting done.” He talked about how cities “are the crossroads where resources and creativity intersect” and said nowhere is that more true than right here in Edmonton.

His core messages of resiliency and working with the Province were his focus though. “If we want to build a strong and resilient Alberta,” he said, “we need a strong and resilient Edmonton.”

State of the City Address 2015

I thought Mayor Iveson carried greater confidence through his remarks this year compared to last. The highlight of his speech last year, when he looked right at Premier Redford and called for provincial funding for the LRT, was not possible this year with the uncertain political future of Alberta so he needed to be strong throughout. He looked and sounded at ease and his delivery was much better.

It’s true that most of the things he said on Monday were similar to things he said last year. The importance of LRT, the opportunity that comes with being an Aboriginal city, the need to end poverty rather than manage it, the baby steps toward a city charter, and even the need to talk about Edmonton as the heart of the region were all things he touched on in 2014’s State of the City address. But it wasn’t the same message. I think there are two key differences. First, while last year was a bit heavy on ideas and what’s coming, this year he talked about accomplishments, like the task force to end poverty which is well underway or the Open City initiative which is already have a positive impact. Second, he focused on Edmonton’s strengths this year rather than its needs. Edmonton is resilient. Edmonton is compassionate. Edmonton gets things done.

Things are uncertain at best in Alberta right now, but Edmonton is well-positioned for now and for tomorrow. I think it was wise to take advantage of the timing, to contrast Edmonton with Alberta, and to make it clear that Edmonton can play a bigger role in helping turn things around for the whole province.

You can see a few more photos from the event here.

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #152

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:


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 4/26/2015

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:


  • It finally happened! The Oilers have made some big changes to their management team. CEO Bob Nicholson has appointed Peter Chiarelli President of Hockey Operations and General Manager effective immediately. Kevin Lowe remains Vice Chair of the Oilers Entertainment Group but will be transitioning out of hockey operations. No word on what’s next for Craig MacTavish. Also, Patrick LaForge has stepped down as President and COO.
  • The Edmonton Eskimos have extended Ed Hervey’s contract through 2017. Hervey has also added Vice President of Football Operations to his title. The upcoming season will be Hervey’s 17th with the green & gold and his third as General Manager.
  • Pretty much everyone agrees: Rachel Notley won the debate on Thursday evening. Can she bring it home?
  • We’re just over a week away from election day and this weekend I challenged myself to build an election site! The first version is now up which lets you browse candidates, electoral districts, and more. I’ve integrated some of the 2012 results data too and will be launching an update this week to support the 2015 results. My goal is to build the best online results dashboard for election night.
  • From David Staples: all four major parties support heavy investment in city infrastructure, including the LRT. “It makes for a more boring election, but it’s good news for Edmonton.”
  • On a similar note, the federal budget announced on Tuesday includes a transit funding commitment which takes effect in 2017. It’s not clear year how much will come to Edmonton, but it’s a positive sign.
  • If you haven’t already watched the Legislative Assembly of Cards video do it now! It’s an amazing shot-for-shot recreation of the opening credits for House of Cards, but set here in Edmonton. It was created by Calgary cinematographer Alex Robinson.

Under the LRT Bridge, photo by Jason Dorn

Upcoming Events

Kelley Ramsey tower April 25 2015
Kelly Ramsey Tower – April 25, 2015, photo by Jason Woodhead

Coming up at City Council: April 27 – May 1, 2015

Agendas for upcoming City Council meetings are generally released on Thursday afternoons. I like to take a look to see what Council will be discussing, and I figured I should share that here. Below you’ll find links to the meetings taking place next week, as well as links to and thoughts on some agenda items that caught my eye. You can find my previous roundups here.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Monday, April 27, 2015

Council will start the week with the regularly scheduled public hearing beginning at 1:30pm. There are eight bylaws on the agenda.

Buena Vista Apartment Redevelopment

Bylaws 17177 and 17178 deal with the Buena Vista building east of 124 Street NW and south of 102 Avenue NW in Oliver. Edgar Development Corporation has proposed an 85 meter (approximately 26 storeys) mixed-use residential tower, with commercial/retail uses at street level. The building would contain 240 dwelling units and with four levels of underground parking, approximately 229 parking stalls.

The developer is committed to maintaining the three historic facades on the north, south, and west. Together these two bylaws allow for the dismantling and reassembling of the facades and rezone the site from CB1 to DC1 to enable the development to move ahead.

You can learn more about the history of the Buena Vista Building here.

