Mayor Don Iveson looks back on 2018

“I believe this was the year we made a shift to building Edmonton for the next generation,” said Mayor Don Iveson last week as he hosted the media at City Hall for a briefing and roundtable discussion on 2018.

Asked for a highlight from the past year, Mayor Iveson cited the new funding deal with the Province. The City Charters Fiscal Framework Act will provide Edmonton and Calgary with “infrastructure funding tied to provincial revenues, meaning they would share in Alberta’s future revenue growth.” It is both a replacement for Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding and a new source of long-term transit funding. “We’re legislated now into long-term growth,” the mayor said. Last month he wrote that “the deal reflects the province’s economic reality now.”

Mayor Don Iveson

Here are some of the highlights from the roundtable discussion:

Budget Savings

Given the budget hadn’t yet passed when the roundtable took place, there were some questions related to cost savings. Acknowledging there were valid questions about the size of the City organization and in particular the size of management, Mayor Iveson said “it will be a continuing conversation for us.” He noted there are pros and cons to reducing the size of management that need further discussion.

In terms of savings, the mayor said that through innovation the City has harvested $68 million in savings in the last five years. And he indicated there was more to come. “I suspect there will be things over the next year that we close or significantly adjust our approach to,” he said. “We’re prepared to declare certain things no longer relevant.”

Culture of Confidence

Asked about his frustration this summer over the way Administration handled things like the bench plaques program, the mayor said “mistakes are going to happen given the complexity of what we do.” He acknowledged that Council had given Administration competing direction to both save money and to be as helpful as possible. “Both are values this organization has and they conflicted with one another,” he said.

The mayor made it clear he doesn’t want to micromanage things. “I don’t think every complex decision needs to come from Council,” he said. “It’s not an effective use of the thirteen members of Council.” Instead what he’d like to see is a “culture of confidence”.

“My expectation is that anyone working at the City with an idea that could lead to savings has the opportunity to bring that forward as opposed to being afraid to suggest it due to risk management,” he explained. That requires “a tolerance for failure and innovation” that won’t come easily. “We have to give some permission for it to not work out,” he said.

Mayor Iveson did say that he thought the “long-term culture change is moving in a good direction” at the City of Edmonton.

Edmonton Coliseum

On the question of what will happen to the Coliseum (formerly Rexall Place) the mayor said “it has no practical use or reuse that is economically viable” and as a result “it will be torn down.” He noted there are ongoing costs related to keeping the building secure and said, “I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to find a cost-effective and timely way to deal with the Coliseum.”

And what about the land? “We’re going to have some interesting discussions about how to redevelop those lands,” the mayor said. He’s not in a rush to sell the land, though. “In this market the land is probably not worth as much,” he said. “Where we try to rush land decisions that generally doesn’t go well for us.”


Unsurprisingly, some of the journalists in the room were curious about the mayor’s thoughts on the media. He has made suggestions throughout the year that the City needs to do more of its own storytelling, and of course he continues to be active on Twitter and his own website.

“I think people expect a certain amount of direct content from their city,” the mayor said. “I think for most people the City of Edmonton is a credible source.” He doesn’t see direct communication from the City being the only channel, however. He talked about the importance of transparency and opening up multiple channels to the public. “Earned media is always going to be part of our day-to-day connecting with people,” he assured everyone.

Mayor Don Iveson


Many of Mayor Iveson’s comments touched on innovation, but he used a question about the city’s economic outlook to share the majority of his thoughts on the subject. “We can fear the future or we can chart our own destiny,” he said. “This is why I put so much focus on the innovation economy.”

The mayor said he’s “excited” to work with EEDC’s Derek Hudson and Cheryll Watson further on a culture of innovation and said the recent scrutiny of EEDC “is really, really good.” He said the SingularityU conference that Edmonton is hosting next year “will be a platform for that culture to grow in our city.”

“As the world faces a lot of uncertainty, we can be problem-solvers for the world,” he said. “That’s not incompatible with our DNA as a city at all.”


We didn’t have as much time to discuss the region as I’d have liked, but Mayor Iveson did touch on the subject. “If the region can speak coherently to the provincial and federal governments we can have much greater impact than historically we’ve had,” he said. The mayor cited work on transit, the regional growth plan, and economic development as recent successes in the region.

