Translating the City’s report on the Food & Agriculture Strategy

The agenda for next week’s non-statutory public hearing on the Food & Agriculture Strategy is now available online, as is the final draft of fresh: Edmonton’s Food and Urban Agriculture Strategy. In addition to some tidying up and a “fresh” new look, the final draft includes an executive summary. Here’s an excerpt:

fresh is not an endpoint, but a starting point. With that in mind, the Strategy does not provide a detailed implementation plan, but rather sets directions for moving forward. Implementation will occur over time as the Edmonton Food Council is established, partnerships are formed, research is continued, resources are allocated and progress builds towards results.


Also included in the agenda is a nine-page report prepared by Administration with an overview of the strategy, commentary on the recommendations, and a recommendation to Executive Committee on how to proceed. Here is the recommendation:

That Executive Committee recommend to City Council:

  1. That fresh: Edmonton’s Food and Urban Agriculture Strategy, as outlined in Attachment 1 of the Sustainable Development report 2012SPE029, be endorsed in principle.
  2. That implementation of fresh (Edmonton’s Food and Urban Agriculture Strategy) be postponed pending Administration reporting to Executive Committee in the first quarter of 2013 on the options and costs.

Endorsed in principle, but with implementation delayed pending an update on options and costs. I wasn’t entirely sure why they’d structure the recommendation that way. I mean, since when does Administration implement anything without first gathering options and costs? Why couldn’t Council approve the strategy, if they think it is ready to be approved, and then direct Administration to start implementation immediately, the first step of which might be to gather more information on costs?

So I kept reading. Here are the final remarks in the report:

While Administration views the recommendations of fresh as being generally reasonable and worthy of follow up, it also sees it being prudent to postpone implementation of fresh pending the development of a better shared understanding between Council and Administration on the options and costs to implement the Strategy.

Notwithstanding advice to postpone its implementation, endorsement of fresh in principle will satisfy the requirements of Municipal Development Plan Policy relative to enabling consideration of future Area Structure Plans and will provide City Council with the means to evaluate future Area Structure Plans for the Urban Growth Areas by way of the tool kit contained in strategic direction 9 (see Attachment 3).

Right, so allow me to translate. Administration is basically saying: “Look, we have the development industry breathing down our neck and we need to get this taken care of ASAP so that the Area Structure Plans in the Urban Growth Areas can move forward. We know the recommendation that deals with land use raises a bunch of questions, but we don’t think it is important to answer those right now. Also, we don’t want your endorsement to necessarily commit us to implementing anything, even something as straightforward as establishing a food council, so we’re just going to come back with a report on costs and go from there. Cool?”

No, not cool.

I’d encourage you to read through the documents here in more detail.

12 thoughts on “Translating the City’s report on the Food & Agriculture Strategy

  1. Soooo…if they decide ‘costs are too high’ [whatever that means at this point], then they can scrap it, but still deem their obligation around the ASPs satisfied? Huh?

  2. Don’t put this on Administration, at least not solely.

    The Mayor’s Office has been aggressively involved in the development of the Food and Agriculture Strategy from the beginning, to the point of micromanagement.

    Let’s just say that it hasn’t been to make sure that the Strategy is progressive on the preservation of urban farmland. Or faithful to the citizen and stakeholder input that was so assiduously collected.

    This is not the City’s finest hour when it comes to letting Administration develop good policy, or when it comes to being square with the public.

    1. That’s a fair point Zack, you’re right that it is not just Administration. I hope that Edmontonians will hold the Mayor and Council to account at the public hearing, and of course, next October.

  3. I don’t know how admin can suggest that a document with NO concrete commitments or recommendations could be adequate to measure new ASPs against. And it’s pretty clear that the committee, in its current composition (as put together by the Mayor’s Office), isn’t in much of a position to make those concrete recommendations. So the question is, does council need to reject it in principle, or can they be asked to accept it but deem that it is not adequate for the development of the ASPs? Who does the “further study” required to assess its feasibility?

  4. Municipal employee (not #YEG) reporting in. Bureaucracies are really
    good at saying no to new projects – it’s their natural predisposition.
    I’m only a casual observer to this whole “food & ag strategy”, but
    in my experience this appears to be one of those responses that a
    bureaucracy uses to deflect something that looks like something new and
    strange and potentially a lot of extra work. It keep the status quo

    HOW TO COUNTER: Use the “squeeky wheel gets the oil”
    strategy. Keep on them like Mack said (at next meeting & next
    election) – that should work! ; P

    1. Bureaucracies answer to politicians who answer to the people they think they are accountable to. The GEA says councillors’ campaign contributions from developers range from 26% to 62%. Can you do the politics?

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