Glenora Blue and Breakfast
Glenora Blue and Breakfast, photo by Dave Sutherland

Here’s a brief overview of the other six bylaws:

  • Bylaws 17173, 17174, and 17175 deal with proposed rezonings in Rosenthal. Some AG-zoned (Agricultural Zone) land is going to be rezoned to RF4/RF5 (semi-detached and row housing) and to RSL (Rsidential Small Lot Zone)
  • Bylaw 17172 would rezone the property at 11312 119 Street NW in Prince Rupert to IB (Industrial Business) from IM (Medium Industrial).
  • Bylaw 17171 would extend the DC2 provisions currently in effect in Griesbach (west of 97 Street NW and south of 153 Avenue NW) until 20125.
  • Bylaw 17139 would rezone the property at 3810 111 Avenue NW in Beverly Heights from RF1 to RF2. The proposed rezoning supports The Way We Grow by “encouraging infill, promoting family oriented housing and walkability, and by optimizing the use of existing infrastructure.”
  • Bylaw 17177 would allow for the development of a mixed-use high rise building east of 124 Street NW and south of 102 Avenue NW in Oliver. This is the Buena Vista building.
  • Bylaw 17178 would rezone the land from CB1 and DC1 and would allow for the dismantling and reassembling of the north, south, and west facades of the Buena Vista building.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Next up for Council is a regular City Council Meeting scheduled to take all day Tuesday. There are 10 public reports, 22 bylaws, 2 motions pending, and 4 private reports on the agenda. Looks like a full agenda. Here are a few highlights:

Make Something Edmonton Update

This item was meant to be discussed at the April 14 Council meeting but it was postponed along with Councillor Oshry’s motion on our city’s entrance signs. I wrote a couple weeks ago about the history of Edmonton’s entrance signs and also about the signs & slogans debate. I plan to share some additional thoughts on Make Something Edmonton in the next few days.

Committee Reports

There are 9 Committee reports that were all recently discussed at one of the four committees and have been referred to Council, usually with a recommendation for approval. They are:


There are 22 bylaws on the agenda. Here are a few I wanted to highlight:

  • Bylaw 17103 – 2015 Property Tax and Supplementary Property Tax Bylaw (report not yet available)
  • Bylaw 17129 – This bylaw would designate McKay Avenue School as a Municipal Historic Resource as Council directed back in January.
  • Bylaw 17130 – This would designate the 1881 School as a Municipal Historic Resource as well.
  • Bylaws 17168, 17169, and 17170 deal with the 2015 CRL Rate for the Belvedere, Quarters, and Downtown CRL projects.
  • Bylaw 17196 – This bylaw would amend the Animal Licensing and Control Bylaw to formalize the licensing process for urban beekeeping.

Honey Bee
Honey Bee, photo by Bill Burris

Private Reports

As mentioned there are 4 private reports on the agenda this time. Council will be receiving updates on:

  • Greys Paper Recycling Facility – Follow-up Information
  • Top of Bank Update – Verbal Report
  • Civic Agencies Appointments – Externally-Nominated Representatives
  • Appointment Recommendation – Women’s Advocacy Voice of Edmonton Committee

Motions Pending

There are two motions pending:

  • Amendment to Bylaw 12408 – Non-Profit Community Organizations Exemption Bylaw (Councillor McKeen)
  • Entrance Signs Removal (Councillor Oshry)

One report, The Way We Finance – Electrical Franchise Fee Charges, has been given a revised due date of July 7.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

On Wednesday Council is holding a special meeting to discuss the Community Energy Transition Strategy, which was postponed from the March 17, 2015 meeting.

The strategy calls energy transition “the golden opportunity of our age” and says that “few places are better positioned than Edmonton in terms of knowledge, experience, and financial capacity to lead and excel in this area.”

There are 11 strategic actions, 7 opportunity areas, 45 focus areas, and 10 community scale programs. Targets include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 35% by 2035 (compared to 2005 levels), reducing energy consumption by 25% per person by 2035 (compared to 2009 levels), and generating 10% of Edmonton’s energy locally by 2035.

I wrote more about the strategy here and Graham and I discussed it on a recent episode of our podcast too.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The next Utility Committee meeting will take place on Thursday. There are six reports on the agenda.