Mayor Iveson also spoke briefly about “shared investment for shared benefit” saying “it’s about the region getting to the point where we fix problems together.” He explained that the idea is “some of the new money that comes from new development goes into a pot that helps to pay for the next thing to attract jobs and prosperity to the region.”

Thoughts on Council

During the budget discussions Mayor Iveson expressed frustration with his colleagues on Council bringing forward ward-specific items to essentially try to “queue-jump”. He told us that he was talking to former mayor Stephen Mandel about it recently and realized, “I was doing the same things 7 years ago!” He added that “what we have ultimately is a Council that has come together remarkably well around this budget.”

“We have a group of very bright Councillors who have a desire to serve and to have their service noticed,” the mayor said. “It’s not a bad thing to have councillors with ambition to make an impact on the city.”

Third Term

“I really like being Mayor of Edmonton and I have no plans to enter federal politics, other than to stay on as chair of the Big City Mayor’s caucus,” he said in response to a question about running for another office. “I’ve got more work to do here.” Mayor Iveson told us “the City Plan is going to be a lot of fun” and that representing Edmonton through the upcoming provincial and federal elections would be “a great challenge”.

Noting “it’s a really long way to the next election,” he did acknowledge that others might be thinking about making a run for his chair. “I think it’s fair to say that some of them have their own political aspirations.” His advice to those Councillors? “Don’t get started too early.”

Mayor Iveson said he has not made any decisions about seeking a third term as mayor. “I want to focus on governing, and implementing the things I ran on,” he said. “If I can think of four more years worth of stuff to do, then I would look at running again.”

Mayor Don Iveson

Looking ahead to 2019, Mayor Iveson said “we must continue to rally for our city.”

2013-2017 Edmonton City Council Swearing In Ceremony & Inaugural Meeting

Edmonton’s new City Council was officially sworn into office this afternoon at City Hall. Councillors have been busy since last week’s election of course, learning how everything works, getting their staff and offices in order, and I’m sure, stopping every now and then to take it all in. But now their positions are official, and the real work can begin.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

The event was emceed by John Dowds and opened with an invocation from Elder Francis Whiskeyjack. With the help of Justice D. M. Manderscheid, each new member of Council took the oath of office in front a packed crowd. It wasn’t all business though, as Sierra Jamerson performed a beautiful song right before Mayor Iveson took to the podium to deliver his remarks.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Mayor Iveson began with some tributes, acknowledging that Edmonton is on Treaty 6 territory, and praising the work of the previous Council. He highlighted the “vigorous pace” that outgoing Mayor Stephen Mandel had set and confirmed that he too will lean on “the diversity of wisdom and perspective” that each member of City Council brings to the table.

Mayor Iveson talked about the importance of the Edmonton Region, the new relationship with Calgary, and the need to “firm up stable, predictable funding for key infrastructure, including LRT.” He talked about roads and pipes, fiscal responsibility, accountability and transparency, homelessness and poverty, urban living, innovation, the environment, the arts, and diversity and inclusion. It was the same messaging Iveson has been delivering for months on the campaign trail, but asserted with the new confidence that comes from being mayor.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017
Mayor Don Iveson takes the oath

Before highlighting his colleagues on Council to close, Mayor Iveson addressed the so-called generational shift that has been talked about over the last week:

“Some have remarked that this election marked the passing of the torch to the next generation of leaders. But I and my fellow Council members are custodians of that leadership, doing the most good with it to make Edmonton an even greater place, in time to pass on the torch to our children and grandchildren. The leadership you see here represents all Edmontonians, regardless of age or interest. A united city we must be, in order to accomplish all on the path ahead in the next four years.”

Here’s a video of some of today’s highlights:

The inaugural meeting of the new City Council took place immediately after the ceremony. The first order of business was to adopt the agenda, and after the vote passed unanimously, Mayor Iveson let out a brief “whew!” that the much-larger-than-normal crowd enjoyed.