Analysis of Ratio of In-House Work to External Consultants

This report seeks to clarify the use of external consultants in the 2015 Utilities budget. Drainage Services allocated $72.092 million for External Services, 12% of which is to be spent on engineering consultants with the remainder spent on contractors and suppliers. The report says that in-house design staff generally work on long-term programs and that external consultants are used “primarily because of their specialized knowledge and to supplement in-house resources during periods of high demand.” Futhermore, the report states that external consultants “are important agents in developing and transferring technology for the use and benefit of society.”

historical expenditures comparison

An average of 43.7% of work, based on actuals from 2010-2014, is performed by in-house resources as the table above shows. The report says that Administration will continue using both in-house resources and external consultants “based on the needs and requirements of the capital programs to ensure effective and efficient delivery.”

2014 Waste Management Utility & Drainage Services Utility Annual Reports

These two reports provide an update on the business and financial performance of the Waste Management and Drainage Services utilities for the year ending December 31, 2014. A couple of highlights:

  • Waste Management collected waste from more than 358,000 residential dwellings, serviced more than 1000 non-residential customers, processed close to 475,000 tonnes of waste and recyclable materials at the Waste Management Centre, and interacted with more than 22,000 residents through tours and presentations at the facility.
  • Drainage Services replaced 7 forcemains and refurbished 6 others, completed 821 home inspections in the Flood Proofing Program, repaired or replaced 6,000 manholes and catch basins, and achieved a 14.4% increase in new service connections.



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.

Recap: The Walrus Talks Aboriginal City in Edmonton

Tonight I joined close to 1,200 others at the Shaw Conference Centre for The Walrus Talks Aboriginal City, “eighty minutes of lively, thought-provoking ideas on Aboriginal life in Canadian cities – from culture, to business, to politics, and more.” I didn’t realize the event was going to be so large but I’m glad it was; some very important ideas and issues were discussed this evening. The event opened with a blessing by Elder Ida Bull, after which Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations Grand Chief Bernice Martial and Mayor Don Iveson brought greetings.

The Walrus Talks Aboriginal City

After a brief introduction to the format from Shelley Ambrose, publisher of The Walrus, we got right into things. There were nine different speakers this evening (you can read their bios here) and each of them had seven minutes on stage. Here are some the highlights and takeaways from each presentation:

Ginger Gosnell-Myers

Ginger is the Aboriginal planner for Vancouver. She spoke about the misconceptions people have about urban Aboriginals. “Being urban just happens to be a choice about where we live.” She challenged the misconception that Aboriginal people are migratory. “The reality is the majority of Aboriginal people who move to cities end up staying for the long-term,” she said. “The city is our home.” Ginger also tackled the notion that cultural values disappear when Aboriginal people live in the city. “Every day I feel urban and cultural at the same time.”

Douglas Cardinal

Douglas is a renowned Canadian architect and is an officer of the Order of Canada. He spoke about his vision for the future of the city. “I see a thriving, organic, densely-populated metropolis that is a dynamic, living organism.” He took the analogy further and said that everyone has a responsibility to contribute to the health of the organism as we are the nutrients for the city. “We must first change our mindset from a culture of exploitation to a culture that reflects the indigenous values of sharing.”

“We can shape our environment but in turn it shapes us.”

Lewis Cardinal

Lewis is well-known to Edmontonians of course, and I had heard some of what he had to say previously. But that did not diminish my enjoyment of his message and delivery. Lewis spoke about storytelling primarily. “A city cannot truly know itself or reach its full potential until it knows and cherishes its stories,” he told us. “All stories, the good, the bad, sometimes the unbelievable.” He also cautioned that “we are not telling the stories and paying the proper homage to the spirit of this place.” He noted that even the name “Edmonton” carries a story in that “monto” means the divine essence, the power of creation, or as he clarified for Star Wars fans, the force.

Lewis earned a few chuckles when he told us that the Aboriginal population of greater Edmonton is around 100,000. “Yes, you are surrounded by Indians,” he said. “But it’s all good!” He finished with a plea for more storytelling. “I beg all of you, leave no story untold.”

Patti LaBoucane-Benson

Patti is the director of research, training, and communication at the Native Counselling Services of Alberta. She spoke about the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the Canadian justice system. “This is indeed a crisis,” she declared. Patti noted that Aboriginal people make up 43% of admissions to custody in Alberta. The root cause? She says it can be traced to the inter-generational transmission of historic trauma, a topic discussed in the graphic novel The Outside Circle.

Ryan McMahon

Ryan is an Aboriginal comedian and though he took a mostly serious approach with this presentation, he couldn’t help but make people laugh a few times. “I come from a long line of moose hunters,” he told us. “I don’t know much about cities.” In contrast with the “we’re here” message that was repeated a few times throughout the evening, Ryan called upon non-Aboriginals to speak up. “So often we are burdened with the responsibility to talk, to explain, to teach,” he said. “I can’t wait for the time when I get to sit and listen, to learn, to understand what you see.”