Here’s the seating order, from left to right:

  • Councillor Amarjeet Sohi
  • Councillor Michael Oshry
  • Councillor Ben Henderson
  • Councillor Andrew Knack
  • Councillor Tony Caterina
  • Councillor Scott McKeen
  • Mayor Don Iveson
  • Councillor Bev Esslinger
  • Councillor Dave Loken
  • Councillor Michael Walters
  • Councillor Bryan Anderson
  • Councillor Mike Nickel
  • Councillor Ed Gibbons

The mayor gets to select the seating order. I’m not sure how Mayor Iveson came up with the order, but Joveena noted that experienced and new Councillors alternate, which seems like a smart approach. The returning Councillors are more or less in the same spots as before too.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017
Unanimous, for now

The meeting was very short, though Councillor Sohi did give notice that he intends to bring forward a motion in November to provide WIN House with $50,000 in funding. He was sporting a bright blue shirt that said, “This is What a Feminist Looks Like”.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017
Mayor Don Iveson

Now that it’s official, City Council will get down to business, starting with Strategic Planning tomorrow and soon, the 2014 budget. You can see the upcoming schedule as well as agendas and minutes here.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017
City Council gets down to business

Congratulations to our new City Council!

You can see my recap of the 2010 Swearing In Ceremony here. You can see more photos of today’s ceremony and meeting here.

Recap: Truck Stop

On Thursday we held the first ever Truck Stop – a smaller, lunchtime version of What the Truck?! inspired by the food truck pods of Portland. The colder weather is coming and that means most of Edmonton’s food trucks will be closed until next year, so we wanted to try to extract the most out of our fall season as possible. Five trucks parked on 102A Avenue in front of City Hall to serve lunch from 11am until 2pm: Bo Thai, Drift, Eva Sweet, Fat Franks, and Smokehouse BBQ.

Truck Stop

Considering it was a cold day, we were quite pleased with the turnout! Lots of people even took advantage of the seating available – next time we’ll try to get the heat lamps and bonfires going! Churchill Square is a gigantic venue so we were happy to be located on the avenue instead, though the square itself did get busier after noon, with the final zumba class of the year. And of course there was a lot of foot traffic, with people walking to and from their offices.

Enjoying Truck Stop
Photo by Brittney

The vendors all did quite well, though Smokehouse BBQ seemed to be the most popular. Normally located in Nisku, they received a warm welcome from Edmontonians, selling more during the three hours of Truck Stop than they would have over four days in their usual spot! Their food was tasty – we had the three rib mac and cheese and the bacon bomb sandwich.

Smokehouse BBQ
The line-up at Smokehouse BBQ

Smokehouse BBQ
Bacon bomb and three rib mac & cheese

We don’t have any more What the Truck?! events planned for 2011, but we are going to be doing some planning for next year in conjunction with the vendors. Clearly the demand is strong! Thanks to everyone who came out to Truck Stop for lunch. Thanks also to the City and the vendors for helping us make it happen on such short notice. We’re looking forward to future food truck extravaganzas!

You can read Sharon’s recap here and you can see the rest of my photos here. Brittney’s photoset is here!

2010-2013 Edmonton City Council Swearing-in Ceremony & Inaugural Meeting

Edmonton’s new City Council was officially sworn into office this afternoon at City Hall. Following the ceremony, they held what will undoubtedly be the quickest meeting of the term, to approve council chamber seating arrangements, standing committee membership, and the meeting schedule for the next year. Nearly 400 people attended, including many of the Mayor’s and Councillors’ friends, family, and supporters.

Edmonton City Council Swearing in Ceremony 
Organized by Communications & the City Clerk, the event had a very nice printed program!

Edmonton City Council Swearing in Ceremony
Staff Sergeant Langford Bawn piped council members into the City Room, accompanied by members of the Edmonton Police Service, Fire Rescue, and Alberta Paramedics Guards of Honour.

Edmonton City Council Swearing in Ceremony
Council members smiled and waved as they entered. Lynda Steele served as the Master of Ceremonies. Matt Day played the piano, and Amanda Clark led the singing of O Canada.

Edmonton City Council Swearing in Ceremony
The Honourable Don Manderscheid, Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench, administered the oath to the Mayor and Councillors.

Edmonton City Council Swearing in Ceremony
After Mayor Mandel was sworn in, he received the Chain of Office from City Manager Simon Farbrother. After all the Councillors were sworn in, Mayor Mandel spoke about the work ahead.

Edmonton City Council Swearing in Ceremony
Students from the City Hall School lined the second floor of the City Room, while friends and family filled the seats below.

Edmonton City Council Swearing in Ceremony
Council Chambers was packed for the inaugural meeting! By the time everyone had piled in, the meeting was finished! A reception was held following the meeting.

Edmonton City Council Swearing in Ceremony
2010-2013 Edmonton Mayor & City Council

You can see the rest of my photos from the event here.

UPDATE: Courtesy of Dave, here are some photos from the 2007 swearing-in ceremony.

Recap: Mispon Winter Light Gala 2010

Winter Light 2010 kicked off this evening with the Mispon Gala, “a whimsical event that launches Edmonton’s winter festival season.” Winter Light started last year and is meant to showcase Edmonton as a beautiful and interesting winter city. The gala took place at City Hall and included light installations, music and dance performances, and free food! The word “mispon” means “it’s snowing” in Cree, and while there were no snowflakes falling tonight, there was an odd sort of ice fog hanging over downtown. At –19 C (and wind chill of about –26 C) the temperature tonight was actually warmer than it was for the start of Winter Light last year.

Winter Light 2010Winter Light 2010

Unfortunately, the temperature was about the only thing that went up this year! The entire event seemed smaller than in 2009. I arrived at City Hall just before 5pm and found Churchill Square and the skating ring and steps out front completely deserted, save for the three Winter Light people manning the fire stations and a couple others. There was a skate performance right at 4:30pm that I missed, sadly, but I still expected to find some people outside – it is a winter festival after all! I suppose they had trouble with attendance last year too though, so maybe it was wise to focus just on City Hall this year.

Indoor activities included music by Johnny Quazar and the Swingbots, and dance performances by Kristine Nutting’s Warm Up Burlesque. The music was quite good, the dance wasn’t for me 🙂 They did have a neat balloon drop at the end of it though! Food was once again provided by NAIT and included bannock with saskatoon marmalade, baked beans with sourdough crostini, and glazed meatballs. There was also hot chocolate and iced tea. Very tasty! Unfortunately there weren’t very many people in attendance to enjoy it all.

Winter Light 2010Winter Light 2010

John Mahon, Councillor Tony Caterina, Pamela Anthony, Christy Morin, Shirley Low, and Ritchie Velthuis were all on hand tonight to bring greetings and a heads up on the upcoming Winter Light events. The next one is Deep Freeze (on ShareEdmonton), which takes place Saturday and Sunday on Alberta Avenue.

Pamela, who is the director of Winter Light, also thanked the sponsors. Apparently the $1.5 million spent this year and last wasn’t enough – Citytv, Pattison, and Canadian Tire are among the event’s sponsors. Winter Light might stretch over 10 weeks, but it’s really just 11 events, the biggest 3 of which would happen with or without Winter Light. Given that so much was established last year (like the website, tents, giveaways, etc) I find myself questioning again whether the money is being spent wisely or not.

Winter Light 2010

As with last year’s opening ceremonies, tonight was just marketing for the rest of Winter Light. There were some positive things, such as the very cool snowshoe lanterns by Dylan Toymaker, but I came away mostly unimpressed. I hope that the rest of Winter Light 2010 will blow me away! You can see my photos from this evening at Flickr, and some video at YouTube.

UPDATE: Here are Sharon’s thoughts on the event.

Edmonton Oilers Tribute

Post ImageToday during the lunch hour was the Oilers Community Appreciation event downtown at city hall. There were thousands of people packed into Churchill Square to catch a glimpse of the Oilers. After losing out in the Stanley Cup Finals, I can totally understand why the Oilers would want a low key event, with only a select few present:

Attending the rally will be Oilers Captain Jason Smith, Assistant Captain’s Ryan Smyth and Ethan Moreau, Georges Laraque, and hometown hero Fernando Pisani. Also present will be Oilers General Manager Kevin Lowe, President & CEO Patrick LaForge, and Chairman Cal Nichols.

The event kicked off with Paul Lorieau singing the national anthem (and yes, he sang the whole thing). Various dignitaries and Oilers organization bigwigs made speeches, after which the palyers answered some questions from Sportsnet’s Gene Principe. During his speech, Kevin Lowe said the team considers losing the Stanley Cup a failure, to which he received a quiet boo that quickly turned into a “we’re number one” chant. He’s right though, they set out to do something and didn’t quite accomplish it. That said, I’m really glad the Oilers organization took the time come out and allow the fans one more hurrah.

I took about 70 pictures at the event, most of which turned out okay. It was one of the rare opportunities I’ve had to use my zoom lens! Anyway, I’ve added the photos to my Edmonton Oilers Playoffs 2006 photo set. This one is my favorite.

Read: Edmonton Oilers