He said he knows what he can’t do in the city. “I can’t hang my dead moose from an oak tree, apparently it brings down property values,” he said to laughter. But he also highlighted what he can do. “I can contribute to the conversation. I can listen and I can share. And I can be patient.” He said that Aboriginal people are sometimes “patient to a fault”. He finished by highlighting the importance of the city to him. “It was in a city where I met some of the most influential people in my life.”

Roberta Jamieson

Roberta Jamieson was the first Aboriginal woman to earn a law degree in Canada and she is an officer of the Order of Canada. She shared seven key messages (I have simplified them of course):

  1. Let’s create a two row wampum city
  2. Let’s make the city a home for human beings
  3. Indigenous values offer cities a very important vision
  4. Open spaces in cities so that indigenous peoples can thrive as indigenous peoples
  5. Educate our children to be human beings before anything else
  6. Build relationships, bring together all sectors, to make a better city
  7. All of these messages come in a bundle

She talked a lot about making space for indigenous people in cities. “Make space for us in the city and the city will be richer for it.” She also highlight the fact that many cities take their names from indigenous languages. “This is not a coincidence,” she said.

“The human city, the real city, is built of relationships, not of concrete and steel.”

Clayton Kootenay

Clayton is the MOU team lead of Treaty 6, 7, and 8. He shared a number of statistics about Aboriginal people in Alberta, such as the fact that there are 48 First Nations and 148 reserves in Alberta. Most of his presentation was focused on the importance of treaties and the need for improving education. “Treaties are about relationships and responsibility,” he said. He said Alberta has two systems of education – the provincial one and the band-operated one (there are 58 band-operated schools in Alberta). He spoke about the MOU and their efforts to improve education for Aboriginal youth. “All parties have a collective stake in improving First Nations success,” he said. “Let’s not lose another generation.”

Bob Rae

Bob is the former premier of Ontario and is an officer of the Order of Canada. He spoke about the misunderstanding that is at the heart of Canada. He said it is important to understand the context in which the treaties were signed – the Crown’s perspective was “to draw a line in the sand,” he said. It wasn’t a marriage, it was a divorce – it was about saying what isn’t allowed and about what is lost. “The only way to get to a better place is by understanding from whence we have all come,” he said. For Bob, that better place is a country “that is not based on some people thinking they are better than others.”

He also talked about the fast growing urban Aboriginal population in Canada. “As a country we now face a choice: do we celebrate this and make it work and make it happen or do we continue to see it as a problem, a difficulty, an inconvenience, a nuisance?”

Jessica Bolduc

Jessica is the national youth representative for the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. She spoke about “edgewalkers”, her term for Aboriginal youth who “have no patience for the status quo” and who have “a hunger to contribute to a better future.” She said that “indigenous issues are Canadian issues.” Jessica pulled no punches, saying “to hell with fitting our round peg in your square hole.”

She also addressed the potential of Aboriginal youth. “Aboriginal people are some of the most innovative leaders coming out of this generation,” she said. “They are the future of our cities.” She urged everyone to go find the edgewalkers in their city. “They are everywhere.”

Closing Remarks

CBC Edmonton’s Mark Connolly closed the evening with some final remarks. He was very open about how much he has learned in the last ten years or so, starting with Treaty 6. “I’m so pleased that now wherever I go, we speak of Treaty 6,” he said. Mark challenged everyone to think about how they could contribute to a broader understanding of the topics discussed during the evening. “It’s Edmonton that came forward here and I think we can make a difference.”

The Walrus Talks Aboriginal City

I really enjoyed the presentations. The Walrus promises that their Talks series “delivers fresh ideas and new ways of looking at big issues” and on that I think the event delivered. We’ve been hearing for years that Edmonton is going to have the largest urban Aboriginal population in Canada soon, but why wait until we achieve that milestone to have a productive conversation about what it means for our city?

Every speaker tonight gave me something to think about. I learned quite a few things and came away with a better understanding of some of the challenges and opportunities. The question now, as always, is what the 1,200 people that heard those presentations will do with that information! Taking Mark’s advice, I will continue to learn and to share.

Before and after the presentations, guests were treated to an Aboriginal Art Exhibit in the Hall D lobby and around the edges of the hall itself. Produced by Dawn Marie Marchand and Dawn Saunders Dahl, the exhibit featured the work of ore than 30 Aboriginal artists from Western Canada. It was funded by the Walrus, EEDC, and the Edmonton Arts Council. You can learn about the presenting artists here.

The Walrus Talks Aboriginal City

I considered staying home tonight to watch the Leaders’ Debate but decided I’d miss more by skipping the Walrus event. I’m confident now that I made the right call. Kudos to Lisa Baroldi and her entire team at Enterprise Edmonton for putting on a fantastic event! You can see a few more photos here.

Space for Place: Placemaking in Edmonton

Today I had the opportunity to speak about place and placemaking at City Hall along with Jeff Chase, a Senior Planner at the City of Edmonton working on CITYlab. You may also know him as co-organizer of #yegsnowfight!

The City of Edmonton’s Sustainable Development department has organized a few lunch & learn events for Edmonton’s Business Revitalization Zones (BRZs) and for the April event they wanted to talk about ways to increase vibrancy and create social space. They asked Jeff and I to speak about that.

This was the description for our talk:

“What is placemaking? Placemaking is about animating and using spaces in our cities to connect people. From art installations, to public events and activities, placemaking affords opportunities for people to engage in their cities in new ways.

Join us to learn about placemaking from two passionate Edmontonians who are actively transforming public spaces in our City, and take home lessons you can use to bring life to the shared spaces in your own districts and communities.”

I like the way that Jeff put it: “Space is an empty container. We fill it with memory and time, with feelings and emotions, and with connections. The outcome, on a variety of scales, is place.” Here’s one of the ways we illustrated that:

space vs place

It’s not just about filling a space with people, of course. It’s about connecting people with one another. That’s what turns space into place.

So placemaking is a way to do that, it’s a way to connect people with one another. We considered a spectrum of different placemaking approaches:

placemaking spectrum

Tactical Urbanism refers to the simple, often temporary things that can be done to create a sense of place. Things like temporary art or adding seating to an empty sidewalk. Events & Activities are a little more involved and tend to be larger initiatives but again are often temporary. Things like What the Truck?! or #yegsnowfight are good examples. Urban Planning is the most permanent form of placemaking, encompassing everything from streetscaping to neighbourhood development. And of course there can be combinations of these things.

Place matters for a variety of reasons. We all crave community and that doesn’t come from space alone. Placemaking can be a useful tool to connect us with our neighbours. It can also help us respond to context, such as crime or weather. Would you rather walk down a dark alley or a well-lit, busy one? In the shoulder season, are you willing to brave the patio on your own or would a blanket and a heater help? These are some examples of the impact that placemaking can have. Another impact of course is on the bottom line – we like to linger and spend time in places that fill us with emotion and connection, and the businesses in those places usually benefit as a result.

Here are some of the examples we showed during the presentation.

What the Truck?! is a series of food truck events that is a good example of the “Events & Activities” approach to placemaking. The events only last 4-5 hours, but they happen in different locations and get people out on the street experiencing their city from a different perspective.

place example

The #yegsnowfight that took place at Kinsmen is a great example of an event that brought people together and got them to experience a space in a completely different way than they would normally. And as a winter city, how fitting is a snowball fight?!

place example

OpenPianoYEG is an awesome example of a public art project. Anyone can sit down at one of the colorful pianos and start playing.

place example

This tire seat was setup near the downtown streetcar station. The note attached to it reads: “Take a seat and enjoy the view. Put your headphones on to drown out the real world and enter the one your mind has sculpted, or take your headphones off and let the world surround you. Either one gets you to a pretty rad place.”

place example

The Winter Market that was held in Churchill Square is another good example of an event approach to placemaking. We talked a bit about some of the other things WinterCity has done too.

place example

Have you seen the construction hoarding art along the Mayfair Village development at Jasper and 109 Street? BGCBigs worked with the developer to make this happen. It turns what could be an unfriendly and even scary space into a welcoming one.

place example

I love the Alley of Light example because over the years it has used all of the placemaking approaches. Tactical projects like painting the roadway got people talking and resulted in more people using the alley. Events brought people into the alley and enlivened the pocket park. And most recently, the pocket park was redeveloped with new surfacing, landscaping, and amenities.

place example

And that’s just a small handful! Jeff and I had a lot of fun putting the presentation together, and we enjoyed hearing about the audience’s favorite places too.

We know there are lots of Edmontonians with ideas about place and we hope that by highlighting even just a few examples we can inspire them to become placemakers. There are lots of organizations and resources out there to help too, like Make Something Edmonton, CITYlab, and many more.

Thanks to Jodi and Stuart for organizing the event today and for having Jeff and I as speakers and thanks to everyone who attended!

What’s your favorite place? Have a placemaking idea of your own? I’d love to hear it!